We investigate the role of parasite-mediated sexual selection in the divergence of two species of Lake Victoria cichlids. Pundamilia pundamilia and Pundamilia nyererei represent a common pattern of male nuptial colour divergence between haplochromine sister species: metallic grey–blue in P. pundamilia and bright yellow and red in P. nyererei. Female mating preferences for different male colours maintain the genetic and phenotypic differentiation of the two species in clear water. Previous work indicated that the red coloration of P. nyererei males, which is subject to directional sexual selection, may be a carotenoid-dependent signal of parasite infestation rate. In the present study, we find a parallel result for P. pundamilia: bright blue males are infected with fewer species of parasites. We also find that parasite infestation rates differ quantitatively between the two species in a way that is consistent with species differences in diet and microhabitat. We conclude that parasite-mediated sexual selection may have contributed to the divergence of female mating preferences between P. pundamilia and P. nyererei, and may currently strengthen reproductive isolation between these species. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 94, 53–60.