Metriaclima pyrsonotos

Metriaclima pyrsonotos was previously known as Metriaclima zebra ‘Red Top’. This is a reference to the red dorsal fin which contrasts very nicely with the blue!

Metriaclima pyrsonotos

Metriaclima pyrsonotos was described in 1997 by Stauffer, Bowers, Kellogg and McKaye. This paper also included the creation of the genus Metriaclima. The division of the Pseudotropheus zebra complex into their own genus.

The genus name Metriaclima comes from ancient Greek and means moderately sloping, this is a reference to the heads of these species that slowly slope upwards. The species name pyrsonotos comes from ancient Greek and means red back, a reference to the red dorsal fin of the males. Before being officially described, this species was known as Pseudotropheus sp. Zebra ‘Red Dorsal’.


In the wild, Metriaclima pyrsonotos can reach a total length of about 10 centimeters. In the aquarium they often get too much and too powerful food. This allows them to grow somewhat larger, up to about 14 centimeters in total length.

Metriaclima pyrsonotos - Kambiri Reef
Metriaclima pyrsonotos – Kambiri Reef

The males have a beautiful light blue color with five or six dark blue vertical stripes. The dorsal fin is orange to yellow in color. This colored dorsal fin is also a distinction from most other Metriaclima species. Metriaclima greshakei and Metriaclima mbenji also have an orange dorsal fin, but these species lack the vertical stripes on the flank. Also Metriaclima emmiltos looks very similar. However, the dark bands on the flank in this species do not extend into the dorsal fin at all. In Metriaclima pyrsonotos the dark bands sometimes continue in the dorsal fin.

The caudal fin of the males is blue with the upper tip sometimes being orange, as is the dorsal fin.

The females are less attractively colored. They are colored grey/brown all over the body. The dorsal fin shows a very pale yellow/orange. This colour can be used to distinguish the females from other Metriaclima species.


The males are quite intolerant among themselves. It is therefore better to keep Metriaclima pyrsonotos as a harem. Place one male with several females and do not add other species that look similar.


The habitat of Metriaclima pyrsonotos is located in the south of Lake Malawi. They mainly occur on large rocks. In between they seek shelter and reproduce. You have the best chance of finding them at a depth between 5 and 20 meters.

(In the extra information you can also find the locations where this species occurs! Click on a location and you will also see the other species that occur there!).


The diet of Metriaclima pyrsonotos consists partly of algae and partly of plankton. As usual for Metriaclima, they comb through the aufwuchs with their teeth, eating bits of algae and small food particles. They can also be found in groups above the rocks where they feast on the plankton floating in the water.

In the aquarium you can feed them with flakes, granules and some light frozen or live food such as mosquito larvae, mysis and artemia. Vegetable food such as spirulina flakes or pellets should certainly not be missing from their menu!

No matter how much food you give, they always seem hungry. So make sure you don’t give them too much. Don’t feed them more than will be eaten in a few minutes!

The Aquarium

Because they can grow a bit larger in the aquarium than in the wild, we recommend keeping a minimum aquarium length of 150 centimeters. Set up the aquarium as usual for Mbuna. Place on the bottom (filter) sand. Make sure there are many rocks with cracks, crevices and caves in between. In between, the male forms a territory and the females can escape the male’s attention.

In a 150 centimeters aquarium you can keep one male with two or three females. If you want to keep more males, you need a large aquarium. In the wild, males have territory between the rocks. This territory extends a meter around the burrow chosen by the male. If a male in the aquarium chooses a location in the middle, he takes up two meters of space. Males who are too close together keep fighting each other until only one is left.

The water parameters ​​are optimal at a temperature between 22 and 26 degrees and a pH of 7.5 to 8.5.

It is best to keep Metriaclima pyrsonotos together with other rock-inhabiting Malawi cichlids (Mbuna). We do not recommend a combination with some gentle varieties such as Lethrinops or Aulonocara.

Breeding Metriaclima pyrsonotos

As with all Malawi cichlids, Metriaclima pyrsonotos is also a maternal mouthbrooder, ie the female incubates the eggs. An active male ready to mate searches a cave. He forms his territory around this cave, which he fiercely defends. He tries to lure a female to his lair by showing his most beautiful colors. He shows his flank and with trembling movements he shows himself to the female.

Metriaclima pyrsonotos - Kambiri Reef
Metriaclima pyrsonotos – Kambiri Reef

When the female is ready to mate, she goes to his den. In the burrow she deposits her eggs, which are fertilized by the male. The female takes the eggs in her mouth to incubate them. After this, the female leaves the male’s cave and often seeks shelter between the rocks.

The eggs hatch after a few days, but the female retains the eggs for about three weeks after spawning. The young fish then still feed on their egg yolk sac and continue to grow a bit. During incubation, the female does not eat at all.

After about three weeks, the female releases the young fish. They are then left to their own devices. In an aquarium with adult fish, they are often eaten quickly. A few manage to hide among the rocks until they are big enough to survive.

Breeding Tank

You can easily breed Metriaclima pyrsonotos in the show aquarium together with other species. A special breeding aquarium is therefore not necessary. However, if you want to keep more young, you can catch the female around day 18 after spawning. Place her in a smaller aquarium with the same water values ​​as the show aquarium. Set up the aquarium with some sand on the bottom and some rocks for her to hide.

Once the young Metriaclima pyrsonotos are spat out, you’ll have plenty of time to catch the female. She will not eat the fry for the first few hours. You can feed the fry with finely crushed flakes or very fine dust food.



John de Lange

Copyright images

Mark Thomas – Marks Fiskenarie
Pete Barnes


A revision of the blue-black Pseudotropheus zebra (Teleostei: Cichlidae) complex from Lake Malawi, Africa, with a description of a new genus and ten new species.
Revised diagnosis of Metriaclima with description of a new species (Teleostei: Cichlidae) from Lake Malawi National Park, Africa – Konings – Stauffer

Additional information







Maylandia pyrsonotos, Maylandia sandaracinos, Maylandia thapsinogen, Metriaclima sandaracinos, Metriaclima thapsinogen

First described by

Jay Richard Stauffer Jr., Karen Anne Kellogg, Kenneth Robert McKaye, Nancy Jean Bowers


Social behaviour

Breeding behaviour


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