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Christmas Fulu (Xystichromis phytophagus)

Christmas Fulu (Xystichromis phytophagus)

Christmas Fulu (Xystichromis phytophagus)

The Christmas Fulu (Xystichromis phytophagus) is a beautiful endangered species that is already considered extinct in Lake Victoria however, it is relatively common in Lake Kanyabooli, in the Kenyan Yala Swamp of Africa.

In their natural habitat, Christmas Fulu are polygamous maternal mouth brooders that feed primarily on algae and vegetable matter.   Because they are already extinct in Lake Victoria and considered an endangered species in Lake Kanyabooli, the main source of Xystichromis phytophagus for tropical fish keeping enthusiasts is from captive bred specimens.

Christmas Fulu (Xystichromis phytophagus)

Male Christmas Fulu are colored a bright red and green with blue in the facial area and on the dorsal fin.    Females on the other hand are a drab gold color with a yellow tinge on the fins.   Males are larger and much more brightly colored than the smaller, more drably colored females.

The male’s spectacularly bright red and green colors are most prominently displayed during the breeding season, which is where the common name is derived from.

Christmas Fulu are best housed in at least a 40 gallon aquarium with a sand and gravel substrate with several stacked rocks situated into cave like hiding places.   Although plants are not necessary in this typical rocky Victorian type of setup, Christmas Fulu appreciate a piece or two of African Driftwood in their tank.

Even though Christmas Fulu are small cichlids, the males are aggressive to others of their own species, particularly during breeding.   When housing two males with a harem of 6 to 8 or more females, a tank size of at least 80 gallon capacity is highly recommended.

When kept in a community environment, they are best housed with other Lake Victorian cichlids of the same size.

A wet/dry trickle filter or canister type filtration system along with a small power head and regular water changes is recommended to maintain the necessary water quality for this species.

Xystichromis phytophagus are polygamous maternal mouth brooders that are relatively easy to breed in an aquarium environment, provided that male aggression is kept in check.

When a group of Christmas Fulu are kept together in a large aquarium, a single male will begin to establish dominance in the tank.   This is shown by the male when his breeding colors are displayed and become more pronounced as he chases other males and females that are not ready to breed out of his established territory.

When ready to breed, the dominant male will dig a pit in the substrate and actively court any ripe females in the tank.   The pair will mate in the depression and like other Haps, the female is in charge of taking care of the offspring.    Approximately 15 days after mating the females will release their fry.

The relatively large fry can be fed very small foods such a baby brine shrimp, finely crushed flake food, or Hikari First Bites.

In the wild, Christmas Fulu are primarily vegetarians that feed on algae and other vegetable matter.   In an aquarium environment, they do well on an omnivorous diet of spirulina based flakes, an appropriately size pellet, fresh spinach, romaine lettuce, and fresh, frozen, or freeze dried brine shrimp fed on an occasional basis as a “treat”.

Because of their endangered status, Christmas Fulu (Xystichromis phytophagus) are not common in the aquarium trade to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts but they are available from breeders through on line cichlid forums and specialty fish shops, and are reasonably priced.

Christmas Fulu (Xystichromis phytophagus)







Minimum Tank Size: 40 gallons
Care Level: Mildly Difficult
Temperament: Mildly Aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 77-90°F, dH 6-10 °d, pH 7.5-8.2
Max. Size: Males 4.25″ Females 3.6″
Color Form: Red, Green, Yellow
Diet: Herbivore
Compatibility: Single species or Victoria community
Origin: Lake Victoria, Africa
Family: Cichlidae
Lifespan: 4-10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

Posted in Cichlids, Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Lake Victoria, West Africa and Madagascar, Tropical Fish Keeping, Tropical Fish SpeciesComments (0)

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