Actinopteri (ray-finned fishes) > Cichliformes
(Cichlids, convict blennies) > Cichlidae
(Cichlids) > Pseudocrenilabrinae
Etymology: Melanochromis: Greek, melas, melanos = black + Greek, chromis = a fish, perhaps a perch (Ref. 45335).
Environment: milieu / climate zone / depth range / distribution range
Freshwater; benthopelagic; depth range ? - 5 m (Ref. 89864). Tropical; 11°S - 13°S
Africa: endemic to Lake Malawi (Ref. 89864).
Size / Weight / Age
Maturity: Lm ?  range ? - ? cm
Max length : 12.4 cm SL male/unsexed; (Ref. 89864)
Morphology | Morphometrics
(total): 16 - 18;
soft rays: 6 - 8. Diagnosis: Melanochromis robustus has a basic melanin pattern consisting of two longitudinal black stripes on the body, of which the mid-lateral stripe reverses colour with the background in the breeding male, a character that makes it a member of Melanochromis (Ref. 89864). Female M. robustus are distinguished from all other congeners, except those of M. melanopterus, M. vermivorus, and M. mpoto, by a gray to brown coloured body, which is white to yellow in other congeners; mouthbrooding females may have additional vertical bars on the flanks, but these are more diffuse than the horizontal stripes (Ref. 89864). Both male and female M. robustus are distinguished from M. melanopterus, M. vermivorus, and M. mpoto by a broader interorbital breadth, the width of which is 26.1-29.6% of head length, vs. 16.6-20.6% in M. melanopterus, 18.5-25.5% in M. vermivorus, and 14.8-21.8% in M. mpoto (Ref. 89864). Male M. robustus in breeding colouration are distinguished from all other congeners by a dark-blue body colour and two light blue horizontal stripes on the flank superimposed with dark-blue to black vertical bars; the bars are interrupted by the light-coloured horizontal lines; none of the other known species of Melanochromis has a male colouration where the horizontal and vertical elements of the pattern are expressed simultaneously; superficially, breeding males of the sympatric and smaller M. heterochromis have a similar colouration, albeit lacking the vertical bars; Melanochromis heterochromis can also be distinguished by its light-coloured mid-lateral stripe, which rarely spans more than two scales but is usually three to four scales deep in M. robustus; Melanochromis robustus is further distinguished from M. heterochromis by a longer snout, 33.8-38.0% of head length vs. 26.8-31.5% in M. heterochromis, and by a deeper caudal peduncle, 12.9-14.4% of standard length vs. 9.8-11.7% in M. heterochromis (Ref. 89864).
Found in the very shallow, less than 5 m deep, rocky habitat at the islands of Chinyankwazi and Mumbo in Lake Malawi (Ref. 89864). It has an opportunistic feeding behaviour in which the species is attracted to visible particles floating in the water column rather than collecting food by systematically browsing from the rocky substrate (Ref. 89864). Males in breeding colouration energetically defend spawning sites, which are located inside caves and crevices between the rocks, against conspecific males; male territories have an estimated diameter of 2-3 meters (Ref. 89864). Mouthbrooding females remain solitary and stay close to the rocky substrate (Ref. 89864).
Life cycle and mating behavior
Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae
Konings, A.F. and J.R. Stauffer Jr., 2012. Review of the Lake Malawi genus Melanochromis (Teleostei: Cichlidae) with a description of a new species. Zootaxa 3258:1-27. (Ref. 89864)
IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 123251)
CITES (Ref. 123416)
Threat to humans
Common namesSynonymsMetabolismPredatorsEcotoxicologyReproductionMaturitySpawningSpawning aggregationFecundityEggsEgg development
ReferencesAquacultureAquaculture profileStrainsGeneticsAllele frequenciesHeritabilityDiseasesProcessingMass conversion
Estimates based on models
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805
= 0.5000 [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.01000 (0.00244 - 0.04107), b=3.04 (2.81 - 3.27), in cm total length, based on all LWR estimates for this body shape (Ref. 93245
Trophic level (Ref. 69278
): 3.4 ±0.5 se; based on size and trophs of closest relatives
Resilience (Ref. 120179
): High, minimum population doubling time less than 15 months (Preliminary K or Fecundity.).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153
): Low vulnerability (16 of 100) .