A female Metriaclima sp "msobo" deep below:
If there is such a thing as a dominant female, big momma below is it. Not any more aggressive than the others, just first in line at the dinner table. None of the other females are at all chubby like the one below.
My msobo are a classic example of the fact that egg spots can not be used to identify the sex. Every male has three very distinct egg spots and every female has none.....except one female. I assumed that this was a sub-dominant male until I saw her holding.
A male msobo below
Three different colored males below
The msobo all start life as a little yellow cichlid (see below) then the males develop a very random light blue vs dark blue blotchy coloring. Note the difference between the four males above. The first two are almost completely dark blue with "electric" light blue. The other two males have considerably less, or almost no dark blue at all, and the light blue is not as "electric" as it is in the dominant male.
In April of 2003, I bought eight 1 inch long mbuna from the LFS labeled Pseudotropheus sp "deep tanzania". The manager of the LFS told me that they are also known as "msobo". Unfortunately, as they grew I realized that I had 7 males and 1 lone female. Since that would never work, I returned to the LFS in August, sold 5 males, and purchased 10 more small msobo from a new shipment. The LFS employee allowed me to choose, from the little yellow fish, the ones that I thought were females. As they grew I realized that, in this group, I had 5 males and 5 females. (Score that; 7 males & 6 females). Then 3 males staked out separate territories and killed 1 of the males. I went back to the LFS in January and sold 4 males and purchased 6 more msobo from a third LFS shipment. (I think I now have: 3 males & 11 females, whew)
There doesn't appear to 100% consistant information about the msobo in the literature or on the internet. There seems to be at least three varieties: Metriaclima msobo "magunga", M. msobo "membe deep", and M. msobo "Lundo Island". The Lundo Island variety is also known as the Metriaclima sp. "heteropictus". I have not found there to be any physical differences between the "Magunga" and "Membe deep" varieties, however, the Lundo Island variety is distinctly different. I feel that the Lundo Island variety are not as good looking since the females are a little more dirty yellow as they age and the males have vertical blue stripes rather than the random blotchy pattern. They are a smaller more peaceful mbuna growing to around 4 1/2".
The msobo breed frequently in my 180 gallon tank. With this many females, there is at least one holding at almost any given time. (Note the little eyeball inside the fenales mouth.)
I was originally surprised to find out that they are actually one of the pseudotropheus that will be split off into the new Metriaclima or Maylandia genus. The first year they reminded me a whole lot more of the Pseudotropheus saulosi than they do any of the zebra type of cichlids. Now that they are fully mature the "zebra look" is becoming more evident.
You can see some of the stages of color change in the male below:
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