Matt Clarke on the stunning Copadichromis mloto, a member of the utaka from Lake Malawi.
Scientific name: Copadichromis mloto (Iles, 1960)
Origin: Lake Malawi endemic. Museum records show that the species has been collected mainly from the south eastern arm in Malawi around Monkey Bay, Thumbi West Island, Mpembe and Chipoka. The species is also known from Nkhata Bay, half way up the Lake\'s west coast.
Size: 12cm/5", possibly a tad bigger in the aquarium.
Diet: Like other Copadichromis, this is a small plankton-feeding shoaling cichlid and a member of the utaka group of haplochromines. Captive fish take most foods readily, including flakes, bloodworm, mysis and brineshrimp.
Water: Hard, alkaline (pH 8.2), temperature 26C/78F.
Aquarium: These are probably found over a variety of substrates, including both sand, rubble and larger rocks, probably in fairly deep water. They do seem to do well in rocky tanks. Some other Copadichromis spawn on rocks, rather than open sand, so mloto may be the same. Either go for a group of females and one or two males in a large tank (120cm/48"+) or mix them with other placid species. Most Aulonocara, Lethrinops and Cyrtocara should be fine, as should the more placid Labidochromis and smaller Pseudotropheus, such as demasoni or saulosi.
Breeding: A maternal mouthbrooder which spawns between August and October in nature, but may spawn throughout the year in the aquarium.
Adult colouration: Develops a stunning blue-black base colour with a beautiful metallic blue head, a little like that of Copadichromis azureus. Some forms or related species, such as "Mloto white top", which is found at Likoma and Chisimulu, can turn blue black ventrally with a shiny metallic blue-white dorsal surface. Females are a drab greyish beige colour.
Availability: A few shops stocking wild fish have had mloto recently, but they\'re pretty rare in the hobby. These were on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics @ Harlestone Heath and were imported from Malawi by African Cichlid Specialists.
Price: These are high-quality wild fish aimed at breeders. Expect to pay around **.**.
This article was first published in the Christmas 2005 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine.