Species Article: Lake Malawi

Protomelas sp. "Steveni Taiwan Tanzania"

by Lee Ann Steeves

This fish has many trade names, among them 'Fenestratus', 'Taiwan Reef', and 'Steveni', each being preceeded by either Protomelas or the older genus name, 'Haplochromis'. This fish came to me under the name Protomelas sp. 'Steveni Taiwan Tanzania'. I got them from my friends Jessica Miller and Steve Lundblad back in 1997.

The fish were small when I got them and took FOREVER to grow. But by and by, one male began to color up, and he has blossomed into one of the most beautiful fish I've ever seen. About a year ago, they began to spawn, and since then have produced consistently for me. The dominant male has a bright blue head and dorsal area, lime-green-gold sides and a bright red anal fin. Subdominant males carry the blue and red, but the red isn't AS intense, and the sides are silver with darker bars like the females. Females are silvery with darker bars and both sexes may show a horizontal spotted bar along its middle when stressed. All fish may or may not carry a white blaze.

The fry are very small and a 2" female can easily carry nearly 20 babies to term, but I strip at about 10 days to ensure survival. Because of this fish, I have learned to hold mothers slightly over the surface of the water rather than dunking her head in when stripping... the babies' instinct to return to her mouth coupled with her instinct to keep them there makes stripping very difficult otherwise. I have since heard that you can flush the babies out with an eyedropper... I will try that next :)

I keep these fish in a tank shared with Labidochromis, Pseudotropheus saulosi, Aulonocara and Copadichromis. They are peaceful, but tend to be a bit stupid around sharp objects such as flowerpot shards or pointy rocks, so eye injuries happen occasionally. Whenever I see an injured eye (usually indicated by a slight clouding around a small whitish laceration) I do a water change then add uniodized salt to the tank.


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