Also known as Maylandia estherae, Metriaclima estherae is a haplochromine cichlid. It is a rock dwelling fish or mbuna from Lake Malawi. This fish, like most cichlids from Lake Malawi, is a mouthbrooder – females hold their fertilized eggs then fry in their mouths until they are released after about 21 days. Females can grow up to 4 in while males will grow up to 5.0 in.
Despite their “red zebra” name, wild males commonly can be found with a blue color as well as the orange typical to those found in aquariums most of the time. Wild females are orange to bright orange. Captive fish are available in numerous color including orange or blue males and females. The fins of this species display beautiful, vibrant patterns of differing palettes.
The males are territorial over the areas they prefer and those who reach dominance in an aquarium will pick on subordinate males and behave territorially in general. Like the other cichlids of this genus, they are best kept in a harem with one male to many females. Like any cichlid, it is recommended to house red zebra cichlids in rather large tanks with several other African cichlids. In addition, every keeper of the red zebra cichlid should be mindful of their preference for rocky terrain with numerous hiding places. This is a species known to “arrange” substrate pebbles, small plants, and other aquarium decor far more often than other fish.
The fish’s predominate food source is algae and other plant life when in its natural habitat of Lake Malawi, though those in aquariums will certainly eat typical cichlid foods, some vegetable greens, and small, freeze-dried aquatic fauna as a treat. They should not be fed live foods or there will be a risk for bloating, which can prove fatal. High protein foods typically sold for cichlids are unnecessary for red zebras as they grow to their relatively small adult size quickly. Like other cichlids, they thrive in waters that are between a pH of 7.5-8.5, hard 150–200 mg/l, and 72-82 degrees F. Red zebra cichlids are rather hardy and can tolerate less than ideal water conditions, but keepers should seek the conditions listed above in order for the red zebra to live a healthy, active life.
Diet:Herbivore, supplemented with live and frozen foods.
Fish size: 4-5″
Min tank size: 55 Gallons