Name: Protomelas sp. 'Steveni Taiwan'
Origin: Lake Malawi (Africa)
Dominant males are beautifully coloured, whereas females retain the drab olive and brown juvenile colouration. Males begin to colour at around 5 cm in length, the head will begin showing a blue colouration, spreading throughout the fins. Males showing exceptional colour at this size are most likely hormoned and should be avoided. At approximately 10 cm in length, the dominant male will have mostly adult colouration, intensifying as he ages. A male usually does not show full colour until 2 years of age.
P. Steveni should be kept in a tank no smaller than 300 litres, preferably larger. The tank layout should replicate its natural environment, with plenty of rock piles to seek refuge in, and a large open swimming area above.
Water quality is very important to P. Steveni. A large canister filter is recommended, along with a good power filter and plenty of biological media. Multiple filters and 50% weekly water changes will go a long way in maintaining this species.
P. Steveni 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. Steveni is a mildly aggressive Haplochromine, and is best kept in a species only tank, in a ratio of 1 male to 3 females. If kept with other haps or peacocks, no females should be kept of any species. These fish are closely related and hybridization is likely to occur.
If you are keeping a mixed Malawi tank, haps/peacocks and mbuna, you must choose mbuna carefully. P. Steveni is not aggressive towards mbuna, but can be easily bullied by the more aggressive species. Most pseudotropheus, zebra complex, labeotropheus, etc. should be avoided. P. Acei and L. Caeruleus make good tank mates, and I have had luck with P. Elongatus "chewere". Mixing haps with mbuna is different in every scenario, and if you plan on doing this, you should have a separate tank ready to remove aggressive fish from your mix.
P. Steveni feeds primarily on algae/aufwuchs in the wild, and its diet in captivity should reflect this. 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 flake will also do. P. Steveni should not be overfed as excessive size and poor water quality can result. Many problems and diseases can be caused by over feeding.
As long as water quality is carefully maintained and tank mates are chosen wisely, P. Steveni will quickly become you favourite fish. Although the colour transformation is painfully slow, the end result is well worth it.
I absolutely love this fish, I found it very cheap at my local petstore and put it into my 470 L tank along with my red empress and venustus. In less than a year it has grown from 5 cm to approximately 13 cm and it is stunning. It is a calm fish and never aggressive. I love my Taiwan Reef.
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