Description: Haplochromis (Paralabidochromis) chilotes is easily recognizable by its brilliant blue colored pointed snout and large electric blue colored lips. It is the only species with these characteristics from Lake Victoria (Nyanza). This is a rather colorful, robust species. The male’s body is blue to blue-green colored with a bright red-orange color to the chest and belly which intensifies according to the mood. The torso has a chessboard striped pattern with between 5 and 7 black vertical bars. Two parallel horizontal black bars vary in intensity and are most vivid when the fish is stressed. One horizontal bar crosses mid body and finishes at the caudal fin. The other crosses at the nape of the neck and runs to the last soft ray of the dorsal fin. Two black vertical bars cross the head. One starts at the beginning of the eye and runs to the corners of the lips while the other begins just after the eye and ends between the cheek and the gill. The iris of the eye is pale yellow with a black spot on the outer portion. The pupil is black.
The dorsal is a sky-blue color on the spinous rays with a bright red tip creating a line bordering the fin. Many small red spots dot the area between the blue colored soft rays. The caudal fin is lined with blue rays and dotted with many of small red colored blotches. The anal fin is red-orange with the outer third portion tinted sky-blue. Large yellow ocelli are bordered with a nearly black colored orbit. The pelvic fins are dark blue to black. They are much more elongated in males than in the females. The pectoral fins are colorless. Males, when stressed, display a faded blue coloration with silver specs reflecting from dark horizontal bars. A red flush adorns the chest.
Particular forms: There exist several forms of this species with morphological differences such as the H. sp. "shorts head chilotes" (shorter muzzle), as well as a black morph with bright red fins.
Dimorphism: Obvious sexual dimorphism exists in this species. Males attain a size of 12 to 14 cm while females reach 8 to 9 cm. Haplochromis (Paralabidochromis) chilotes can reach 17 cm in nature (Fermon, Kenya, 2000). Males sport a differing coloration than the females. The females are a silver-green color and the fins are generally colorless. There are small red flecks on the caudal fin. Females can also have ocelli on the anal fin but these are smaller colorless, and not as well defined as what is seen on the male.
Husbandry: Haplochromis (Paralabidochromis) chilotes requires a large tank of at least 300 liters. An aquarium of this size will house a mixed community. A 150 liter tank decorated with many hiding places should comfortably house a group consisting of a male and a 3 or 4 female harem. H. chilotes is a docile cichlid but care should be taken to supervise the social balance in the community tank. Some specimens may be relatively aggressive. I’ve lost a Neochromis gigas male to aggression so quickly nothing could be done to save him. It was a large error of my own (social balance split). I introduced a rival of the same size into a stable community that was dominated by a male H. sp. chilotes. Within ½ hour, the deceased carcass was floating in a corner of the aquarium. The fins were destroyed and scales were partly scrapped off. In spite of this disastrous experience, I have maintained this splendid species for a few years without any difficulties.
Feeding: Newborn chilotes fry can take with brine shrimp nauplia as well as Cyclops and crushed spirulina. A spinach and shrimp mix with occasional feeding of black mosquito and brine shrimp will nourish adults and serve well to recondition a female weakened from a brooding period.
Behavior: Males display a high level of aggression with one another. Females are not nearly so aggressive but will establish a dominance hierarchy amongst themselves as well. Males make great facades of intimidation using their large open mouth and thickened lips. With more robust species, H. chilotes does not usually dominate or hold a territory. It scours the entire tank constantly foraging for food. This obviously depends of the individual temperament of the fish as I have had rather aggressive and territorial chilotes even with others species. The only time when it seems to defend a small surface on a rock is with the onset of the reproduction ritual. It is at this time that the male will drive out any fish which ventures near the area that has been claimed.
Reproduction: Spawning occurs in the typical haplochromine manner with the classic "T" positioning. Haplochromis (Paralabidochromis) chilotes is maternal oral incubator with a 10 to 15 day gestation period. Post release, the female takes care of the fry and picks them up at the first sign of danger. This caring continues for another 7 to 10 days. In the community tank, the incubating female will withdraw to a secluded crevice out of sight from others. At this time she sports a dark coloration with dark melanin bars. Certain females can delay release and keep the young an additional week more. The parents defend the cave in a manner akin to substrate spawners. Growth of the young is rather slow. At one month they attain a size of 1 cm; at 6 months they reach between 5 and 6 cm. At 7 cm Haplochromis (Paralabidochromis) chilotes are sexually mature. Reproduction can occur with females as small as 5cm. At one year the fish is an adult and is 8 to 9 cm.
Comments: Haplochromis (Paralabidochromis) chilotes is a specialized rock dwelling insectivore that seeks its preys around the base of rocks (pers obs.). An interesting case of parallel evolution with species from Malawi (Melanochromis labrosusand) and from Tanganyika (Lobochilotes labiatus) exists. All the three species display the same thickened lips. Its hearty body structure and speed at which it can maneuver indicates that in the natural environment, it must traverse significant distances within its territory (even within the rocky zones). In the aquarium Haplochromis (Paralabidochromis) chilotes does not seem to occupy or defend a crevice as permanent territory. Olivier Berthelot and Yves Fermon have captured large sized individuals (17 cm) and a black color varient in differing biotypes including rocky zones, sand and mud beach zones, and emerged vegetation zones during their Kenyan expedition of 2000. It seems that H. chilotes has a wide distribution in Lake Victoria (Nyanza). In his book "Lake Victoria Rock Cichlids", Ole Seehausen has documented some 16 localities in Mwanza Gulf where he has captured this species. Humphrey Greenwood described H. chilotes coming from Uganda in 1959. Specimens black in color with red fins have been caught in Kenya. There may be two similar species as discussed by Dr. Ole Seehausen (Haplochromis chilotes and Haplochromis sp. "short head chilotes"), but until further examination, this assumption must be taken as conditional. It is tough to find a more appealing fish for any cichlid addicts than the mbipi’s from the rocky zones of the Nyanza Lake.
Haplochromis (Paralabidochromis) chilotes can easily appeal to aquarists with its docile nature and the beautiful coloration displayed by its outstretched intense vibrant finnage.