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Craig Morfitt
Title: Labeotropheus trewavasae "Jumbo"

Summary: Craig brought these cichlids back from Lake Malawi to his home in Bermuda, and successfully bred them.
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Date first published:
Publication: Fish Tales, Bermuda Fry-Angle Aquarium Society, and on Craig's web site
Reprinted from Aquarticles:
July 2004: Translated into Dutch, on Jan Bukkems' Aquavisie web site in Holland, at:
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Craig Morfitt,
P.O. Box WK272,
Warwick. WK BX

#205 - 5525 West Boulevard
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6M 3W6

Labeotropheus trewavasae "Jumbo"

By Craig Morfitt
First published in Fish Tales, Bermuda Fry-Angle Aquarium Society, and on Craig's web site

Labeotropheus trewavasae "Jumbo." Photo by Craig Morfitt

Labeotropheus trewavasae was first introduced to the hobby in 1964 (Riehl) and is named after the renowned British ichthyologist, Dr. Ethelwynn Trewavas. It shares the genus Labeotropheus with its cousin, fuelleborni, and they both exhibit the underslung mouth and overhanging fleshy nose that assist them with feeding on the algal bio-cover that grows on rocks in their native Lake Malawi. L. trewavasae is generally regarded to be a long slender fish, particularly when compared with fuelleborni, but this is not always the case. When found at submerged reefs in the lake, trewavasae has a deeper body than the individuals at adjoining rocky coasts (Konings, p.130). Ad Konings reports that at Chirwa Island, near Chilumba, large orange specimens of trewavasae resemble L fuelleborni in shape and size (p. 130). These observations proved interesting to me, as my L. trewavasae "Jumbo" do not have the slender appearance typically attributed to trewavasae.

I obtained my "Jumbos" from Stuart Grant at his Kambiri Point facility in October 1999. I have since contacted Stuart to determine where these fish were collected. He was unable to give an exact location but stated that they come from "the Chilumba central area where you have a small group of islands - not north like Ngara or south like Chitimba." Stuart's description leads me to presume that the fish come from the area including Chitande Island, Mpango Rocks, Mpango Reef, Katale Island and Chirwa Island (see maps).

Maps of Chilumba area on north-west coast of Lake Malawi.
Maps courtesy of Ad Konings - Malawi Cichlids in their Natural Habitat.

My male is quite a stocky fish. It is generally a light blue (almost neon in its intensity) with a subtle rusty brown patch running the length of its lower flanks. The nose area has a couple of darker blue bands running across it. The rear edges of the dorsal, anal and caudal fins are a yellow-orange colour. The pelvic fins have a white leading edge with a wide black band running the length of the fin. The females are slightly less deep-bodied than the male and have a drab brown body with vertical dark bands. My male is approximately 6 inches total length and the females are about 5 inches.

I was able to successfully bring back five of them. I sold a pair and kept a trio for myself which I housed in a 55 gallon tank together with a pair of Dimidiochromis compressiceps "gold". The tank is filtered by two Tetra Super Brilliant sponge filters. It has a bare bottom and a variety of clay plant-pots, PVC pipe, smooth rocks and a single large piece of red slate.

As is the case with all of my tanks, water changes of about 50% were conducted every two weeks. Baking soda and Sea-Chem Cichlid Lake Salt were added to the replacement water (1 teaspoon of each per 5 gallons). Water conditions, as per Mardel test-strips, included pH of 8.4, Total Alkalinity of 240 ppm, Total Hardness of 90 ppm. Water temperature was about 78 F. Feeding primarily consisted of flake food with a high vegetable content.

The Baensch Atlas reports that the species is territorial, extremely aggressive and intolerant. It lists the male as being polygamous and recommends that each male be kept with several females (p. 730). Within the first couple of weeks I noticed that the male was continually harassing both females. He was nipping their fins and leaving marks on their bodies. Despite this, the females seemed quite hardy. Whilst they fled from his attentions they were not forced to retreat into the upper corners of the tank, as is often observed in cichlids that are subjected to more abuse than they can take (such fish must be removed from the tank before they are killed). I found that, despite there being various hiding places on the bottom of the tank, the females seldom took advantage of them. They did make good use, however, of three floating mops that became their primary point of evasion from the male.

After a couple of months of pursuing the females, the male's efforts finally paid off in January 2000 and I was fortunate enough to observe the spawning activity. The chosen spawning site was the large piece of red slate that was leaning at a 45 degree angle to the bottom, at one end of the tank. The male's colours were at their brightest and he was shimmying over the slate to attract the larger of the two females. The pair came together and did a lot of circling over the slate with the male doing his shimmying dance. Occasionally the female came down to the surface of the slate and laid a single egg. Despite the sloped angle of the slate, the egg did not roll off but stayed in place. I believe that this is due to the shape of the egg, in addition to the rough surface of the slate. Having laid the egg, the female turned around and picked it up in her mouth. The male then shook his body whilst in contact with the slate and the female pecked at his anal fin (in the vicinity of his dummy egg-spots). With the egg safely in her throat (and presumably fertilised) the circling continued, interspersed with the laying and fertilising of eggs, one at a time. I had obviously missed much of the spawning activity, as the female already had a throat bulging with eggs when I stumbled on the activity. I observed the pair lay about 10 eggs before the female seemed to be done. The male was obviously having a good time and didn't seem prepared to stop. The female swam off to the opposite end of the tank but the male followed her and tried to tempt her back to the slate with more displays of his shimmying and shaking.

A couple of days after the spawning, the male was still harassing the female so I decided to give her some peace. I removed her from the tank and placed her into a bare 10 gallon tank. Nineteen days after spawning, the female released 27 fry. The dark-coloured fry seemed quite large and stayed close to the bottom of the tank for a few days. They readily accepted crushed flake food and were soon swimming at all levels of the tank. The female was left in the 10 gallon tank with her babies for 3 months and showed no signs of harming them.In the absence of the first female, the male continued to harass the second female but no spawning occurred. The first female was recently returned to the 55 gallon tank and immediately became the target of aggression from the male. After 3 months of R&R she had been in fine shape but the male soon had her fins torn and her body marked up. So much so, that I have had to isolate her behind a divider. Meanwhile, the second female receives much less aggression and it may be that a pair-bond formed during the absence of the first female. The divider will allow the male to see both females without being able to get at one of them. There is a gap at the bottom of the divider that may permit spawning with the first female, without him being able to beat her up. Time will tell. Meanwhile, the fry have done well and will soon be going to new homes.

Grant, Stuart. Personal communication
Konings, Ad. Malawi Cichlids in their Natural Habitat (second edition). 1995. Cichlid Press, Germany.
Riehl, Dr. Rudiger and Hans A. Baensch. Baensch Aquarium Atlas. 1982. Mergus-Verlag, Germany.