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Melanochromis chipokae


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Article by Roland Tarr

Species information

Species: Melanochromis chipokae

Synoma: Melanochromis chipoka, Melanochromis loriae

Common name: Malawi Pike cichlid

Origin: Lake Malawi Africa

Localities/Morphs: Chidunga Roks near Chipokae, Mbenji, Nakantenga in Lake Malawi

Maximum size: 8cm maximum 14-16cm

Natural habitat: Sandy patches around rocks.

Natural foods/prey: Opportunistic feeder. Although, its elongated snout enables it to pick out small fishes from rock crevices to prey on small fishes it also eats algae and zooplankton.

Water chemistry in the wild: pH 7.3-9, dH 10 a 18

Predators: larger fish, birds

Brood size: 20-80

Sexual dimorphism: Females can colour up almost like males.

Breeding method: maternal mouthbrooder and very prolific

Husbandry requirements:

Minimum tank size: 4ft, but I would recommend 6ft or above.

Sex ratio:1 male with at least 3 females

Tolerance of conspecifics: aggressive towards other males of its kind, females are just aggressive with each other as males.

Tolerance of heterospecifics: they not aggressive towards other cichlids as long as they know who is the boss.

Water chemistry in aquaria: quite tolerant of a range of conditions so long as pH is above neutral.

Temperature range: 25-28 degrees Celsius. It can also tolerate 30 degrees Celsius.

Foods accepted: Readily accept most foods. Pellets, flakes, frozen and live food.

Special requirements: none other than water chemistry

Notes:

  • I used to admire this fish in the fish shop as they are very interactive and males are very beautiful. Since, I have read many horror stories about M. chipokaes such as "they are killers" and overly aggressive and will kill even bigger fishes in the aquarium. One day I have decided it that I will not know how these fishes really are until I try to keep them. I had bought a small colony of 1 male and 3 females and later on added 2 more females. I have put them in a 4ft tank with tankmates, such as albino zebras, orange cap perspicax. The chipokaes were around 5cm and smaller then the others in the tank. Slowly, the male worked himself up the ranks in the tank as he was growing. My chipokae male is 12cm and the king of the tank. As soon as his authority is established he is quite peaceful with other mbunas, they only give the other fishes the occasional ?do not get in my way? nudge. He did not kill any fishes in there, but I have to add that my tank is densely populated and is full of hiding places.
  • Females are very aggressive with each other. I have lost one female to the aggression of other females. First I thought the male killed her, but a few months later I have found a badly beaten female chased by another female. On the other hand this only happen if you put back a holding female with the colony too soon. Make sure that the female regains its full strength before you reintroduce her with the colony, this way you will not have a problem.
  • When they are young they are very similar to the M. auratus except the fry are yellow black, compared to the yellow, black and white base colouration of the auratus. Also the auratus has stocky body, while the chipokaes have slender body with an elongated snout.
  • Mature females colour up almost males they also develop a dark body, but while the dorsal fin of the males are completely white females retain a yellow border around it. Also tail of a mature male is black on a white background and the females? tail have yellow background.

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I've never had an aggressive female in this species. I find the males to be less aggressive than other Melanochromis spp. I breed both chipokae and auratus and the chipoke fry are definately far deeper in the body - and more solid than auratus. Chipokae body depth is close to half as deep again as the auratus - at least up until 4cm size. They also grow much faster than auratus from babies up until 6cm.

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