Red Zebra Cichlid (Maylandia estherae)

red zebra cichlid

Maylandia estherae, also known as the red zebra cichlid, red zebra mbuna, orange zebra cichlid, orange mbuna cichlid, or Esther grant’s zebra, and was previously known as Pseudotropheus estherae, is a freshwater fish from Lake Malawi in Africa, where it inhabits sandy areas with plentiful rock hiding spots and ample plant life.

Much of the colorful fish in the aquarium trade are members of the genus Maylandia, which was established in 2005 to group together several cichlids previously lumped together as metallic cichlids. One of the most well-known species that belong to this genus is the red zebra cichlid, otherwise known as Maylandia estherae. This attractive species has become one of the most popular aquarium fish in recent years due to its beautiful coloration and hardy nature.

Maylandia estherae is a zebra cichlid endemic to Lake Malawi, which makes it an important part of the culture and economy of Malawi. Despite being native to this region, it has become threatened in recent years due to over-fishing and habitat destruction from human activities such as mining and farming.

Origin and description

A rock-dwelling African Cichlid species such as Malylandia estherae stands out among the others. This species is endemic to Lake Malawi, and it can be found along the lake’s eastern coast.

It is pertinent to note that they are not always red despite being known as Red Zebra Cichlids. Stripes are not always displayed either. Due to their polymorphism, they display a variety of colors. There are many colors that are available for this coloration, including brown, beige, orange, blue, pink, and yellow.

As their names don’t always correspond to their appearance, they are often referred to in local fish stores as “African Cichlids” or “Assorted African Cichlids.” Since African Cichlids come in a variety of species with different care requirements, it is ideal to identify the exact species of the fish.

Species profile

red zebra cichlid

The Maylandia estherae, also known as the red zebra cichlid, is a type of freshwater fish found in Lake Malawi. The Maylandia estherae is an herbivore that consumes algae and plankton. This fish is one of the most popular types of cichlids in the aquarium trade because it is easy to breed and has bright colors.

Maingano Cichlid (Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos)

Red zebra cichlid male or female

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a red zebra cichlid male or female. The reason for this is the fact that both males and females come in a variety of colors.

There is a stronger orange coloration on the male Red Zebra Cichlids. Contrary to male Red Zebra Cichlids, females tend to be more blue-colored. It is not always possible to observe this sexual dimorphism in polymorphic species. In many cases, there are blue males and orange females.

The number of egg spots on their anal fins can also be used to distinguish between a red zebra cichlid female and a male. In the mature male, there will be 4 to 7 egg spots. Females, on the other hand, will have 0 to 3 egg spots.

Common names of Maylandia estherae

Common names of Maylandia estherae include red zebra mbuna, red zebra cichlid, Esther grant’s zebra, orange mbuna cichlid, or orange zebra cichlid, and was previously known as Pseudotropheus estherae.


African cichlids such as the Red Zebra Cichlid are stunning rock dwellers. The species can be found along Lake Malawi’s eastern coast, where they are endemic. In their natural habitat, these fish live in warm, slow-moving freshwater that has a rocky, sandy substrate that offers plenty of hiding places.

Red zebra cichlid size

The average size of red zebra cichlid is 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.7 cm) long with males being larger than females.

Maylandia estherae tank size

A big enough tank is essential for any cichlid, but most importantly for the red zebra cichlid. The aquarium should be at least 55 gallons (208 liters) with a sand substrate and lots of rocks, plants, and driftwood to provide hiding places.

Tank mates

While Maylandia estherae is a beautiful fish that draws the attention of many hobbyists, they should not be housed with many other species of cichlid in the same tank. They are territorial by nature and may fight for territory or mates. Additionally, due to their aggressive behavior, it is advised not to keep them with any other too peaceful fish species either because they will view them as potential threats.

Ice Blue Zebra Cichlid (Metriaclima greshakei)

The most suitable tank mates for the Red Zebra Cichlid are fish that do not cross its territory. It is fine to house them with some plecos, and some species of catfish. You must ensure that the fish you plan on housing with your Red Zebra Cichlid will have a lot of hiding places.

Some good tank mates are Electric Yellow, Kennyi, or the Albino Auratus.

Red zebra cichlid breeding

red zebra cichlid

The ideal ratio of males to females for red zebra cichlids is one male per three females. This will increase your chances of them spawning. The males will flash their bodies at the females to attract them to their territory. As soon as the red zebra cichlid female arrives at the male’s territory, the female lays her eggs on a flat surface, usually a rock or cave nest set up by the male. Females will gather their eggs in their mouths after laying them.

The process is known as mouthbrooding. As opposed to other species of fish, females gather the eggs in their mouths rather than males. red zebra cichlid females will carry fertilized eggs in their mouths until they hatch after the male fertilizes them.

As the yolk of the egg is rather large, it takes time for the red zebra cichlid juvenile to absorb it once they hatch. The fry will absorb the nutrients over a period of three weeks. red zebra cichlid juvenile can be fed baby brine shrimp or small daphnia once they are free swimming.

Red zebra cichlid aggression

Red Zebra Cichlids are more territorial than aggressive. They are actually less aggressive than other Cichlids. It is common for them to bully and harass other fish in their aquarium, sometimes to the point of death, if they are not given adequate space.

Aggression is a common problem among cichlids, so it is important to know what causes this type of behavior and how to deal with it. There are many factors that can lead to aggression in fish, such as territory disputes or stress. In the case of territorial disputes, you should do your best to provide each fish with its own space.

Pseudotropheus perspicax (Trewavas, 1935)

Stress is also a common cause of aggression and there are some steps that can be taken for dealing with this issue.

Keeping the aquarium large enough for a red zebra cichlid and any other fish you might have in it is the easiest way to prevent it from becoming aggressive. Red Zebra Cichlids are territorial fish, so make sure you keep in mind that they will find a space they like, claim it, and guard it against other fish. By claiming these spaces, they may be able to attract potential mates.

Red zebra cichlid care

red zebra cichlid

The red zebra cichlid is a freshwater fish that is easy to care for but needs a lot of space because they like to form large schools. They will eat almost anything, so you don’t have to worry about feeding them too much. However, it’s important that you feed them at least twice a day and make sure the tank has enough oxygen and is big enough for all of them.

What they eat

As omnivorous fish, they will eat any packaged or frozen food you offer. However, they prefer a mostly herbivorous diet of algae and cichlid pellets, along with fresh green vegetables and frozen soft meats like Mysis shrimp.

Tank requirements

The Red Zebra Cichlid is a freshwater species of cichlid, meaning it lives in fresh water and not salt water. The tank should be 55 gallons or larger with plenty of rocks, driftwood, and live plants for hiding spaces. Their tank should have water that is between 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

They need a pH level between 6.0 to 8.0 and the hardness level needs to be below 10°dH. Keep an eye on ammonia levels as they are prone to having ammonia spikes. They are also sensitive to nitrates so make sure these levels stay at 0ppm.

If you have other fish in your aquarium, make sure they are not similar-looking fish because they may fight with each other if there is too much competition for food. Feed them small amounts three times a day and watch out for any sudden changes in behavior like staying close to the surface, scratching themselves against objects, or turning sideways.

Kenyi Cichlid (Maylandia lombardoi)


The lifespan of the Maylandia estherae is about 5 to 10 years if cared for properly.

Parasites and diseases

The Red Zebra cichlids are susceptible to a number of parasites and diseases. The most common is Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, also known as ick or white spot disease. This parasite can be treated with medication, but it is important to treat the entire tank at once because the ick may have spread to other fish in the tank if you didn’t quarantine them when you first purchased them.

You should also wash your hands after touching any aquarium equipment that could contain the parasite.

Predators (What animals prey on them)

Predators of the Maylandia estherae are not well-known, but the natural enemies of all cichlids include other cichlids. Other predators include birds, snakes, raccoons, otters, and largemouth bass.

Do they make good pets?

The red zebra cichlid is a beautiful fish that makes a great pet. They are typically quite hardy, though they do require a bit more care than some other types of fish. The water needs to be kept clean and the tank should be larger in order to provide ample space for the red zebra cichlid to swim and explore.