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Maylandia emmiltos
Red Top Zebra

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Maylandia_emmiltos_1.jpg (21kb)
Photo Credit: Julian Riano

Name: Maylandia emmiltos
Size TankpHTemp
Origin: Lake Malawi (Africa)
13 cm 100 L 8.1 27C


The Red Top Zebra, or the more commonly known as the "Maylandia" zebra, are not in fact just one species. The Red Top is one of the variants of the Zebra complex. There are several differences on which species is classified as "Red Top". The only real way to distinguish these differences are to locate the close area of where the fish was naturally found. Some are more blue than others and some have more "red" than the usual yellow. The presently valid scientific name is Maylandia emmiltos. These names may also depend on the location and area of the Malawi lake, where their natural habitat is.

However their name is to be classified, they are quite beautiful specimens. They are called Red Top because of the noticeably orangish, yellowish pigmented area, at the upper edge of the dorsal and caudal fins. Most specimens are from a bluish white, to iridescent white. Another feature is also the vertical black lines that characterize the "zebra" complex. The white is quite strong as well as the orange.

If the specimens are well taken care of, they become brilliantly colored and make quite the display. But care is another sector. These wonderful fish require a good sized tank with minimum of 180 L with, or without other inhabitants. Like all other Mbunas, they have the typical behavior of being aggressive, territorial (especially these ones), and active. Rock work also plays a good role in maintaining them so they can thrive. Excellent rockwork structures are even known to lower their aggression levels, so that they can co-exist with other companions. If lots of caves, crooks, and crannies, are provided in the tank, the species will protect its shelter and let others swim about. Gravel should be medium to fine, because of their digging habits! These fish are great excavators, and rock work structures should be carefully placed so that when they dig, there won't be a danger of a collapse and death of fish.

Their maximum length is around 13 to 15 cm. They should only be housed with other aggressive Mbuna species from Lake Malawi. They are pretty aggressive but can be housed with similarly sized specimens. Some companions include Labidochromis caeruleus, Melanochromis auratus, Pseudotropheus lombardoi, Labeotropheus spp., and many other Mbuna species. Do not keep them with "Haps" or Peacocks. These are much less aggressive and are likely to be killed if housed with species from the Zebra complex.

The Red Top has been around for some time now in the hobby and is seen from time to time in most local fish stores. They are not recommended for beginners and should require some extra care. They are hardy, but good filtration and high water quality are mostly recommended. Also high oxygen levels are essential for protection against Hole-in-the-head disease or the sometimes called "Lateral line erosion" on cichlids. Like any Mbuna, pH and GH should also be considered. Hard water from 10-20dH is necessary, and a pH from 7.5-8.5 supplemented with good biological filtration due to their high protein waste.

Diet is another key issue in keeping one or a community of Mbunas. Most Mbunas in the wild feed on algae and some floating vegetation. "Maylandia" are known to even eat large amounts of duckweed, but it is not recommended to feed them this from different parts of the world. Green foods are a must, and can be mixed in with some sea meats such as shrimp. Most people believe these cichlids are all vegetarians, but a balance must be met and commercial foods in form of pellets should also be supplied. Even home made recipes are a good idea, but some guidelines are to be followed as well. Live foods should not be fed to this type of fish. Mbuna rely on eating soft vegetation that their long digestive tracts can break down easily. These fine fish are very strong and have enlarged lips for scraping off algae in smooth rocks (which are to be supplied also).

These species are very easy to breed. They are the typical mouthbrooders. The male (with eggspots on anal fin) is placed with two females (with no eggspots or very very faintly) with his territory chosen and dug out. The female places eggs and the male will fertilize them. But the male will not take care of the eggs, so it is advisable to remove the female into a rearing tank. I think they are just beautiful and are a great addition to any Mbuna community.

Contributed by Julian Riano

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