Protomelas sp. steveni (fenestratus) "Taiwan Reef"
by Tony Jochman
Introduction: This highly desirable species has many names, among them Prot. steveni Taiwan Tanzania, and Taiwan Reef steveni. It appears to me the most appropriate name is Prot. sp. steveni "Taiwan Reef". This is due mainly to the fact that Prot. fenestratus is the name for a close relative -- the Tangerine Tiger. That species has a lot more vertical bars as the common name implies. A more famous close relative is an old favorite: the Red Empress (Prot. cf. taeniolatus). Prot. steveni "Taiwan Reef" is often observed at Taiwan Reef just north of Chizumulu Island, as well as Mbamba Bay; Mbamba (Ngkuyo) Bay, & Higga Reef in Tanzania. Found only over rocky areas with very clear water, it is uncommon in other areas including most local fish stores.
Appearance: They have a fuller and shorter body than most Haps. Males can attain about 8 inches in length. Females retain the juvenile coloration, which is silver-gray with gray-black vertical bars. Pairs of these bars are often joined in the middle by small blotches to form “H” patterns. There are also some small blotches just below the dorsal fin. All these markings will become less pronounced as the fish gets older. Juvenile/sub-adult males may have a more noticeable yellow edge on the dorsal fin. They start showing a light blue shade in the head region at about 2 in. long or so. It is an extremely late bloomer and won’t attain full color until at least 2 years old. Fully matured males have a very unique lavender-blue on the head, the face, and the back. There are also light purple streaks on the tail fin, as well as an eye catching orange-red anal fin. If you are lucky enough to obtain an “exceptional” specimen he may even display a very pleasing golden yellow body color to complete a truly spectacular fish!
Care: Minimum tank size is 40 gallon with some rocks, but preferably those with no sharp edges. Prot. species are a little clumsy and can get scratched easily. Suitable tank mates are the Peacocks and smaller, milder Haps like the Copadichromis and Otopharynx species. Housing them with not so aggressive mbuna is possible but may require a larger tank. You will probably have a hard time breeding this species if it is not the dominant fish in the tank. Prot. Steveni is also somewhat delicate and clean water is a must! I recommend frequent water changes and filter services. It will eat anything, but I recommend pellets and flakes containing krill, shrimp, and Spirulina algae. These help to bring out its beautiful color. Treat this Hap right, and it won't disappoint you. Lots of color, large size, and mild temperament make this fish highly desirable.
Breeding: 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.