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Zebra mbuna

Zebra mbuna
(Maylandia estherae)

This beautiful fish has the advantage of having a very different colour according to its gender, which is very significant!

It has a very strong character, so it must choose its roommates. On the other hand, it is not very difficult to maintain.

Scientific name

Maylandia estherae

Common name

Zebra mbuna

Origin

what are its countries of origin?

Origin: Africa (lake Malawi)
Biotope: African

Dimorphism

what are the physical differences between males and females?

Highly visible: the male is blue and the female is orange

Group

Group

Cichlidae

Volume

what is the minimum volume for this species?

300 L / 66 Imp gal / 79 US gal

Water parameters

what are the water parameters for the maintenance of this fish?

T°: 23 to 27°C or 73 to 81°F
pH: 7 to 8.5
Hardness: 10 to 20°dGH

Difficulty

Difficulty

Easy

Size

what is the maximum size of this fish?

male 15 cm (6")
female 10 cm (3.9")

Life expectancy

what is the average life expectancy of this fish?

6 to 8 years

Living zone

in which area of the aquarium does this fish live?

Middle and depth

Individuals

sociability of the species

1 male + 2 female

Food

How to feed the Zebra mbuna?

Food

How to feed the Zebra mbuna?

The basic diet may consist of flakes or vegetable-based granules that are easily found in aquarium stores (special for African cichlids).

To complete, offer a little Krill and from time to time broccoli, spinach and spirulina.

Like many Mbunas, it is essential to avoid giving worms of vases, because this causes irritations which can sometimes be serious.

Behavior

What kind of behavior does the Zebra mbuna have?

Behavior

What kind of behavior does the Zebra mbuna have?

It’s not a Mbuna for nothing! Indeed, it has a very strong character and is particularly territorial. Moreover, it becomes the dominant fish of the aquarium in most cases.

It is very aggressive and does not tolerate any intrusion into its area of life. This behavior will be further reinforced during breeding periods. Thus, it may be violent with other territorial species, with which it will be in conflict.

You will recognize males dominated by their duller colors (gray/blue).

It will transform your aquarium to its taste, digging sand and uprooting plants.

Cohabitation

Who can live with the Zebra mbuna?

Cohabitation

Who can live with the Zebra mbuna?

Like many cichlids from Lake Malawi, a minimum ratio of one male to two females is required.

Cohabitation with other species will be very difficult outside the other M’bunas.

Do not make Maylandia estherae and Haplos live together, it’s a disaster!

Breeding

How to breed the Zebra mbuna?

Breeding

How to breed the Zebra mbuna?

Like many species of its family, the cichlid zebra is polygamous. It will therefore be necessary to count 1 male for 2 females.

The recommended water parameters for breeding are: a temperature of 25°C or 77°F, a pH of 7.5 and a hardness of 10°dGH.

During the parade, the male will fertilize the female (they will adopt the so-called «T» position). The female will lay between 30 and 60 eggs. After that, the female will pick up its eggs and keep them in its mouth for the entire incubation period (about 21 days). Once the incubation is complete, the female will expel the fry from its mouth.

Young fish will not survive very long in a community aquarium. To have a better survival rate, you can provide an aquarium specifically dedicated to rearing young fry. This tray will have water parameters identical to those of the main aquarium. Isolate the incubating female in this tray. Once the fry are released, remove it.

It is the only cichlid in Lake Malawi that it is possible to see the gender of the fry from the start. Males are dark gray and females are orange. There is however an exception: when the males are O and OB (see “Good to know»), they are orange and therefore impossible to differentiate females.

Fry food: crumbled granules, Artemia nauplii.

Its aquarium

Which aquarium for the Zebra mbuna?

Its aquarium

Which aquarium for the Zebra mbuna?

Its large size (almost 15 cm or 6 inches for a male in adulthood) and its territorial character require maintenance in aquariums of at least 300 liters or 80 gallons and with a frontage of 130 centimeters or 51 inches minimum.

For the soil, opt for a non-cutting substrate because this fish likes to dig and dig in the ground. It must be avoided that it gets hurt during this activity.

For the scenery, recreate its natural habitat by piling stones and rocks. You will form hiding places and caves (females must be able to take refuge there during the breeding season). Pay attention to the stability of your stones because Maylandia estherae digs a lot and it can destabilize them. It would be a pity that it finds itself buried in a landslide. For the plants, not many choices. Indeed, this voracious fish will soon have swallowed any tender plant! The only plants that can possibly escape its appetite are the Anubias and the Vallisneria (you will need rooted deep or attached very securely to the decoration).

To avoid any pollution, change the water of your aquarium regularly: a renewal of 15 to 25% of the total volume will be necessary each week.

Good to know

Good to know

Find all additional information!

Maylandia estherae can have a wide variety of colours. Thus, males can be B (blue), O (orange, pink) or OB (orange with blue spots). The females have the form O (orange) or the form OB (orange spotted with brown).

This species has changed its name many times (Tilapia zebra, Zebra red, Mbuna red striped).

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