Pinstripe damba, Paretroplus menarambo

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Matt Clarke on the Pinstripe damba, Paretroplus menarambo, from Madagascar.

Common name: Pinstripe damba

Scientific name: Paretroplus menarambo Allgayer, 1996

Origin: This species was endemic to a single locality in Madagascar, where it lived in Lake Sarodrano in the Sofia basin. However, it hasn't been seen in the wild since the late 1990s, despite specific attempts to track it down. It is now on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and is classed as 'extinct in the wild'. Deforestation, the introduction of non-native species and overfishing for food are cited as the probable cause of its demise.

Size: Fairly large at 20-25cm/8-10".

Diet: Accepts most foods, including frozen, flakes, pellets etc. The unicuspid dentition suggests that it was a snail eater in nature.

Water: Adaptable, but most people keep them in hard, alkaline water. According to Tom Williams these do best at high temperatures, a minimum of 28 C.

Aquarium: This is probably the best looking of Madagascar's paretropline cichlids and looks rather like a marine fish when mature. It's a graceful cichlid and reaches a fairly large size, so it deserves very spacious quarters (say a 180 x 60 x 60cm/6'x 2'x 2'). Given the conservation status, it would be best to go for a group of six or so with the intention of raising them to adulthood and trying to breed them. Pairs should form naturally if you raise a large group together.

Furnish the tank with plenty of bogwood and river worn boulders to provide cover. Do lots of large partial water changes (say 30-50% per week), as Madagascan's are typically rather intolerant of pollutants. Add a sand substrate, as these fish sift for their food.

Like most Madagascan cichlids it is a slow grower and takes nearly two years to reach sexual maturity, which means captive breeding attempts are rarely quick to yield results.

Sturdy catfishes and other Madagascan cichlids make suitable tankmates.

Notes: Paretroplus menarambo has been the subject of cichlid conservation projects for a while, and British cichlid enthusiasts, such as Sonia Guinane and Dave Tourle, have played a big part in learning more about how to keep and breed these fish. They use artificial incubation techniques for the eggs and fry which led to the fish being reared quite successfully.

Availability: This species has been around in private cichlid circles for quite a few years. These ones came from Singapore, where the species is now been produced commercially. I saw some of the first specimens on display at Aquarama 2007 in Singapore last year. These were on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics @ Peterborough and should be available from most specialist dealers who import from Singapore.

Price: On sale for £10.

This article was first published in the March 2008 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.