Red zebra

Aquarium fish: Red zebra (Maylandia estherae)
Size: 13 cm
Origin: Malawi
Water temperature: 24-28 ° C
Aquarium volume: 160 l

Red zebra (Maylandia estherae) – a species of freshwater fish from the cichlid family, often kept in aquariums.


Africa . Endemic species, inhabiting the rock littoral of Lake Malawi. Found at great depths up to 20m.

Characteristics and disposition

The male is 13 cm long, the female is slightly smaller, about 10 cm.

It is quite easy to distinguish between the sexes . Males’ mock-ups, located on the dorsal, caudal and anal fins, are slightly larger and occur in a larger number of 4-7 pieces. These fish are characterized by a very beautiful and interesting coloration. Naturally occurring males are light blue in color with dark vertical stripes. Females are brown-beige or orange-red, have no vertical stripes and have fewer mock eggs (0-3).

They are commercially available in four color varieties:

  • red-red – the most common variety. Females and fry are yellow-orange. Adult males, on the other hand, are almost white with an orange-purple tinge
  • red-blue – the female is yellow-orange, the male is blue in color
  • ice-blue – the female is blue, the adult male takes a light blue-blue color
  • morph – adult fish come in shades of brown with admixtures of pink, orange and purple and have their own unique set of dark brown spots

Like all cichlids, they have a highly open mouthpiece that allows their jaws to be extended. They have an additional set of throat teeth that crush or crush food. The anal, dorsal, thoracic and abdominal fins consist of soft rays to help and facilitate swimming, and sharp-pointed hard rays (spines) to deter predators.

Red mouthbrood is considered a relatively less aggressive fish towards other species, however, like most mouthbrooders, it is characterized by a clearly marked territorial instinct. One male and two or three females are best kept.

Nutrition and feeding

In nature, it eats mainly zooplankton, algae and small invertebrates. Like other mouthbrooders , it requires a low-protein diet . Its composition should be mainly plant foods.

Granules and flakes with spirulina are particularly recommended. The diet can be supplemented with frozen artemia, daphnia and cyclops. Under no circumstances should you give the fish meat food. It is better to feed the fish more often and in smaller quantities.


For one male and 2-3 females, a 100-120 cm long aquarium with a sandy base will be necessary.

Fish should be provided with a sufficient number of hiding places, creating gaps and caves made of stones, without forgetting, however, to leave a place for swimming. Fish love to dig, so the stones should be placed on the bottom of the aquarium, not on the ground. They tolerate both fresh and slightly salty water well. In the aquarium, they require high water current, efficient filtration and frequent changes. They are not suitable for a social aquarium .

In a sufficiently large aquarium they can be kept in larger numbers or with other peaceful Lake Malawi cichlids that are not similar in shape / color.


Breeding of red mouthbroods is relatively easy . Fish should be bred in a species aquarium in a harem consisting of one male and at least 3 females. For reproduction, an aquarium 100-120 cm long is required, decorated with rocks, stones with numerous hiding places, crevices, caves. You also need flat stones and a sandy base where the fish can spawn.

Alkaline water, preferably in the range of 8.2-8.5 and a temperature of 27-28 ° C. Fish should be fed copiously with plant, live and frozen foods. The male selects and prepares a spawning site. During this time, it takes on more intense colors, encouraging a potential partner. The male can be quite insistent during courtship, which is why the mouthbrood is best bred in harems .

When the female succumbs, she swims to the place prepared by the male and lays the eggs, which she then collects in her mouth. The confused female also tries to collect eggs (dummy) from the male’s anal fin. At this point, the milk is released and the eggs present in the female’s mouth are fertilized. The hatching takes place in the female’s mouth. The female carries about 20-30 eggs for 2-3 weeks, which is easy to see from her distended mouth.

During this time, he eats little or no food. Be careful if you want to, for example, transfer the fish to a separate tank, when it is stressed it may spit out or eat the young. It is worth adding that if the female is outside the colony for too long, she may lose her position in the group. We wait as long as possible to separate the fish, unless it is disturbed by other inhabitants. Some breeders after 2 weeks artificially collect the fry from the female’s mouth, which allows them to raise larger numbers of young mouthbrooders.

The floating fry are large enough to be immediately fed with e.g. artemia.


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