Melanochromis chipokae is a mbuna that
is commonly available at many local pet stores, and has been a
mainstay of the hobby since the 1970's. It is named after it's
original collection point, Chipoka Island at Chidunga Rocks. It
is a very common cichlid here, but is also seen in smaller numbers
at Mumbo, Thumbi West, Nakatenga and Mbenji Island. Most often
available as a juvenile, it is attractively colored as a yellow
fish with two black vertical stripes on the body. The chipokae
can be differentiated from the similar looking Melanochromis
auratus in the following ways; auratus juveniles
will have white lines, in addition to their yellow and black coloration,
the chipokae also has a more pointed snout, and a larger
As the Melanochromis chipokae begins
to mature, the males will begin to change color, to an attractive
dark blue/purple, with lighter blue stripes. This is a large and
robust fish, that grows to 7"(17cm) in the wild, but has been
known to grow even larger in the aquarium. The Melanochromis
chipokae is considered omnivorous, but it's primary diet
is crustaceans, insect larvae and small fish. In the aquarium
they will readily accept any diet that includes flake foods, high
quality pellets, brine shrimp and Mysis shrimp.
of most fish from Lake Malawi, they prefer an aquarium with harder
water, with a range of 7.6 to 8.5 being ideal. An ideal hardness
would be considered to be in the range of 7 to 18 dh. Lake Malawi
has very stable temperatures, and in the aquarium this fish is
best kept in the 75 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit (24-26 Celsius).
It is found in the intermediate habitat, mixed between the rocky
areas, and the sand areas. It is also a fish that stays in relatively
shallow waters, between 5 to 15 meters deep.
The very minimum tank size that I would recommend for Melanochromis
chipokae is a 4ft, 75 gallon aquarium. As mentioned previously,
they can grow to a rather large size. In the wild the males are
only weakly territorial in the defense of their spawning sites.
This contrasts severely with their behavior in the aquarium, where
they can be one of the most aggressive mbuna. They are usually
aggressive to all species in the aquarium, but particularly so
with their own kind. It is best to keep at least three females
for each male. If you keep less, it is likely that the females
will be chased relentlessly, with deaths being a real possibility.
It is best to provide multiple hiding places, for chased fish
to hide from the aggression of the chipokae.
Appropriate mbuna tankmates include Metriaclima lombardoi (kenyii), Metriaclima "zebra complex fish", Metriaclima crabro, Tropheops, Labeotropheus, and Pseudotropheus "elongatus complex fish". In tanks of six foot and larger, they can also be kept with larger more aggressive Haplochromines. If attempting this, it is much better to start with much larger Hap's, in order to avoid them being overly harassed by the chipokae. Appropriate "Hap's" would include Nimbochromis, Dimidiochromis, Tyrannochromis, Fossochromis and Buccochromis varieties.
Breeding the M. chipokae is not particularly
difficult, and they tend to become sexually mature at a very young
size. I've seen holding females at slightly less than 2"(5cm).
The fry are ready to be released, and fully developed by 21 days,
and a larger female may carry up to 50 fry per mouthful. The fry
are miniatures of their mother at this size, and grows quicker
than most mbuna. The fry can be raised on crushed flakes, or freshly
hatched artemia (baby brine shrimp).
While the Melanochromis chipokae is a very attractive
fish, it is best left to those with larger aquariums. If you have
a large aquarium, then they are well worth keeping.
Andreas Spreinat (1996). Aqualex Malawi Cichlids, CD. Germany: Dahne Verlag GmbH
Froese, R. and D. Pauly. (Editors.) (2005). FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, version (11/2005).
Ad Konings (2001). Malawi Cichlids in their natural habitat, 3rd edition. Cichlid Press, p175-177
Ad Konings (1995). Malawi Cichlids in their natural habitat,
2nd edition. Germany: Cichlid Press, p 168