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Metriaclima emmiltos
by Marc Elieson

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 and given a whole new subgenus of their own: Metriaclima.

Fin Organism Fish Adaptation Marine biology

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 this article.

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 emmiltos.

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.
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