Introduction: This highly desirable species has
many names. Among them Prot. steveni Taiwan Tanzania, and Taiwan
Reef steveni. It appears to me the most appropriate name is Protomelas sp.
"Steveni Taiwan" (Taiwanee Reef). This is due mainly to the fact that Prot.
fenestratus is the name for a close relative -- the Tangerine Tiger.
That species has a lot more vertical bars as the common name implies. A
more famous close relative is an old favorite: the Red Empress (Prot.
cf. taeniolatus). Protomelas sp. "Steveni Taiwan" is often observed
at Taiwanee Reef just north of Chizumulu Island, as well as Mbamba Bay;
Mbamba (Ngkuyo) Bay, & Higga Reef in Tanzania. Found only over rocky
areas with very clear water, it is uncommon in other areas including most
local fish stores.
Appearance: They have a fuller
and shorter body than most Haps. Males can attain about 8 inches in length
(as shown in the picture to the right). Females retain the juvenile
coloration, which is silver-gray with gray-black vertical bars. Pairs of
these bars are often joined in the middle by small blotches to form “H”
patterns. There are also some small blotches just below the dorsal fin
(see pic. #1). All these markings will become less pronounced as the fish
gets older. Juvenile/sub-adult males may have a more noticeable yellow
edge on the dorsal fin.
They start showing a light blue shade
in the head region at about 2 in. long (see pic #2). It is an extremely
late bloomer and won’t attain full color until at least 2 years old. Fully
matured males have a very unique lavender-blue on the head, the face, and
the back. There are also light purple streaks on the tail fin, as well as
an eye catching orange-red anal fin. If you are lucky enough to obtain an
“exceptional” specimen he may even display a very pleasing golden yellow
body color (see pic. #3 & 4) to complete a truly spectacular
Care: Minimum tank size is 75
gal. or 300 litres with rocks, but preferably those with no sharp edges.
Prot. species are a little clumsy and can get scratched easily.
Suitable tank mates are the Peacocks and smaller, milder Haps like the
Copadichromis and Otopharynx species. Housing them with not
so aggressive mbuna is possible but may require a larger tank. You will
probably have a hard time breeding this species if it is not the dominant
fish in the tank. Prot. Steveni is also somewhat delicate and clean
water is a must!
I strongly recommend frequent water
changes and filter services. Like most Prot. species, it is a
greedy fish and may become obsessed. It will eat anything, but it's important
to remember that in the wild, algae constitutes the majority of its diet;
therefore, I recommend going easy on live and frozen foods. Spirulina algae
should be its staple food and possibly supplement with a color-enhancing flake
or pellet foood. Treat this Hap right, and it won't dissapoint you.
Lots of color, large size, and mild temperment make this fish higly
Final note: Since this matured
male (see pic #4) is a subordinate individual (various mbuna and larger
Haps keep him at bay), I don’t know how he might look with his “courting
dress” turned on. I am quite confident he could still put on more color
because his body has begun to get some yellow-gold color. I will send
update pictures if he gets prettier. □