Melanochromis johannii

Name johannii refers to the fisherman Johan James

Common Name: Cobalt-Orange Cichlid

Synonyms: Pseudotropheus daviesi, Pseudotropheus johannii

Family: Cichlidae

This fish was originally described in 1973 by D. H. Eccles. It was first introduced to the hobby in 1972.

M. johannii is found in Lake Malawi in several areas such as Metangula, Chilucha Reef, and Masinje. It is found around rock and boulder zones. It is part of the Malawian group of cichlids known as mbuna.

There is in the hobby a fish known as 'electric blue johannii'. They are found at Maingano (near Likoma). This is a separate species. It was given the name M. sp 'Maingano'; however it has now been formally described as Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos. This species has no or little sexual dimorphism between males and females.

Males are dark blue to black with several interrupted stripes of a light blue (almost an electric blue). Females are yellow. Some females show a dark longitudinal stripe in the dorsal fin. Older females are reported to attain similar colouration to a male except not as bright.

This fish likes a temperature of 74-79F. A pH of 7.2-8.8 with a dH of 12-18 is recommended. Needs fairly hard water.

These fish will eat almost anything: pellets, flake, frozen, and beefheart. They need a high vegetable content in their diet.

These fish reach up to 4½" for males and 3½" in length for females in the wild. These sizes can get larger in captivity. It is a very territorial fish. It is recommended to have more females than males in an aquarium. The tank should be large as these fish are quarrelsome, especially with each other or with any fish of similar colouration. They will attack larger fish. Many caves and hiding spots are also useful for keeping johanni.

I received these fish from my father, who having grown them in a 33g tank was finding several of them getting beaten quite badly. The first one I brought home to 'rescue' was a female. The next also looked like a female in my father's tank but the male almost killed it twice. After the fish had been in my tank for 4 days it started getting darker. After a week it was proven to be a male. I also got a third fish from Richard who had taken one of these from my father to rescue it too. They were about 3" when I got them.

They were placed in 90g tank with many other fish. I thought the second one would die because of how bad it looked, but it perked right up in the tank. The tank has a gravel bottom. There are many shells (conch shells), rocks, pots and broken pieces of really large pots in this tank. There are no plants in this tank except for Elodea Canadensis that floats around in the current. Periodically this plant gets trimmed to get rid the parts with the eaten leaves. The plant is in there for the fish to eat. There are 2 Aquaclear 500's on this tank. The pH is around 8. The temp was 77F. 30% weekly water changes are done on this tank. There is a light above the tank but it's a room light so the tank is not very bright.

The male basically ignored the females in the 90g until one of the females started showing a proturbance by her anal fin. He then began to dig a hole between two rocks. However the female was also digging a hole of her own in a corner of the tank. He began to display to her quite strongly. Two days later her ovipositor came out. The next morning she was holding eggs. The second female spawned the day after her.

After 10 days both females ate or spit out their eggs because they were both eating again. It was very disappointing. I figured it was a cause of aggression by the females themselves, because they would attack all the other fish in the tank except the flamebacks, the mooriis and the male. About a month later both females spawned again about 5 days apart. At day 21 I stripped the fry out of the first female, there was about 11 fry. Five days later I stripped the second female and she had 10 fry. Three of these fry were deformed. I normally would have put the females in a tank by themselves to let their fry go, but I had run out of room by that time. I put the fry in a 5g tank. They were fed brine shrimp flake, spirulina and regular flake crumbled up to a small size. They were also fed baby brine shrimp. They are the colour of the female.

I would recommend these fish to people with large tanks who like a lot of colour in their tanks. As of writing this both females are again holding and should be ready to release within days.

© Copyright 1999-2003 Lisa Boorman
All Rights Reserved

Suggested Reading:

Malawi Cichlids in their natural habitat - 2nd edition Ad Konings

Fishkeepers Guide to African Cichlids by Paul Loiselle

The Cichlid Aquarium by Dr. Paul Loiselle

Success with Cichlids from Lake Malawi & Tanganyika by Sabine Melke, U. Erich Friese

Baensch Aquarium Atlas vol. 2 by Dr. Rüdiger Riehl & Hans A. Baensch

Guide to Malawi Cichlids (Back to Nature) by Ad Konings

Enjoying Cichlids by Ad Konings (editor)

Offshore Cichlids of Lake Malawi by George F. Turner

To see more references on cichlids:

Cichlid Book List

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