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Scientific Name: Chromidotilapia melaniae
Pronunciation: kr
Common Name(s): Formally Chromidotilapia sp. "Shiloango"*
Geo. Origin: Coastal Regions of Ogooue and Nyanga River Systems, Gabon
Habitat: Shallow Forest Streams
Diet: Omnivore
Gender Differences: Dimorphic
Breeding: Biparental Mouthbrooder
Temperament: Mildly Aggressive
Maximum Size: >4.0"
Temperature: 72-76°F
pH: 6.5-7.5
Water Hardness: Soft
Difficulty: 3


Male (front), Female (rear)

Photo Credit: Dr. Anton Lamboj


Chromidotilapia melaniae is named after Dr. Melanie Stiassny, the Axelrod Research Curator of the Department of Ichthyology, American Museum of Natural History, in New York City. It is distinguished from the other species of the genus by a combination of morphological characteristics and coloration, including five dentary pores, eight-ten gill rakers on the lower limb of the first arch, two-three rows of unicuspid lower jaw teeth, an acute snout, and a lack of iridescent coloration on the cheek, opercle and flanks. C. melaniae also exhibits two rows of dark, mood-dependent vertical bars and small dark blotches on the flanks.

C. melaniae is a handsome dwarf cichlid that exhibits high levels of sexual dimorphism and dichromatism (coloration). Males grow to be larger than females, exhibit more elongated pelvic fins, darkly-marginated flank scales, a red distal (outermost) dorsal margin and alternating white and red submargins, and the soft dorsal, anal, and caudal fins exhibit red spots and/or small lines. Females exhibit iridescent white to rosy coloration on the dorsal fin and upper margin of the caudal fin and a rosy belly when sexually active.

Additional photos and information can be found on Markus Russeger's very fine web site at:

In the summer of 2000, Anton Lamboj et al. collected C. melaniae in forestal steams and creeks with neutral to slightly acidic water (pH 6.7-6.9) and low conductivity (38-53 μS/cm at 22-24° C). Temperatures were slightly cool to moderate (72-75° F). When keeping C. melaniae in aquaria, these water parameters should be taken into consideration.
Like the other Chromidotilapia species, C. melaniae is an unspecialized omnivore that feeds on algae, aufwuchs, small shrimps, shrimp eggs, and insect larvae. Consequently rich "meaty" foods should be avoided. C. melaniae is a monogamous, pair-bonding biparental ovophilic mouthbrooder. Eggs are usually incubated by the female for the first few days after which time, both the male and female may alternate incubation.

*NB Since the late 1980s European hobbyists have referred to Chromidotilapia melaniae as C. sp. "Shiloango," following the designation used by Thys van den Audenaerde for an undescribed Chromidotilapia speciesâ€"from the Shiloango River system in Cabinda and Congo-Brazzavilleâ€"that was discussed in his 1968 preliminary revision of the pelmatochromine cichlids. Although the cichlid collected by Dr. Lamboj et al. in the Lambarene and Tchibanga regions of Gabon is the aquarium fish known in the European hobby as C. sp. "Shiloango," it is not known if this species corresponds to Dr. Thys' preserved Shiloango-species deposited at the Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale (MRAC), in Belgium. Although Dr. Lamboj examined Dr. Thys' preserved specimens, no living specimens were available for comparison to C. melaniae. This is significant because C. melaniae is distinguished from the other Chromidotilapia species based, in part, on its coloration. So until living specimens of Dr. Thys' Shiloango-species can be collected and compared to C. melaniae, Dr. Lamboj suggests that the designation C. sp. "Shiloango" be restricted to the preserved specimens housed at the MRAC. â€"Randall Kohn (with special thanks to Dr. Anton Lamboj & Markus Russegger)
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