Maylandia estherae has a lake wide distribution and prefers rocky habitats with dense biofilm cover. There are several natural colour forms, the vast majority of populations comprised of the standard blue male/red female combination, with red males estimated to represent only about 1% of the overall population. It belongs to the Mbuna group of cichlids. The aquarium should be at least 4ft long and aquascaped to emulate a rocky reef effect with some open expanses of sand. Décor such as ocean rock can be used to build sturdy structures which stretch from the base of the tank to near the surface of the water. These structures should be built with the purpose of creating many crevices for the fish to explore but constructed in such a way so as to keep the rocks stable if the fish start to dig around and underneath them. Although a substrate of coral sand or Aragonite is often recommended to help to keep the water hard and alkaline, Mbuna feel safer and show better colours over a darker substrate. The Aragonite or coral sand can always be placed into a mesh bag and kept inside the external filter for buffering purposes. It is best to keep one male with several females (keeping just one will result in continual harassment and possibly death) and these can be kept successfully alongside other outgoing Mbuna. Other Maylandia species are best avoided though, particularly those of similar appearance, as males will respond most aggressively towards look-a-likes. Many Maylandia species are also capable of cross-breeding, something which should be avoided to keep the species pure.
The diet should be primarily vegetarian. Foods rich in animal protein could cause Malawi Bloat, which can be fatal. A good quality Spirulina-based green flake should be mixed with a standard quality flake food, and offered along with appropriately sized granular foods specifically developed for Mbuna. An occasional treat of Mysis shrimp can be given, but this should only be offered very occasionally. Vegetable matter such as cucumber, blanched spinach and romaine lettuce can be fed on a regular basis.
When ready to spawn, the colouration of the male will intensify and his aggression level will heighten. He will choose and clean a spawning site, then display to the female fish until one accepts him. They will circle each other in a head to tail manner a number of times, until the female deposits her eggs. These are deposited just one or two at a time and after doing so, she immediately turns around and picks them up. At the same time, the male will rotate so that he is almost on his side, at the same time shaking and extending his anal fin, releasing his milt. The female sees the egg spots on the male’s anal fin and attempts to pick up those “eggs” whilst she is picking up the real ones that she deposited, and at the same time taking in milt. This is the method of fertilisation, and this ritual may go on for some hours. The eggs may be incubated for up to 25 days until they hatch and the resultant fry held for a further few days afterwards.
|Synonyms||Metriaclima estherae, Pseudotropheus estherae|
|Distribution||Lake Malawi, Africa.|
|Sexual Dimorphism||Mature males larger and usually have more prominent and numerous egg spots.|
|Maximum Size||12.5cm (4.9")|
|Temperature||24-26 deg C (75-79 deg F)|
|Water Parameters||Hard, alkaline water essential. pH: 7.5-8.5, dH: up to 25 degrees.|
|Compatibility||Malawi cichlid tank only.|