Neolamprologus multifasciatus (Multies): Ultimate Care Guide

Commonly known as Multies, Neolamprologus multifasciatus, is one of the smallest Cichlid species in the world. Males reach a maximum length of 2 inches while females are slightly smaller. This is a shell dwelling species that forms colonies with thousands of individuals in the Neothauma shell beds of Lake Tanganyika, Africa. Not one of the most colorful species of Cichlid, Multies are pale brown to gray with dark brown vertical stripes along their bodies. This small Cichlid has similar care needs as other African Cichlids but can live in smaller aquariums because of their diminutive adult size. Planning on keeping some of these active shell dwellers? We’ve put together this guide with everything you’ll need to know!

Neolamprologus multifasciatus
Neolamprologus multifasciatus

Are Multies shell dwellers?

Multies are a shell dwelling species which live in abandoned Neothauma shells in their natural environment. This fish species doesn’t only make their homes in shells, but also uses them for breeding and raising fry.

What type of shells are required for Multies?

The most authentic shell for Multies are empty Neothauma shells as this is they type they use in nature. When Neothauma shells are hard to get, hobbyists can also use empty Escargot shells intended for cooking. Escargot shells are usually cheaper and easier to buy but lack an authentic appearance in an aquarium. For breeding purposes some hobbyists use ½ inch PVC elbows which are capped on one end. Multies will use these instead of natural shells and they make transferring fry easier as they can be uncapped in the destination tank and fry will exit them to find new homes.

How many shells are required per Multies?

Multies need one shell per individual. Males and females who breed will still keep their own personal “home shells.” It’s a good idea to have a few extra shells which can give this fish some variety in choosing a home.

Neolamprologus Multifasciatus Care

Neolamprologus Multifasciatus, also known as Multies, have similar care needs as other African Cichlids. They are a shell dwelling species which lives and breeds in abandoned Neothauma shells in their natural environment. They prefer sandy substrates and need well filtered water along with a high-protein diet of meaty foods.

Are Multies easy to care for?

Being African Cichlids, Multies have more complicated care needs than Central and South American Cichlids. However, this is a smaller fish which doesn’t need large aquariums which makes them easier to raise for beginning hobbyists.


Multies need a stable water temperature between 75° and 82° F. Depending on surrounding room temperature you may need to invest in a quality aquarium water heater. While this species can survive water temperatures above 80° F., long-term exposure can weaken them and lead to diseases.

Water pH

Multies need hard, alkaline water with a pH between 7.5 to 9.0. Alkalinity is best kept just above 8.0. Adding crushed coral or aragonite sand to your aquarium will help keep water alkalinity high. Additionally, coral will dissolve over time which increases water hardness. An ideal water hardness will be between 8 and 25 dKH.

Multies Size

Multies are one of the smallest Cichlid species: males can reach a maximum of 2 inches while females will only grow to a length of 1 ½ inches.

Food & Diet

Multies are carnivores which must be fed high-protein foods. Quality flake food for carnivores and sinking cichlid pellets can form the base of this species’ diet. They can also consume frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia.


Most Multies will live between 5 and 8 years. With excellent care they have been known to live for 10 years.

Tank Size

Multies are tiny fish which can live in tanks as small as 10 gallons. If you are keeping a large group, a bigger aquarium will be needed. The general rule is that a group of six individuals can happily exist in a 10 gallon tank.

Multies Cichlid
Multies Cichlid

Tank Setup

Multies need an environment with a deep sand bed and at least one shell per fish. Pool sand is often used as a substrate, but any sandy substrate intended for African Chichlids should work. This fish spends most of its time in and around abandoned Neothauma shells. Neothauma shells are the most authentic shell for this species but they are sometimes hard to find. Empty shells intended for Escargot can be an attractive choice when your fish are small. Multies like to rearrange their shell homes by digging in surrounding sand. A sand bed of around 2 inches is usually enough to allow this fish to rearrange shells to their liking.

Choosing tank decorations comes down to personal preference. If you want to simulate this species’ natural environment in Lake Tanganyika it’s best to keep it sparse: sandy substrate, shells, and maybe a few decorative rocks. Because this fish is small and lightly colored having too much decoration can detract from the enjoyment of watching their natural behavior.

Multies need well oxygenated and filtered water. Filter outputs can move water and create enough surface turbulence to increase oxygen levels. In some cases this filter movement won’t be enough, and running an air stone can help keep water stirred and aerated.


Multies are easy to breed in the home aquarium. It’s ideal to begin with 4 to 6 females per male, but you can start with a collection of juveniles and allow them to form groups as they mature.

How do Multies breed?

Multies are harem breeders and a male will spawn with multiple females in his territory. They are secretive and the first indication of breeding many hobbyists notice is the presence of fry at the entrance of a shell. Fry will stay close to their shell until large enough to venture further out into the tank. Moving fry to another tank can be a challenge with natural shells. A great alternative is to create artificial shells with ½ inch PVC elbows which are capped on one end. These can be easily moved to another tank when fry begin living in them. Once the end caps are removed the fry will flee their now open “shell” and find a living space in the new aquarium.

Multies breeding behavior

Female Multies will prepare a shell for breeding by covering it in sand until only the entrance is visible. She will then display at the entrance to attract a male. The eggs are fertilized by the male while the female is inside the shell. She then exits the shell, drawing in the male’s sperm via suction. Once this is complete the male is driven from the female’s territory and plays no further role in egg care or brood rearing. The female will sit on the shell covering the entrance and fanning the eggs with her fins. The eggs will hatch within 24 hours and fry become free swimming in 6 to 7 days.

Multies fry

Once Multies fry are free swimming you should immediately begin feeding freshly hatched brine shrimp and smaller species of microworms. Eventually the fry will begin taking trips further from their home shell. After around two weeks the female will completely drive them from the shell. You should have extra empty shells available for fry to claim. These can be escargot shells or ½ inch PVC elbows fitted with caps on one end. Once they leave the mother’s shell they are often mature enough to feed on crushed flake foods.

Multies Male or Female

Multies are difficult to sex when young but adult males are much larger than females. Male Multies also have more intense colors and a reddish tint to the upper areas of their dorsal fins.

Breeding Age

Multies reach breeding age in around 8 to 10 months after hatching.


Multies are susceptible to common freshwater diseases such as Ich, wasting, pop-eye disease, along with fungal infections. Keys to keeping this species healthy are providing enough filtration, avoiding high water temperatures above 80° F, and making sure to quarantine all new tank additions for 4 to 6 weeks to check for signs of disease. Any new tank inhabitant carries the risk of introducing harmful bacteria or parasites. A separate aquarium should be used for observation before moving any new fish to your main display tank.

Multies Tank Mates

Multies can display aggression against small or slow bottom-dwelling species which they regard as competition for food. The best tank mates will be species which live in the mid and upper parts of the water column. Avoid larger African Cichlids which may kill the smaller Multies.

Examples of Compatible and Incompatible Tank Mates

Multies shouldn’t be paired with small bottom-dwelling species such as Corydoras and loaches. Ideal tank mates will be able to tolerate hard water and keep to higher tank regions. White Cloud Mountain minnows and Danios are good choices.

Where can I find Multies for sale?

Multies aren’t a common species but can sometimes be found at local fish stores. Multies are easily available from online sources. This fish enjoys living as a group and it’s best to buy a few at the same time.

Multies Price

Multies can be bought from between $14 USD to $20 USD depending on size. If you are buying more than one of this species some sellers may offer a discount.

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