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Family: Cichladae

Common Name: Cobalt Zebra

Origin and Habitat: Lake Malawi, Africa

Compatibility/Temperament: Mildly aggressive, like most cichlids will do well in a group of 1 male to 4 female. Males are aggressive to other males. Best kept in groups so as to spread aggression from a male in breeding condition to several females.

Cobalt Zebra Diet

Feed a quality cichlid flake / pellet, supplemented with occasional snacks of algae wafers and bloodworms. If driftwood is present in the aquarium this fish will readily snack on any algae growing on it.
Being primarily a vegetarian these fish require a high diet of vegetable matter.
Feeding boiled lettuce, peas(deshelled), carrots and zucchini should be done at least once a week.


Attains a maximum of 5" (12cm)

Minimum Tank Suggestion


Water parameters for Cobalt Zebra

Temperature 76-78°F (24-26°C), pH 7.8-8.6, Hard Water


Metriaclima callainos comes in different distinct strains, Cobalt Blue, Pearl and OB (Orange Blotched),
Cobalts are often being confused with Metriaclima Estherae Red Zebra (Blue morph) as they have similar body shape.
Pearl variations - both male and female have a pearly white color.
OB Variations have Black blotches on a Pinky/Blue body.

Males are more blue than the females in the cobalt variation, females appear to be almost a greyish blue. Males have usually 5 egg spots located on the anal fin.

Being an active swimmer and slightly territorial, a 55g or larger aquarium is required for this fish to provide room to setup a territory for the dominant male, keeping multiple males is not recommended in a tank smaller than 125g.
Males at breeding will actively chase a female to get her to spawn, having a single male and female is not recommended as the female may be harassed to the point of death if she encounters a male ready to spawn when she is not willing. This is why a group of 1 male to 4 female is recommended so as to spread the aggression off a single female.

Being a mouthbrooder, males once they have found a female ready to spawn, will wait for the female to deposit eggs onto the substrate or chosen rock, once this occurs, the male will fertilize the eggs, the female will then scoop the entire batch of eggs into her Bucchal cavity in her throat.

Once holding, a female will not eat at all during the whole 24-28 days she carries the eggs. Eggs can be stripped from the female no sooner than 18 days from when she holds, any sooner and an egg tumbler must be used as the fry will not be developed enough to survive on their own.
Fry broods range from 20-40, although the higher number rarely occurs in the home aquarium.

After 18 days the female should be removed from the main display tank to a separate hospital tank, this will give the maximum chance of fry survival. Having a tank, no smaller than 40g is recommended for this as it allows the tank to be divided providing 20g for the fry to swim in and 20g for the female to recover her strength before being placed back in the main aquarium. Before placing a female back into the main aquarium, it is highly recommended to make sure she is eating properly, 24 days is a long time without food and she will be in a very weakened state, making her susceptible to death / illness if she encounters stress in the main tank.

Keeping a female in with the fry is not recommended, as once born, she can potentially look at them as an easy food source. Mbuna Cichlids like other species do not provide parental guidance to new born fry.

New born fry should be fed a diet of liquid fry food, crushed flakes and brine shrimp, do not feed vegetable matter at this time as the fry are not developed enough to handle it. Fry can be placed in the main aquarium at 1-1.5" in size. Any smaller than this and it leaves them open to being eaten or harassed to death.

If having a separate tank is not an option, it is highly recommended to have a lot of hiding places made up of either rocks, plastic dense plants or some live plants.

Lake Malawi is a natural sandy bottom rocky lake and as such these conditions should be provided in the home aquarium. In the wild, these fish range from a depth of 1m to 25m and have a small area of distribution located mainly towards near Kande Island and Ngara, some specimens of the OB and Pearl variation are found along the Ikombe and Ruhuhu river systems draining into the Lake.
Specimens of this fish are no longer wild caught as its listed as vulnerable on the (1)United Nations International List of fish species in Lake Malawi.


(1)Government of Malawi and United Nations. Malawi: A Situation Analysis of Poverty. Lilongwe, 2003.

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: Tazman


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