The Cobalt Blue Zebra originated in deep rocky waters of Lake Malawi in Africa.
It is also known as the Cobalt Blue Mbuna and the Cobalt Zebra. The
scientific name is Metriaclima callainos, but see the discussion below about
Metriaclima estherae. The word “Mbuna” means “rock fish”, which refers to its habitat.
The Cobalt Blue Zebra has a light blue color applied consistently over the entire
body with no faint zebra banding. The species Metriclima
estherae is very similar and includes a blue version which can be
differentiated by the occurrence of faint horizontal banding.
Other African zebra color
variations include the Pearl Zebra, which is a pearl white color, the Red or Cherry Zebra, which is red/orange and the
Blotch or OB, which has black blotches on a pink/orange background.
There are eggs spots on the anal fin, which become important during breeding.
Females are a lighter gray/blue.
Clean water and proper pH are important in maintaining an mbuna tank.
Although some recommend using underground filters, external filters and bio-wheels
simultaneously to maintain quality, my experience is that underground filters
are not suitable for mbunas. They build nests by picking up rocks in their
mouth and moving them, so underground filters are quickly exposed in an mbuna tank.
Mbunas are very territorial, aggressive fish, even more
so than Haplochromis Cichlids like the Electric Blue
Ahli, so they should only be kept with other mbunas, A grouping including more than 10
mbunas is recommended as this will spread out aggressive behavior. The tank should be 75 – 100 gallons and should have rocks and hiding
spaces to provide escape from aggression of other tankmates. There
should be smooth surfaced gravel for them to pick up in their mouths and move. Mbunas enjoy plants, but will
uproot them because they constantly rearrange the substrate.
Cobalt Blue Zebras will eat flake foods, spirulina flakes and cichlid pellets.
They should not be fed live worms or live brine shrimp, as these can bloat and kill the fish.
A male Zebra Cichlid should be kept with several females. The Zebra is a mouth brooder and the
spawning process is intriguing.
The male will establish a territory and its colors will become enhanced when it is ready to breed.
A female that is ready to spawn will then enter the territory and the two will interact aggressively.
The female then releases a couple of eggs into a gravel pit. She then picks these up in her mouth.
Meanwhile the male displays the “egg spots” on his anal fin. These spots are the same size and color
as the real eggs.
The female nips at these eggs spots and the male releases his sperm, which then reaches the females mouth
and fertilizes the real eggs that she has previously picked up.
The process is then repeated until the female has a brood of between 10 and 50 eggs in her mouth.
After spawning, the female keeps the eggs in her mouth for about a week until they hatch.
After that, the fry will seek safety by retreating into the female’s mouth for up to a month.
During this period, the female rarely eats. Once the fry are able to fend for themselves, the female
stops allowing them in her mouth. The entire process is quite stressful for the female, so a separate tank for her during this period is recommended.