Metriaclima estherae was first described by Konings in 1995. In the aquarium trade they are also called “Pseudotropheus Red Zebra”.
Endemic to Lake Malawi, where the species is restricted to part of the east coast. The most intensely colored red ones (females), as well as the type specimens on which the species was described, occur at Minos Reef, which is located a few kilometers off the coast near Meluluca. Another population of Metriaclima estherae occurs at Chilucha Reef, south of Metangula, but they are not as blood-red in color as those from Minos Reef. The orange and the OB specimen, which were identified as Metriaclima zebra, north of the Nsinje River, in the border area from Malawi to Mozambique, can also possibly be included in the species Metriaclima estherae.
In nature, they grow to about 10 cm in size. Specimen with a length of 13 cm have already been spotted in the hobby.
Elongated and laterally flattened body. Like Metriaclima zebra, Metriaclima estherae also has a terminal mouth, which is, however, wider than that of the Metriaclima “Blue Reef Zebra”, which also occur at Minos Reef. The body of Metriaclima estherae is slightly less high than that of Metriaclima zebra.
Color and markings
As its popular name indicates, the females have an orange-red color. Both the body and the vast majority of the fins are provided with this color. In addition to this O-shape in females, which can be found in about 80% of the population, there are also females with an OB (orange blotch) markings, as well as females with a brown-beige color. These two color forms each occur in approximately 10% of the females present. The males have a solid blue color, similar to that of Metriaclima callainos (formerly known as the “Bright Blue Zebra”), without transverse bands on the flanks. An important characteristic of the males of M. estherae are the yellow spots in the posterior part of the dorsal fin. In addition to these blue-colored males, there are also “Marmalade Cat” males, which are pink-white colored, without dark spots,
When they appear in their normal colors (orange-red or blue) the distinction is quite simple.
A typical “Aufwuchs” eater, which in nature grazes the algae growth at an angle of 90°. They do not have any special requirements in the aquarium, but it is recommended to regularly add vegetable food to the menu.
An imitation of the rocky coast biotope is recommended, as well as the company of a number of other Mbuna species. As far as we could tell, similarly colored males like those of Metriaclima callainos do not interbreed with females of Metriaclima estherae.
John de Lange
“Description of Pseudotropheus estherae sp. nov., The Well-known Red Zebra Cichlid from Lake Malawi”, Tropical Fish Hobbyist 43 (9) nr. 471, mei 1995 : pp. 206-210.