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The Red Zebra Maylandia estherae (previously Pseudotropheus estherae) is a very beautiful and desirable cichlid. The coloring of both the male and the female is very appealing, almost looking like two separate species. In the wild adult males are light blue, while females can range between a brownish beige to an orange-red and lack the broad vertical barring. These are also one of only a handful of Mbuna species that produce blotched color mutations.
This is a zebra-type cichlid that belongs to a group called Mbunas. There are 13 genera full of very active and aggressive personalities of Mbuna cichlids. The name Mbuna comes from the Tonga people of Malawi and means “rockfish” or “rock-dwelling”. This name aptly describes the environment these fish live in as opposed to being open water swimmers like the Utaka cichlids and other “haps”.
This cichlid has a history of ups and downs in both identity and popularity. It was originally considered to be a variety of the Zebra Cichlid Pseudotropheus zebra. It was known as the Orange Blue Mouth Breeder and described as Pseudotropheus spec. aff. zebra. Finally it was described as its own species, Pseudotropheus estherae, by Konings in 1995. Recent revisions in the Pseudotropheus genus caused a new surge of identity crisis. All the Zebra-type cichlids were moved to their own genera and both Maylandia estherae and Metriaclima estherae were recognized for this cichlid. Now however, the Red Zebra is considered valid as Maylandia estherae and is also called Esther Grant’s Zebra.
When first introduced to the hobby this was a very popular Mbuna, and then it fell out of favor a bit. But today it has regained its status as one of the “most popular” African Cichlids. Most captive bred specimens available in the hobby were originally line bred for specific color traits in Florida fish farms. This resulted in orange males and a variety of other unusual color patterns.
There are many captive strains available. These include males of a “red-blue” strain that are a light blue with faint vertical barring. Males of a “red-red” strain can be a orange/red coloring with no vertical bars, and there is also an albino strain. Females can be yellow, orange, or orange with dark mottling. Common names are derived from their color patterns and popular varieties include the Cherry Red Zebra and the more recently developed Super Red Zebra.
This is a great fish for both the intermediate and experienced cichlid keeper. It is only a moderately aggressive cichlid compared to other Mbuna, but is still not a community tank specimen, It cannot be kept with fish other than cichlids. This species easily adapts to prepared foods, is very easy to breed, and the juveniles are very easy to raise as well.
For the aquarists who is willing to do frequent water changes and provide appropriate tank mates, the Red Zebra is easy to care for. But a decor of rockwork that offers lots of nooks and crannies for hiding places is needed for success. To house one male and two to three females, a minimum sized 55 gallon tank with a length of 48″ is suggested. A much larger tank will be needed to keep a tank of mixed Mbuna.
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Video of Red Zebra Cichlid (Maylandia estherae)
Infographic of Red Zebra Cichlid (Maylandia estherae)
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