Above Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Moliwe" female in breeding coloration. Photo by Rick Borstein. | Video by Ted Judy Below
Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Moliwe" is a dwarf, cave spawning cichlid from West Africa, more specifically Cameroon and Nigeria. A number of other location variants are available in the hobby as of this writing such as “Dehane”,“Kienke”, “Lobe“, “Wouri”, “Nigeria Red” and “Calabar”. When obtaining this species, make sure you get the location information and do not mix them with other location varieties as they will readily interbreed.
Interest in dwarf West African cichlids has been growing in the last ten years or so. In 2004, Dr. Anton Lamboj offered a talk at the ACA Convention and his timely publication of the book The Cichlid Fishes of Western Africa caused a stir in the cichlid community. Many of the hobbyists in the audience (author included) had never seen such a variety of West African cichlids presented before.
Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Moliwe" form strong pair bonds and are sexually dimorphic. Females, in breeding color, have rich red-purple bellies with metallic gold highlights. They are spectacular looking fish which get up to about 2.75 inches. Male Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Moliwe" are larger (up to about 3.5 inches) and less colorful, but are still great looking fish. One good identifier of the "Moliwe" location is the checkerboard pattern at the top of the caudal fin on the male.
Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Moliwe" is found primarily in slow moving streams and rivers closely associated with vegetation.
Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Moliwe" is generally hardy and easy to keep provided the aquarist takes into account that this fish is found in cooler waters. I recommend a tank temperature of 70 to 74F. This fish does not do well when kept at 78F or higher. Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Moliwe" may be kept in a community tank setting. Good companions are swordtails and corydoras catfish. Although this is a dwarf cichlids, I recommend keeping it in 20L or larger tank. For multiple pairs, a 40B is recommended. Provide a small cave for the breeding site.
Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Moliwe" are easy to feed. I fed Dainichi Veggie Deluxe pellets, New Life Spectrum pellets and flakes, spirulina flakes and various other flakes. In the wild, Pelvicachromis species are likely invertebrate feeders. In the aquarium, you will observe them constantly picking through the substrate.
I obtained six 1-inch juvenile fish from Ted Judy of Madison, Wisconsin in February, 2012. Ted is a West African cichlid expert and has been to Gabon and other areas of West Africa to collect fish. He is a frequent speaker at GCCA meetings and his website Ted's Fishroom contains a wealth of information on Pelvicachromis and other West African species. I've included a video produced by Ted on Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Moliwe" at the end of this article.
I placed the Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Moliwe" in a forty gallon breeder tank. Companions for the fish were five Xiphophorus alvarezi, a wild-type swordtail from the Atlantic Slope of Mexico. Both species of fish spawned in this tank and you can read my species profile and breeding report on X. alvarezi the Chicago Livebearer Society website.
This aquarium set-up included a sand substrate, some driftwood, and a few live plants. Filtration was provided by a 6-inch Swiss Tropicals Cube sponge filter. I provided several small three inch terracotta breeding caves.
The fish grew quickly and within six months the females were approaching two inches and the males exceeded 2.5 Inches. At this point, I was rewarded with an amazing mating display. Photographs do not adequately convey the beauty of this fish. Females court males actively, displaying their prominent purple bellies. Metallic-gold shines brightly from the dorsal as she flashes at her paramour. The fish spawned in one of the terracotta caves. The female actively defended the cave while the male spent most of his time driving away the other males and making runs at the swordtails.
Brood size is about twenty and the eggs and fry are quite large, about 3/8 inch long. The fry are able to immediately eat baby brine shrimp.
Parental care is outstanding in this species. My pair raised the babies for six weeks, spawned again, and raise those babies as well. The paired fins of the female turn black during brood care and a flick of the dark fins is enough to communicate to the fry to dive to the substrate and congregate.
The fry grow quickly and within about twelve weeks the fry are one-inch long and sexable.
Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Moliwe" is probably not a fish you will find in pet shops, but it is frequently available online and on Aquabid. I'd recommend buying some from Ted Judy who has them available on his website for $20 for six fish.
This video by Ted Judy shows a courting pair of Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Moliwe".
Report December 2012 by Rick Borstein.