Tramitichromis intermedius

Tramitichromis intermedius is a very beautiful species, provided you keep it alone or with very calm other species.

Tramitichromis intermedius

Tramitichromis intermedius was first described by Trewavas in 1935. At the time still under the name Lethrinops intermedia.

The genus name Tramitichromis can be divided into two parts. “Trames” means “a byway”, referring to the deflection of the pharyngeal jaws from the usual range of the structure. “Chromis’” is a name that has been used since the time of Aristotle. It may be derived from the word “chroemo” which means “to neigh”. This may refer to the drumming sound of the family Sciaenidae. The use of the word Chromis was later extended to the cichlids, damsels, dottybacks and wrasses. It used to be thought that all these species belonged to one and the same family.

The species name intermedius means “intermediate form”, the form is in between two species. Tramitichromis intermedius has the short snout, low gill number, and short pharyngeal blade of Lethrinops (now Tramitichromis) brevis and the pharyngeal teeth structure of Letrinops argenteus and Lethrinops lethrinus.

The species has two synonyms: Lethrinops intermedia and Tremtocranus intermedius.


An adult Tramitichromis intermedius male can reach a length of about 17 centimetres. The female remains slightly smaller at about 15 centimetres.

The difference between an adult-dominant male and a female is clearly visible. The male has much more color than the female. Its head is iridescent green/blue. This color can also be found on the flank, although the scales have a red border. The pectoral fins are transparent. The dorsal, caudal, anal, and pelvic fins have red spots. Egg spots can also be seen on the anal fin.

As with Lethrinops, the males show their most beautiful colors when kept in a species aquarium. Together with other species, they are quickly suppressed and lose their bright colors.

The female is a bit duller colored. They are brown/grey in color. Several dark spots are visible on the flank. The spots start high on the shoulder and run down to the caudal peduncle. These are also visible in males if they are not completely in color.


The habitat of Tramitichromis intermedius is limited to the south of Lake Malawi. They mainly occur in shallow water above muddy and sandy bottoms.


In the wild, Tramitichromis intermedius forages for food by sifting the substrate through its gills. They look for small insect larvae, worms and the like.

In the aquarium, you can feed them a varied diet of live and frozen food. White and black mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, mysis, daphnia. They also like to eat flake food, granulate and the like. Occasionally some vegetable flakes such as spirulina complement the diet well. A varied diet also ensures that the colours become more intense.

The Aquarium

An aquarium of about 150 centimetres in length is sufficient for one male with several females. It is best to keep them in a harem. In this species, the male is somewhat territorial. If you want to keep more males, you need a spacious aquarium

Set up the aquarium with (filter) sand on the bottom. The sand should not be sharp as they sift it through their gills in search of something to eat. As usual in a Malawi aquarium, add a few piles of rocks. Make some cracks, crevices and caves between the rocks. The females can temporarily escape the attention of the male here. The breeding Tramitichromis intermedius females can also withdraw from time to time.

Water parameters

The water may have a temperature of about 22 to 26 degrees Celsius. Preferably keep the pH between pH 7.5 and 8.5. The GH is of less importance here.

Aquarium tankmates

As mentioned, the colours of Tramitichromis intermedius are at their best when they are not suppressed. Therefore, do not keep them together with Mbuna or large Utaka. If you want to combine them with other species, think of the peaceful Aulonocara or Copadichromis species. Possibly they hybridize with Lethrinops species, I would personally avoid that combination.

Breeding Tramitichromis intermedius

Like almost all other Malawi Cichlids, Tramitichromis intermedius is a maternal mouthbrooder. That is, the female incubates the eggs in her mouth.

To breed successfully with this species you need a breeding group of preferably one male with several females. They can reproduce in an aquarium with other species, so a special breeding tank is not always necessary.

Set up the aquarium with sand on the bottom. The male makes a kind of burrow in the sand. He tries to lure a female here to mate with. He does this by showing his most beautiful colors. He spreads his fins wide and with trembling movements, he shows his flank.

If the female is ready to mate, she goes with him to his keep. They circle around each other. The female lays a few eggs in the sand of the burrow. They continue to circle after which the eggs are fertilized by the male. The female takes the eggs in her mouth. This is repeated until all eggs have been laid.

The male’s work is now done. The Tramitichromis intermedius female now incubates the eggs in her mouth. The eggs hatch after a few days but the newly hatched young fish remain in her mouth. They continue to feed on their egg yolk sac. The fry are not released until about three weeks after the eggs have been deposited. They now have to take care of themselves.

In an aquarium with adult fish, most fry are eaten. If you want to keep more fish, you can catch the female about 15 days after spawning. Place her in a breeding tank with sand on the bottom and some hiding places. Here she can feel safe until she spits out the young fish. The female does not eat her young during the first hours after releasing the young Tramitichromis intermedius. You have plenty of time to put her back in the normal aquarium.

The young fish can be fed with dust food or crushed flake food. Newly hatched brine shrimp grow fastest.



John de Lange

Copyright images

Kevin Bauman


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Additional information






Lethrinops intermedia

First described by

Ethelwynn Trewavas






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