Breeding Metriaclima aurora

By Dave Gauthier


I attained 5 of these Lake Malawi mouthbreeders from a club member a few months back at the size of about 1.5 and smaller.  There was one fish that was slightly showing some yellow color.  These fish were known as Pseudotropheus aurora; according to the book Malawi Cichlids In Their Natural Habitat, 3rd Edition, they have been reclassified as Metriaclima. Their main distribution in Lake Malawi is Likoma Island, although they can be found in just under a dozen other locations, all with widely varied color patterns.  They stay in the intermediate habitat and rarely venture into deeper water.


I placed the group in a 55 gallon aquarium with my usual gravel/crushed coral substrate and filtered by an undergravel filter with two powerheads.  A couple of rock piles helped them to adjust to the tank quickly.  I keep the tank at 80 degrees F, with a pH around 8.2-8.4. I also do a 50% water change weekly to this tank. I feed these fish a mixture of spirulina, cichlid and vivid color flake as a staple, with a bi-weekly feeding of frozen brine shrimp and krill. They grew pretty fast in the few months that I have had them and I was actually surprised to suddenly see a female with a mouthful of eggs at such a small size.  I did not witness the spawning ritual, but the male has dug out a small pit in a rocky area in the back left side of the tank and will shake and push color until he can lure a female in to his pit.  I would assume the spawning is typical to all mouthbreeders.  They will circle each other and when the female deposits her eggs, she will pick them up and the male will be flashing his anal fin and the females will attempt to pick up the egg spots on his fin also, fertilizing the eggs.


I stripped the female after 5 days and she had 9 eggs with eyes.  I tumbled them for not even two weeks before the yolk sac was absorbed and they were free swimming.  These things grew pretty quick in the tumbler!  I then removed them to a 10 gallon tank with a sponge filter, heater and a bare bottom.  Although they grew quick in the tumbler, they got ďlostĒ in the tank, and I wasnít sure they were even eating because they were so hard to find.  Lesson learned.  I now put them in a 5 gallon with the same setup as the 10. Because of their size, it only took a day or two before they were eating crushed flake (same kinds I feed the adults) twice to three times a day.  A bi-weekly water change is also done on the fry tanks.  


The fish showing color when I got them is the one pictured above.  [Note:† Photo is missing.]† Along with 2 females, there are 2 that are still pretty small and neither is showing any color, so at this point in time, I donít know the sex of the 2 smallest fish, although they seem to be growing a little more now.  But I did get a trio for sure.  The male has spawned with both females simultaneously since the first spawn.  The females are holding 18+ eggs per spawn now. I am glad to have picked up this nice group of mbunas.† The males can be aggressive when itís time to spawn, but given plenty of space and some rock work, anyone would have luck keeping or breeding these fish.