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Cichlids / Africa / Lake Malawi / Malawi Eye-biter

Malawi Eye-biter
Dimidiochromis compressiceps

Synonyms: Cyrtocara compressiceps, Haplochromis compressiceps
Physical description: An elongated fish with triangle-shaped head. The mouth is large for catching prey. Body coloring ranges from silver to bright blue. After the edges of the scales are orange giving the fish a spotted appearance. The crest of the back is a rusty-orange color and the caudal fin is body colored. The anal fin may be dark blue to bright orange with some blue and white egg-spots (clearly marked on males). The dorsal fin is elongated and can be blue and orange-spotted with a red edging.
Size/Length: To 10" (25 cm)
Similar species: None
Habitat: The Malawi Eye-biter inhabits thickets of Vallisneria that grow from a sandy substrate. Eastern Africa; Lake Malawi.
S: bottom, middle
Aquarium: 40" (100 cm) or 45-55 gallons (170-209 L) is sufficient for smaller fish. Adult fish need at least a 60" (152 cm) or 90-110 gallon (342-416 L) tank. Larger tanks are appreciated because this fish likes large open swimming areas. Use a coral sand substrate with large rock structures as a back-drop. The sides and the corners of the tank should be heavily planted with Vallisneria. Use a filter that causes little or no current.
Water chemistry: 7.5-8.8 (8.2), 12-25 dH (18), 73-82°F (23-28°C)
Social behavior: A large, peaceful, predator that will consume small fish. The Malawi Eye-biter can be easily combined with other cichlids and catfish that are over 5" (13 cm) in length. Keep one male with several females.
Suggested companions: Lake Malawi Haplochromines, Synodontis, larger mbunas, Polypterus, Afromastacembelus
FOOD: Live fish are the best food. The prey are taken tail-first, the only known predator that consumes its food in this manner. The Malawi Eye-biter will lurk in a head down position, among a thicket of Vallisneria , awaiting its prey. When the prey is sighted, the Malawi Eye-biter will dart out and grab it. Acclimated fish may take pellets, tablets, and large live foods.
Sexual differences: Males are more brightly colored with obvious egg-spots of the anal fin.
Breeding techniques: Breeding can be accomplished in a large tank with an abundance of Vallisneria and rock structures. Place one male with several females. Usually 40-50 eggs are laid and taken into the mouth of the female. The eggs are fertilized by the dummy-egg method. The fry are incubated for about three weeks, when they first emerge. Start feeding the young with Artemia and dry foods.
Breeding potential: 7. Breeding is especially possible in a large tank with only the one male and several females being placed in it.
Remarks: This species has a reputation for eating the eyes of other fish. This is a true feeding habit of wild fish. A number of theories have arisen from this behavior; some feel that the eye-eating is a result from an attempt to blind its prey, other think that the eyes are a delicacy for the fish, and still others believe that this behavior can be attributed to a lack of food. For whatever reason, the eyes are not taken often. This behavior has not been observed in aquaria.
Difficulty of care: 5. A hardy fish that requires a large tank. Be aware that this species is piscivorous. Live foods are required in the diet of this fish.


By Rhett Butler   Mongabay.com