Diagnosis: Neolamprologus timidus is distinguished from the most similar species, Neolamprologus furcifer, in scaled cheek vs. naked; first soft ray of pelvic fin longer than second vs. second ray longer than first; pectoral fin reaching beyond base of first anal-fin spine vs. shorter; absence of dark spot at caudal-fin base in adults vs. presence; longer head, 34.2-35.5% of standard length vs. 31.2-33.8%; longer pectoral fin, 29.3-353.7% of standard length vs. 23.4-31.3%; and pectoral fin in life light yellow or transparent vs. orange (Ref. 95525). It is distinguished from all other lamprologin species except Lepidiolamprologus profundicola, Neolamprologus ventralis and N. leloupi in fully scaled cheek vs. scales absent from cheek or present only posterodorsally (Ref. 95525). It is distinguished from Neolamprologus leloupi by the shape of the caudal fin, which is deeply emarginate, with long streamers vs. posterior margin concave, streamers absent; colour overall dark, with indistinct darker horizontal stripes vs. overall light, with faint brown zigzag lines along side; 49-62 scales in a longitudinal row vs. about 30; dorsal-fin rays XIX-XXI,7-8 vs. XVII,9; and gill rakers 11-13 vs. 6 (Ref. 95525). It is distinguished from Neolamprologus ventralis by caudal-fin shape deeply emarginate, with long streamers vs. rounded, subtruncate or slightly emarginate with rounded lobes; colour overall dark with indistinct darker horizontal stripes vs. overall light, scales with light brown margins; unpaired fin dark, with few, indistinct spots vs. numerous light spots all over unpaired fins; and 49-62 scales in a longitudinal row vs. 34-37 (Ref. 95525). It is distinguished from Lepidiolamprologus profundicolaby caudal-fin shape deeply emarginate with long streamers vs. truncate or slightly emarginate; longer pectoral fin, reaching beyond base of first anal-fin spine vs. not reaching vent; single neurocranial lateral line foramen 0 vs. double; dermosphenotic absent vs. present; and labial cartilage not ossified vs. ossified (Ref. 95525).
Description: Body elongate; laterally compressed, more so caudally (Ref. 95525). Predorsal contour straight ascending to minor soft protuberance on top of head, present in both males and females; dorsal contour gently sloping; abdominal contour almost straight, slightly ascending at anal-fin base; caudal peduncle dorsal and ventral margins slightly concave (Ref. 95525). Orbit large, positioned approximately on middle of head length (Ref. 95525). Mouth moderately large, slightly wider than interorbital space, in low position, lower jaw in line with chest contour; upper jaw slightly projecting; upper lip thick, lower lip widely interrupted anteriorly (Ref. 95525). Maxilla reaching posteriorly to slightly behind vertical from anterior margin of orbit; premaxillary ascending processes reaching to vertical from anterior margin of orbit (Ref. 95525). Lower jaw on each side with two long, stout, strongly recurved caniniform teeth slightly lateral to symphysis, lateral tooth slightly longer than medial tooth, commonly also one much smaller tooth of similar shape closer to symphysis; on each side of symphysis, inner transverse patch of very small teeth, in about 3-4 rows; posterior to large canines, an outer lateral row of much smaller caniniform teeth, and an inner band of much smaller teeth, in about three rows anteriorly, narrower posteriorly (Ref. 95525). Upper jaw on each side with three long, stout, strongly recurved caniniform teeth anteriorly, increasing in size from symphysial to lateral; laterally along entire dentigerous arm of premaxilla a dense row of smaller caniniform teeth; inner teeth very small, in a band if about five rows symphysially, narrowing down to one row posteriorly (Ref. 95525). Teeth in upper jaw outer hemiseries 3-4 + 25-29; in lower jaw outer hemiseries 2-3 + 27-38; all teeth firmly fixed (Ref. 95525). Gill rakers slender, relatively close-set, simple; microbranchiospines present externally on second to fourth gill arches (Ref. 95525). Trunk scales weakly ctenoid; top of head posterior to median coronalis pore with small cycloid, posteriorly weakly ctenoid scales, anterior scales, with margins embedded in skin, posterior scales with free margin; cheek with about 6-10 rows of scales, leaving only narrow naked area close to loower limb of preopercle; scales cycloid, embedded in skin; chest and prepelvic area completely covered with very small cycloid scales; abdominal midline with ctenoid scales similar to flank scales; upper lateral line long, reaching onto caudal peduncle; lower lateral line long, extending far forward on side, often by several pored scales continuing series of tubed scales; lateral line scales 44-60/16-47; circumpeduncular scales 18-20; dorsal, anal and caudal fins scaled basally; fin scales minute, rounded, ctenoid (Ref. 95525). Dorsal-fin origin at vertical from gill-cleft - lateral line origin; first spine about 1/4 length of last, spines increasing in length to about sixth or seventh, from which gradually only slightly longer, last longest; soft dorsal fin terminating in long, slender point, tipped by fifth soft ray, reaching almost to vertical from median caudal-fin margin (Ref. 95525). Anal-fin spines increasing in length from first to last; soft fin similar to soft dorsal fin; third soft ray longest, reaching almost to vertical from median caudal-fin margin (Ref. 95525). Caudal fin emarginate with median rounded concave margin, and pointed dorsal and ventral tips; lobes beyond median margin slightly longer than rest of fin, caudal fin rays 30-34 (Ref. 95525). Pectoral fin pointed, fourth ray longest, reaching to vertical from fifth anal-fin spine (Ref. 95525). Pelvic fin pointed, first ray longest, with two branches of equal length, or the outer slightly longer; reaching to base of first anal-fin spine (Ref. 95525). Width of lower pharyngeal tooth-plate 95% of its length; dentigerous area width 104% of dentigerous area length; teeth slender, posterior median teeth slightly enlarged; anterior teeth bevelled, with retrorse cusp, shorter toward lateral and posterolateral margins; posteriorly some median teeth with flat top, otherwise with erect or almost erect posterior cusp; teeth 11-12 on each side along midline, 29 along posterior margin (Ref. 95525).
Colouration: In preservative head, lips, lower jaw and gill cover grey except pale brownish yellowish cheek, indistinct dark grey band across nape posteriorly, dark grey opercle and subopercle, and greyish brown blotch immediately posterior to orbit; exposed branchiostegal membrane blackish except greyish white margin; chest and abdomen whitish (Ref. 95525). Scales on sides brown with pale yellowish base; brown portion darker on caudal peduncle forming indistinct pattern of horizontal rows of dark spots (Ref. 95525). Blackish brown wide stripe from origin of lateral line obliquely caudoventral to midline where becoming horizontal, followed by one, occasionally two short elongate blotches of same colour (Ref. 95525). Three indistinct broad brownish vertical bars from dorsal-fin base ventrad, at most to middle of side; caudal peduncle dorsally brown; three narrow horizontally extended brown blotches on upper lateral line (Ref. 95525). Pectoral-fin base blackish brown externally and internally; dorsal fin dark grey to blackish; distinct white submarginal stripe and black lappets and margin of soft dorsal fin; interradial membranes of soft dorsal fin semihyaline; anal fin dark grey; caudal fin dorsally with white submarginal and black marginal stripes continuing pattern from dorsal fin; rest of fin blackish with minute white spots in up to six longitudinal rows in upper lobe, tips of marginal rays black; pectoral fin hyaline; pelvic fin blackish with white leading margin (Ref. 95525). In life body overall medium to dark brown with two dark longitudinal stripes on body just above middle of side; eye in dominant males with red to orange marginal ring, in females orange to yellow; iris blue; orange colour and faint small bluish spots on caudal fin and posterior part of dorsal fin (Ref. 95525). Dorsal fin brown with a dark orange margin followed by a blue trim, both extended onto caudal fin; pelvic fin and anal fin with the same margin and trim but less intense; pectoral fin light yellow or transparent (Ref. 95525). No obvious sex differences in colour pattern (Ref. 95525).