Melanochromis joanjohnsonae

Common Name: Exasperatus
Latin Name: Melanochromis joanjohnsonae
Origin: Lake Malawi, Africa
Temperature: 78 – 82°F (25-28°C)
Ease Of Keeping: Easy
Aggressivness: Generally aggressive. Very aggressive when breeding.
Adult Size: 5″ (12cm)
Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Feeding: Herbivorous foods including fresh or blanched lettuce, zucchini, cucumber, or spinach. Spirulina flakes or pellets. Do not feed food high in animal proteins.
Spawning Method: Mouthbrooder

Comments: The Exasperatus has been a popular aquarium fish a many years. They are beautiful, fairly common and affordable. They will comfortably reside in a standard 55 gallon aquarium among other mbuna species.

Recommended decor would be a substrate of sand for them to dig around in and piles of rocks creating caves of many sizes for males to claim territories, for subdominant males to find refuge in and for females to escape to whenever dominant males become a bit rough in their advances. Both males and females look the same as juveniles with orange, green and yellow iridescent zig-zag patterns but males develop a blue coloration, a black edge to the dorsal fin and at times dark vertical barring. Females retain the beautiful juvenile coloration.

Breeding is easy as they will breed in typical mbuna fashion. A male will claim a territory and will show for a female to entice her into breeding with him. Males will chase reluctant females almost relentlessly so it is recommended that you keep at least 3 females per male. The female will take each egg into her mouth after laying and mouth the eggspots on the males anal fin, when she does this the male releases his milt and fertilizes the eggs already in the female’s mouth. Incubation lasts about 3 weeks.

Newly hatched fry can take crushed flake right off but foods like microworms, vinegar eels and baby brine can be fed (in moderation!) as well. The fry grow quickly with clean water, plenty of water changes and good food.

In my experience the males are considerably peaceful (for an mbuna 😉 ) when no females are present. In the presence of females, a male is very aggressive and very territorial and can claim much of a 4′ tank for himself.

These are beautiful fish not to be overlooked by anyone who desires to keep a little “fire” in their mbuna community.