Metriaclima emmiltos was once
considered part of the great pool of Pseudotropheus Zebras,
and more specifically as Pseudotropheus "Red Top Zebra"
(more below). In 1984, the Pseudotropheus Zebras were reclassified
a whole new subgenus of their own: Metriaclima. Although
this fish is more commonly known in the hobby as Pseudotropheus
"Red Top Zebra," Metriaclima emmiltos is in fact its most
recent scientific name. For understandable reasons, the new name
hasn't quite taken hold outside of the scientific community. Many
of the Zebras, including M. emmiltos have also been erroneously
labeled under the subgenus Maylandia. I won't go into the
details other than to explain that this name is incorrect. If
you're interested in reading more about Pseudotropheus,
Maylandia, and Metriaclima names, I invite you read
As I was saying, M. emmiltos was once classified as Pseudotropheus
"Red Top Zebra," but what I didn't say was that Pseudotropheus
"Red Top Zebra" was broken up to create four new species.
There is considerable debate as to whether these four species
are actually true biological species or just geographical variants.
In fact, they are so similar that in all reality you would ned
to know where in Lake Malawi the fish were collected in order
to tell them apart. The descriptions that distinguish these four
species are so minor, and as Michael Oliver has stated, "breathtakingly
trivial," that instead of breaking them up, I'll just cover all
four of them in this single profile article. Notwithstanding,
all of the pictures that will be presented here are of Metriaclima
Metriaclima emmiltos hails from Mpanga Rocks, off
Chilumba. The other three "Red Top Zebras" include: Metriaclima
pyrsonotos (from Nakantenga Island), M. sandaracinos
from Nkudzi Bay (in the southeast arm of Lake Malawi), and Metriaclima
thapsinogen (from Eccles Reef, north of Chinyankwazi Island).
Even though these species are difficult to dinstinguish, I should
state that M. pyrsonotos is the only one of the four whose
black vertical bars actually extend into the basal portion of
the dorsal fin.
These so-called "Red Top Zebras" are of course distinguished
by their brilliant orangish-red dorsal and tail fins. They generally
reach a maximum length of 12-13 cm (5 inches) and dispaly typical
mbuna behavior: aggressive, active, and even belicose at times.
This particular mbuna, despite its modest size, usually has no
trouble climbing a tank's heirarchy to assume the king's role.
When a tank is decorated with caves and plenty of other hiding
places, a satisfactory level of harmony can be achieved. M.
emmiltos and its cousins are strict vegetarians and do best
when fed a diet consisting primarily of Spirulina flakes.