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Amphilophus labiatus

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Amphilophus labiatus is an aggressive substrate spawning cichlid native to Lake Nicaragua first typed by Günther in 1864. Synonyms for this fish are Cichlasoma labiatus, Cichlasoma labiatum, and Amphilophus labiatum.

Amphilophus labiatus and the closely related Amphilophus citrinellum (Common name = Midas Cichlid ) are often confused and quite likely hybridized.

Amphilophus labiatus and Amphilophus citrinellus are found sympatrically in Lake Nicaragua and in a number of same color combinations (Grey, white, yellow, orange, and tan) and patterns including the marbled pattern above.

The species name labiatus means "thick lipped". It would be convenient if you could tell these species apart by looking at the lips, but that simply isn't a a reliable determinant
  • Aquarium specimens seldom exhibit fleshy lips
  • There are documented wild populations of A. citrinellus that have fleshy lips
So, how is it possible to tell apart Amphilophus labiatus and Amphilophus citrinellus?

It's not easy. Telling these two fish apart is difficult, and probably not even possible in juveniles.

Here's what Ad Konings has to say in the book Cichlids from Central America

Seen from above, C. labiatum has a more pointed snout whereas C. citrinellum has a a more blunt snout.

The serious hobbyist should endeavor to understand the provenance of his fish. At the 2006 ACA Convention, a single wild fish sold for over $300. Because of the likelihood of mixed genetics in the retail and hobby channel, there may be no other way to be sure than to buy wild fish.

Interestingly, Konings mentions that where found sympatrically, only Amphilophus labiatus develops fleshy lips.

Although native to Nicaragua, feral populations of this fish have been discovered in the states of Hawaii and Florida in the United States. It is a hardy adaptable fish that gets quite large. Foot long males are not unusual. Females are generally about 25% smaller.

Amphilophus labiatus can be difficult to "pair up", but successful pairs generally are excellent parents and will raise the fry for up to eight weeks.

Amphilophus labiatus has a powerful jaw structure and wild fish (and some domestic individuals) sport extended, fleshy lips. Aggressive males can take on just about any other fish of similar size, so only keep it with other large, aggressive tankmates.



Amphilophus labiatus is found closely associated with the bottom of Lake Nicaragua and only occasionally enters nearby streams.


Amphilophus labiatus isn't hard to keep, but this large messy fish necessitates frequent water changes to maintain water quality. Large tanks are a must. I recommend a minimum of a 75-gallon tank.


In the wild, Amphilophus labiatus eats snails, insects, and other fish. In the aquarium, they readily take a variety of prepared foods. I fed Tetra Cichlid Sticks, Daninichi pellets, Spectrum and the occasional treat of frozen bloodworms.

Amphilophus labiatus

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