The Back To Nature Guide to Malawi Cichlids by Ad Konings says that the “Perlmutt” is found at Higga Reef, Mbamba Bay Island, and along the rocky coast south of Mbamba Bay (Chuwa). They are cave dwellers in the wild and eat invertebrates off the ceilings of caves or off the rocks. (Pages 55 and 56)
I have had a colony of breeders for the past 3 years and have found them to be beautiful and interesting fish to keep. They will dig in the gravel but not as bad as some other Malawi Cichlids do. They do like to have caves and rocky areas to hide in, yet they are very active swimmers. The females tend to school together and the Males will try to get the females to their breeding site. I have one male that is always cleaning a slanted rock and acting as if he is releasing sperm for any female nearby.
The mouth-brooding females do not seem to carry very many eggs at one time and the young are very easy to see when released where they can hide quickly. It seems to me that there is no real breeding cycle. The females don’t seem to take much time off and the only way I have slowed down the young is by turning off the heater and letting the tank go to 66 or so. The cooler water does not bother them.
I have found the fish to eat anything I put in the tank. Flake food, spirulina flakes or tabs, pellets of all sizes, shrimp pellets and snails. I bought a small can of the new Pro Tropical Crisps by Tetra to try for my smaller fish and the Perlmutts just loved them. They like to play with the food, steal it from each other and swim away with their treats.
I decided to add a few other fish to my tank of Perlmutts a couple months ago. Thinking my fish did not eat fish; I added 9 nice zebra danios for fast movement. Whoops. They are not fast enough. It was not fun seeing half a fish sticking out the Perlmutts mouth while he tried to swallow the fish whole. I now have 4 danios. I have 2 Red-Finned Loaches, one hides so much I thought I only had one. The Perlmutts will chase them a little bit but no harm has been done. The other fish are 2 bristlenose Pleco’s. They can take care of themselves. They are out and about quite a bit. When I drop in the Tetramin tablets for the Pleco’s, I loose some to the Perlmutts.
Tank Picture I have to admit I have not been the best caretaker. I do not change their water weekly or monthly. I may even miss cleaning the filter. They seem to take it all in stride. I use a blend of hard water to start and then when I have to just add 10 gallons or so, I use the soft water. The fish will start to rub themselves on the rocks when the water quality is starting to bother them. I have had no illness with these fish. Old age has killed them or an other male has killed off the oldest male. Right now I have 4 pairs in a 75-gallon tank. I will need to get rid of some of the males. I am sure as they all get to almost 5 inches there will be lots of fights. I have seen a nasty pushing war. Locked jaws and pushed from the top of the tank to the bottom. At least there was no death.
Familylife in a 75 Gallon Perlmutt Tank
As a hobbyist, I like to watch the fish as they may be in the wild. The babies are let go in rocky hiding places and are ready to eat flake food right away. Makes one think that they may have shared dinner with their mom, as they do not quit eating. The young school near the bottom of the tank, never far from a tight spot to hide in. They join the females in schools at the size of 3/4 inch, still hiding from the males when threatened. There are always different sized young in the family. The young seem to learn from each other. When feeding time everyone will come out of hiding. The larger fish eat at the top of the tank and smaller ones wait till the food floats down to their area.
These fish are touchable and always hungry. They will always come to greet you when they are looking for food or to get touched!
I hope to see more Labidochromis sp. “perlmutt” available to all hobbyist.
All pictures and text on this page are © Vicki Scocchera, Aquarium Hobbyist