Electric Blue Johanni Cichlid Care Guide

Electric Blue Johanni Juvenile Female Size?

Electric Blue Johanni Cichlid Care Guide7 mins read

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Electric blue johanni cichlid care guide
Image from Flickr

One of the most striking and intense species of cichlids is the African electric blue johanni cichlid. Sometimes referred to as the Bluegray Mbuna, this is a member of the African Mbuna cichlid category. Did you know, the word Mbuna translates to “rockfish”, as the Electric Blue Johanni is a rock-dwelling freshwater fish?

With its bright blue colors and sexually dimorphic yellow-orange colors in females, what’s not to love? The Johanni species will quickly add some spice to your tank. If you are looking specifically for blue freshwater fish, they are definitely one to consider.

Its aggressive and territorial nature can be off-putting, especially to first-time owners. Nevertheless, if you follow the right care you will find they are an extremely rewarding fish. With this article, we will cover full grown electric blue johanni cichlid size, as well as temperament and care guidelines. Furthermore, you’ll learn how to tell whether you have an electric blue johanni cichlid male or female this makes a lot of difference in aggression.

Yes, this fish are not for beginners! However, in the right setting, you could own a group of similar African cichlids that thrive for many years to come.

Breed Overview

OriginLake Malawi Africa
Lifespan8 – 10 Years
Size5cm (3 Inches) – 10 cm (4 inches)
ColorsDark Blue, Sky Blue, Yellow, Orange
Water TypeFreshwater
Tank Size20 – 30 Gallons for 3 fish
TemperamentAggressive and Territorial
Water Temperature22 to 28 °C (72 to 82 °F)
Water pH5 – 9.0
Difficulty LevelEasy to Intermediate

Species Summary

The scientific names for the Electric Blue Johanni differ occasionally. It previously had the name of Speudotropheus Johanni. However, today scientists list it as the Melanochromis Johanni.

With either name, it belongs to the group of Mbuna cichlids. The electric blue johanni male has many similarities to another Mbuna species known as the Maingano Melachromis Cyaneorhabdos. This can confuse, although the species are very distinct.

  • To tell them apart, remember, the Maingano usually has solid dark blue-black horizontal stripes. Whereas the Melanochromis Johanni usually has lighter broken-up stripes that look more like spots than stripes!

It’s important to note that the Melanochromis Johanni is sexually dimorphic (the male and female are different colors). However, the Maingano male and female are very similar in color. In fact, they only have slight differences in the female.

Otherwise, the Electric Blue Johanni (Melanochromis Johanni species) is an African freshwater fish that mostly lives along the Mozambique coastline of Lake Malawi.

  • Interesting fact: the name Johanni was derived from the German name Johan, or John in English, in honor of a collector named Johan, who specialized in fish from Lake Malawi.


The Electric Blue Johanni male has an elongated body with vibrant blue colors. These can range from sky blue to a deeper dark blue and an almost “checkerboard-like” pattern. In contrast, females and juveniles are yellow to orange, as this species is highly sexually dimorphic.

  • Color Variations – The electric blue johanni mostly comes in shades of light to dark blue and purple blues. However, the Johanni cichlid as a species also comes in other shades of dusky blue or gray. Females are mostly a faded yellow to a brighter yellow, or brilliant orange color.

Electric Blue Johanni Cichlid Size And Lifespan

  • Lifespan – Johanni cichlids have a lifespan of between 8 – 10 years, depending on their care. With the right aquarium setup, proper water parameters, and a high-quality diet, they should easily thrive throughout their years.
  • Full-Grown Electric Blue Johanni Size – What is the size of a full grown electric blue johanni cichlid? Some cichlids get very big so it’s important to account for this before tnk setup. However, as a smaller Mbuna species, Electric Blue Johanni will reach an adult size of around 10 cm(4 Inches). Females tend to be slightly smaller than males.
  • Juvenile Electric Blue Johanni Size – Juveniles are usually around 7.5 cm (3 Inches) or smaller in captivity. Did you know captivity can affect electric blue johanni cichlid size? Similarly, so can the level of care they get.

Caring For An Electric Blue Johanni

Caring for an electric blue johanni
They need a large enough living space with proper water parameters, and enough rock crevices or caves to claim as territory. Image from Flickr

Do not let their smaller size fool you! Electric Blue Johanni are anything but timid and have bold, feisty personalities. They need a large enough living space with proper water parameters.

This should include enough rock crevices or caves to claim as territory. Furthermore, if you are planning on a mixed African cichlid species tank, it is vital to increase the tank volume. This will help dissipate any disputes that may arise.

Tank Set-Up

With African cichlids such as the Mbuna group, try and mimic their natural environment and water parameters. In the natural environment of Lake Malawi, there are sandy bottoms with natural vegetation, and plenty of rocks to use as hiding spaces. This is a great environment to recreate in your tank.

An important note is that these fish are active jumpers. Therefore, it is vital to keep a sturdy lid on your tank. Much of the setup of your tank will rely on the number and types of fish you choose to keep there.

Males in general are aggressive and territorial. This is why it is best to always have more females than males. A minimum of two females per male is safe, though more females are ideal.

Ideal Tank Parameters

  • Tank Size – The ideal tank size for one male and two female cichlids would be between 30 and 40 gallons. However, 55 gallons is better, and you will need more should you wish to keep more fish. Generally speaking, the larger the volume of your tank, the less you need to change the water.
      •  As a rule for smaller tanks, water changes of at least 30 % to 50% are necessary weekly for a cichlid tank. Remember, cichlids produce a lot of waste. Increasing the volume of your tank similarly provides more space to prevent overcrowding. This is an important factor which could lead to aggression and territory squabbles.
  • Water Conditions – Ideally Electric Blue Johanni cichlids prefer harder water conditions and a high pH of between 7.5 and 9. Adding crushed coral or aragonite to your sandy substrate can help to raise pH levels. Similarly, they prefer slightly warmer, more tropical water temperatures usually between 22 to 28 °C (72 to 82 °F).  A strong filter will be necessary to keep the water pristine and clear.
  • Heater – A good submersible heater with a thermometer will be ideal to keep tank water within the required temperatures. Cichlids are generally sensitive to water changes, especially temperatures. Thus consistent temperature is important.
  • Light – Most mbuna cichlids enjoy ambient lighting, and darker caves and rock crevices to hide under. They do however need a few hours of light a day, as well as darkness, to distinguish between night and day.

Tank Décor

Mbuna cichlids in general do well in a more natural setting, like their natural habitat. As they can be slightly destructive and sometimes enjoy digging, you should choose the décor carefully.

  • Substrate – A thick layer of sandy substrate with crushed coral or aragonite is the best option. This is especially for planting strongly rooted plants, and allowing for some digging.
  • Plants and Decor – Electric Blue Johanni cichlids are omnivores and will enjoy snacking on live plants. Thus, choose plants that are not tasty to them and that you can plant deep within the substrate. Java ferns, Java Moss, Anubias, and Anacharis are robust, less likely victims of being eaten by cichlids.

Top Tip: It is essential to provide adequate hiding spots. You can use items such as caves, rocks, or even terracotta pots for your cichlids. Ideally, every male should have at least two hiding spots to choose from in their tank.

Always keep in mind these fish are quite active swimmers and will require ample space to move about. Therefore, try not to overdo the décor in the tank, and have a clear center area for swimming.


Electric Blue Johanni cichlids are omnivores, and enjoy a varied diet of both meat and plant matter. It is essential to feed high-quality foods and to prevent overfeeding. This can lead to a common health issue in African cichlids, called Malawi Bloat.

  • What to Feed – Ideally a good quality pellet or flake that is specially designed for this species of cichlid is best a staple. Fresh or frozen live food such as blood worms, and brine shrimp are also ideal. However, make sure to feed them with a proper portion of fresh blanched vegetables. It is important to note that Mbunas in general require a diet lower in proteins to keep them healthy. Therefore vegetables and quality flakes are generally more balanced.

This fish will accept most foods including cichlid pellets, and live/frozen food such as bloodworms and brine shrimp. Remember, they will also nibble at plant matter. A common disease is Malawi Bloat from too much protein.

Mbuna Cichlids are mostly herbivores, do not feed them like South American Cichlids. Instead, something low in protein like New Life Balance is good. Likewise, Emerald Entree is a good low-protein frozen food. They love fresh vegetables, weigh them down with something and they’ll figure it out eventually.

  • How to Feed – You can feed adult cichlids twice a day, and juveniles more often. Only feed enough for them to finish. Remember to try to prevent overfeeding, which may lead to digestive issues. Feed once or twice a day, or more often when they’re younger so they reach their maximum size easily.

Adding A Cichlid To Your Tank

Adding a cichlid to your tank
Cichlids are quite sensitive to changes in water conditions and temperatures, and similarly prone to some freshwater fish ailments. Image from Flickr

Cichlids are quite sensitive to changes in water conditions and temperatures. They are similarly prone to some freshwater fish ailments. Always select your cichlids with care, and to appropriately acclimate them to their new home.

Choosing Healthy Blue Johanni Cichlids

Always try to attain your fish from a responsible and trusted breeder or pet store, and check the following signs:

  • The fish should be swimming actively and be alert.
  • They should have a good appetite, and easily accept food when presented with it.
  • Check the body for any discoloration, scars, and white spots.
  • Their eyes must be clear and not bulging.
  • Similarly, their belly must be well-rounded but not bloated.


Acclimating your cichlids to their new home is essential to prevent stress and for introducing them properly. Thus, even though excitement may get the better of you (especially if you have kids!), be patient. Always ensure that they are comfortable before you add them to the tank.

Ideally, you should acclimate Mbuna cichlids for a slightly longer period. You can always check out freshwater cichlid forums for advice. However, in summary it’s possible to use the following method:

  • Allow the sealed bag with fish to float on the surface of your tank for between 25 – 40 minutes, longer is always better.
  • Make sure the lights are off and that the area is quiet with no traffic.
  • Add a little of your tank water to the bag at intervals of every 15 to 20 minutes. This should be until it has replaced most of the water in the bag.
  • You can use a soft net to net the fish out one by one, or slowly allow them to swim into their new tank. Ensure you do this without allowing too much dirty water from the bag to enter the tank.

Temperament And Suitable Tank Mates

Most specialists agree that Mbuna cichlids are some of the most aggressive, even despite their small size. Not only are they aggressive, but similarly they are territorial, especially during spawning.

Therefore, ensuring that there is ample space in the tank, and plenty of hiding spots, only then can you include tank mates of other species. However, most experts will advise that only similar cichlid species should live together with a ratio of more females than males.

Some Mbuna species are a safer option than most other species from Lake Malawi, these include:

  • Zebra Mbuna
  • Red Empress
  • Cobalt Zebra
  • Keniyi cichlids
  • Lemon cichlids
  • Electric Yellow cichlids
  • Some Peacock cichlids

Many individuals have found a Syndontis catfish to be an acceptable bottom dweller. However, using crushed coral is not ideal for these fish.

Unfortunately, adding other fish species as tank mates is not recommended, and is very risky at best. Cichlids in their juvenile stages may not cause harm. However, as adults they can be very aggressive and territorial, especially towards other fish species.

Tank Maintenance

Tank maintenance of cichlid
Use a testing kit to ensure that the water pH and other levels are correct.

Cichlids, especially African cichlids, require very clean water conditions. Additionally, they do produce quite a bit of waste. Therefore, it is vital to regularly maintain your aquarium by removing any leftover food or dead plant matter and by doing weekly water changes.

If you have a large volume tank, water changes of between 25 to 30% are sufficient. On the contrary, for smaller tanks, you will need more substantial water changes of up to 50%.

Water changes for freshwater fish require the following steps:

  • Firstly turn off the lights to ensure the event is less stressful for your fish.
  • Use a siphoning hose to siphon the needed percentage of water from the bottom of the tank.
  • In a separate container use clean heated water and add your necessary water conditions.
  • Use a testing kit to ensure that the water pH and other levels are correct.
  • Use your thermometer or heater to get the water temperature as desired.
  • Now you can add the new water to your tank.

Remember, cichlids are very sensitive to changes in water conditions. Thus all parameters, and temperatures must be the same as that of their tank.

Common Health Issues In Cichlids

Common health issues in cichlids
Cichlids can also get a bacterial or fungal infection in their swim bladder (the organ that keeps them afloat) causing them to struggle to stay upright and swim properly. Image from Flickr

Most African cichlids are prone to basic freshwater fish diseases and pests. However, there are a few others that more commonly arise in cichlids.

Essentially water parameters and diet are the two main factors that could affect the health of your cichlids, So, by ensuring you feed them a proper diet, and have good water conditions, you will have a better chance at maintaining their health.

General Fish Diseases

  • Fin Rot – Fin rot causes fraying and discoloration, especially in the tail and fins of your fish. It is a bacterial infection that stems from either physical damage or ammonia burns. You can treat fin rot with an antibacterial medication. Then, use a separate container to quarantine your fish in clean water.
  • White Spot /Ich – The protozoan parasite mainly enters your tank as a result of adding new fish or plants carrying the parasite. This is the reason why quarantining new plants and fish is always a good practice! In the case of when a fish catches this parasite, it is easier to treat the entire tank. This is unfortunately because it is so contagious. Using aquarium salt, potassium permanganate, or malachite is usually a good option. You can also slightly increase the temperature of the water gradually.
  • Swim Bladder Disease – Cichlids can also get a bacterial or fungal infection in their swim bladder (the organ that keeps them afloat). This causes them to struggle to stay upright and swim properly. Depending on whether it is a bacterial or fungal infection, there is a course of medication that you can administer to cure the condition.

Some Other Common Conditions:

  • Malawi Bloat – Malawi bloat is common in African cichlids mostly. It causes swelling in the abdomen, rapid breathing, a loss of appetite, and discoloration of feces. A large water change, and using metronidazole-based medication is a sufficient treatment. Keep in mind to remove carbon from the tank filter when you use this medication. Malawi bloat mainly comes from poor water conditions or an improper diet this is too high in proteins.
  • Hole in the Head Disease – Sometimes referred to as Hexamita, it affects many Cichlids including Angelfish and Discus. The symptoms include dents in the head of the fish, a loss of appetite, weight loss, and lesions on your fish. To treat this, you must improve water conditions to pristine quality. After this, you can administer an antibiotic.
  • Cotton Wool Disease – Cotton Wool disease causes white fuzzy fungal growths on your fish. These usually come from stress and poor water conditions. Usually, a salt bath is a viable solution, and you should also apply antifungal treatments.
  • Gill Flukes – These flatworms affect the gills of your fish. Sadly, they may cause them to become red, and covered in a thick slime. Additionally, gill flukes result in difficulty breathing for your fish. However, you can easily treat them by gradually and slightly increasing water temperatures and adding a tablespoon of salt per 55 gallons.
  • Tuberculosis – A contagious and serious disease that results in a fish with frayed fins, white blotches, and a sunken stomach. This also manifetss with a loss of appetite. Unfortunately, there may not be much hope for fish with advanced symptoms. The condition is highly contagious, thus your best choice is to immediately remove and quarantine all other fish. You can then treat the entire tank and sick fish with melafix.

Breeding Electric Blue Johanni Cichlids

Breeding electric blue johanni cichlids
Electric Blue Johanni cichlids are one of the easier-to-breed cichlid species, and with ample space, and the correct setup in your tank, they are so easy and rewarding to breed. Image from Flickr

Electric Blue Johanni cichlids are one of the easier-to-breed cichlid species. With ample space, and the correct setup in your tank, you will find they are so easy and rewarding to breed.

How do you know if you have an electric blue johanni cichlid male or female? Remember, juvenile and female electric blue johanni cichlids are yellow to orange, while males are blue. Unlike other species, this makes them a piece of cake to sex!

In addition, they are polygamous, meaning one male can tend to several females. In no time at all, they will form a sort of matriarchal family in a territory that the male chooses. During spawning, the male will darken in color.

The females lay around 10 to 60 eggs and carry the eggs in their mouth before the male fertilizes them. This is a process called “mouthbrooding”. The male has to trick the female, using egg spot patterns underneath the anal fin. This is to cause her to open her mouth for the fertilization process.

The female keeps the eggs in her mouth for 14 to 21 days, until the fry are born. At this stage, she releases them. Then, the female cares for the fry, even taking them back into her mouth when she feels something may threaten them.

How To Help Your Cichlids Mate:

  • Ensure there are ample hiding spaces and a ratio of at least two females per male.
  • Slightly and gradually increase the temperature of the tank. Do this to almost the maximum recommended temperature after spawning.
  • Feed the young fry powdered brine shrimp after the female releases them.
  • Ensure that the tank with spawning groups and fry is in a more secluded area. This should be away from excess noise and interruptions.
  • Do small regular water changes to keep the water quality optimal.

In Conclusion

Though aggressive and territorial by nature, electric blue johanni cichlids are worth keeping.

Remember, Mbuna species, when you keep them in the right ratios with compatible tank mates do not necessarily have to show aggression. It also helps to have the right setup.

Either way, if you adhere to their simple care needs you can easily keep a group of colorful and highly entertaining Electric Blue Johanni. Even though they are a slightly more sensitive fish species with compatible species, you can easily enjoy their vibrant colors and fun antics.

Frequently Asked Questions

Electric Blue Johanni Juvenile Female Size?
Females are usually smaller than males at around 3 cm 91.18 inches) or more, and juveniles are usually between 2-3 cm (0.78 – 1.18 Inches)
How Do You Distinguish Males from Females?
Easily distinguishable juveniles and females are mostly yellow, while adult females turn a bold yellow to orange color, and males are predominantly blue.
What are the Best Other Fish Species Tank Mate?
Ideally, Electric Blue Johanni cichlids should be kept with similar species such as Zebra cichlids, Peacock Cichlids, Electric and Lemon Yellow cichlids, or Kenyi Cichlids. Some aquarists have managed to keep them with Giant Danios, Swordtails, and Rainbowfish because they are hard water-loving fish, and peaceful by nature.
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