Metriaclima flavifemina

Metriaclima flavifemina is a territorial rock dweller from Lake Malawi. The males are blue/black, the females are yellow in color. They grow to a maximum of about 16 centimeters in length.

Metriaclima flavifemina

Metriaclima flavifemina was officially described by Konings and Stauffer in 2006. The genus name Metriaclima comes from ancient Greek and means moderately sloping, this is a reference to the head of these species that slopes slowly upwards. The species name refers to the yellow color of the females. The species name can be broken down into two Latin words. ‘flavus’ means ‘yellow’ and ‘femina’ means ‘female’.

Before official description, this species was known by a number of temporary names such as Pseudotropheus zebra “black dorsal”, Metriaclima sp. “black dorsal”, Pseudotropheus sp. “black dorsal heteropictus”, Metriaclima sp. “black dorsal heteropictus”.


In the wild, Metriaclima flavifemina males reach a maximum total length of about 14 centimeters. The females remain slightly smaller. In the aquarium they often grow slightly larger due to the amount of food offered. Males then reach a maximum total length of about 16 centimeters.

The males have a light blue ground color with a number of vertical black stripes that stop at the base of the anal fin. As the provisional name sp. ‘black dorsal’ already shows, they have a black stripe running down the dorsal fin. The belly, anal and tail fins are also trimmed with a black stripe. This contrasts nicely with the light blue outer edge of the fins.

The females remain slightly smaller, about 12 centimeters in length. The color of the females and juveniles varies from light blue to yellow. The anal fin of the females is yellow.


This Mbuna (rock dweller) can be found in the southwest of Lake Malawi. They occur at the Maleri Islands, Chidunga Rocks, Nakantenga Island, Nankoma Island and Thumbi West Island.

Metriaclima flavifemina lives there at depths of 5 to 40 meters. The males prefer a territory near rocks where there is some sediment. Sometimes they choose a location with some broken rocks. The males are very territorial and chase away other males.

At the foot of the rocks, the territorial males burrow to create a spawning cave. Here they try to lure the females to spawn.

Juveniles and non-territorial males live solitary or in small groups of three to eight individuals. The females also live mainly solitary or in groups of a maximum of three individuals.


The diet of Metriaclima flavifemina consists mainly of vegetable matter. With their teeth, they comb through the aufwuchs that grow on the rocks. They ingest the algae strands and very small amounts of animal material.

In the aquarium it is best to feed them with vegetable food. Provide them with spirulina flakes and blanched vegetables for this.

The Aquarium

Because this species is territorial, they do need some space. An aquarium from 150 centimeters is recommended. Set up the aquarium with sand on the bottom. Place rocks with cracks, crevices and holes in between. The male can form a territory between these. The females can use the hiding places to escape the attention of the male.

Make sure there are no other species in the aquarium that look too much like the Metriaclima flavifemina male. This can cause fights over territory.

The water may have a temperature of around 22 to 26 degrees. Malawi cichlids prefer a slightly higher pH of about 7.5 to 8.5.

Breeding aquarium and conditioning

No special aquarium is required for breeding Metriaclima flavifemina. This species is usually quite easy to breed. Special food to get them in shape is also not necessary. Just make sure there are no other Metriaclima species present to prevent hybridization.

The spawn

The male tries to lure the females to his territory. He does this by showing his most beautiful colors. It attracts the females by spreading its fins wide and showing its flank. He swims in front of the female with trembling movements.

When the female is ready to spawn, she goes to the male’s chosen spot. Here they circle each other. While circling each other, the female lays a few eggs. Still circling each other, the male fertilizes the eggs. The female takes the eggs in her mouth. After all the eggs have been laid, fertilized and the female has taken them into her mouth, the job is done for the male.

The Metriaclima flavifemina female is now looking for a quiet place to hatch the eggs. The eggs hatch after a few days, but the young fish are not yet released. Only after about 20 to 23 days are the young ready to fend for themselves. During this time the female eats little or nothing.

Raising the fry

If the young fish are released into an aquarium with adult fish, they often serve as food. The adult fish attack the young fish until they are all eaten. A few may manage to escape between the rocks and hide.

If you want to keep more fish from a nest, it is better to set up a separate breeding aquarium. This does not have to be very large. An aquarium of about 40 centimeters is sufficient. Furnish it with some sand on the bottom and some hiding places for the female.

Catch the female about 16 to 18 days after spawning. Place her in the breeding aquarium. After the 20th day the female will release the young fish. She does not eat the young fish for the first few hours. You have plenty of time to place the female back with the other fish.

The young fish can be fed with crushed flake food.


John de Lange

Copyright images



Revised diagnosis of Metriaclima (Teleostei: Cichlidae) with description of a new species from Lake Malawi National Park, Africa – Ad Konings, Jay Richard Stauffer
Malawicichliden in hun natuurlijke omgeving 4de oplage, 2007, Ad Konings. Back to Nature Gids voor de Malawicichliden, 2de oplage, 2003, Ad Konings.


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