Red Zebra Cichlid

Red Zebra Cichlid (Metriaclima estherae)

The Red Zebra Cichlid (Metriaclima estherae) can also be referred to as the Red Mbuna or Cherry Zebra. They are highly aggressive fish endemic to minos reef in Lake Malawi. In the wild, males are blue to whitish pink and females are a deep orange or red. However in the trade, Males are more often a deep red or orange with females being lighter in colour.

  • Care Level:  Easy
  • Temperament:  Semi-Aggressive
  • Max Size: 5”
  • Colouring: Red, Blue, Yellow
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Origins: Africa – Lake Malawi
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Minimum Tank Size: 200 Litres
  • Water Conditions: 24 – 28°C / KH 10 – 15 / pH 7.8 – 8.6  / 76-83° F

Red Zebra Cichlid Appearance

The most colorful zebra cichild’s are found near Minos Reef in Lake Malawi. In the wild the male appears to be blue or a whitish-pink while the female is colored deep orange or even red. However, in the aquarium males tend to be orange while the females are not as vibrant, being a lighter shade than the males. The male is usually a little larger then the female with these fish reaching up to 5 inches (12.5 cm) in length.

Red Zebra Cichlid Temperament

Zebra cichlids are extremely aggressive to their own and other species.  The dominant male will keep harassing and  killing off the weakest members of the tank.  For this reason, a male Zebra Cichlid should be kept with several females in a very large tank.

“The most colorful zebra cichild’s are found near Minos Reef in Lake Malawi”

Most other moderately aggressive Malawian cichlid can be housed in the same aquarium with the Metriaclima estherae so long as they are of equal size. Some cichlids that do particularly well with the Metriaclima estherae are Pseudotropheus kenyi, Melanochromis johanni, Labidochromis caeruleus (yellow lab), Pseudotropheus crabro (bumble bee), Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos (Mainganos), Aulonocara species (Peacocks), Scianochromis ahli (Blue Ahli), Pseudotropheus socolofi, and the Pseudotropheus sp. (Red Top Ice Blue).

Red Zebra Cichlid Environment

The aquarium should be of adequate size with at least thirty gallons recommended for 3-5 Metriaclima estherae. There should be lots of hiding areas in the aquarium through construction and placements of caves, plants, rocks or even pvc piping. A 25-33 percent water change should be done weekly to maintain the high quality water the red zebra cichlid is used to.

Red Zebra Cichlid DietRed Zebra Cichlid (Metriaclima estherae)

The Red Zebra Cichlid is an omnivore that will eat just about anything. They love algae as well as a high quality flake food or pellet and frozen meaty foods. It is strongly recommended to feed these cichlids a green vegetable 1-2 times a week. This can consist of zucchini slices, romaine lettuce or even squished fresh peas. Be careful to stay away from greens low in nutrients such as iceberg lettuce or celery. M. estherae also need their daily amounts of protein which will come from a good flake or pellet. Two to three feedings a day is recommended.

Red Zebra Cichlid Breeding

The Red Zebra Cichlid is a maternal mouth brooder, as are all Lake Malawi mbuna cichlids. Gestation time for this brood is approximately 21 days depending on temperature. A brood of 20-35 is an average size and the female will take care of her brood for a further two weeks once she releases them. If you are planning on breeding or keeping these fish, 1 male is recommended for 3-5 females. Mothers should be removed from the community tank when brooding is noticed.

Red Zebra Cichlid Origins

Red Zebra Cichlid’s are endemic to deep rocky waters of Lake Malawi in Africa.

For further information, here’s an article on general aquarium maintenance.


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