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Pseudotropheus socolofi
by Steven Costanzo
Introduction: P. socolofi is an interesting fish for it has been bred so much (due to its popularity) that it has almost completely lost its favor among hobbyists. There are several variations of this blue-bodied, rock-dwelling cichlid.

Pseudotropheus socolofi
These varities differ in coloring as well as in body shape. The most common difference seen in the hobby is the lack of the black submarginal band in the dorsal fin which belongs to the races from Mara Point and Tumbi Point. Some have stronger, more visible vertical bars, while others lack them altogetherSome of these differences are the remnants of aggressive breeding programs. Consequently, the quality of available P. socolofi varies greatly, which has only weakened its popularity in the hobby.

Care: Like any other Malawi mbuna, socolofi need a pH ranging from 7.8 to 8.4, while the KH should be anywhere from 10 to 14 degrees. They should be kept in a tank that is densely rocky due to their aggressive disposition. Nooks and caves created by rocks will provide a safe haven for any badgered female and/or subdominant male.

Feeding: This fish is herbivorous and accordingly should be fed a diet rich in vegetable matter. Spirulina-based flake foods produce steady growth and healthy, colorful fish. Unlike most mbuna, P. socolofi does not scrape its food from off the rocks, but rather picks among the short algae strands without shearing them off.

Appearance: There is almost no color difference between male and female. Mature males, however, will display a bright blue, almost white color while females remain a rather drab blue. Some females lack egg spots on the anal fin, but this is not the most accurate means of differentiating males from females. Malesí egg spots also tend to have a sharper, more defined color. Males can reach up to 5-inches in length, while females will stay slightly smaller.

Breeding: Breeding this fish is not an easy task due to intra-species aggression. Males can be rather rough on unwilling females and if the correct ratios are not kept or sufficient hiding places are not provided, a male can easily kill off his females. Itís possible to keep more then one male in a 55-gallon aquarium, but it will make breeding more difficult. Unless your tank is over 48-inches long, the best way to go is to keep only one male. Additionally, they should not be kept in any ratio less the 1:4 or 1:5. I would not recommend keeping these in groups of less than five because they tend to harass each other to death. With a larger group, aggression is spread out and the chaser tends to lose the chased in the crowd.

My Opinion: This is an excellent fish for the beginner. It can be housed in a smaller tank without much difficulty. Furthermore, it provides the hobbyists with an introduction to aggressive behaviors while still allowing room for forgiveness. They can also be housed with more aggressive fish because they can handle a lot of stress. socolofi can easily be an aggressor or a fish that takes the aggression. □

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