Black chin tilapia, Sarotherodon melanotheron


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The Black chin tilapia, Sarotherodon melanotheron, includes a number of subspecies. Matt Clarke takes a look at the most commonly seen, Sarotherodon melanotheron melanotheron.

Common name: Black chin tilapia
Scientific name: Sarotherodon melanotheron melanotheron
Origin: Museum records show it has been collected from Africa - Cameroon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Benin, the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Toga, Senegal, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Size: Usually around 12-15cm/5"-6", but sometimes up to 20cm/8".
Diet: An aufwuchs feeder that grazes on algae, zooplankton and detritus. Aquarium fish scrape algae from rocks and take virtually any foods offered. Mine are partial to TetraMin Crisps and Prima.

Water: Predominantly in freshwater, but also in brackish waters. It rarely breeds in salty water. Mine are doing well in slightly hard water with neutral pH.
Aquarium: A pair is OK in a 90-120cm/36-48" tank, providing there is plenty of cover for the female. My sub-adults share a 90cm/36" tank with some Tilapia (Coptodon) discolor (a species found in sympatry in Lake Bosumtwi). They're not that aggressive towards the other tilapiines, but my male isn't too keen on his choice of two partners. Said to occur in large groups, so if you have a large tank, you could try a colony.

Similar species: Sarotherodon melanotheron contains five sub-species: S. m. heudelotti, S. m. leonensis, S. m. nigripinnis, S. m. paludinosus and S. m. melanotheron.
Sexing: Sexual differences aren't marked. West African cichlid guru Dr Anton Lamboj tells me that males grow faster and have more black on their heads. My submissive females are very plain and easily distinguished from the more colourful dominant male.
Breeding: These are non pair-bonding paternal mouthbrooders. The female starts to woo the male by digging a pit in the sand. When she's got his attention, she lays up to 200 eggs, which he'll fertilise and pick up in his mouth. He broods the clutch for 15-20 days, depending on temperature. After release, the parents don't look after their offspring. Oddly, some subspecies are maternal mouthbrooders.

Availability: These were on sale at Aqua Blue Zaire in Peterlee, County Durham. Maidenhead Aquatics @ Harlestone Heath had also acquired a batch at the time.
Price: About a fiver a piece.

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