Many Banded Shell-Dweller (Multies)

Let’s take a look at the beautiful Many Banded Shell-Dweller, also known as Multies or Neolamprologus Multifasciatus, a remarkable and diminutive cichlid species. Despite their small size, these fish possess captivating behaviors and unique characteristics that make them a standout choice for aquarium keepers. Let’s dive deeper into this fish and see how you can keep them in your home aquarium, while also covering their size, looking at their appearance, their natural habitat, behavior, dietary preferences, and expert advice for optimal care.

Size and appearance

Neolamprologus Multifasciatus is renowned as one of the world’s smallest cichlid, with an average size ranging from 2 to 4 centimeters (0.8 to 1.6 inches). Despite their tiny stature, they boast striking colors and patterns, featuring a mix of browns, yellows, and whites. Their bodies are elongated, and males often exhibit more vibrant coloration than females.


Indigenous to Lake Tanganyika in East Africa, Multies thrives in the rocky shorelines of this expansive lake. Known for its diverse cichlid populations, Lake Tanganyika provides a rich and dynamic habitat for these tiny yet resilient fish.


These cichlids are notable for their complex social structures and intriguing behaviors. Neolamprologus Multifasciatus often forms colonies in the wild, residing in abandoned snail shells or rocky crevices. In aquariums, they exhibit a fascinating hierarchy within their colonies, and their breeding behaviors are particularly interesting to observe.


Being primarily carnivorous, Neolamprologus Multifasciatus thrives on a diet that includes high-quality cichlid pellets, frozen or live foods such as brine shrimp or bloodworms, and occasional offerings of small crustaceans. Their diet should reflect the protein-rich fare they would consume in their natural habitat.

Keeping the Multies at home

Creating an optimal environment for Multies requires careful consideration of the following factors:

Tank size: Due to their small size, a tank capacity of 60 liters (16 gallons) or more is suitable for a colony of Neolamprologus Multifasciatus. Provide ample hiding spots and substrate that mimics the rocky terrain of Lake Tanganyika.
Water parameters: Maintain a stable water temperature between 23-28°C (73-82°F) and a pH level of 7.8-8.6. Lake Tanganyika is known for its hard and alkaline water, so replicate these conditions using appropriate substrates and additives.
Tank setup: Arrange the tank with a mix of rocks, shells, and caves to replicate the rocky habitat of Lake Tanganyika. Neolamprologus Multifasciatus appreciates territories and hiding spots, fostering a sense of security.
Tank mates: While these cichlids are generally peaceful, they can display territorial behaviors, especially during breeding. Consider keeping them with other small and non-aggressive species that share similar water parameters.

Multies, with its small size and captivating behaviors, brings a piece of Lake Tanganyika into your home aquarium. By understanding their unique needs and replicating their natural habitat, you can create a thriving and harmonious environment for these tiny cichlids. As you observe their intricate social structures and vibrant colors, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the wonders of the underwater world within your own home.

Scientific nameNeolamprologus multifasciatus
Type of aquariumFreshwater
Size2-4 cm (0.8-1.6 inches)
RegionLake Tanganyika, East Africa
Ideal tank size60 liters for a couple / 16 gallons or more
Ideal water temperature23-28°C (73-82°F)
DietCarnivorous; cichlid pellets, live/frozen foods
ReproductionColony breeding, often in shells or rocky crevices
Life spanVaries, typically 5-8 years
SchoolingTends to form colonies; social behavior within groups.

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