Name: Protomelas taeniolatus
Origin: Lake Malawi (Africa)
The Red Empress is a beautiful haplochromine line, bred from the Namalenje strain in Lake Malawi. As is usual for haps, the males are the showy ones whereas females are drab gray/brown with black horizontal striping. The males generally color up around 8 cm. During courting and breeding, the male will actively and aggressively defend a large territory, driving out any fish that may inadvertently enter the territory. When not breeding, the male will no longer defend this territory and will allow any fish to go into it and be overall very peaceful. They are very aggressive against other males of their kind and it is not recommended to have more than one male in a tank unless the tank is very large.
They are herbivores but very opportunistic feeders. They will do fine on a varied diet, including spirulina as well as meaty flakes/pellets. I feed a mix of spirulina flake and color-enhancing pellets. Empresses are bloat-prone, thus small and frequent feedings are preferred over one or two large feedings. The empress is not so much a digger as it is a relentless sand-sifter, at least in my experience. In a tank with sand as the substrate it will regularly scoop up sand in its mouth and scatter it all over the tank, on plants, on rocks, and yes, next to the filter intake. Therefore, an intake with a sponge prefilter and/or the heavy pool filter sand are recommended to protect the filter impeller from sand damage. Generally, they will not bother plants and appear to appreciate a planted tank with some room to sift. Mine also enjoys the rock structure in my tank for hiding whenever something strange is happening in the tank such as an invading siphon tube. Rocks and caves are needed, but these structures must be planned to allow for plenty of available swimming room. The empress is a fantastic addition to larger African setups. They also seem to show a great interest in the world outside their tank; mine watches my activities just about as much as I watch his!
The red empress is a very beautiful African variety. I would, however, caution the inexperienced African cichlid owner against going out and buying a young one. While small, both the males and females are a pale grey color. The only distinction between males and females while they're young is their anal fin. The males will start to develop a brownish-red coloration on this fin that the females will never have. In addition to this, only the males will turn red and blue like the photo above. The females stay light grey. While females are necessary to draw out the true dominant color of the males, they are not nearly as pretty to look at. I work at a petstore in Georgia and at home I have a 200 L tank for my Africans. I have several different species, but two of them are these empresses. One is a male, and one is a female. They can hold their own with any of the other African cichlids and don't seem too aggressive toward any of the others either. Mine are only about 10 cm right now so the male's color is just now coming in. I've owned them for about 6 months. I keep my Africans with the Synodontis catfish; some of these include the multipunctatus. I even have a random pictus catfish and ropefish thrown in with my Africans and they get along with them just fine. I would recommend raising a tank of this species to anybody. They are very nice fish and tend to not beat up on each other. The red empress is a great addition to any african tank.
The Red Empress is the king of my tank. I bought him at about 4 cm, and since then has coloured up to show-quality. I have an all male cichlid tank, with no other empresses, yet he is still quite a bully, mostly chasing a large blue dolphin around. A fantastic fish to keep, I feed mostly spirulina, broad spectrum, and provide bloodworms twice a week. Truly the most beautiful fish I keep, it even surpasses the Taiwan Reef.
This is one beautiful fish, however keeping it can have some problems. First, you should have 1 male with 2 females or more. The male can be quite aggressive and needs several females to chase. If you only have one female she could get too stressed and die. Secondly, this is one hungry fish that easily get fat. They eat just about anything, even algae.
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