Maylandia zebra, BB male; photo from Ribbink et al. (1983)

Maylandia zebra (Boulenger, 1899)

by Michael K. Oliver, Ph.D.

Above: A magnificent male of the classic "BB" (black-barred blue) morph of Maylandia zebra, photographed underwater at Monkey Bay, Malawi.

This is the species originally, and still widely, known as Pseudotropheus zebra. [It is also seen under the name Metriaclima zebra, but the genus Maylandia has priority over that genus (see FAQ).] A number of closely similar forms have been split off from M. zebra as new species, which they may or may not actually be, biologically. Other similar forms remain undescribed but have temporary names (for many of these, be sure to look at the color photos in the Gallery of Miscellaneous Maylandia).

Males of most species in the zebra group, including M. zebra itself as seen above, are highly aggressive and are a poor choice for aquarists just beginning to keep Malawi cichlids. Moreover, they grow rather large, often exceeding 13 cm (5 inches) under these artificial conditions (larger than they grow in the Lake, where food is less plentiful). An aquarist who is determined nevertheless to try zebras is well advised to give them a large aquarium (55 gallons is not really large enough), try to start with only one male and several (3 to 5) females, provide plenty of rocks or other cover, and include dither fish such as Australian rainbowfish to help distract the dominant male. As with most mbuna, avoid feeding animal foods (tubifex worms, brine shrimp, etc.) at most feedings. Spirulina flakes are enjoyed.

Below: A specimen of M. zebra (95 mm SL) from Monkey Bay; (at right): left premaxilla (lateral view) and anterior outer row tooth of M. zebra (drawings by Elizabeth M. Tarr). Photo from Plate 1a and drawing from Fig. 6 of Ribbink et al., 1983; reproduced by permission of the Zoological Society of Southern Africa.

Maylandia zebra; drawings from Ribbink et al. (1983)


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Last Update: 17 April 2018
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