Sciaenochromis fryeri Iceberg

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Erroneously sold as ahli in the shops, this species is a firm favourite with Malawi cichlid enthusiasts, says Matt Clarke.

Common name: Electric Blue Iceberg

Scientific name: Sciaenochromis fryeri 'Iceberg'

Origin: According to the supplier, this is a selectively bred form of Sciaenochromis fryeri (erroneously sold as S. ahli in the trade), bred by Cichlids Made in Belgium. S. fryeri is found throughout Lake Malawi. Older males often develop a white dorsal surface.

Size: Males can reach up to about 12-15cm/5-6". Females are a little smaller.

Diet: A piscivore in nature that hunts on the fry and young of other cichlids, such as Copadichromis and Protomelas. Aquarium specimens will take

flakes and pellets.

Water: Hard, alkaline water, ideally with a pH of 8.0 or more.

Habitat: Found among rocks at the edge of the rock-sand boundary.

Aquarium: Best kept as at least a trio (one male and two females) to prevent a single female being harassed by the amorous males. You ought to try and get half a dozen females. However, due to biased sex ratios, these are often hard to get hold of. Many people mix fryeri with peaceful mbuna, such as Labidochromis, but they do better in a tank with other fishes from the sand-rock margins. If you keep too many males, they may not colour up as well, and fighting is more likely.

Sexing: Females are a fairly plain silver-beige, while males are bright blue. In later life, the colour of males becomes dark blue, and the dorsal surface extending from the mouth to much of the dorsal fin becomes bright white.

Breeding: A non-nest-building maternal mouthbrooder that is quite easy to breed. The female holds a clutch of about 40-60 eggs (sometimes up to 100) which are released when free-swimming about 23 days after spawning, depending on the water temperature. The fry grow quickly on powdered growth food or finely crumbled flakes. The young start to develop their darker blue colour at about 10cm/4" in length. Young males are pale metallic silver-blue.

Notes: The bog-standard S. fryeri is very common and almost universally mis-labelled as ahli, which is actually a different, rarer species. There are four described species in the genus: S. fryeri, S. ahli, S. benthicola and S. psammophilus. True ahli have a longer premaxillary pedicel than fryeri (5.1-5.2 times head length, versus 4.2 times head length in fryeri).

Availability: On sale at Aqua Blue Zaire in Peterlee, County Durham. Most dealers can get the normal aquarium strains of S. fryeri, but 'Iceberg' is much less common.

Price: Around 15 for an 8cm/3" fish.

This article was first published in the November 2004 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine.