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Protomelas sp. "Spilonatus Tanzania"
by Marc Elieson

Protomelas sp. "spilonatus Tanzania" belongs to the Protomelas spilonatus group, but is quite distinct from Protomelas spilonatus in several regards and should not be considered as conspecifics. The most salient difference between these two is melanin pattern.

Placidochromis sp. Spilonatus Tanzania maleProtomelas sp. "spilonatus Tanzania" has a central longitudinal band that infrequently dissolves into three spots or blotches (see photo). The first blotch is usually formed by a connected double point. The second blotch is roughly above the middle area of the anal fin, and a third blotch is located on the caudal peduncle. A second longitudinal band likewise dissolves into blotches, but isn't always visible. In older specimens, the longitudinal band may also appear in the form of a loose row of dots. Females are silvery-gray to brown.

Dominant and sexually active males have an intense blue head, while the chest, belly and pelvic and anal fins are yellow.

This cichlid is found exclusively in the wave-washed upper habitat of the lake, and particularly along steep, rocky coasts. Interestingly enough, P. spilonatus species are the only non-Mbuna found in this habitat. They usually form small feeding schools in mid-water a few meters away from large boulders. Males defend territories in the upper five meters of the open water. Spawning, however, takes place in the caves of the rocky bottom. When a sexually active male finds an interested female, he will lead her down to a cave, where the eggs are dropped, fertilized, and then incubated in the female's buccal cavity for a period of three to four weeks.

Placidochromis sp. Spilonatus Tanzania femaleWhen plankton is available, P. sp. "spilonatus Tanzania" feeds upon it, but depends more heavily upon insects and other soft-bodied invertebrates that fall or are washed into the water. Most captive species have been collected from Lundo Island, or descend from stock collected at this location. Most adult specimens reach lengths between 15 and 18 cm, with females being several centimeters shorter than their male counterparts. □


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