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Malawi African Cichlids

Cobalt Blue Zebra

Lake Malawi Mbuna African Cichlid

Cobalt Blue Zebra - Identification

Cobalt Blue Cichlid Metriaclima callainos
Cobalt Blue Zebra

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.

Cobalt Blue Zebra - Color Variations

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 Orange 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.

Cobalt Blue Zebra - Aquarium Setup

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. Cobalt Blue Zebras 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 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 Zebra - Compatibility

The Cobalt Blue Zebra is compatible with Mbunas like the Auratus, Johanni, Kenyi, Lemon Yellow, Orange Blotch, Pindani, and Red Zebra. The Cobalt Blue Zebra can also be kept with Synodontis Catfish. The Cobalt Blue Zebra is too aggressive for Haplochromis and Peacock Cichlids.

Cobalt Blue Cichlid Metriaclima callainos
Cobalt Blue Zebra? Maybe.

Cobalt Blue Zebra - Feeding

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.

Cobalt Blue Zebra - Mouth Brooder

A male Cobalt Blue Zebra should be kept with several females. The Cobalt Blue Zebra is a mouth brooder and the spawning process is intriguing. The male Cobalt Blue Zebra 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 Cobalt Blue Zebra 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 Cobalt Blue Zebra 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.

Cobalt Blue Zebra - Profile

  • Scientific Name: Metriaclima callainos

  • Family: Cichlid

  • Temperature: 22 - 28 C; 72 - 83 F

  • pH: 7.5 - 8.5

  • Size: 10 cm; 4 inches

  • Life Span: 10 years

  • Breeding: Normal, Egg Layer, Mouthbrooder