Tilipia Mariae


by Joe Graffagnino

This beautiful yellow and green cichlid from Africa would be a great addition to any aquarium. The Tilipia Mariae, also known as Tiger Tilipia and Tilipia Marie, is not your average African cichlid. It is not well known or a publicized aquarium fish and that is why it’s not easy to acquire, but more about this later.

Allow me to describe this strikingly beautiful fish:
The male is larger than the female by approximately one to two inches (Male 5 1/2 to 6 inches, female 4 -4 1/2 inches) both genders have a yellow body with light green top and back. Along the lateral line are 5 black dots, the female has a red blotch behind the fins and above the stomach area (similar to a Salvini cichlid), the pectoral fins are yellow, trimmed in black, the eyes have a red blotch with a black, diagonal line running through them. The bottom rear fin has red streaks in it and the most beautiful part is the tail and upper fin, which has this light florescent green dot pattern with a red, white and blue edging.

They are extremely protective of their fry and will attack any fish or human hand if it ventures close enough. It was interesting to note that while I had large Green Severums and Trout cichlids (Champsochromis Caeruleus) in the tank they showed no inclination to spawn. When these larger fish were removed, they seized the opportunity and laid approximately 80 eggs on a vertical side of a wooden piece. I placed a tank divider between the Tilipia and the other fish in the 180 gallon tank (4 Turquoise severums, pair of Aulonocara Baenschi, pair of Haplochromis Rhoadesii, large clown loach and a large Synodontis Angelicus).

Tilipia Mariae are very tolerant of PH, water hardness, and will eat anything (except snails), like the temperature in the high 70’s F. and for breeding in the low 80’s F. They make an excellent aquarium fish for mild or medium tempered, African or Central/South American cichlids. The spawn they had is the most indestructible fry you will ever see. They will voraciously eat anything, but really love floating plants. The fry will put on a show for you when you feed them the “Sera nips” (8 per pack tablets that stick on the glass), they go berserk as 80 of them hit this tablet at the same time and wont stop until it’s all gone. I believe that plant or vegetable matter would be an important part of their diet.

The babies have a beige body with 8 black bands around it from the eye to base of the tail, resembling Tilipia Buttekoferi. I am noticing that after 2 months, there is a red streak in the dorsal fin. After 10 days with the parents I separated the majority of the fry and placed them in a 15 gallon tank. I left 9 fry with the parents. I feed the same menu to all the siblings and the babies that stayed with the parents, more than doubled in size. The larger ones are 2 – 2 1/2 inches in length, whereas the ones moved to a 15-gallon tank were only 1 – 1 1/2 inches. Even though I did water changes to the smaller tank more than the larger tank (3 -1 ratio) the fry keep with their parents grew much faster. Conclusion is the larger volume of water in the original tank increased growth more than just water changes. I moved the 9 original fry into another 180-gallon tank shared with African and South/Central American cichlids and they are doing fine. I placed their brothers and sisters back into the same tank with the parents and surprise to me, the parents took them back without a problem. Several weeks later they are still with the parents and are doing great. The parents have not shown any inclination to spawn again, perhaps because the babies remain with them, however they still continue to protect their fry.

I have been feeding them flake food, live black worms, frozen bloodworms, home made vegetable food and pellets – they eat everything! When I place duckweed, riccia or other floating plants, they devour them in minutes. I keep the PH at slightly alkaline (7.6) and a temperature of 80 degrees F, never check hardness.

I believe that it is interesting to note that I had obtained this pair of fish from Basil Holubis, President of the Norwalk, CT. Aquarium Society by trading with him a small colony of Aulonocara baenschi (Sunshine Peacocks). One of the many benefits in joining an aquarium club is that you have an opportunity to meet members of other clubs. These members have aquarium fish that, in many instances, your club members don’t have. By exploring the possibilities of either trading or attending another clubs auctions or shows you can open an avenue to obtain new and different fish for your club and yourself.

In addition to swapping or buying fish you can open a resource of knowledge for any and all information regarding tropical fish. When I visit aquarium clubs like North Jersey, South Jersey, Norwalk, Greater City, Nassau County, Long Island and many others, I meet and interact with hobbyists and professionals in the aquarium business. These people can, and do, provide all kids of information for tanks, equipment, transporting, food, insulation tips, etc. I have meet and have had in-depth discussions with Ginny Eckstein, Dr. Paul Loiselle, Chuck Davis, Ad Konings, Joe Ferdenzi, Lee Finley, Rosario LaCorte, Frank Policastro and Tom Miglio to name a few of the experts in this hobby. These people are REAL, they are friendly and easily accessible and by getting active in aquarium clubs you can have access to a wealth of knowledge you’ll never find in any set of books.


Photo of Tilipia Mariae is from “The Most Complete Colored Lexicon of Cichlids” by Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod, page 542, published by TFH Publications, Inc. 1993

Other sources for the article were:
“Enjoying Cichlids” by Ad Konings, pages 170 – 171, Cichlid Press, 1993
“Cichlid Aquarium” by Dr. Paul V. Loiselle, pages 212-216, Tetra Press, 1994