Astatotilapia sp. "thick skin"
Synonyms: Haplochromis sp. "44", Haplochromis sp. "thick skin"
Above: A male Astatotilapia sp. "44". Photo by Rick Borstein.
Genus- Astato= unstable (Greek), tilapia= fish (Native African).
Astatotilapia sp. "thick skin", more commonly known in aquarium circles as Haplochromis sp. "44", is one of the better known Victorian cichlids. This fish, which is rather new, is getting very popular, even with non-Victorian cichlid keepers. This fish is the Vic with the most demand in the hobby right now.
This fish is erroniously labelled as Haplochromis obliquidens and Haplochromis brownae in the hobby. These two fish are different than Astatotilapia sp. "thick skin" and it is doubtful that they have ever been imported for the aquarium trade.
Astatotilapia sp. "thick skin" is found in the sandy areas of East and North Lake Victoria.
Size, Maturity, and Sexual Dimorphism:
Size: Males- 3 inches, Females- 2.5 inches
Maturity: .5 inches
Sexual Dimorphism: Males are larger and have color compared to the brown/silver females.
Above: a female Astatotilapiasp. "thick skin". Photo by Sam Borstein.
This fish is easy to care for. I've heard many horror stories from people that this fish is an absolute terror. Honestly, this fish could be deemed responsible for getting many people from keeping Victorian cichlids. I found them to be non-aggressive. I had the group in a 10 gallon at first with no issues. As they grew they were placed in larger tanks with various Malawians. I saw no aggression towards any fish, other than females when they were about ready to spawn, and even then it was minimal. Be careful when mixing this fish with other similar Victorians as it may hybridize with them.
Diet:Astatotilapia sp. "thickskin" is an insectivore in the wild (Seehausen). I've found this fish to take almost any food eagerly and it should pose no problems to feed.
44's are very easy to breed. Their breeding behavior is like all other Haplochromis from Lake Victoria. The females are excellent holders and will chew for about 3 weeks. The fry are small, but easy to raise, especially with brine shrimp. The fry grow rapidly if given a large tank to grow up in. Young males will start to show color as young as a month old! They will begin to spawn at the end of two months.
I was amazed at how small the fish bred. I had my female first hold when she was pushing 1/2 an inch! The male was full color also!
Astatotilapia sp. "thick skin" is a very nice fish to keep. It is easily obtainable and the males get some nice color. They are very popular right now among hobbyists. This is one of the few Vics you may see at a pet shop.
- Seehausen, Ole. (1996) Lake Victoria Rock Cichlids. Verduyn Cichlids, Germany, 304 pp.