Red Empress is found throughout Lake Malawi, Africa.There are a number of colour variations depending on where in the lake they originate. The females however are not so brilliant. They basically have a silvery colored body with marked with various dark spots, lines or blotches, and sometimes a touch of orange in some fins, also depending on where they come from.
They are different from the Mbuna or rock-dwelling cichlids, as they they prefer open swimming areas where the rock meets the sand. They still prefer being around rocky areas that offer retreats in caves or cracks. As they are a peaceful fish, it is best not to mix them with aggressive Mbunas. They can be housed with other peaceful Malawi Lake cichlids, as well as Pictus Catfish and Synadontis Catfish.
The minimum suggested tank size is 300 litres, but being Haplochromine cichlids they need a lot of swimming room. A 400 litre aquarium or larger is really the optimal size for these fish. They are easy to care for, providing your diligence in keeping water quality optimal is high.
Provide plenty of rock work in the background, forming caves and holes as hiding areas for the females during mating season. They like vertically placed rocks as well, and will use a smooth flat rock or two for spawning. They are usually not aggressive toward tank mates. Even during mating they only defend a small area and give it up after the spawn is done. They are a ‘sand sifter’ cichlid that’s great at keeping the top of the substrate clean, but its not a big digger so works well even in a planted aquarium. Just be certain the plants do not get in the way of open swimming areas.
The Red Empress is an omnivore that feeds on aufwuchs (aufwuchs is loosely defined as the biocover that grows on rocks), a loose stringy algae that is attached to rocks, zooplankton and small invertebrates. In the aquarium they need spirulina based flake foods as well as some meaty foods such as frozen or freeze dried mysis and krill. The majority of their diet should be vegetable based. Their colouring can be enhanced by food products that are a highly nutritious herbivorous content and have added pigmentation qualities.
They will eat to the point of their stomach being distended, so be very careful to not overfeed or your fish will lose their slender and natural look. Feed several small meals instead of one or two large ones, as they are very susceptible to Malawi Bloat. They will benefit from having their food soaked in Vitamin C occasionally.
The Red Empress are mouth brooders, though fertilisation takes place externally. The male will claim a pretty small area to defend before and during the time they spawn. Males become sexually mature at 8 to 9 months with weak broods at that time, but they will increase as the male ages.
The male will choose a flat stone or clear a spot at the bottom of the tank and then chase the females to get them to follow him to his “pad.” The male then turns upward into an almost vertical position and shakes, which encourages the female into the same position with her head close to his anal fin. After laying her 40 to 50 eggs, she picks them up in their mouth, goes “vertical” again and mouths the male’s anal fin. This stimulates him to release sperm and fertilise the eggs within the female’s mouth.
The female holds her eggs in her mouth for 21 to 28 days. Once the female has her eggs and the spawning event is over, the male will stop guarding the area and just swim in open water. The female will guard the fry.
Species – Protomelas taeniolatus
Common Name – Red Empress
Origin – Lake Malawi
Diet – Piscivore
PH Range – Alkaline 7.5 – 8.5
Water Type – Hard
Temperature – Tropical 24°c
Breed Type – Mouth brooder
Current Size – approximately 6cm (Grows to approximately 25cm)