Taiwan Reef Cichlid (Protomelas sp. Steveni Taiwan): Care Guide

Common Name(s)Taiwan Reef Cichlid, Steveni Taiwan, Chimoto Reds
Scientific NameProtomelas sp. Steveni Taiwan
OriginLake Malawi, Africa
Temperature23-28 °C (73-82 °F)
Size15 cm (6 inches)
Minimum Tank Size75 Gallon
Food & DietHerbivore
Lifespan5 years, 7-10 years under proper care
Water pH7.6-8.6
Tank MatesVictorian Haps, Malawi Peacocks, Malawi Haps, as well as several other Cichlid varieties
Common DiseaseTuberculosis, Malawi Bloat, Swim Bladder Disease

The Taiwan Reef Cichlid (Protomelas sp. Steveni Taiwan) is a gorgeous species of cichlid normally found in select areas in the Taiwan Reef of Lake Malawi, Africa.

Taiwan Reef Cichlid is one of the most popular Haplochromis amongst African Cichlid keepers because of its vibrant electric blue and bright yellow colors.

While they are slightly territorial, this species of cichlid gets along with Haps and other cichlids very well, making them perfect for any aquarium owner looking to add a pop of color to their Cichlid tank.

Like many other cichlids, the males have much more vibrant colors when compared to their female counterparts.

It takes about two years for males to fully show their colors, however, they are worth the wait.

Taiwan Reef Cichlid
Taiwan Reef Cichlid. Edited. Michael Gil from Toronto, ON, Canada, CC BY 2.0.

Taiwan Reef Cichlid Care

Taiwan Reef Cichlids are very easy to take care of. However, it requires the proper steps.

For temperature monitoring, regularly test the tank conditions using a thermometer, ensuring the temperature is in a comfortable range.

Measuring the pH level can be done through a pH testing kit, and feeding can be done via any flakes made for Reef Cichlids.

The only inconvenience in their care is that the water needs to be changed frequently to prevent waste buildup, however, after seeing the gorgeous additions to your tank, you won’t regret getting a Taiwan Reef Cichlid for yourself.


Taiwan Reef Cichlid prefers water temperatures similar to that of Lake Malawi, around 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit.

In addition, the filtration within the tank should be configured to ensure turbulent water flow, imitating the conditions of Lake Malawi as closely as possible.

Maintaining a comfortable environment for your fish is crucial for a successful adjustment into a new habitat.

Water pH

The water should be on the alkaline side, so keep the pH level between 7.8-8.6.

Like most Protomelas, this fish will eat nearly everything you put in the tank.

Unfortunately, this can lead to a large amount of uneaten food and waste, which can quickly pollute the water and pose a danger to your fish.

Because these fish are incredibly susceptible to poor tank conditions, a powerful filtration system is a necessity.

For maintenance, we recommend a 20-50% weekly water change in tandem with vacuuming the gravel to remove any polluting particles

Avoid any sudden changes in water chemistry, as this can be extremely harmful to the health of your cichlid.

Taiwan Reef Cichlid Size

Taiwan Reef Cichlids are fairly late bloomers, taking over two years to reach full maturity of up to six to seven inches.

While they can grow up to ten inches under ideal conditions, most will not exceed five inches in their lifetime.

Food & Diet

Feeding this species is extremely easy. Since algae form the majority of their diet in the wild, it is advised to offer them food rich in vegetable matter and fiber, such as reef cichlid pellets or high-quality flakes.

Spirulina algae are a great choice for feeding your cichlids.

Like other Protomelas species, reef cichlid is very greedy, and will eat nearly anything.

As such, do your best to avoid overfeeding, or you’ll face digestive concerns later on.


In captivity, the average lifespan of a Taiwan reef cichlid is five years.

Under experienced care these fish can live up to seven to ten years with optimal care, however, most will not live much longer than five years.

Tank Size

The best tank for Taiwan Reef Cichlid should provide plenty of space to swim freely, which is why the minimum size for these fish to live comfortably is recommended to be 75 gallons or greater.

In addition, Taiwan reef cichlids tend to be territorial, so the tank needs to provide sufficient space for each cichlid to be able to comfortably establish their territories.

They already have a mildly aggressive temperament, and a tank with inadequate space has the potential to make it worse.

Tank Setup

Your Taiwan Reef Cichlid will thrive in a habitat that closely resembles its home in nature, such as a rocky Malawi tank with plenty of open swimming space.

The substrate of this tank should be made of sand or fine gravel, as they often enjoy digging through the ground for pieces of leftover food.

Make sure to place a generous amount of rocks in the habitat in a cave-like manner, in addition to arched passageways.

These structures will act as areas for cichlids to claim their territories, providing protection and safety when they feel they need it.


Taiwan Reed Cichlid are easy to breed, and can also breed with other compatible cichlid species as well, resulting in hybridization.

Taiwan Reef Cichlids are highly prolific mouth brooders, which means they reproduce in very large numbers to account for low survivability in nature.

If you want your Taiwan reef cichlids to breed, it’s best to put one male and several females in the same tank, dividing the male’s attention between the females while simultaneously boosting your odds of successful breeding.

The male will become increasingly aggressive towards other males of the same or similar species during the breeding period.

The male will entice a mate and as the female lays her eggs he will fertilize them.

The process continues till all the eggs are fertilized and the female holds them in her mouth for three to four weeks, during which time she does not eat at all.

After that period, both parents will proceed to neglect the fry,  refusing to make any further effort to protect them.

How Can I Tell If My Taiwan Reef Cichlid Is Male Or Female?

Determining the sex of your Taiwan Reef Cichlid is done by observing the colors as well as the patterns present on the body.

Male Taiwan Reef Cichlids have red pelvic and anal fins, with a white stripe that goes from the top of its head down to the tip of its’ dorsal fin.

The flanks of this gender are a deeper shade of orange, with shades of blue starting at the dorsal fins.

The male won’t usually show its full colors until about 2 years of age.

Female Taiwan Reef Cichlids will have a metallic silver shaded body. 

In addition, they will have markings resembling six lateral lines and two broken horizontal lines on their bodies, similar to the letter ‘H’.

Taiwan Reef Cichlid Diseases

Cichlids are one of the largest families of freshwater fishes, and as such, are extremely vulnerable to contracting a variety of aquarium fish diseases.

Unfortunately, when cultivating a freshwater aquarium, you will inevitably have to deal with at least one aquarium fish disease in your tank, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be unprepared.

Even the most attentive owners will not be able to prevent every single pathogen from reaching their fish, which is why we’ve highlighted a few of the most detrimental diseases that threaten the Taiwan Reef Cichlid:

Swim Bladder Disease

You’ll notice your cichlid is affected by swim bladder disease if it has difficulty staying submerged.

While several factors can cause this disease, such as physical trauma or poor diet, it is important to identify which of them is the source of the issue, as your approach will differ depending on the root cause.

External damage has the potential to negatively affect the swim bladder, making it increasingly vulnerable to secondary diseases like cancer or tuberculosis.

If the source of the issue is believed to be dietary, it is more likely that a fish suffering from poor nutrition or constipation will develop the disease.

The best treatment for this condition is preventative action.

By feeding your fish a varied diet including offering high-fiber foods, you can prevent malnutrition and constipation before it becomes a greater issue.

Malawi Bloat

Malawi bloat is a type of aquarium fish disease that is most common among African cichlids.

This disease will present itself with aggressive symptoms such as abdomen swelling, hyperventilation or rapid breathing, decreased or lost appetite, discolored feces,  and remaining near the bottom of the tank.

Malawi bloat can lead to severe liver and kidney damage if left untreated, which, after three days, is often fatal.

The first step in treating this disease is to remove any contaminated water, dosing the tank with Metronidazole, then refilling it with new water. 

Don’t forget to remove the activated carbon from your tank filter when medicating your water.


Tuberculosis hosts typically suffer from loss of appetite, frayed fins, white blotches on the skin as well as a sunken stomach.

Those affected may also begin to display drastic behavioral changes, such as appearing extremely lethargic.

If you suspect that one of your cichlids has contracted Tuberculosis, you must remove all other fish into a hospital tank, immediately treating the affected tank with melafix afterward.

You will also need to thoroughly clean and disinfect the original tank before you add the fish back to the tank, otherwise, you could be placing your fish back into a contaminated habitat.

Gill Flukes

This disease is caused by a parasitic flatworm that infects the gills of fish, causing gill membranes to redden and acquire a thick coat of slime.

This slime causes respiratory issues in the fish, which may cause behaviors like gasping at the tank’s surface or repeatedly rubbing against objects throughout your tank.

You may also notice a slight loss of color in affected fish.

The most common treatment method for gill flukes is adding 1 tbsp of aquarium salt to the tank each day, along with a slight but steady water temperature increase.

The best thing you can do to keep your fish healthy is to maintain high water quality at all times while remaining intimately knowledgeable about any potential diseases that may pose a threat to your fish so you can respond to them appropriately.

Tank Mates for Taiwan Reef Cichlid

Taiwan Reef Cichlids are fairly territorial, especially during the breeding season, however, they get along quite well with other Haps.

Reef cichlids get along well with Peacocks or other cichlids, however, it is best to avoid Mbuna as a tank mate.

Plecos are also great partners for these cichlids, but here are some more of the most suitable tank mates for your Taiwan Reef Cichlids:

  • Red Shoulder Peacock
  • Malawi Peacocks
  • Victorian Haps
  • Malawi Haps
  • Azureus Cichlid
  • Star Sapphire Cichlid

Are Taiwan Reef Cichlid Aggressive?

Taiwan reef cichlids have a mildly aggressive temperament, and a tank with inadequate space has the potential to make it worse.

These fish are very territorial and will not tolerate other cichlids around the crevice that they claim as home.

During the breeding period, males will become increasingly aggressive towards other males as they compete for female partners.

Therefore, it is crucial to ensure you only keep 1 male in each tank during the breeding season.

Where Can I Find Taiwan Reef Cichlid For Sale?

Taiwan Reef Cichlid can be found for sale online at various online aquatic retailers, with prices starting at $8.00 per fish.

Larger Reef Cichlid can also be found for sale, however, the price is greater for larger specimens.

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