Exasperatus Cichlid (Melanochromis Joanjohnsonae)

Exasperatus Cichlid

Exasperatus cichlid, also known as Melanochromis joanjohnsonae (formerly Pseudotropheus joanjohnsonae), or the pearl of likoma cichlid fish, is a beautiful freshwater fish native to Lake Malawi in Africa, belongs to the family of Cichlidae, and primarily inhabit rocky shorelines of lagoons and reefs that have varying amounts of sunlight exposure.

It comes in two varieties, either male or female, and both have incredible color changes that are associated with its mating season. Exasperatus cichlids are considered to be aggressive if kept with other types of fish and should only be kept with other exasperatus cichlids or those that can hold their own in an aggressive environment.

Cichlids are freshwater fish that come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, but not every cichlid species is as easy to care for as others. In fact, many cichlid species can be quite difficult to care for because they’re so picky about their environment and will die if it changes even slightly. Exasperatus cichlids are one of these species and require highly specific conditions in order to live long and healthy lives.

Origin and description

The exasperatus cichlid is endemic to Lake Malawi in Africa. They are popular with fish enthusiasts because of the beautiful colors and patterns on their scales, which are different for every individual fish. The species was named after the researcher Dr. John Johnson, who first identified it in 1985.

Exasperatus cichlids thrive best when kept in groups of six or more individuals, ideally 10-20, and should be housed with other non-aggressive cichlids that share similar water chemistry.

Species profile

Exasperatus Cichlid

Initially a speckled mbuna (Labidochromis joanjohnsonae), it transforms into a blue and black mbuna in its adulthood. While juvenile fish have yellow stripes, adults usually have pale bands of light blue. Females rarely act aggressively toward fish with similar appearances, but males may.

Nimbochromis Livingstonii (Livingston's Cichlid)

Their aggression does not look like lip-locking, but rather like a rapid dive into the target.
A sediment-rich rocky habitat is a home to Labidochromis joanjohnsonae on Likoma Island. The fish belongs to the Mbuna cichlid family. A 4 ft aquarium with a rocky reef effect should be aquascaped.

A sturdy structure can be constructed from the bottom of the tank up to the water’s surface using decor such as ocean rock. In order to create many crevices for the fish to explore, the structures should be built in a way that keeps the rocks stable. The fish dig around and bury themselves.

Exasperatus cichlid scientific name

The scientific name of the exasperatus cichlid is Melanochromis joanjohnsonae.

Exasperatus Cichlid habitat

Exasperatus cichlids are found in Lake Malawi, Africa. They live in the rocky areas of the lake and can be found at depths from 2-20 meters. Their habitat is often near a sandy or muddy bottom with weed beds near rocks or other structures.

Exasperatus Cichlid size and weight

The Exasperatus cichlid is a relatively small fish. They have an average size of 3 to 5 inches (7.6 to 12.7 cm) in length, and a weight of around 0.1 kg (100 g).

Exasperatus Cichlid tank size

These Cichlids can be kept in tanks with varied tank sizes, but it is best to make sure the tank is at least 50 gallons (189 liters). The larger the tank, the more stable water parameters and less maintenance required. For a group of Exasperatus cichlids, up to 5 or more, a 79 gallon tank (300 liters) will be perfect for this job.

Exasperatus Cichlid tank mates

The Exasperatus cichlid is a territorial fish, so tank mates should be chosen with care. I would recommend not adding any other fish to the tank. If you do want to add something else, try some snails or shrimp to help keep the glass clean. This is also a very aggressive species of cichlids, so it might be best to avoid any species that can’t get away from it quickly or easily.

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If you plan on including tank mates, fish such as Malawi Golden Cichlid, Electric Blue Maingano Cichlid, and Yellow Tail Acei will be good options.


Exasperatus Cichlid

Males become more aggressive when they are ready to spawn and their coloration intensifies. In order to spawn, he selects and cleans a spawning site, then displays himself to female fish until one accepts him. After circling each other several times, the female will lay her eggs.

She deposits them one or two at a time, then picks them up immediately. Meanwhile, as the male rotates in an almost vertical position, he extends his anal fin, releasing his milt while shaking.

In addition to picking up real eggs that she had deposited, the female also attempts to pick up the “eggs” on the male’s anal fin. During this process of fertilization, the ritual may last for several hours. It is possible to produce fry for up to a few days after hatching after the eggs have been incubated for up to 25 days.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

The Exasperatus Cichlid is a relatively aggressive cichlid and will not do well with other species in their tank. They are not great choices for new fish keepers due to their aggressiveness and size.

Exasperatus cichlid care information

Exasperatus Cichlid


The Exasperatus cichlid is a beautiful fish that is easy to maintain. They are scavengers, so they will eat anything given to them. They need a tank with lots of rocks and crevices for hiding spots, as well as some open space for swimming.

This fish is a hardy cichlid that can handle a wide range of water parameters and feedings. The water should be filtered and kept at a steady temperature of about 76 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

What they eat

The Exasperatus cichlid is Omnivorous with a preference for a variety of meaty foods, live or frozen. The diet should include some type of small animals such as bloodworms, earthworms, tubifex worms, and brine shrimp.

Pseudotropheus socolofi (Powder Blue Cichlid)

They also eat plant-based matter in the form of spirulina flakes and algae tablets. Vegetables like peas and spinach can be fed occasionally to provide some variety in their diet.

Tank requirements

The exasperatus cichlid is a large and aggressive fish. A minimum of a 50 gallon tank with plenty of hiding places, live plants, and rocks are needed to keep these fish happy. They like to have lots of territories and they will fight with other fish that invade their space. Make sure the tank has enough hiding spaces so the others can get away from each other.


The average lifespan for an Exasperatus Cichlid ranges from 4 to 10 years.

Parasites and diseases

The Exasperatus cichlid is most commonly affected by ich, a protozoan parasite that will attack the fish’s skin and gills. Signs of ich include small white spots on the fish’s body and fins, as well as red patches on the fish’s eyes. Ick can also cause thickening of the skin, white spots on the fins, and ulcers in or near the mouth.

Predators (What animals prey on them)

This species is subject to a number of predators, but the most common seems to be the Nile perch. Nile perches will eat them at any stage of development. Fish eagles and other large birds are also known to prey on them in some areas. In Lake Malawi, they are preyed on by yellow-spotted rockfish and other large species.

Do they make good pets?

The Exasperatus Cichlid does make a good pet, but it is one of the more aggressive cichlids and should not be kept with any other type of fish.

One major issue that can come up with this type of cichlid is aggression, so make sure you have enough space and a lot of hiding places for each fish. Overall, the Exasperatus Cichlid does make a good pet for someone who has had experience owning this type of fish in the past.

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