Petrotilapia sp. 'Chitimba Bay' male (main photo) and female (inset)
Name: Petrotilapia sp. 'Chitimba Bay'
Origin: Lake Malawi (Africa)
Petrotilapia Chitimba is a unique Mbuna from Chitimba Bay, Lake Malawi. P. Chitimba can be found in the transitional zones between sand and rock. This fish is relatively new to the hobby, but is gaining popularity as captive bred specimens are becoming available.
P. Chitimba are sexually dimorphic. Males are various shades of blue with thick vertical bars, and bright yellow fins. The intensity of blue and the presence of these bars vary with mood. Females retain juvenile colouration and are slightly smaller, maxing out around 15 cm. Juvenile males develop yellow finnage at around 6 cm, but don't display any blue colouration until 9 cm or so.
P. Chitimba is a large, bulky, active fish, and its aquarium size should reflect this. A 300 litre tank is the minimum size I would attempt keeping this fish in, but a 150 or 180 cm long tank would be ideal. P. Chitimba can be moderately aggressive towards fish of a similar size and shape, but is relatively peaceful towards others. When attempting to breed, the male can become quite aggressive towards the female. Three females to every male will help distribute the aggression, giving the breeding female a break from the male's attention. This fish is a very easy-to-breed, traditional mouth brooder with a 20+ day incubation. The juveniles are easy to feed on crushed versions of the parents' food.
Due to the size and bulk of this fish, P. Chitimba creates a lot of waste. A large canister filter and weekly 50% water changes will go a long way in keeping on top of water quality.
P. Chitimba enjoys a pH of 7.8 to 8.4, somewhere in between being ideal. Stability is key. An easy way to maintain a stable pH is to add sodium bicarbonate initially and with each water change if needed. For example, my local water comes out of the tap at a pH of 7.0, KH is 20 ppm and GH of 10 ppm. I use a ratio of 2 tablespoons each of sodium bicarbonate and magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts, to raise GH) to each 100 litres of new water added. This maintains my pH at 8.2, KH at 200 ppm and GH at 120 ppm; well within optimal ranges. Keep in mind that stable water parameters are more important than fluctuations, and unless you know what you are doing, playing with water chemistry could do more harm than good.
P. Chitimba's most defining trait is their "peeled back" mouth. Even when their mouth is closed, it appears open. In the wild, P. Chitimba feed on Aufwuchs, and the shape of their mouth makes this easier. In the aquarium, P. Chitimba will constantly scour the glass and rock work, scraping away at the algae encrusting it. Their diet in the aquarium should reflect this in the form of a good quality pellet. Any difficult to digest protein source, such as brine shrimp, blood worms, beef heart, etc. should be avoided at all times. These foods have been linked to Malawi Bloat, a fatal disease affecting many fish from the Rift Lakes. I have had excellent results using exclusively New Life Spectrum cichlid formula. Dainichi Veggie, Veggie FX, and Sera Granugreen are also excellent foods. Hikari Cichlid Excel and any spirulina algae flake will also do. This fish is very greedy, so make sure you do not overfeed.
P. Chitimba is an active, colourful fish, that will make a great addition to any moderately aggressive Malawi tank.
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