The Christmas Fulu Cichlid also known as Xystichromis phytophagus, is a rare fish species. It descends from the Cichlidae family. This species has been listed by the IUCN as endangered.

These tricolor fish were originally found in Lake Kanyaboli and Lake Victoria in Northern Kenya. The fact that they can no longer be found in Lake Victoria proves that they are an endangered species.

If you’d like to add these spectacular fish to your aquarium, continue reading.

Christmas Fulu Stats

Quick stats:

Listed tank sizes are the minimum.
Size: Up to 4.5 inches (11.4 centimeters)
Tank: Min. Length 48 inches. (At least 55 gallons if you are wishing to keep two males.)
Strata: Will go everywhere but predominantly Lower to Middle.
PH: 7.5 to 8.2
Hardness: Alkaline and hard dH range: to 18°. (6 to 7° dh Yala Swamp), adaptable.
Temperature: 71°F to 82°F (22°-28° C)


Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genera: Xystichromis
Species: Xphytophagus

Owing to the endangered status of this fish species, it is a great idea to house these fish in your aquarium. Housing and breeding this species will increase their distribution and availability. In order to do that, let’s first look at the basic statistical facts about this fish species.

Size 4.5 inches
Tank capacity 55+ gallons
pH 7.5-8.2
Water temperature 71°F to 82°F (22°-28° C)
Hardness of water  6°-18° DH
Aquarium strata Middle to lower strata
Level of care Moderate level of care

Now, let’s look at the basic biological specifications for this species of fish. As an aquarist, it is imperative that you know about the biological specifications of the fish species you’re housing.

Scientific name Xystichromis phytophagus
Common name Christmas Fulu Cichlid
Origin Northern Kenya: Lake Kanyaboli and Lake Victoria, Yala Swamp
Lifespan 10+ years
Genus Xystichromis
Species X. phytophagus
Family Cichlidae
Diet Omnivorous diet

General facts about the Xystichromis phytophagus

Now, you are well-versed with the basic biological specifications and essential statistical information about this species. The next step is to learn some general facts about the Xystichromis phytophagus.

The important general facts have been stated as follows:

  • The male fish grow up to 4.5 inches in size whereas the female fish are a bit smaller.
  • This species is also called the Lake Victorian Haplochromis.
  • They have a light blue body and red flanks, tail, and face. Their bottom half is yellow. These fish also have black stripes and markings on their sides and faces.
  • One way to distinguish between males and females is their body color. The males have a brighter coloring than the females.
  • These tricolor beauties are a relatively rare species. They are no longer found in Lake Victoria of northern Kenya. However, they can still be found in Lake Kanyaboli of northern Kenya.
  • These fish are best kept in pairs or in small groups. However, make sure you only keep one male in these small groups of fish.
  • The tricolor cichlids need a rectangular aquarium that is about 48 inches in length, to thrive. A 55-gallon rectangular aquarium is perfect for a pair of these fish.

Christmas Fulu care

– About the general set-up

For housing any fish species, it is very important that you successfully create an environment in the fish tank that mimics or closely resembles the natural habitat of the fish. For this, one of the aspects you should take care of is the water condition. Maintaining proper water conditions go a long way in keeping the fish healthy and stress-free.

Although these fish are naturally quite adaptable, try to maintain the hardness of the water between 6°and 18° DH. The water temperature should be between 71°F to 82°F (22°-28° C). The pH level of the water in the aquarium should be between 7.5 to 8.2. Maintaining a stable water environment is essential for their survival.

Tank capacity is also important. Keep one male and two to three females in each tank, for which you will need a 55-gallon tank. If you want to keep 2 males, then keep 6-8 females with them. A 72-gallon tank is suitable for such bigger groups.

One of the main things you have to keep in mind while choosing the substrate is the digging behavior of this species. They love digging into the substrate. So, don’t keep big rocks or sharp rocks on the substrate.

Go for floating plants. Plants that you can anchor to decorative pieces or wood are also a great option. Don’t opt for heavy decorative items in the aquarium.

The male fish of this species are quite aggressive and territorial. If you’re keeping two males in a tank, add decorative items to the substrate that can act as hiding spots. Go for gravel or sand substrate, or you can even add driftwood. Hiding spots in the form of caves is important for the female fish after spawning.

Filtration is also very important. Have a good filtration system in place if you’re housing these fish. Also, make sure you change 30% to 50% of the water in the tank every week. Good water quality is essential for their survival.

– Diet

The Christmas cichlid is very low maintenance when it comes to its diet. The fish has an omnivorous diet but prefers carnivorous options to plants. As mentioned earlier, these fish are very adaptable. So, you can feed them a variety of different food items.

In their natural habitat, these fish eat live food and decomposed plant matter. You can feed them pellets and flake foods. They are also fond of eating live and frozen food.

However, they don’t like eating fresh plants. But you will find them consuming decomposing plant material in their natural habitat. They nourish themselves with the microscopic organisms that are present in the decomposed plant material.

Try to feed these fish spirulina. Apart from spirulina, these fish also like eating mealworms, brine shrimps, and earthworms. They shouldn’t be given a lot of meaty food (large, non-microscopic organisms).

– Common diseases to tackle

These fish are hardy by nature and easy to keep healthy. They have a life span of 10 years or more. However, Malawi bloat is common amongst African cichlids. Symptoms include a distended abdomen, appetite loss, rapid breathing, and discolored faces.

This disease should be identified at the right time. Otherwise, it can also cause kidney and liver damage. Unfortunately, if the disease progresses to kidney and liver damage, it is fatal within a matter of 3 to 4 days.

The best way to tackle diseases is to be aware of the symptoms. If caught early, diseases can be treated. Prevention is another great alternative. Maintaining appropriate water conditions and a good diet is very important for their survival.

– Breeding

As mentioned earlier, this fish species is relatively rare. Therefore, breeding is very important. The good news is that these fish are very easy to breed in captivity. They are maternal mouthbrooders.

When you’re breeding these fish, make sure you only keep one male with a few females. These fish tend to get aggressive while breeding. Before spawning, the male fish display a vibrant coloring to establish dominance.

The hiding spots in the aquarium become very important during the spawning period. The male fish dig holes in the substrate. The breeding occurs in these holes. After breeding, the female fish hide in the hiding spots in the aquarium.

Young females produce approximately 30 eggs and mature females lay about 70 eggs per spawning session. The spawning period lasts about 45 minutes. After this, the female fish go to their hiding spots for the brooding period.

The brooding period lasts for 14-16 days. The female fish do not socialize at all in this period. It is best to separate the female fish into another aquarium during the brooding period. This will ensure high fry survival.

– Tank mates

The Xystichromis phytophagus are semi-aggressive by nature. The male fish are more aggressive than the females. Therefore, keep one or two male fish and six to eight female fish in each disk tank. You can even keep one male fish along with three to four female fish in each tank.

When it comes to suitable tank mates, do not keep large predatory fish with this species of fish. Lake Victoria species of fish are great tank mates for these fish. Synodontis afrofisheri and Brycinus sadleri would be great as tank mates.

Predatory fish are not suitable because they can be a threat to these fish. They can attack and eat this fish species if kept in the same tank. African cichlids and Victorian Haps are ideal tank mates. The only thing you need to ensure is that you have a big enough aquarium to accommodate the tank mates along with this particular fish species.


Now that you’ve read through all the important factual details required to house the tricolor fulu, let us go through the important facts once more:

  • These fish need a 55-gallon aquarium. This is ideal for one male and three to four females.
  • These fish need hard water with a pH value between 7.5-8.2 to thrive. Filtration is also important. Be sure to change 30%-50% of the water on a weekly basis.
  • Malawi bloat is a common disease among African cichlids.
  • These fish need to be fed spirulina and other vegetable matter along with flakes, pellets, live and frozen foods like mealworms, earthworms, and brine shrimp.
  • The tricolor cichlids are polygamous by nature. They are maternal mouthbrooders.
  • Synodontis afrofisheri and Brycinus sadleri are suitable tank mates for this fish species.

These colorful fulu beauties are hardy, low-maintenance fish species. They are easy to breed and feed. If you’re a beginner aquarist, this relatively rare species can be a great addition to your aquarium!

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