Pseudotropheus sp. “Zebra Mbenji”

By Tony Jochman


Pseudotropheus sp. “Zebra Mbenji” originates from Mbenji Island in Lake Malawi, on the southern part of the lake.  The interesting thing about the Zebra Mbenji is that when they are juveniles all are dark peach/brown, but as they mature the dominant male will change to a cobalt blue with a red top.  The females and the rest of the males will turn a peach/orange color.


The tank I keep them in is a 20 gallon high, with the temperature set at 76° F, and a Penguin 170 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 my fingernail, but there are many other methods out there.


In conclusion, Pseudotropheus sp. “Zebra Mbenji” is very easy to breed; it just takes time, and good clean water.