The Melanochromis johannii (previously Pseudotropheus johannii) is a real beauty that offers pizzazz to the African cichlid aquarium. The coloring of both the male and female is very appealing, and they almost look like two separate species. The male has a brilliant blue body with darker blue striping, but the dark colors "bleed" onto the lighter blue creating a checkerboard effect. The female and juveniles are a bright yellow-orange.
This fish belongs to a group called Mbuna cichlids. This group has 13 genera of very active and aggressive personalities of Mbuna cichlids. The name Mbuna comes from the Tonga people of Malawi and means "rockfish" or "rock-dwelling". This name aptly describes the rocky environment these fish live in as opposed to being open water swimmers like the Utaka cichlids and other "haps".
Confusion can arise because of the term "Electric Blue" used in its common name. There is another very popular African cichlid that has been known by this name for a number of years. It is the Electric Blue Hap Sciaenochromis fryeriw which is a much different type of cichlid. It is a Hap and so one of the more peaceful open water swimmers. Some other common names M. johannii is known by are Johanni Cichlid, Blue Johanni, Bluegray Mbuna, and Blue Mbuna.
The male of this species is also very similar in appearance to its close relative the Maingano Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos and these two Mbuna species can easily be confused. The Maingano is sometimes called the Electric Blue as well, which adds to the confusion, but it is a separate and distinct species. The male of the M. johannii and both sexes of the Maingano have dark blue to black horizontal bands that runs across the back, but on the M. johannii they are often broken up with spots of light blue. Both these cichild species have also been bred in captivity and there are many captive strains. When obtaining either of these fish, it is best to know the scientific name as well as the common name to make sure you get the species you want.
Both the male and the female Electric Blue Johanni are very attractive African cichlids, and having opposite coloring makes keeping both sexes in the aquarium desirable. Though still not a community tank specimen with fish other than cichlids, they are some of the least aggressive of the Melanochromis species. They are very easy to breed and the juveniles are easy to raise as well.
This is a great fish for both the intermediate and experienced aquarists. It can be moderate to hard in care, depending on the aquarists willingness to do frequent water changes and provide appropriate tank mates. Small quarters and inappropriate tank mates lead to very aggressive behavior by the dominant male. To house one male and several females in a specimen tank, the minimum recommended tank size is 30 to 40 gallons and 36” long. Lots of rockwork providing plenty of hiding places is needed for success. A much larger tank is needed for a mixed African cichlid tank.