Hemichromis Moanda (Moanda Jewel Cichlid) breeding & information guide


MFK Member
Nov 13, 2015
I got a group of Hemichromis Moanda (Moanda Jewel Cichlid) from the wetspot several years ago. Given how little information on them there is I wanted to share my experience with them.

First my group was wildcaught (or so wetspot said), and I asked for similarly sized small individuals. The four arrived at around an inch with one being noticeably smaller than the rest ,and another being a bit bigger maybe 1.5 inches. As I had heard they were a more peaceful Jewel I had intended to keep them in a 30 gallon with a school of something, and maybe a small bottom dweller like some Cory cats. I was also at University at the time so they would be getting moved between my tank in my dorm, and my tank back home a few times a year. Given how hardy the other Jewel species are I was not worried about doing this with them.

Appearance: I know a lot of Cichlid keepers get bummed to learn that their fish only looks like the ones online when breeding if at all. However these are not that way. They start as a typical pale colored fry then turn a light red with a pale underside before reaching the deep red with yellow bellow adult coloration. I suspect mine were very young when I got them, and they got the red with yellow belly coloration after 4 months of me having them. When they are pale red with the washed out belly color underneath they are old enough to breed which for mine was 2 months. They maintain the "as seen online" red with yellow belly color all the time as adults. White pool filter sand was terrible for their colors making them washed out even as adults, so I recommend a darker substrate. The fry developed the same great colors as the adults as well, so it doesn't seem to be one of those situations where captive bred are a step below wild caught colors.

Tank set up: Caves made of pots,rocks, and bricks did not interest them. I had a clump of java moss on the bottom which is the only thing they liked hiding with. They dug a pit under the java moss clump which is where they spent a lot of time as well as layed eggs. In hindsight I think floating plants would have been appreciated by them.

Temperament: Day 1 of them being in the tank the largest and second smallest "paired" to beat the other two nearly to death. This amazed me as they all had juvenile coloration still, so I didn't expect aggression of this level especially not 5 hours into being added. I had to remove the other two immediately as the beating was the worst I have ever seen from small cichlids. The tank also had guppies which were completely ignored. They never cared about non-bottom dwellers as long as they were not other Jewels. When the pair got adult coloration bottom dwellers were no longer tolerated in the pairs half of the tank ever(even when no fry/eggs were around). If I had kept these in a larger tank I suspect it wouldn't have been a problem as they didn't bother bottom dwellers unless they were on their side of the tank.

For things outside the tank the pair was skittish. They would lose all color and run when I approached the tank although they would come back out after a bit. They also reacted badly to turning the lights on/off usually panicking for a few seconds before calming down. When they had fry the male would approach the glass to fight me, and he would keep his eye on me as I moved around the room. The original pair never got used to me, nor did they really associate me with food. With age they did get more assertive in trying to fight me behind the glass at least. Their children did not inherit the skittishness, so I suspect it had something to do with being wild caught. The children also understood that I was the food bringer, and didn't panic when the lights came on/off.

Hardiness: They were sturdy fish. Even the two that had all their fins shredded day one did not develop any illness. I never saw any of these get sick, and the pair was totally fine being moved between the two tanks along with the several hour drive that came with it. They would resume normal behavior as well as eat almost immediately upon being placed in their new tank.

Feeding: They ate anything from floating foods to sinking pellets. While not mandatory my dad liked dropping insects into the tank which they enjoyed. Didn't seem to touch my plants. When feeding from the surface they would hit the food hard like a bass with a pop sound making a splash then running back to the bottom. Smallest fish I have owned that would make such a loud sound when eating.

Temperature & PH: I kept both tanks at 78. Eggs were layed and hatched in both tanks, and the PH of one was 7.6 . I can't remember the exact PH in the other tank, but it was a little lower.

Breeding: The two that remained after the first night stayed friendly with each other. They spent time around the same spots, and never had any aggression between each other. They bred in less than 2 months upon me having them. The male was 2 inches with the female maybe 1.5? They bred before their adult coloration had come in. A pit was dug under the java moss then fry emerged a few days later. I never saw the eggs or fed the fry, and there didn't seem to be any trigger for breeding. The spawns were pretty small usually about 60 were around by the time I saw them. Other Jewels lay around 250 eggs, so I suspect there were more than 60 the rest just never made it to the size where they leave the moss.

I never fed the fry either. They would crowd around the female during feeding, and eat the food she chewed up. I tried crushing flakes for them which they would take although what they really liked were shrimp pellets. The female would break them, and the fry would clean it up. Even on this terrible diet the fry grew fast being jewel cichlid shaped after a month. I'm sure on a real diet the fry would grow much faster. The pair was pretty good with the fry I usually had at least 30 left by the time I removed them. As soon as the fry were gone they breed again. The male was in charge of attacking things while the female herded the fry typically. Oddly enough moving the pair+fry to a new tank did not break the parental bond they would just continue business as usual after acclimating.

For sexing the male was always around 30% larger. I wouldn't trust trying to sex these guys though if you want a pair like with most cichlids just buy a group.

Enjoyment: They were very engaging for fish this size, and I would recommend them to anyone who is looking for a smaller cichlid with a lot going on. The pair was never hard on each other even without dithers present which was a huge plus for me. They feel more like owning a large cichlid than most fish this size, and definitely at the top of my "mini-monsters" list. They are also so easy to keep that I would recommend them to anyone.

I did end up rehoming them because the guilt of having them breeding all the time got to me. At the time these guys were much less common, and it seemed like a waste to keep a breeding pair in my possession when I had no intention of raising the fry so I found someone who did. They are fairly easy to get your hands on online now, although you likely won't find them for sale at your LFS.


Goliath Tigerfish
MFK Member
Aug 31, 2020
Great writeup! I’d love to give them (or really any jewel) a try at some point!