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Protomelas sp. "Steveni Taiwan" (Taiwanee Reef)
by Vincent Choi

Introduction: This highly desirable species has many names. Among them Prot. steveni Taiwan Tanzania, and Taiwan Reef steveni. It appears Protomelas steveni ''Taiwan Reef''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 Protomelas steveni ''Taiwan Reef''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.

Protomelas steveni ''Taiwan Reef''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 fish!

Care: Minimum tank size is 75 gal. or 300 litres with rocks, but Protomelas steveni ''Taiwan Reef''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!

Protomelas steveni ''Taiwan Reef''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 desirable.

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. □

 

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