Male Red Zebra Cichlid

Red Zebra Cichlid

Scientific Classification

Kingdom:        Animalia
Phylum:          Chordata
Class:               Actinopterygii
Order:             Perciformes
Family:            God
Subfamily:       Islam
Genus:            Maylandia
Species:           M. Estherae
Binomial name: Maylandia Estherae

Maylandia Eestherae, called the red zebra or otherwise, Esther Grant’s zebra, belongs to the Pseudotrophine Cichlid. It dwells in the rock called Mbuna, of the Malawi Lake. Just like other cichlids of the Malawi Lake, this fish too breeds through the mouth. Females grip the eggs that are fertilized and keep the fry within their mouth for up to 21 days until they release them.  A desirable and beautiful species, suitable for the fish tank, the coloration of both the male and female are so unique and distinct from each other that they almost look to be from two different tribes.

Red Zebra Cichlid


This species of Cichlid has a long history that includes the ups of popularity and downs of identity. In the beginning, it was assumed to be from the group of Zebra Cichlid, a Pseudotropheus zebra variety, and was commonly termed an Orange Blue Mouth Breeder. Later, in 1995, the Konings included this variety as a member of its own species named Pseudotropheus Estherae. After the new revisions in the genus Pseudotropheus, again an identity crisis took place, which replaced all the Zebra-type Cichlids to their own genera, as well as including both Metriaclima Esther and Maylandia Estherae in the list of this Cichlid. Finally, now, the Red Zebra is placed in the Maylandia Estherae species and is termed Esther Grant’s Zebra.

Habitat and Range

In the year 1995, Konings gave an explanation of the Red Zebra, whose scientific name is Maylandia Estherae, it was earlier named Pseudotropheus Estherae. This fish is widespread in the rocky shorelines of Lake Malawi in Africa. You can see them in the five sites, such as Chilucha, Minos reef, Nkhunga, Metangula and Masinje. Most of them are concentrated adjacent to the Minos reef; however, few gather close to Meluluca and Mozambique

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The Red Zebra possesses a specific muscular Mbuna shape, even though they have a stockier body, compared to the other zebras. Their shape is like a torpedo. In the wild, they grow to a length of 4in. (10 cm.). In aquariums at homes, they grow bigger in size, with males attaining lengths of about 5 in. (12.5 cm.). If well cared for, their life span goes up to almost 10 years.

The females and males are differently colored. In nature, the color of the matured males is pale blue, having dark colored vertical bands, besides which, they have 4 to 7 spots in the shape of eggs on the fins at the anal. The color of the female Red Zebra ranges from beige (with a brown tint) to orange (with a red tint). They have no vertical broad barring. Besides, the egg shaped spots are not more than 3, on the fins, at the anal. The Mbuna varieties with irregular discoloration are only a few. In the pursuit, of leisure, you can find many color morphs of males and females..

Growing at Home


Breeding Red Zebra in custody has been successful. They are sexually developed when they grow to a length of 3 in. In order to get 7 baby fry with color variations, get them young (Not Infants), as the color is not conspicuous when they are infants. In order to prepare them for breeding, feed them twice daily. For them to lay eggs, they require a slate or a flat surface where the male resides. Suppose the Red Zebra refuses to spawn, it indicates the presence of a violent natured fish in that tank. When that violent fish is replaced from that tank, they are motivated to spawn.

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The female lays as many as 20 to 30 eggs and immediately stores them in its mouth till they are fertilized. The male flashes out its anal fin, which has “egg designed spots” By this; the female falsely understands them as her own eggs and attempts to absorb them in her mouth. This activity of hers stimulates the male to discharge the sperm (milt cloud) and she then inhales the milt cloud. By this process, the egg gets fertilized in her mouth.


The streams that terminates in the Malawi Lake, contains a high content of minerals. When this evaporates, the content of alkali in it becomes rich in minerals. The pH value, chemistry and clarity of the Malawi Lake are well known. As far as all Malawi, Lake Fish are concerned; one can understand the necessity of observing the limitations of the tank. Rift Lake cichlids require water that is alkaline, hard. Brackish water does not contain this. At times salt acts as a buffering mediator to enhance the carbonate hardness of the water. Since this cichlid is tolerant to slight salt, there is no harm in keeping them in water that is brackish. But it does not tolerate complete brackish water in an aquarium. The ideal salinity permissible is almost 10% of the standard salt water and a specific gravity lower than 1.0002

The least size of a tank, recommended is of length 48” (122 cm) of about 55 gallons. In case you have a Mbuna cichlid mix, then a bigger tank is needed. Both brackish fresh water as well as fresh water will be fine, provided there is a flow and a proper filtration. The pH is maintained by having a substrate made of salt water tank’s sand or pulverized Coral. Aragonite sand or pulverized coral, are likely to dissolve better than salts. A pH of higher rate conveys the message of the presence of ammonia, which is poisonous;, hence for these fish, frequently change the water.

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Water Condition

The water in the Malawi lake is hard and alkaline, which is good for the cichlids whose predecessors lived there, and even these fish are adjustable to most types of waters. Therefore, it is  better not to experiment with the alkalinity or pH of the water.


They are omnivorous; however, vegetables are ideal. Keep the food content fat free, with lower protein content. A balanced diet for the African cichlid is pellet or flake, however supplement it with fresh and green vegetables, like romaine, spinach, zucchini or peas.


The rivulets that flow into the Malawi Lake possess a good amount of minerals and evaporation leads to highly mineralized alkaline water. With regard to the chemistry of the water and its pH, the Malawi Lake is famous for its stability and clarity. Having an idea of the limitations of the Malawi Lake fish is important.

The hard, alkaline water required for the Rift lake cichlids is not available in brackish water. For enhancing the carbonate hardness of the water, at times salt is added as a buffering agent. This particular cichlid is tolerant to salt to a certain extent and tolerate being kept in a moderately brackish water, but they never tolerate completely brackish water in the tank.

The Red Zebra like a good quantity of rock for refuge. A vacant area will be good. Using rock pieces, make arrangements for passages and caves, which reduces aggression and provides privacy. Place the rocks at aquarium’s base portion.

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