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Metriaclima sp. "mbweca"
by Nick Andreola

Background:
Formerly know as Cynotilapia afra "Mbweca", C. sp. "thomasi", "Afra Mbweca", and "Green Afra". I honestly don't understand the 'green' business; their predominant colors are yellow and black! Originally collected from Mbweca, Mara Point and Cobwe, this species is still somewhat rare in home aquariums. Adult size is about 3-1/2" for males and about 3" for females. While not a true monomorphic species, the females are not the drab brown or pale blue of many Cynotilapia species. They vary with mood from almost solid black to a pale yellow with vivid black bars. It also appears that the social position within the group is displayed by this coloration: The alpha female being the lightest. The males are easy to identify as their lower faces are completely black and their torso coloration is a deep rich yellow with hints of blue around the edges of individual scales. Unlike other types whose male's black bars continue up through the dorsal fin, the Mbweca male's do not. Their dorsal is primarily yellow with just a hint of black bar continuation. The black barring on the females does continue into the dorsal creating a appealing yellow and black stripe pattern. Typical Mbuna aquascaping, water parameters and diet apply.

Personal Experiences:
I purchased a small group from the local club acution auction. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a reverse trio. A quick trip to a local fish store yielded three more females. The group is housed in a 45BR with a small group of Pundamilia nyererei "Ruti Island" and a group of Tropheops tropheops. The alpha male mbweca is the dominant fish in this tank but seems to tolerate the males of the other species well. However, within a few weeks it became obvious that the he would not tolerate any rivals for his harem's attention and began to harass the subdom male relentlessly. Once the subdom male was removed, breeding behaviors began in earnest. The young females 'hold' well and deliver spawns of about 20 fry typically.

The fry are quite cute little black and white stripers that emerge ready to eat just about anything offered. They grow quickly and several (which I assume are males) have surpassed the size of a batch of T. red cheek fry born 3 weeks before them. The 1M/4F group seem to have established their 'rankings' and there doesn't appear to be any signs of psycho aggression or hyper-territoriality. This tank has a small UGJ system and the group likes to face into the current and swim in place. The interesting thing is that they form up in a pattern every time: alpha male up front with the females in descending order behind him.

Conclusions:
Add these to your short-list for (a) smaller, (b) not too aggressive (c) easy maintenance Mbuna species with attractive males and females. If you're trying to come up with something that not everybody has, like the ubiquitous Yellow Lab, this species is worth the effort to hunt down and purchase.

Originally published in The Lateral Line, the official publication of the Hill Country Cichlid Club.

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