Colour pattern diversity can be due to random processes or to natural or sexual selection. Consequently, similarities in colour patterns are not always correlated with common ancestry, but may result from convergent evolution under shared selection pressures or drift. Neolamprologus brichardi and Neolamprologus pulcher have been described as two distinct species based on differences in the arrangement of two dark bars on the operculum. Our study uses DNA sequences of the mitochondrial control region to show that relatedness of haplotypes disagrees with species assignment based on head colour pattern. This suggests repeated parallel evolution of particular stripe patterns. The complete lack of shared haplotypes between populations of the same or different phenotypes reflects strong philopatric behaviour, possibly induced by the cooperative breeding mode in which offspring remain in their natal territory and serve as helpers until they disperse to nearby territories or take over a breeding position. Concordant phylogeographic patterns between N. brichardi/N. pulcher populations and other rock-dwelling cichlids suggest that the same colonization routes have been taken by sympatric species and that these routes were affected by lake level fluctuations in the past.