Maylandia/Metriaclima estherae ‘Red Zebra’
by Nick Laferriere

Location: Found at Chilucha Reef near Metangula and also at Minos Reef.

Biotope: Sediment-free Rocky Habitat

Size: 11cm for males, females slightly smaller.

Diet: Males are larger algae grazers, which stay close to the biocover. They feed from the aufwuchs within their territories. Females school in midwater feeding on plankton. This is one reason for the female’s intense red coloration. Females stay suspended between 1-5 metres.

Related Species: Met. callainos (Cobalt Blue Cichlid)

Temperment: Territorial males can become quite aggressive in their defence. This is especially true with conspecific males. Also males are aggressive and territorial in the aquaria as well. They excavate large amounts of gravel! Spawning Behaviour: Males dig small caves between rocks in which they base their territory from. A male will display himself above his territory and wait for gravid females to approach. The male then will put on a display and lead her to his cave. In the aquaria males can be quite persistent with females and may damage them.

Breeding: Females are very prolific and great holders. Females can hold up to 35 fry for about 25 days. They sometimes are so bonded to their fry that they’ll let them in and out for a week. Also I’ve seen cases where the female will take in other species fry as well. Sexes are distinguishable from release. Males are gray while females are pink. Adult males are a bright sky blue with numerous egg spots. Females vary from solid red to OB where they exhibit black blotches. Seen now a days, is the commercial ‘Red Zebra’. This is where through selective breeding they’ve made the recessive male trait of being red dominant. So both sexes obtain the red colour.


Konings, Ad. (1990). Ad Konings's Book of Cichlids and All The Other Fishes of Lake Malawi: NJ: T.F.H. Publications Inc.

Konings, Ad. (1997). Back to Nature Guide to: Malawi Cichlids: Germany: Fohrman Aquaristik AB

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