Care Level: Easy
Live Plant Safe: With Caution
General Description: The Hap Red Empress is endemic throughout Lake Malawi in rocky areas with clear water. The majority of specimens within the aquarium trade are commercially produced, however, and for this fish, it is a specific strain referred to as “Boadzulu.” This strain has been selectively bred for to give the characteristic ‘Red Empress’ look we’re familiar with, which looks a bit different from the wild-type Protomelas taeniolatus. This fish is often referred to as a ‘Hap’ because it is within the tribe of African cichlids known as Haplochromines. Female Red Empress have silver bodies, orange tips on the dorsal fin and a black horizontal line across the middle of their body. This is also true of juvenile male Red Empress, however a tinge of color could be observed to hint that it is a male. An adult male Red Empress will develop a menagerie of colors; the body will be red to orange or even yellow, while the face and dorsal fin will be blue to blue-green. This combination of colors truly makes a Red Empress a statement piece in the community Malawi cichlid aquarium. A relatively peaceful fish, yet Red Empress are more robust than some other similar species and can thrive in an aquarium with more semi-aggressive Mbuna cichlids. Red Empress are quite active and would do best in a tank that provides such space for ample exploration and movement. It is best to keep a male Red Empress solitary or with several females. An adult Red Empress can reach a size of approximately 8″.
Diet Requirements: Red Empress are primarily herbivorous and such foods should make up a large portion of their diet. Various high quality vegetable and spirulina based flake foods and sinking pellet foods are ideal. Frozen spirulina brine shrimp can be fed in moderation. Blanched vegetables are excellent options. Variety is the spice of life in order to maintain color, immune function and longevity of your fish. Red Empress should not be fed a diet high in protein, and avoid beef heart altogether, as this disturbs their digestive system.
Care Requirements: An established minimum 55 gallon aquarium is ideal for a Red Empress. Biweekly water changes are encouraged to keep water parameters up to standard (Nitrates < 30 ppm). The aquarium should be aquascaped with some stacked rocks to create hiding spaces and caves, but for this species, more unobstructed and open swimming space should be provided. A sandy or fine substrate is preferred and the aquarium needs to be well oxygenated. This species has been found to be associated with beds of Vallisneria plants in the wild. African cichlid specific substrates, or even marine Aragonite substrate, are great choices because they will buffer the pH and alkalinity to levels characteristic of Lake Malawi. Red Empress are very dynamic in their compatibility with other Malawian and Tanganyikan fish, though a more peaceful tank is preferred. Recommended water conditions, 74-80° F, KH 10-25, pH 7.5-8.5.
Purchase Size: Small: 1-1/2” to 2”; Medium: 2-1/4” to 3”; Large: 3-1/4” to 4”
Note: Your item may not look identical to the image provided due to variation within species. Purchase sizes are approximate.