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Placidochromis sp. ''Phenochilus Tanzania''
by Marc Elieson

Placidochromis sp. ''Phenochilus Tanzania'' (pronounced fen-o-ki-lus) was placed in the genus Placidochromis because of its close resemblance to P. electra. I think you will readily notice the similarities between the two as you compare these photographs. Fully matured males of this species are spectacular and are among the most attractive cichlids of Lake Malawi, due in part to their unique coloring.

Placidochromis phenochilus maleThis hap is like wine because it keeps getting better with age. Their "unique coloring" doesn't become apparent until after several years and only after about four years is it complete. Adult males are blue with a spangling of light-blue and white spots that cover their entire body. These spots remind me of lichens that often decorate stones and the trunks of mesquite trees and rocks. The specimen shown here is still two or more years away from complete maturation. When complete, these spots will completely cover their body.

After a period of about four years or more, males become very high-backed and a small "hump" may even begin to develop, but nothing like that of its close relative Cyrtocara moorii. There are two variants in the lake, but only that from Tanzania develops the spots. Those from Mdoka to Chirwa Island on the Malawi side of the lake are solid blue with white lips, and lack blue bars. Females are typically silver with the black vertical bars, but older females often attain partial or complete blue coloring in the aquarium. These two females pictured below are F1 stock, and show perhaps a little more blue at this early age than might normally be expected.

Placidochromis phenochilus femaleIn the wild, P. sp. ''Phenochilus Tanzania'' is seen following foraging species, such as Taeniolethrinops praeorbitalis, just like C. moorii and P. electra. These foot-long cichlids filter large amounts of sand through their gills and a lot of detritus is stirred up during the process. P.sp. ''Phenochilus Tanzania'' follows behind, like a dog on its heels, but T. praeorbitalis doesn't seem to mind. The amount of food exposed by the plowing activities of such diggers may not be sufficient for more than one adult follower, who depends exclusively upon this means of feeding. Consequently, individuals of the same species are wary approaching an "occupied" forager. An adult that has claimed a forager will usually signal ownership to others by taking on territorial coloration.

This fish is best raised on a combination of flake and pellet foods. Pellets that sink are preferred and even relished. These, of course, should be soaked prior to feeding. After they reach a size of 3" or more, flakes become too messy and might be discontinued. □

 

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