Astatotilapia Calliptera, more commonly called the Eastern Happy fish, is a non-indigenous fish. It can be the perfect addition to your tank if you know how to handle it.

In this article, you’ll learn some Astatotilapia Calliptera stats, care tips, tank requirements, breeding advice, and much more!

Species: Astatotilapia calliptera
Common Name: Eastern happy
Size: Up to 6″ (15cm )
Habitat: AFRICA: Lakes Malawi, Chiuta and Chilwa; Lower Zambezi, Buzi, Pungwe and Save River systems.
Min Tank Size: 40 gallon or larger.
Diet: Omnivorous, flake, frozen and live. Needs algae to supplement.
Behavior: Aggressive to own species one male to three females.
Water: 76 – 82°F (24-28 C); pH range: 7.4 – 8.4; dH range: 7 – 30
Care: Best in African only tanks with fish of similar sizes and temperament, or species only.
Communities: Territorial keep with other aggressive Africans.
Suitability: Some experience with more aggressive cichlids.

Astatotilapia Calliptera Stats: Habitat, Size, and Behavior

Astatotilapia Calliptera belongs to the cichlid and tilapia family. This fish is aggressive.

It is known by a couple of names other than Eastern Happy fish, these include:

  • Eastern River Bream
  • Haplochromine Cichlid
  • Calliptera Cichlid

Originating from Africa you’ll find this fish in the Malawi, Chiuta, and Chilwa lakes in abundance. Moreover, Pungwe, Lower Zambezi, Buzi, and Save Rivers are also among the natural habitats of this fish.

In the USA, this fish was first found in Hillsboro Canal in Florida. However, after approximately 10 years, this species was no longer present there. It is believed that it was destroyed by environmental factors.

– Environmental Preferences

As you can figure out from the natural habitat of the fish, they prefer freshwater homes. They like to live in shallow waters that are well-oxygenated. The Eastern Happy fish usually stays 2-4 meters underwater. Rarely will you find it swimming deeper, hence, the preference of shallow water.

Astatotilapia Calliptera is mostly found in places with tropical weather. Moreover, you’ll find more of Eastern River Bream in vegetated and weedy areas than non-vegetated ones.
Physical Description

The fish is not very big. It grows to 15cm, at the maximum. The body type is more elongated and narrow than round. The fish is olive green in color with a golden hue to it.

Normally, it has 7 to 9 vertical bars on its body but during breeding, these bars vanish on a male’s body. An adult Astatotilapia Calliptera has a golden bar running from the mouth to the eye.

The anal fins of the fish are gray with yellow edges. This fin had three spines whereas the caudal fins are more rounded. It is safe to say that Astatotilapia Calliptera is a rather colorful fish that will brighten up your fish aquarium.

– Differences in Males and Females

There are quite a few visible differences in the two genders of the Eastern Happy fish. First of all, during the breeding process, the males lose the vertical bars present on the body. Other than that, the males have bright orange egg spots on their anal fins.

Another notable feature is that the head of the males turns to a bright blue color during breeding. The dorsal and anal fins get a red and blue tinge to them. Also, their bellies become bright yellow.

If you want to identify the gender before the breeding of Astatotilapia Calliptera begins, you can focus on the size of the fish. This is a bit tricky to figure out since each fish has a different growth rate. However, the females tend to be smaller than the males. Also, the females have a more brownish tone to their body whereas the males have a brighter gold-green color.

Care Tips for Astatotilapia Calliptera

When it comes to the care of Astatotilapia Calliptera, you don’t have much to worry about. There’s nothing you’ll have to do that you wouldn’t do for any other breed. Here are our recommendations on what to feed this fish and what kind of living environment to offer.

– Healthy Diet

Astatotilapia Calliptera’s diet is a mix of vegetables and animal-based food since it is an omnivorous fish. It feeds on algae, plants, small fishes, invertebrates, and plankton. The best dietary balance will include just enough flake food with frozen food and live food.

Don’t forget to add some vegetables here and there. If you’ve added plants to your tank, the fish may fulfill its need for vegetables by feeding directly from them.

– Tank Conditions

Eastern Happy is the happiest in hard water so a range of 7-30dH is fine. A pH of 7.5 to 8.4 is perfect for the fish to strive in. Other than that, maintain the temperature of the water between 74 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. These conditions are the closest replication of a freshwater waterway.

It is best to have a shallow tank instead of a deep one. A tank of around 40 gallons works well for a group of Astatotilapia Calliptera. Add a hard surface to the bottom of the tank since the fish seems to enjoy it in their natural habitat.

Make sure you decorate the tank with lots of aquatic vegetation. Algae, gravel, and big leafy plants will work just fine. Another important thing to keep in mind is the male-to-female ratio to maintain peace in the tank. Only add one male for three females.

Ideal Tank Mates for a Lively Tank

Eastern River Bream is not the calmest of fish out there. It tends to become aggressive, especially with its own kind. However, once the aggression is triggered, you can’t guarantee that the other nearby fish won’t get a taste of it.

For this very reason, you have to be somewhat particular about choosing tank mates for Astatotilapia Calliptera. African fish that come from a similar place will generally have a similar nature. If the tank mates are equally aggressive, neither will be able to dominate and the tank will remain peaceful.

Also, it is best to only go for tank mates that are of a similar size. So, since Astatotilapia Calliptera are rather small fish even when they’ve grown to their fullest, do not add big fish to your tank. There is a risk that bigger fish can intimidate the smaller ones and sometimes, the smaller ones may even fall prey to them.

Here are some options if you’re considering tank mates for your Eastern River Bream:

  • Red Empress
  • Blue Dolphin
  • Lethrinopo sp. Mbasi

Breeding: Can it be done at Home?

It’s pretty simple to breed the Eastern Happy fish at home. In fact, it is a captive-bred fish. You just need to know a few basics of fish breeding. Other than that, offer a breeding tank with the right temperature and enough food. The rest is handled by the parent fish.

This fish type is a mouthbrooder in terms of breeding. One reason why Astatotilapia Calliptera prefer shallow waters is because that’s where they can breed most conveniently. Moreover, they prefer rocky and sandy surfaces.

The female lays the eggs on the hard surface. This is where the male inseminates them. Next, the female takes over and keeps the eggs in her mouth for 12 to 14 days. After this, the eggs hatch but the mother fish continues to keep them in her mouth to protect them from getting eaten by bigger fish.


Eastern River Bream is not a bad option to consider if you are a hobbyist who aims to become an expert-level aquarist. This is the fish that you can get while you’re on your way from a beginner to an intermediate level.

To make sure that you can successfully make this jump, here is a summary of all the important points you should keep in mind:

  • Astatotilapia Calliptera originated in Africa where they like to live in freshwater waterways that are weedy and well-oxygenated
  • The fish prefers to stay in shallow waters
  • It doesn’t grow any bigger than 15cm
  • It’s quite colorful with an olive-green and gold body and gray and yellow anal fins
  • During breeding, the male’s dorsal and anal fins become red and blue, the belly becomes yellow, and the head turns blue
  • The males have bright orange spots on their anal fins
  • Males are bigger than females
  • Astatotilapia Calliptera are omnivorous fish that feed on algae, vegetation, plankton, invertebrates, and small fish
  • They prefer hard water with 7.5 pH to 8.4 pH
  • The ideal temperature range of the water tank for this fish is 74-82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • They can live with equally aggressive fish that have an African background as well
  • The fish are mouthbrooders which means that the female keeps the eggs in its mouth for 12 to 14 days before they hatch
  • It further keeps the fry in the mouth for 5 to 7 days to protect them against any danger

In conclusion, we can say that Astatotilapia Calliptera is the sort of fish you keep in your aquarium. It keeps the tank lively and there is little to no issue in terms of care protocols, either. If you have even a little bit of experience with fish, this addition to your tank will undoubtedly be the right choice!

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