The sexes of N. multifasciatus are easily differentiated; males dwarf females in size.
From territorial contests to feeding in packs, N. multifasciatus are highly social and will spend
most of their time interacting with one another.
N. multifasciatus exhibit a variety of fascinating behaviors, the most notable being their
vanishing into their shells at lightning speed when threatened.
nonetheless. At my house, 6 p.m. is territorial
dispute time. At around that time every
evening, the males will put on territorial
displays. They swim around each other, chase
each other, and occasionally even lock jaws. I
have never lost a fish or even had one injured
during this kind of behavior, but presumably
it could happen considering they have very
My multifasciatus share the tank with
Malaysian trumpet snails. The males do not
like the snails venturing into their territories.
If a snail gets on one of the multifasciatus
home shells, a large male will pull the trumpet
snail off and swim it to the other side of
the aquarium and drop it. This is not an
insignificant feat, since some of the trumpet
snails are almost as big as the cichlids. Of
course, the most famous behavior of these
small fish is their fast escape into the shells. It’s
amazing how quickly they can all disappear
when startled, leaving what appears to be an
N. multifasciatus are not picky eaters.
In the wild they eat predominantly small
invertebrates, but they will eat just about
anything in the home aquarium. For a
basic maintenance diet, I use a staple
granule. The males will eat at the surface
but dominate the females there, so I
prefer sinking granules. They seem to give
the females more opportunities to feed
without having to compete so much with
the larger males.
Multis will also eat live or frozen foods,
such as bloodworms and brine shrimp,
but these aren’t necessary unless you are
trying to get them to breed. If you provide
a piece of food much too big for them to
eat, the little cichlids will attack in a pack,
tearing the meat to pieces. When they
are feeding this way, you can really see
the potential of those very sharp teeth.
Within a few minutes, all the food will
Getting N. multifasciatus to breed is
not difficult. All that is required is a
male, a female, a shell, and high-quality
fresh or frozen food. I use frozen baby
brine shrimp. My starter colony of six
multifasciatus grew to thirty very quickly.
When I want to slow down their
breeding due to aquarium size constraints,
I just stop the brine shrimp and go back to
the granules. You will still see occasional
fry, but not nearly as often. It is as simple
N. multifasciatus lay their eggs in the
shells so you will not know if breeding
has been successful until you see the
tiny fry appear at the mouth of the shell.
Like most cichlids, multifasciatus make
good parents. They protect their young
and stand guard at the mouth of their
shells when they have a brood. The tiny
females do not have large broods. Since
they lay their eggs inside the shell, it is
difficult to tell if the small broods are due
to not laying many eggs or a low rate of
egg viability. A typical brood in my tank
consists of three to six fry. The fry stay
very close to the shell until they are over
a centimeter long, but even then, like all
multifasciatus, they do not venture far
A Great Little Fish
Whether you are new to the aquarium
hobby, new to cichlids, or experienced
with both, give these little guys a try.
They are simple to keep and fascinating to
watch. They may not have the flashy colors
of some of the larger cichlids, but they
more than make up for that in charm. D