As the Fish of the Month for December, there will a bag of 5 x Placidochromis electra around 5cm available at the PCS Meeting for auction. These are special lots to raise money for Stuart Grant Fund for Cichlid Preservation.
Placidochromis electra is a beautiful, interesting and undemanding Malawi haplochromine.
Many varieties exist for this species. Some are more blue, some orange, and then some white with blue accents. This particular morph hails from Londo and is characterized by a white body and a powdery blue head. Its anal fin is a faint red. The dark vertical bars on its body vary in number and appearance based upon its mood. Sometimes only one is visible, and at other times, four can be easily spotted. The dark bars on some males look like they were painted on with charcoal and are very attractive.
Common names: Deepwater Hap, Haplochromis jahni,
The male grows to a length of about 18" (20 cm) with the female being smaller at about 6" (15 cm).
Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Actinopterygii, Order: Perciformes, Family: Cichlidae, Genus: Placidochromis, Species: electra.
Endemic to Lake Malawi. It occurs around Likoma Island and Mara Point, between Chiwindi and Lumbaulo, from Lumnessi to the Malawian border and down the coast of Malawi to Nekete.
Often reffered to as the "Deep Water Hap." The latter name was applied to this cichlid because it was believed until recently that its niche was restricted to deep water, but now it is known to occur at depths deeper than just 7 meters.
Fish belonging to this species are not territorial in the wild or in the aquarium. Mouthbrooding females occur in the same areas as those where both non-brooding females and males in breeding coloration forage. P. electra wanders through the aquarium or its natural habitat, never staying at any particular spot for more than a minute.
In the wild, Placidochromis electra is seen following foraging species, such as Taeniolethrinops praeorbitalis, just like C. moorii and P. phenochilus. These foot-long cichlids filter large amounts of sand through their gills and a lot of detritus is stirred up during the process. Placidochromis electra follows behind, like a dog on its heels, but T. praeorbitalis doesn't seem to mind. The amount of food exposed by the plowing activities of such diggers may not be sufficient for more than one adult follower, who depends exclusively upon this means of feeding. Consequently, individuals of the same species are wary approaching an "occupied" forager. An adult that has claimed a forager will usually signal ownership to others by taking on territorial coloration.
P. electra differs from these others in its foraging behavior in that it does not follow behind a forager that it claims as a "host," but rather is attracted to stirred up sediment. It behaves as an opportunistic feeder, rushing from one "dust cloud" to the next.
This fish is best raised on a combination of flake and pellet foods. Pellets that sink are preferred and even relished. These, of course, should be soaked prior to feeding. After they reach a size of 3" or more, flakes become too messy and might be discontinued.
Feeding Frequency: Daily - Offer several small feedings a day, what they can eat in about 3 minutes or less, rather than a single large feeding.
Keeping the P. electra poses few issues. It is a docile, yet active species; in my opinion, they require a four foot tank because of their activity. A 320 litre aquarium comfortably houses a breeding group of seven 4 - 7 inch specimens. Ideally groups consisting of larger individuals should be housed in six foot tanks of at least 450 litres.
There is need for some open sandy areas for their feeding habits. It is best to decorate the tank with a sand substrate and a few sporadically placed rocks.
Weekly - Water changes of 20-40% weekly are suggested, depending on the bio load.
Malawi Cichlids will deteriorate under poor water conditions. These fish eat a lot and are messy, so an established filtration system along with water changes of 20 to 40% a week depending on bioload, is needed for their health. Malawi bloat is a typical disease especially if their dietary needs are not met with quality foods.
The streams that flow into Lake Malawi have a high mineral content. This along with evaporation has resulted in alkaline water that is highly mineralized. Lake Malawi is known for its clarity and stability as far as pH and other water chemistries. It is easy to see why it is important to watch tank parameters with all Lake Malawi fish.
Rift lake cichlids need hard alkaline water but are not found in brackish waters. Salt is sometimes used as a buffering agent to increase the water's carbonate hardness.
Temperature: 78-82°F (25.6-27.8°C) pH: 7.8 - 8.6 dH range: 12 - 18
After a period of about four years or more, males become very high-backed and a small "hump" may even begin to develop, but nothing like that of its close relative Cyrtocara moorii.
The only time you ever witness aggression in this species is during spawning, and even then it will likely be minimal. Like all Lake Malawi cichlids, hard, alkaline water is desired. I personally like to decorate the tank for this species with a sand substrate and rather few rocks in an attempt to mimic their natural habitat. Over a sand substrate these fish will actively search for food in the sand. P. electra is easy to mix with other Lake Malawi cichlids. Mild-mannered mbuna species, Malawi peacocks, or a docile Malawi haplochromines all make good tankmates.
For the best results it should be spawned in a species tank. Adult fish tend to be quite expensive, so a more feasible option is to start with a group of 6-8 young fish. A 48×15″ aquarium is an adequate size and this should be furnished as suggested above. Be sure to provide some areas of open sand to act as potential spawning sites. The pH should be around 8.0-8.5 and the temperature 77-80°F. Condition the fish on a good diet of live, frozen and dried foods.
When in spawning condition, the male(s) will select an area of the tank as their territory and will defend this against other males. They are far less aggressive in this than many Malawian species, however. In the centre of his territory the male excavates a pit in which spawning will occur. He will display around this spawning site, showing intense colour and attempt to entice females to mate with him. When a female is willing, she will approach the spawning site and lay her eggs there, after which she immediately picks them up in her mouth. The male fish has egg-shaped spots on his anal and the female is attracted to these. When she tries to add them to the brood in her mouth she actually recieves sperm from the male, thus fertilising the eggs.
The female carries the brood of up to 50 eggs for around 3 weeks before releasing the free swimming fry. She will not eat during this period and can be easily spotted by her distended mouth. If a female is overly stressed, she may spit out the brood prematurely or eat them, so care must be taken if you decide to move the fish in order to avoid fry predation. Some breeders artificially strip the fry from the mother’s mouth at the 2 week stage and raise them from that point as this usually results in a larger number of fry, although it must be said that this method is only for the expert. The fry will accept newly hatched brine shrimp or microworm immediately after they become free swimming.
Placidochromis electra juvenile.
The common name is derived from the fact that it was previously thought to be found only in much deeper water than we now know it inhabits. In nature, P. electra feeds from the surface of the substrate on invertebrates and other morsels stirred up by the action of digging substrate feeders such as Taeniolethrinops praeorbitalis. It is attracted to the clouds of sediment thrown up by these species.
Several colour forms exist and these should not be kept together in aquaria as they may hybridise.
Overall Placidochromis electra is a delightful species to keep. A truly breathtaking species, it would be a welcome addition to almost any Malawi show tank. Its undemanding and peaceful nature makes it a wonderful aquarium resident. This species seems to be popular in the aquarium trade at the moment and is usually available from aquarists as well as some fish stores.