Petrotilapia sp. “Small Blue”

By Tony Jochman


Petrotilapia sp. “small blue” are from Lion’s Cove in Lake Malawi, on the Western coast of the lake. They mainly inhabit the rocky biotopes.  Members of the genus Petrotilapia are characterized by broad, fleshy lips densely covered with slender flexible teeth with a tricuspid (three-pointed) crown. The teeth, which are permanently exposed even when the mouth is closed, are excellent tools for combing loose aufwuchs.  The flexible teeth only can comb the algae strands and not cut them loose.  Even though the mouth of Petrotilapia is excellently equipped to comb fine, loose material from the rocks, the large size of these mbuna demand a large intake.  In the aquarium this isn’t a problem with a high protein flake food and pellets.  Adult males are powder blue and females remain orange in color.


The tank I keep them in is a 30 gallon, with the temperature set at 76° F, and a Penguin 330 Bio-Wheel filtering it.  A big mound of rocks keeps them all happy and gives them a spot to breed.  When the male is ready to breed he does get a little more aggressive, but mainly just to protect his territory. 


Come spawning time the male does his little dance, or jittering, in front of the females and if any are ready she will follow the male into the breeding pit.  The male will then scrape his anal fin on the rocks to show the female a good place to place her eggs.  The female will follow, lay her eggs, and then pick them back up very quickly.  She does this a number of times, and as she picks up her eggs the male rubs his egg spots on the rocks as well.  The male does this to entice the female to try to pick up his egg spots also; when she tries he will release his sperm into her mouth to fertilize the eggs.  This process takes but a few hours.


I will let the female hold the eggs in her mouth for about 8-12 days, at which time I will strip the eggs.  I do this one of two ways.  The first is to put her in a breeding contraption called Aqua-Nursery; the other is just a plain old breeding net.  When the female is ready I open her mouth and out come tons of little baby fry.  I just use a Q-tip, but there are many other methods out there.