Protomelas taeniolatus male in the aquarium of Sergey Anikstein. Photo by Sergey Anikstein.
Recently, while I was scanning the current price list from MalTaVi, I decided to make a purchase. I choose a fish I have seen for a long time in many photos at various foreign sites. On the price list the fish was listed as: Protomelas taeniolatus "boadzulu red."
Finally the wild fish arrived, and I had enough room to put 3 per aquarium. I closely examined the bright, and luminous color of this fish. The body was covered in a bright red tone, while the head was an intense emerald-blue; it was the perfect contrast of colors. I had heard this species was a beauty, now I know first hand that this is a stunning fish. It was probably caught near Senga Point, this is where the species shows the intense red in the greater half of the body, and is the reason this fish is called the "Red Empress." This commercial title is immediately identified with regal luster and outstanding color.
Protomelas are a group of peaceful fishes and can normally coexist in aquariums with many cichlids of the African lakes similar in character, behavior and feeding habits. The parameters of my tank were GH 15-20; pH 8-8.5; NH3\NH4-0; NO2-0; NO3- < 5 mg/l. Along with a good filter and adequate aeration of water.
To landscape the tank it is desirable to utilize the natural elements that they would find in the wild. Such as, shallow light sand and vertical rocks that are dark in color like basalt or "kenia rock." The tank will be complete with the combination of AquaGlo and Powerglo lamps for lighting.
I like to feed a standard cichlid food designed for cichlids from the African Rift Lakes, which contains a majority of vegetable components. I also use a dry food from Wardley®, a series of premium cichlid floating pellets and also natural shrimp or krill. Sometimes I include a diet of frozen brine shrimp, glassworms and Cyclops.
Protomelas become sexually mature around 8 - 9 months of age but more then often have weak results at that early age. The rigorous spawnings can be watched after one year or longer. There is the ritual "roundabout" where the male chooses a flat stone, or simply clears away a place at the bottom of the aquarium. Then he begins to pursue the females, hoping one will follow him down to his area. In a classical arrangement of the partners, the male becomes almost vertical and hangs on the right side of the female, and shakes, and then the female goes vertical, with her head near the anal fin. Then she lays her eggs, picks them up and returns to the head down position and mouths the anal fin of her partner. Mature females can hold 40 - 50 eggs/fry. The female will hold about 21 - 28 days.
If you use artificial incubation the fry will begin to eat in the middle of the third week, small Zooplankton (Artemia nauplii is however preferable). The color of the fry is the same as the female, a metallic grey color. As the fry get older you can begin to feed dry foods and other live foods, like Cyclops, glassworms and adult brine shrimp, the fry like to forage in groups. I only use food of western producers, among them Wardley, Tetra Sera. Etc.
I have since had personal correspondence with Ad Konings, and it has become clear, that this Protomelas taeniolatus, is actually a geographic morph that is found near Namalenje Island. After seeing a photo of my fish, Ad told me, “... This fish has very good color, however at Boadzulu the males are blue, no red at all.”
Protomelas taeniolatus fry in the aquarium of Sergey Anikstein. Photo by Sergey Anikstein.
A special thanks to Pam Chin for reviewing this writing.