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Labeotropheus trewavasae
by Marc Elieson

Water Photograph Nature Fin Organism

There are more than forty geographic and color variants of Labeotropheus trewavasae in Lake Malawi. Pictured here is the "Red Top" from Thumbi Island. Currently, it is one of the more common variants in North America, probably due to the bright red dorsal fin. L. trewavasae come in all varieties of color, but shades of blue seems most common.

My male spends most of his time near the bottom, hanging out around his cave, although he does permit others to swim through it. The females spend the majority of their time in the top half of the tank, probably to avoid this dominant male's advances as he is always trying to spawn. Most of the male's aggression is directed toward the two females that I keep and a Labeotropheus fuelleborni pair.

Initially, I only had one female. This proved inadequate because he would fiercly chase her. After I added a second female, they began spawning and have produced almost 300 fry in less than 6 months, with broods consisting of 20-28 fry. Since that time, however, I have lost one of these females. Fortunately, his aggression has calmed considerably such that the remaining female's life is not endangered. Notwithstanding, I think that his presence has prevented the L. fuelleborni pair from spawning since being added to the same tank.

Photograph Organism Fish Marine biology Adaptation

OB (Orange-Blotched) patterns are very common among the Labeotropheus species. Females almost always sport the OB pattern, and males usually have a solid body color with lighter or different colored fins. OB males are very rare. Females and males are both equally large, reaching about 5-7 inches!

One of the most interesting things about the genus Labeotropheus is their characteristic curved-over, upper lip. This is an adaptation that helps them to scrape algae off of rocks. Many of the Labeotropheus live at the mouths of rivers, where the current is very strong. Their curved lip allows them to scrape the algae from a more horizontal angle. They have thus adapted to this habitat, whereas other fish who have to approach the rocks from a vertical position are unable to battle the current while in this position. Trewavasae have also adapted themselves to this oxygen-rich habitat. They require water with a high saturation of O2. In fact, I have noticed that when my tnaks are overcrowded, the trewavasae are always the first to linger at the top, gasping for air.
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