The Red Zebra Maylandia estherae (previously Pseudotropheus estherae) is a very beautiful and desirable cichlid. The coloring of both the male and the female is very appealing, almost looking like two separate species. In the wild adult males are light blue, while females can range between a brownish beige to an orange-red and lack the broad vertical barring. These are also one of only a handful of Mbuna species that produce blotched color mutations.
This is a zebra-type cichlid that belongs to a group called Mbunas. There are 13 genera full of very active and aggressive personalities of Mbuna cichlids. The name Mbuna comes from the Tonga people of Malawi and means "rockfish" or "rock-dwelling". This name aptly describes the environment these fish live in as opposed to being open water swimmers like the Utaka cichlids and other "haps".
This cichlid has a history of ups and downs in both identity and popularity. It was originally considered to be a variety of the Zebra CichlidPseudotropheus zebra. It was known as the Orange Blue Mouth Breeder and described as Pseudotropheus spec. aff. zebra. Finally it was described as its own species, Pseudotropheus estherae, by Konings in 1995. Recent revisions in thePseudotropheus genus caused a new surge of identity crisis. All the Zebra-type cichlids were moved to their own genera and both Maylandia estherae and Metriaclima estherae were recognized for this cichlid. Now however, the Red Zebra is considered valid as Maylandia estherae and is also called Esther Grant's Zebra.
When first introduced to the hobby this was a very popular Mbuna, and then it fell out of favor a bit. But today it has regained its status as one of the "most popular" African Cichlids. Most captive bred specimens available in the hobby were originally line bred for specific color traits in Florida fish farms. This resulted in orange males and a variety of other unusual color patterns.
There are many captive strains available. These include males of a "red-blue" strain that are a light blue with faint vertical barring. Males of a "red-red" strain can be a orange/red coloring with no vertical bars, and there is also an albino strain. Females can be yellow, orange, or orange with dark mottling. Common names are derived from their color patterns and popular varieties include the Cherry Red Zebra and the more recently developed Super Red Zebra.
This is a great fish for both the intermediate and experienced cichlid keeper. It is only a moderately aggressive cichlid compared to other Mbuna, but is still not a community tank specimen, It cannot be kept with fish other than cichlids. This species easily adapts to prepared foods, is very easy to breed, and the juveniles are very easy to raise as well.
Like other Mbuna, they are commonly found near sediment free rocky areas where they feed on aufwuchs. Aufwuchs refers to tough stringy algae that is attached to rocks. "Loose" aufwuchs can contain insect larvae, nymphs, crustaceans, snails, mites and zooplankton.
In they will reach up to almost 4 inched (10 cm) in length. They are sometimes larger in the home aquarium with males reaching up to to almost 5 inches (12.5 cm). They can live up to around 10 years with proper care.
The coloration is completely different between males and females. In the wild adult males are light blue with dark vertical bands, and have 4-7 egg spots on the anal fin. Females can range between a brownish beige to an orange-re, they lack the broad vertical barring and can have from none up to three egg spots on the anal fin. These are also one of only a handful of Mbuna species that produce blotched color mutations. In the hobby there are several color morphs available for both males and females.
These fish are omnivore ,In the aquarium they need mainly herbivorous foods because even though they eat a little in the wild, the majority of their diet is vegetable matter. They will accept anything, but to keep their colors strong, feed New Life Spectrum, Cyclops, Spirulina, or any other high quality herbivorous cichlid flake or small pellet. Mysis and brine occasionally is okay.
They will easily become overweight, so be careful to not over feed. The algae growing in the tank is something they eat, so supplementing that naturalless costly than for a carnivorous cichlid. It is always better to feed them small amounts several times a day instead of one large feeding. This keeps the water quality higher for a longer period of time. Of course, all fish benefit from added vitamins and supplements to their foods. Too muchprotein and fat leads to Malawi Bloat, which is fatal.
- Diet Type: Omnivore
- Flake Food: Yes
- Tablet Pellet: Yes
- Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
- Vegetable Food: Most of Diet
- Meaty Food: Some of Diet
- Feeding Frequency: Daily - Offer several small feedings a day, what they can eat in about 3 minutes or less, rather than a single large feeding.
Setup Tank :
The streams that flow into Lake Malawi have a high mineral content. This along with evaporation has resulted in alkaline water that is highly mineralized. Lake Malawi is known for its clarity and stability as far as pH and other water chemistries. It is easy to see why it is important to watch tank parameters with all Lake Malawi fish.
Rift lake cichlids need hard alkaline water but are not found in brackish waters. Salt is sometimes used as a buffering agent to increase the water's carbonate hardness. This cichlid has some salt tolerance so can be kept in slightly brackish water conditions. However it not suited to a full brackish water tank. It can tolerate a salinity that is about 10% of a normal saltwater tank, a specific gravity of less than 1.0002.
You should be use some of 55 gallon tank with a minimum of 48" (122 cm) in length is suggested, though a larger tank would be required if mixing Mbuna cichlids. They do fine in either freshwater or brackish freshwater but need good water movement along with very strong and efficient filtration. A substrate of crushed coral or sand used for salt water tanks can help keep the pH up. Gravel is acceptable as well. Crushed coral or aragonite sands also tend to dissolves easier than salts. Keeping a higher pH however, means that ammonia is more lethal, so regular water changes are a must for these fish.
The Red Zebra needs a lot of rock work for shelter and territories. Some open space is appreciated as well. Provide lots of passageways and caves formed with piles of rocks. This will lessen aggression and give everyone a place to call their own. They like to dig so make sure the rocks sit on the bottom of the aquarium not on the substrate.
- Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L) - A 55 gallons tank is suggested with a minimum length of 48" (122 cm) is suggested, and a larger tank is needed for a mixed group of Mbunas.
- Suitable for Nano Tank: No
- Substrate Type: Any
- Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
- Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
- Range ph: 7.7-8.6
- Hardness Range: 6 - 10 dGH
- Brackish: Sometimes - Salt is not found in their natural environment, but they do have a slight tolerance, keep levels below 10% - a specific gravity of less than 1.0002.
- Water Movement: Moderate
- Water Region: All - These fish will swim in all areas of the aquarium.
Tank Mate :
The Red Zebra is not considered to be a community fish. They are best kept in groups of one male and two or three females. If overstocking is used as a form of aggression reduction, care should be taken to do several partial water changes a week. They can be kept with other less aggressive Mbuna cichlids from Malawi that are not similar in coloring/shape
They are a little mellower than other Mbuna, and can be kept with some other cichlids that are not overly aggressive. Do not house with Haplochromis, as the Red Zebra, like other Mbunas, are too aggressive towards them. Do not put with other Mbuna of similar shape and size, as they will attack and/or interbreed, which is not suggested.
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive
- Compatible with:
- Same species - conspecifics: Yes - They are best kept in groups of 1 male with 2 or 3 females. They will not tolerate any other male of their same species nor any similarly colored males of other species.
- Peaceful fish (): Threat
- Semi-Aggressive (): Safe
- Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
- Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Threat
- Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat - is aggressive
- Plants: Threat
The Red Zebra has been bred in captivity. Sexual maturity is reached at 3 inches. Obtain 7 young fry if the color morph you want is not apparent at a young age.
Feed 2 times a day to condition them to breed. They like a flat tone or slate to lay the eggs in the male's territory. If your Red Zebras will not spawn, then that usually means there is a very aggressive fish in the tank. Removing that aggressive fish will prompt a more relaxed atmosphere and encourage spawning.
The female will lay about 20 to 30 eggs then then immediately take them into their mouths before they are fertilized. The male flares out his anal fin, which has "egg spot patterning" so the female mistaken the eggs spots on the male's anal fin as her own eggs and tries to take them in her mouth as well. In doing so, she then stimulates the male to discharge sperm (milt cloud) and inhales of cloud of "milt" which then fertilize the eggs in her mouth.
In 14 to 21 days at about 82 F, the eggs are developed. The released fry can eat finely powdered dry foods and brine shrimp nauplii. The female will guard her young. As long as you have plenty of hiding places, your young will have a easier time surviving until they are too big to eat.
The "red-blue" strained fry are born the same color as the female, and males start to develop a blue coloring over their body and fins at 2.5". The "red-red" males are born dark brown with the females being pale pink.
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