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Protomelas labridens

Protomelas labridens Male 

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

General

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

Habitat

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

Care

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.

Feeding

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.

Breeding

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. 

Video

 

Report May 2013 by Rick Borstein

Otopharynx sp. "Silver Torpedo"

Otopharynx sp.  

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

General

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.

Habitat

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

Care

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.

Feeding

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.

Breeding

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. 

Video

 

Report June 2013 by Rick Borstein

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