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Melanochromis chipokae




Endemic to Lake Malawi. It is found only in the southwestern part of the lake around Chindunga Rocks, a reef just off the island of Chipoka.


It usually inhabits intermediate areas with sandy bottoms and scattered rocks around the reef.

Maximum Standard Length

4.8″ (12cm).

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

48″ x 18″ x 15″ (120cm x 45cm x 37.5cm) – 200 litres absolute minimum due to its highly aggressive nature (see below).


Much of the aquarium should contain piles of rocks, arranged to form many caves and hiding places with small areas of open water between. A sandy substrate is best and the water should be well oxygenated.

Water Conditions

Temperature: 75-82°C (24-28°C)

pH: 7.6-8.8

Hardness: 10-25°H


It will accept most foods offered and a varied diet of live, frozen and good quality dried foods is best. Vegetable matter in the form of spirulina flakes, blanched spinach etc. should form a supplementary part of the diet.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Arguably the most aggressive and territorial mbuna and a dominant male will almost always be the ‘boss’ of any tank it is in. It should not be kept with peace loving species, such as Peacocks, Utaka or quieter mbuna but it can be combined with similarly sized, robust mbuna provided they do not resemble it in patterning. The tank should be overcrowded to reduce aggression and territory formation. We recommend it is the last species added to any such community as although it is still likely to become hyperdominant, this may be less pronounced than if it is introduced to an understocked tank. It is also incredibly aggressive towards others of the same species and the presence of heterospecifics helps to dissipate this. However, a very large tank is required in order to keep more than one male and even then, it is likely that the sub-dominant male(s) will be killed. Several females should be kept per male in order to reduce harassment by the male, but in smaller tanks even these will most likely be harassed to death.

Sexual Dimorphism

Mature males are a completely different colour to the golden females and juvenile/sub-dominant males, taking on a stunning black and blue colouration. Males are also larger than females.


Possible but not easy due to its violent disposition. Maternal mouthbrooder. It should be spawned in a species tank in a harem of one male and at least 3 females. A 48″ aquarium is a good size (although larger is preferable) and this should be furnished as suggested above, along with some flat stones and areas of open substrate to act as potential spawning sites. Make sure plenty of hiding places are provided as the male may kill females that are not ready to spawn. The pH should be around 8.2-8.5 and the temperature 77-80°F. The fish should be conditioned with plenty of live, frozen and vegetable foods.

The male fish will clean and then display around his chosen spawning site, showing intense colour, and attempt to entice females to mate with him. He is very aggressive in his pursuits and it is in order to dissipate this aggression that this species should be spawned in a harem.

When a female is willing, she will approach the spawning site and lay her eggs there, after which she picks them up in her mouth. The male fish has egg-shaped spots on his anal and the female is attracted to these. When she tries to add them to the brood in her mouth, she actually recieves sperm from the male, thus fertilising the eggs.

The female will carry the 20-40 eggs for around 3 weeks before releasing the free swimming fry. She will not eat during this period and can be easily spotted by her distended mouth. If a female is overly stressed, she may spit out the brood prematurely or eat them, so care must be taken if you decide to move the fish in order to avoid fry predation. It is also worth noting that if a female is away from the colony for too long she may lose her position in the pecking order of the group. We recommend waiting as long as possible before moving a female, unless she is being harassed, which is unlikely as brooding females become even more aggressive than usual. Some breeders artificially strip the fry from the mother’s mouth at the 2 week stage and raise them from that point as this usually results in a larger number of fry.
The fry are large enough to take brine shrimp nauplii from birth.

NotesTop ↑

This species belongs to the group of Melanochromis often called “Pike Auratus”. These species predate on the fry of other species, although M. chipokae will also eat crustaceans and algae. Female and juvenile male M. chipokae are easily confused with M. auratus. However, it can be distinguished by its noticeably more pointed mouth, denoting the predatory nature of this species (auratus has a rounded mouth which is designed for feeding on algae). The striped patterning in the caudal fin also extends through the whole fin in chipokae, whereas in auratus only around half the caudal is striped.

M. chipokae is not recommended for the beginner, due to its incredibly intolerant nature. Also, do not keep it with other Melanochromis species, under any circumstances, as they may hybridise. It may sometimes be seen for sale as M. loriae, which some sources claim is simply a synonym of chipokae. It is, in fact, a distinct but very similar species found in the same area in Lake Malawi.

2 Responses to “Melanochromis chipokae”

  • Kend0

    Sorry to be a pedant, but the correct biological term is adapted, not designed.
    Females can also be distinguished from female M. auratus by the tail pattern. M,auratus have a solid yellow lower half to the tail. Sometimes the presence of white lines bordering the black lines can also indicate an auratus female.

  • Not at all – this profile needs to be fixed! I am currently busy with a couple of other things but will look at it shortly.

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