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Protomelas labridens

Protomelas labridens Male 

Above: Protomelas labridens Photo by Rick Borstein. Video available below.


Protomelas labridens, is a large, mouthbrooding haplochromine cichlid from Lake Malawi, Africa. This fish was first typed by Trewavas in 1935 and it is rarely exported to the hobby.

Females and juveniles, like all most Protomelas species, have one or sometimes two dark horizontal lines that extends from behind the gill plate to the base of the caudal. Males are variable in appearance depending on their mood. Generally, males have a bright blue head, an overall blue sheen, variegated red tail and a red speckled dorsal edged in black and white. Females are relatively drab by comparison with an overall tan-grey color with some gold sheen and highlights. Males get up to eight or more inches long and females stay an inch or so smaller.

Protomelas labridens Female


Protomelas labridens  is found at depths of 5M or greater generally near vegetated areas in shallow bays.


Protomelas labridens is not a very aggressive cichlid, but since it is a large fast swimming fish, tanks of at least four feet are required. A six foot tank would be preferred. Water temperature in their natural habitat of Lake Malawi is between 74°F and 79°F with high hardness. I had no trouble with this fish in Chicago water at 78F. I performed regular partial water changes each week of about 25% of the tank volume.


In the wild, Protomelas labridens picks small invertebrates from plant leaves. They are not difficult to feed in the aquarium. I offered Tetra Cichlid Sticks, Exreme Big Fella, Dainichi Veggie Deluxe and the occasional treat of Repashy gel food.


I obtained a group of six, adult Protomelas labridens from fellow GCCA member Mike Helford in April, 2013. Mike always seems to have interesting and unusual Malawian cichlids and I was fortunate that he was looking to free up some tank space. Mike kept his group in a six-foot 180 gallon tank. I moved my group into a 4-foot, 90 gallon tank. Mike also gave some Otropharynx sp. "Silver Torpedo" which joined the new arrivals. This tank was filtered by Marineland Tidepool II filter and had a sand substrate. I added several large flower pots and slates so there was ample rockwork in the tank. 

After a couple of weeks of fattening up the fish with frequent feedings of Repashy Spawn and Grow, I did a very large water change (about 80%). Shortly thereafter, I observed my first female holding. I allowed the female to hold for twelve days after which I stripped her of 42 fry at the heads and tails stage. I moved the fry in to a clean 2 gallon container which I maintained at 80F. Eight days after stripping, the fry were free-swimming and I immediately began feeding baby brine shrimp. A week later, I moved the babies to a 5-gallon tank for grow out switched the babies onto CyclopsEze abd NLS powder. At two weeks, they are eating flake and showing the distinctive stripe on the flank. 

Retail Price

Protomelas labridens is not a fish you will find in the hobby very much. Until recently, only wild specimens were available. I would guess that wild caught adults would go for $50-80 each. F1 fry, if you could find them, would be $5-8 each. 



Report May 2013 by Rick Borstein

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scubadiver replied the topic: #33806 4 years 4 months ago
Here are some better shots of the fish

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scubadiver replied the topic: #33768 4 years 4 months ago
Note the picture is quite representative of the female but I will see if I can get better shot of the male.

The FOM picture of the male does not do him enough justice.
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scubadiver replied the topic: #33767 4 years 4 months ago
These guys are awesome - I have the wild group from Helford to Borstein to me.

Not sure if its the lighting in my show tank or the food but the colors on these guys are really cool.

The Male has really Red Tail and its just only his tail.

The male body is a beautiful sky blue - very cool fish.

The famales have a pretty strong yellow color instead of the pure silver.

Already have two holding quite prolific, only challenge is they are a good sized hap (not champ big but good sized).

I actually think they would be interesting in a tank of fronts (I know I like to mix my lakes).

But definetely a great big show tank fish (full grown adults I guess would eventually need five foot plus tank)
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scubadiver replied the topic: #33701 4 years 5 months ago
Here is the FOM

Otopharynx sp. "Silver Torpedo"

Otopharynx sp.  

Above: Otopharynx sp. "Silver Torpedo" Photo by Rick Borstein. Video available below.


Otopharynx sp. "Silver Torpedo", is a large, elongated cichlid from Lake Malawi, Africa. This fish does not have a proper scientific name yet and it has been exported in the past as Otopharynx sp. 'productus sharp snout'. It originally was thought to be a Mylochromis species, but Konings advises that the three blotches on the flanks suggests that it belongs in Otopharynx instead. Still, it wouldn't surprise me to see this fish eventually moved into another genus entirely.

Juveniles and females are an overall silvery-grey color and usually, but not always, show three blotches on the side.  Male coloration can vary quite a bit depending on the mood of the fish. When courting, males have a bright blue head and silvery to silver-blue sides. When frightened or not feeling dominant, males look very much like females. The picture above is probably a bit bluer than is typical due to camera flash.

Males get up to almost eight inches and females stay a tad smaller. This is actually quite an easy fish to keep and the unusual shape should make it a popular fish moving forward.

Otopharynx sp. "Silver Torpedo" may easily be confused with Otopharynx sp. "Blue Torpedo". The photos in Koning's Malawi Cichlids in their Natural Habitat 4th Edition of the fish in the lake are not as blue as the fish appears in the aquarium . However, as Konings points out, adult "Blue Torpedo" fish are much smaller, topping out at about five inches.

Otopharynx sp.


Otopharynx sp. "Silver Torpedo"  is found in the shallow, muddy areas near the Southwestern shore of Lake Malawi near Kambiri Point.


Otopharynx sp. "Silver Torpedo" is not an aggressive species. Males give mild chase to females but no damage occurs. Because this fish grows rather large and is a fast and active swimmer, a four foot tank or longer is recommended. I do not advise keeping this species with other, more aggressive Malawians such as Mbuna. Overall, this is not a difficult species to keep.


Konings believes that Otopharynx sp. "Silver Torpedo" feeds on young juvenile cichlids in the lake. It has a relatively small mouth, so I don't believe it could eat very large prey. Feeding is not a problem, though! I offered Tetra Cichlid Sticks, Exreme Big Fella, Dainichi Veggie Deluxe and Repashy gel food. All of these foods were accepted readily.


My group of seven, adult Otopharynx sp. "Silver Torpedo" were a gift from fellow GCCA member Mike Helford who always seems to have a lot of cool and unusual Malawian cichlids. I took them home and placed them in a 4-foot, 90 gallon tank along with a group of Protomelas labridens which Mike offered at the same time. Lucky me! This tank was filtered by a large wet-dry filter and had a deep sand substrate.

Since these were adult fish and my goal was to get them to spawn as soon as possible, I fattened the fish up on Repashy Spawn and Grow, a gel-based food which is rich in protein and fat and thus great for conditioning. After a very large water change (about 80%) on a Sunday, I observed a holding female on the following Monday. Unfortunately, I did not observe the breeding, but Konings reports that he has never seen a bower built by this fish. Neither did I.

I allowed the female to hold for twelve days after which I stripped her of 62 (!) very large, elongated "heads and tails" fry. I moved the fry to a clean 2 gallon container which I maintained at 80F. Eight days hence, the fry were free-swimming and I began feeding baby brine shrimp. A week later, I moved the babies to a 10-gallon tank for grow out. At this time, I began feeding crushed, NLS Optum Flake Food. The fry grow steadily, but not rapidly. 

Retail Price

Otopharynx sp. "Silver Torpedo" is not a fish you'll find at your local pet store, but they are occasionally available on wholesale lists from specialty cichlid sellers. Wild-caught adults run about $50 to $70 each. F1 Juveniles go for $8-$10 each. 



Report June 2013 by Rick Borstein

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Samfred0205 replied the topic: #33814 4 years 4 months ago
Very cool fish, thanks for the info.
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scubadiver replied the topic: #33812 4 years 4 months ago
Here is the FIsh of the month

Copadichromis melas

Copadichromis melas Male 

AboveCopadichromis melas.  Photo by Jason Libasci. See video below.


Copadichromis melas, commonly known as the Midnight Mloto, is a maternal mouthbrooder which is part of the Copadichromis Mbenji group. They can be found in Mara Point and Cobue, Mozambique of Lake Malawi. The climate is sub-tropical with temperatures in the mid 70's to 80's and native waters for this fish are pH of 7.4

Copadichromis melas is no exception to this nice looking fish of the group of fish when it comes to beauty, however it does not have brilliant colors being more of a midnight blue-black. In addition to being a beautiful midnight color, they have beautifully prominent fins, especially their pectoral fins.

Males achieve a size of approximately six inches in length. The male fish turn midnight black and depending on the location variant or strain show either a grey base or midnight blue base. Copadichromis melas reminds me of the midnight blue cars that were popular in the late 80s or 90s. The females attain a size of about four inches and are a silver-based fish with limited coloring and look like a typical female Copadichromis


Copadichromis melas are an open water utaka.


I obtained seven juvenile fish, which were approximately two inches long, from the GCCA's Rare Fish Auction. They started off in 20 gallon long and later were moved over to a 40 gallon Breeder tank once they reached three inches.

Copadichromis melas really need to be the dominant fish in the tank and also must have a female to display as nicely as possible in their brilliant black coloration. Once they have dominant colors, they can be placed in a tank without a female, but the colors change greatly depending upon their dominance. The tank in which I housed my fish was filtered by an Emperor 400 along with two large sponge filters and had a pH of 7.4. I performed weekly water changes of  approximately 80% of the tanks volume. Fluorescent lighting was used for a duration of approximately ten hours each day.

These fish are fairly aggressive for a Copadichromis and will dominate other Malawi haps of similar size. I found them to be pretty hard on hard on the females. My males would take a territory and just nail any other fish including the females that came into their space.


The fish were fed NLS cichlid pellets with the occasional frozen bloodworms or frozen brine shrimp for conditioning.


I ended up with two groups of Copadichromis melas, one wild trio that GCCA Member Mike Helford gave me as well my original group from the rare fish auction. I kept them separate as I felt they might have been from different location points, although did not have the paper trail to prove it.

The first (F1) group spawned about once every 6 to 8 weeks, but the females never held and when I pulled the eggs they never hatched. However, once I sold them and they were placed in a 75-gallon tank they spawned and held. I assume the 40-gallon breeder may have been too small for them. People have had challenges breeding them when they are too young as well.

The second group from Dr. Helford spawned very frequently and had no problems holding.

When spawning, the blackness and sheen of the males appears to intensify. I did not notice a change in female coloring. The breeding process was observed several times, each time they used a large flowerpot.

I stripped the female of about 45 fry at 15 days and the fry at that stage were fully formed for the most part with just a bit of their egg left. The fry were placed in an external fry container that was connected to the breeding tank so the water parameters and temperature were kept the same. The fry were silver in color and about three-eights of an inch long and looked very similar to the females.

The fry didn't require any special care on my part. They were left in the external fry container until they were bought to a GCCA meeting for BAP.

I started the fry off on New Life Spectrum small fry powder. After five days, they began feeding on New Life Spectrum Small Fish Formula, which are .33mm pellets. The fry grew quickly and were nice sized in short period of time. 

Retail Price

I would not expect to findCopadichromis melas at a pet store as it is currently not very common. Expect to pay about $100 for a pair of wild adult fish. Unsexed F1 fry and juveniles are generally in the $9 to $15. 

Copadichromis melas Female incubating eggs

Copadichromis melas Male



Video by Jason Libasci. Editing by Rick Borstein

Report July 2013 by Jason Libasci

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scubadiver replied the topic: #33982 4 years 3 months ago
Here is the latest FOM and huge thanks for Rick Borstein to being an amazing editor

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