Paratilapia polleni – Black Diamond Cichlid

Paratilapia polleni is a medium-sized cichlid, which can grow to about 30 centimetres in length. They have a velvety black base colour with a pattern of blue or gold flecks.

Paratilapia polleni – Black Diamond Cichlid

Paratilapia polleni was first described by Bleeker in 1868. Their common name is Black Diamond Cichlid.


Paratilapia polleni has been known by several names: Paracara typus, Paratilapia typus, Paratilapia bleekeri.


Paratilapia polleni is a medium-sized cichlid, which can grow to about 30 centimetres in length. The males are about a third larger than the females. They have a velvety black base colour with a pattern of blue or gold flecks. You can see a faint spot on the base of the dorsal fin in juveniles or sexually repressed adults. Adult males are much larger than females and develop much longer filaments on their dorsal and anal fin. They often also have a slightly more rounded shape of their head.


Endemic to Madagascar where they can be found in freshwater up to altitudes of about 1500 meters above sea level. They can withstand large differences in temperature.

Diet in the Wild

Paratilapia polleni is a carnivore. The fry mainly feed on plankton-like crustaceans and insect larvae. The larger animals hunt at dusk and prefer small fish, but will also eat invertebrates if the opportunity arises.

Breeding Paratilapia polleni

Parenting for Paratilapia polleni is a task for two. They are monogamous biparental substrate breeders. The pair defends a territory where both sexes take on a velvety black base colour once they are ready to spawn. They dig a hole in the gravel and lay their eggs in it while keeping other fish away. Each egg has a long sticky thread that sticks to other egg threads, forming a chain of up to a thousand eggs. This chain is coiled into one mass of eggs.

The male patrols the edge of the territory until the fry become mobile four days after hatching. Both parents follow the fry, pick up the stragglers and spit them back into the school. The brood care lasts about three weeks. This protective behaviour allows for the successful breeding that is common in the various cichlid species.


A non-native fish has been introduced in the southern part of the habitat of the Paratilapia polleni. The snakehead fish Channa punctata is both a competitor and a predator. In the aquarium,  Paratilapia polleni can live up to about 15 years.


IUCN Red List; Vulnerable (VU). Paratilapia polleni is considered endangered due to its small and fragmented habitat (mainly caused by deforestation or river closure) causing a continuous reduction of available habitat and therefore a decline of mature individuals in the wild. Many aquariums and zoos support a captive breeding program.


Paratilapia polleni is the most primitive living representative of the large family Cichlidae. Some fish from Madagascar’s freshwater have ancestry dating back to the Jurassic era.

Paratilapia sp. Andapa

Officially, Paratilapia sp. Andapa belongs to the species Paratilapia polleni. Preliminary DNA research, however, shows that it is probably a really separate species. A few pictures of Paratilapia sp. Andapa:



Ron DeCloux

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Ron DeCloux
John de Lange


California Academy of Sciences Rainforest Docent Training Manual 2014
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