Starry Night Cichlid Care Guide

Starry Night Cichlid Care Guide7 mins read

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Starry Night Cichlid Care Guide
Image From Flickr

The Starry Night Cichlid is a majestic and fierce cichlid species from Madagascar. Want to keep one of these guys? The starry night cichlid full size is quite substantial; that is why a large and spacious tank is essential.  As the name suggests, they are dark colored with bright white spots, resembling a lush starry night. Their exquisite beauty by far makes up for their aggressive nature. Choose starry night cichlid tank mates with care, as they are very territorial.

Essentially these are an endangered species. Thus, they are not shipped as pets to some countries. Therefore, before setting your heart on one of these beauties, first find out if your area sources them. As mentioned further the starry night cichlid size increases rapidly. They will only progress with proper care and tank size. By following proper guidelines, you will have a gorgeous and healthy addition to your large aquarium, that will flourish and most likely become your favorite pet.

Breed Overview

Lifespan10 – 13 Years
Size28 cm (11 Inches)
ColorsBrown to Black
Water TypeFreshwater
Tank Size120– 125 Gallons for 2 fish
TemperamentAggressive, Territorial
Water Temperature76 to 82°F (24 to 30°C)
Water pH5 – 8.0
Difficulty LevelIntermediate to Difficult

Starry Night Cichlid Species

The Starry Night Cichlid or “Paratilapia polleni is the only known member in its genus. The cichlid species originates from Madagascar in Africa. The name given to this freshwater species honors Francois Pollen, the Dutch naturalist. Also a merchant, Pollen collected freshwater fish species during his trades. He avidly collected the species while visiting Madagascar. The dark and mysterious starry night cichlid size is medium to large. It has white spots on its dark base, resembling a starry night.

It is known to be quite aggressive and ferocious, and similarly likes to ambush and eat smaller fish species.

Colors And Variations

To describe the starry night cichlid full size. It has a lateral compressed body, with a perch-like form. Males usually develop a nuchal hump as they mature, and adults are a jet-black to dark blue color. They have bright yellow eyes and distinct white spots all over the body. The base colors of Starry Night Cichlids may vary from Brown to black, and dark blue. As mentioned they are the only species in this genus.

Starry Night Cichlid Size And Lifespan

Starry Night Cichlid Size And Lifespan
Male Starry nights reach lengths of up to 28 cm (11 Inches), while females are usually half the size. Image From Flickr

The starry night cichlid size is what makes it such a substantial beauty. It grows significantly every year with adequate care and the right tank size. Not the largest of the cichlid genus, it is still an enormous fish that requires much space.

What is the Starry Night Cichlid Full Size

Male starry nights reach lengths of up to 28 cm (11 Inches), while female starry night cichlid full size is normally half of this. Starry night cichlids grow an astonishing three to four inches every year, up to maturity. At the age of three years, a Starry Night cichlid is mature and full-size.

How Old do Starry Night Cichlids Get

The species enjoys a long lifespan of between 10 to 13 years if properly cared for. A large and spacious tank is a substantial requirement for the species to thrive. A large tank will accommodate the starry night cichlid full size and allows it to grow to its full potential. Considering their age, they are a long-term responsibility. On the plus side, also a pet you can enjoy for many years.

Temperament And Behavior

Starry Night Cichlids are well known for their aggression. Hence why it’s best to keep male and female pairs. They are highly territorial, and their severe aggression can be harmful to other fish. Fortunately, they tend to be less aggressive towards other fish species, that will not invade their territory. The best starry night cichlid tank mates are usually species that are roughly similar in size. Starry Night Cichlids may prey on smaller fish, thus they are not advised. By providing much-needed shelter and ample tank space, Starry Night Cichlids may leave other tank mates alone.

Suitable Starry Night Cichlid Tank Mates

As mentioned these cichlids are aggressive and territorial. The best choice is to keep them in male and female pairs. Should you decide to keep other fish species as tank mates, it should attempted carefully. Most Schooling species are a good choice as they are harder to bully. Similarly, cichlids that are comparable in size and will not enter their territory, are a safe bet. It is vital to have a large spacious tank when keeping starry night cichlids with other tank mates. Keep a close eye on their behavior towards other fish species, to avoid accidents.

The following species is a safe option in most cases:

  • Severum Cocholate Cichlids.
  • Female Salvinis.
  • Cutteri Cichlids.
  • Firemouth Cichlids.
  • Clown Loaches.
  • Congo Tetras.
  • Red-Tail Sharks.
  • Scavenger Catfish.
  • Leopard Bushfish.
  • Synodontis Catfish.

Care Requirements

Care Requirements for Starry Night Cichlids
Starry Night Cichlids are well known for their adaptability, especially in the wild. In nature, they can tolerate temperatures as low as 12°C(53.6°F) and as high as 40°C (104°F). Image From Flickr

Starry Night Cichlids are well known for their adaptability, especially in the wild. In nature, they can tolerate temperatures as low as 12°C(53.6°F) and as high as 40°C (104°F). They inhabit various streams, springs, and rivers in Northern Madagascar. Their territory reaches up to the environs of Andapa. Most species captured for the aquarium trade come from the town of Andapa.

Aquarium Set Up

The Starry Night Cichlid is both destructive and inquisitive. They will burrow and shift substrate, décor, and destroy aquarium plants. Ideally, tank filtration must be carefully placed to avoid being dug up and chewed on. They prefer a stronger flowing current. Currents are similar to the flow of natural rivers. In this case, strong filters are a must. Keep in mind they are native to rivers, and take pleasure in swimming in such.

  • Tank Size – Ideally a male and female pair of cichlids require at least a 120-gallon tank. If kept with other tank mates, more space is essential. A larger tank helps to improve the progress and health of your Starry Night Cichlid.
  • Water Parameters Always keep water temperatures between 76 to 82°F (24 to 30°C) are essential for your cichlids to thrive. Similarly, they do well with pH levels of around 5-8.0. Eben though they can tolerate a large spectrum of parameters, it is not advised. Tolerating water parameters, and thriving are much different. For your cichlid to stay healthy and content, the proper parameters are required. Also, ensure you have checked the requirements of any starry night cichlid tank mates.
  • Substrate and Décor They have an innate desire to burrow and dig. Thus, a gravel substrate and larger rock formations are ideal. Smoother pebbles that will not scratch their delicate skin are suitable. Keep vegetation scarce as they tend to destroy plants. Aquatic plants including Anubias, Java ferns, and similar strong-rooted plants, are desirable. A few floating plants can likewise add shade. A challenge with this large species is to create large enough shelters. They need rock crevices for them to hide in, essentially. The more shelter and territory available, the better they will get along with other tank mates.


Starry Night Cichlids are omnivores ideally, and opportunistic piscivores. They like to occasionally approach smaller fish and prey on them. Because of their dark coloration and stealth, they have a higher advantage in catching smaller fish. They swallow smaller fish with a suction effect. The Starry Night Cichlid enjoys foods with good flavor. As a staple you can feed them a high-quality pellet starting with small pellets when they are small.

As they grow older increasing the size of the pellets is necessary. Additionally, foods such as small fish, shrimp, and blood worms are essential to their diet. Because they are known omnivores some vegetable-based foods can be introduced. Blanched green vegetables provide much-needed fiber to prevent illness.

Tank Maintenance

Regular tank maintenance and upkeeping are crucial with such large fish. They produce much waste and require pristine clean water to thrive. The” tank cleaning checklist” is an inspiring guideline for keeping your tank clean and healthy:


Remove excess food waste and dead plants. Keep an eye on water levels and the behavior of your fish.


Check the water temperatures. Do a 20 to 25% water change if needed. Siphon water with a hose from the bottom of the tank, and replace it with conditioned and heated clean water. Check the water parameters and temperatures before adding new water.

Two Weekly

Scrub away algae from the sides of the tank. Rinse your filter in reserve tank water. Make sure to test the quality of the water properly.


Rinse your biological filters in old tank water. Remove dirty décor and scrub them with clean water. You can also vacuum the gravel.


It is vital to ensure that you have a new and properly functioning water testing kit.

Choosing And Acclimating A Starry Night Cichlid

Ensuring that your tank is fully set up, and cycled properly for at least one week, it is time to introduce your fish. At this stage, you most likely have found a local pet store or breeder that sources them. Starry Night Cichlids, though not that rare can be challenging to find. Make sure to select healthy Starry Night Cichlids. They must show no signs of damage, discoloration, or spotting. You can follow these steps to add your fish to their new home:

  1. Allow the fish to float on the surface of the tank, in their bag for 20 to 30 minutes to acclimate.
  2. Replace a quarter cup of water from the bag with tank water.
  3. When you have replaced most of the water in the bag, you can add your new fish.
  4. Allow them to swim from the bag into the new tank, taking care not to let too much water from the bag enter the tank.
  5. Ensure that the environment is quiet and relaxed before introducing new fish. You can also switch off the lights when adding new fish.

Breeding And Caring For Fry

Starry Night cichlids full size and mature are egg-laying, and produce up to 1000 eggs. They are maternal brooders, and a separate breeding tank is a necessity. Take heed though, that they are not the easiest cichlid species to breed though it is achievable.

Male and Female Starry Night Cichlids

Firstly, a mature male and female starry night cichlid is crucial. Male Starry Night Cichlids are generally much larger than females. Males exhibit longer anal and dorsal fins and a nuchal hump on their foreheads. Females may seem identical, especially when younger. It may lead to actual mating before being able to differentiate the sex. Ideally, you can obtain a group of juvenile Starry Night Cichlids. When they mature and pair off, you can return or sell the unpaired cichlids.


As mentioned you will need a dedicated breeding tank. Sometimes, starry night cichlid tank mates can become victims of mating aggression. The pair will spend their time creating cave nests, moving around gravel and décor devotedly.

The female lays her eggs on the substrate and the male fertilizes them. The female guards the eggs and the male the territory. The eggs hatch within 48 hours and young fry become free swimming in around 6 to 7 days. It is essential to feed your cichlid pare abundantly to prevent them from eating their young. Once the fry becomes territorial towards each other, it is safe to house them separately.

Breeding Starry Night Cichlids is a delicate process. There is mostly “maternal aftercare” and protection from the male. Parents can care for their young for up to 4 weeks.

Basic Health Conditions In Cichlids

Basic Health Conditions In Cichlids
Predominant in cichlids Tuberculosis is infectious and serious. Remove all healthy fish from the tank, and quarantine them immediately. Image From Flickr

As with most cichlid species, the starry night cichlid is prone to some basic freshwater fish ailments. However, with proper care, they are quite resilient and hardy fish.

Swim Bladder Disease

In this case, there is an infection in the swim bladder, that keeps your fish afloat. Symptoms include struggling to stay afloat and bloating. Effective treatments will depend on the cause. Many times it is a poor diet, and lack of fiber in the diet. You can obtain medication from a vet or petstore for the condition.


Predominant in cichlids Tuberculosis is infectious and serious. Remove all healthy fish from the tank, and quarantine them immediately. Symptoms such as lack of appetite, ragged fins, white patches, and sluggish behavior can be noted. The entire tank with the ill fish must be treated with Melafix as soon as possible. Many times Tuberculosis can be fatal.

Cotton Wool Disease

Cotton Wool disease is caused by a parasite developing white fuzz on the head, fins, and scales of your fish. It is mostly found in aquariums where water parameters are sub-par. Treat the fungal infection with antifungal medication or a salt bath.


Ich is a protozoan parasite that targets the fins and body of your fish. It causes small white spots to appear on your fish. Deal with the parasite by using prescription medication from a vet. Clean tank water and temperatures raised slightly. Ich is usually introduced by adding new infected fish or plants. Thus it is vital to always quarantine new fish or plants before adding them to your aquarium.

Last Words

Thus, so far, is the starry night cichlid a good choice as a pet for you? Make sure you make this decision carefully. For example, keep in mind the starry night cichlid size and lifespan. They are a long-term responsibility. The substantial and aggressive fish require a large living space and specific care. They are attractive fish and quite healthy in general with little health concerns. They are challenging in terms of behavior. However, you might love the size, colors, and feisty personality of the starry night cichlid. Who knows, it might just be the perfect pet for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Starry Night Cichlid’s Full Size?
Starry night cichlids are medium to large and have a stocky body. They can easily reach up to 28 cm (11 inches) in length. Females are generally only half the size of mature males.
Do Starry Night Cichlids Get Along with Other Tank Mates?
Ideally, it's best to keep them as a male and female pair on their own. These large fish are aggressive and can do much damage to other fish species. There are a few Starry Night Cichlid Tank mates that are suitable. With proper monitoring, they should get along easily.
Where can I get a Starry Night Cichlid?
Essentially, it is advisable to do some research online or locally. You may have a local pet store that sources them, or there may be a breeder online that sources them. The starry Night Cichlid may not be available in your country or area. Starry Night Cichlids are generally endangered species.
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