Deep Water Hap – Species Profile & Facts

The deep water hap is a cichlid species (Placidochromis electra) that’s endemic to Lake Malawi, although it can be found in other areas, too.

You will see it commonly in the aquarium trade as part of home aquariums, and many pet shops will also have this fish available.

Deep Water Hap (sourceCC BY-SA 4.0)

The fish can reach up to 8 inches in size. As the name suggests, this fish likes to swim around near the bottom of the tank, scrapping for anything that might be left in the substrate.

More commonly, these fish will prefer a sandy type of substrate as they are very apt diggers. You will find them to be relatively active throughout the day, although they are somewhat gentle.

The deep water hap is a peaceful fish species. It will get along well with most of the similar fish species in terms of size and behavior.

However, you might want to keep in mind that these fish can get aggressive towards smaller fish, and they might even want to hunt them down.

Another time when they might get aggressive is when they’re breeding. You will have to provide a separate breeding tank if you want to breed them, as these can be pretty aggressive and territorial.

Overall, this fish is not very difficult to keep, but there are some important factors to keep in mind. Let’s go over them and see how to keep this fish in your tank.

Deep Water Hap Natural Habitat

As we’ve already state, these fish are endemic to Lake Malawi. But it’s certainly not unusual to see it in some other, similar areas within Africa.

However, in the 20th century, these fish were successfully reproduced in captivity and exported to Europe and North America, where they still remain a popular fish species today.

In their natural habitat, these fish are likely to be found near the bottom of the tank where they will look for any leftovers that might come from the upper layers of the lake.

They will also hunt down smaller creatures near the bottom of the lake, such as shrimp or worms, or even snails. But more likely, they are going to be feeding on the leftovers from other fish.

Make sure you give them enough space, too. They like a deep substrate and a deep water tank, where they can freely dig up the substrate and look for scraps there.

Make sure you have a sandy substrate since that is what they are used to in their habitat.

They also prefer higher temperatures – in their natural habitat, they live in temperatures of up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit or in some cases, even higher than that.

You will most likely need a heater to accommodate to their temperature needs.

Deep Water Hap Tank Requirements

Deep water haps will normally grow to about 8” in size, at least the male fish. Females tend to be smaller than that – about 5 inches at most.

Although it is somewhat unusual to see the fish grow larger than 6” in an aquarium.

That makes them appropriate for 50-gallon tanks per fish. But if you’re looking to keep several of these fish together, which is most owners tend to do, you will need a much larger tank than that – about 100 gallons or even larger. If you have other fish species in the tank, make sure that you provide enough space for all the fish inside.

As for the substrate, we’ve already mentioned that these fish love a sandy substrate. They will surely dig up the substrate and look for scraps in the substrate, which is why you need a deeper, sandy substrate. It will prevent them from getting hurt as they dig.

You might also want to consider a heater for the fish, since most owners won’t be able to maintain those high temperatures throughout the year. A good filter is a necessity, especially if you intend to have this fish with plants. As they dig, they can produce quite a lot of waste.

Deep Water Hap Water Conditions

Deep water haps are tropical fish, which is typical for cichlids. They will require higher temperatures – between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

A heater might be beneficial for most users. However, these fish can adapt to even higher temperatures – 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you provide that temperature when they are breeding.

They will also require a basic water PH – anywhere between 7.5 and 8.4 is suitable for these fish. They can survive in a neutral PH, although it’s better to stick to the requirements and keep it slightly basic. In any case, regular PH checks will be necessary in order to maintain those levels at all times.

They like hard water in terms of water hardness – this means 10-25DGH. This is only a minor requirement and the levels vary significantly, as these fish are quite adaptable in that respect.

Regular water maintenance and checks are necessary. At the same time, you will also want to cycle the water on a regular basis, as this will make sure that your water is clean at all times.

Aim for weekly water changes, if not even more frequent. Note that these fish are quite demanding in terms of water maintenance, as they can dig up the substrate and make the water murky.

Deep Water Hap Diet and Feeding

In terms of diet, deep water haps are used to all kinds of foods. We can consider them to be omnivores, although they do lean towards a carnivorous diet more.

In their natural habitat, they will scramble the bottom of the tank to find leftovers from other fish. They also like to dig up the substrate to find food there.

You will want to buy sinking pellets for these fish, as they will always be near the bottom of the tank. T

hese pellets will not bloat your fish, and they will move towards the bottom of the tank without bloating. But also make sure you feed these fish other food types, and don’t only rely on these pellets.

You can feed them live foods as well as frozen foods. These fish prefer shrimp, although they will not be picky eaters in terms of live foods.

Bloodworms and other similar types of food will work very well for these fish.

Occasionally, try to feed some vegetables to these fish. You will be surprised that they will actually consume those foods without too much fuss, as long as the vegetables reach the bottom of the tank.

Make sure the pieces of food are small enough for their mouth. Consider spirulina or blanched spinach.

As for the feeding windows, make sure you feed these fish several times a day with smaller meals.

For each meal you give them, make sure they can eat it in five minutes or less to avoid overfeeding. 2-5 smaller meals might be for the best.

Deep Water Hap Tank Mates

Now, deep water haps are very gentle fish and are generally quite peaceful. This means they will get along with similar fish, but you shouldn’t keep them with smaller fish, as you might see them attack the smaller fish and even consume them.

Keeping them with other fish of the same species might be for the best. Although you can definitely consider other fish species that are not aggressive and are of a similar size or slightly larger to these fish. Other peaceful Lake Malawi species will work best with these fish.

Keep in mind that deep water haps tend to get mildly aggressive when they are breeding. That’s when you should provide them with enough space to breed, or give them a separate breeding tank to avoid any potential aggression towards other fish species.

Deep Water Hap Breeding

These fish are maternal mouth brooders. The normal breeding pattern is that the females will collect eggs into her mouth and fertilize them there.

Then, the eggs will incubate, which can last anywhere between 2-3 weeks. The female fish will normally hide and will not eat much during this period, so don’t be worried if you see this behavior.

After this period, the female will release the fry. You can feed the fry with newly hatched brine shrimp to encourage fast growth.

The male will dig out spawning pits, and will also display more vivid coloration when he is sexually mature and ready to breed.

As I’ve already noted, it’s better to make sure you provide a separate breeding tank for these fish, as they can get aggressive when they breed.


Deep water haps are an interesting type of cichlid, and they are also a common fixture for home aquarium lovers. It’s relatively easy to keep these fish, as they are peaceful and will eat almost anything.

However, you need to know that they are bottom dwellers and like to dig out the substrate, which can cause a lot of debris in the tank.

Strong filtration is a must, and you must also provide enough space for these fish. When they have that, they will be very happy in your tank and that’s when you will see them best of them.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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