Sam Borstein's Cichlid Page

Protomelas sp. "spilonotus tanzania"

Insignus, Insignus Blue Orange
Protomelas sp. "blue orange", Protomelas insignus (different species)

Above: A male Protomelas sp. "spilonotus tanzania". Photo by Sam Borstein.


Genus- Proto= first (Greek), melas= black (Greek).
Species-spilo= dot (Greek), notus= back (Greek), tanzania= named after the location of the species.


Protomelas sp. "spilonotus tanzania" is a beautiful and undescribed Lake Malawi mouthbrooder. This species, which has an amazing color pattern gets large but is quite docile. This fish is often confused with Protomelas spilonotus and Protomelas insignus, which is a paedeophage and eats the fry and eggs of other mouthbrooders. That I know of, the true Protomelas insignus has never been exported from Lake Malawi. Protomelas spilonotus along with the other undescribed species Protomelas sp. "spilonotus likoma", Protomelas sp. "spilonotus mozambique" and Protomelas sp. "spilonotus tanzania" are all very closely related.


Protomelas sp. "spilonotus tanzania" can be found south of the Ruhuhu River. This fish lives in very shallow, rocky habitats, unique for Protomelas species.

Size, Maturity, and Sexual Dimorphism:

Size: Males- 12 inches, Females- 9 inches
Maturity: 4 inches
Sexual Dimorphism: Males are larger than females and are a lot more colorful than the females which are silver.

Above: A female Protomelas sp. "spilonotus tanzania" holding. Photo by Sam Borstein.


Protomelas sp. "spilonotus tanzania" is not hard to care for. This fish is peaceful for its size. The only real necessity is a large tank to allow the fish to move freely, which they like to do and keeping up with water changes.


Protomelas sp. "spilonotus tanzania" is carnivorous and in the wild feed on insects and invertebrates. In the aquarium they will gladly take most pellet and flake foods.


This fish was easy to breed. I thought this fish would be like Protomelas spilonotus when it came to maturity, but mine colored up and spawned at about 2/3 the size that it took my Protomelas spilonotus.

The fish breed in a typical Haplochromis style. My male dug out a sand pit, displayed to the female and spawning commenced.

Females were excellent holders and held to term every time they bred, which is about 22 days. The fry are large, about 1/2 an inch and not plentiful. My largest spawn was about 24 fry.

The fry are easy to raise starting with baby brine shrimp and then moving to crushed flake. The fry grow fast and pose no significant issues when it comes to raising them.

Protomelas sp."spilonotus tanzania" Female Holding
Above: A female Protomelas sp. "spilonotus tanzania"holding. Photo by Sam Borstein.


Protomelas sp. "spilonotus tanzania" is a beautiful and peaceful fish. This fish is occasionally found at pet shops and is definetely available in hobbyist circles. If you have the tank space, I recommend this fish as it adds a lot of color and poses few problems to keeping it.