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Melanochromis lepidiadaptes




Endemic to Lake Malawi. It is found only in a limited area around Makanjila Point on the eastern side.


It inhabits rocky areas around the coastline.

Maximum Standard Length

4.8″ (12cm).

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

36″ x 18″ x 15″ (90cm x 45cm x 37.5cm) – 160 litres.


Much of the aquarium should contain piles of rocks arranged to form caves with small areas of open water between. A sandy substrate is best.

Water Conditions

Temperature: 75-82°C (24-28°C)

pH: 7.6-8.8

Hardness: 8-25°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 ↑

A relatively peaceful species (for a Melanochromis!) ideal for many hard water communities. Ideally it should be kept in a Lake Malawi biotope aquarium with other cichlids of a similar size and disposition. It can also be combined successfully with hard water rainbowfish and some Cyprinids. It can be maintained in groups but does become territorial when spawning. Males can also be quite vigorous in their pursuit of mates so we recommend keeping several females to each male. It can also be combined with other mbuna. If it is kept in a mbuna community the tank should be overcrowded to reduce aggression and territory formation.

Sexual Dimorphism

Adult males are larger than females and are far more brightly coloured.


Possible. Maternal mouthbrooder. It should be spawned in a species tank in a harem of one male and at least 3 females. A 36″ aquarium is a good size and should be furnished as suggested above, along with some flat stones and areas of open substrate to act as potential spawning sites. 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 can be quite 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. Unlike the vast majority of mbuna, some eggs may be fertilised before the female picks them up. 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 may carry the eggs for up to 3 or 4 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. 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. The female will continue to guard the brood for the first week or so following their release, taking them into her mouth when she feels threatened.

NotesTop ↑

This species was originally sold as M. fuscus and then M. sp. “lepidophage. The name refers to the act of lepidophagy, which is the act of a fish eating the scales of another fish. In nature M. lepidiadaptes apparently lives an opportunistic lifestyle, feeding almost solely on the scales of other species, although interestingly not other mbuna. However in aquaria this behaviour has never been witnessed.
Do not keep it with other Melanochromis species as they may hybridise.

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