Placidochromis phenochilus (Mdoka White Lips)

placidochromis phenochilus mdoka white lip

Last updated on August 3rd, 2022 at 02:31 am

The placidochromis phenochilus is a stunning species of cichlid that has become increasingly popular as an aquarium fish in recent years. With its striking appearance and relative ease of care, the mdoka white lips can make an excellent addition to your fish tank or aquarium pond, as long as you know how to properly care for it and acclimate it to your home environment.

Placidochromis phenochilus, or mdoka white lips, are not as hardy as other types of rainbowfish. They’re more delicate and need to be housed in more pristine conditions than most fish.

You probably know that you can’t just toss any fish into your tank and expect it to do well — each species of fish has its own special requirements, including tank size, water temperature, and other things. But what if you don’t even know what species of fish you have? What if you found the fish in the wild? How can you tell what kind of tank it needs or how best to care for it? Here we’ll describe what placidochromis phenochilus (mdoka white lips) is and how best to care for it!

Here’s what you should know about this species if you want to keep them healthy and thrive in your aquarium.

Origin and description

placidochromis phenochilus mdoka white lip

Placidochromis phenochilus is a haplochromine fish, (commonly known as peacock cichlids). They are endemic to Lake Malawi where they are found only in Malawi and Mozambique. In Lake Malawi, they are often referred to as mdoka white lips or bumblebee.

The scientific name of mdoka originates from a local dialect spoken by people on the south shore of Lake Malawi. The name translates roughly to the handsome one with a bright spot referring to their beautiful coloration. Placidochromis phenochilus closely resembles another species of fish native to Southern Africa. These two species share an almost identical body shape and coloration, save for small differences that make them easy to distinguish between even when young.

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Species profile

placidochromis phenochilus mdoka white lip

Placidochromis phenochilus (mdoka white lips) is a small species of cichlid endemic to Lake Malawi, Africa. It belongs to a group known as maternal mouthbrooders, and its name refers both to the fish’s colorful scales and large mouth. In aquariums, it makes an interesting addition and can be bred easily. This fish exhibits little sexual dimorphism. The male and female are very similar in appearance, though males tend to be smaller than females.

Females will also develop red coloration around their jaws as they mature. Juveniles have dark vertical stripes on their sides that fade into spots or are lost entirely as they grow older. Mdoka whites enjoy a temperature range between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit, although slightly cooler temperatures might suit them better; avoid warmer temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit since your mdokas may suffer from heat stress if acclimated improperly.


Mpimbwe, Zambia; Lake Malawi; Depth 6.5m (21ft); pH 8.0 -8.4, dH range 2-12, Temp 26C 75F – 29C 82F

Madagascan cichlids are benthic fish that spend much of their time on sandy substrates hunting invertebrates and algae. Because they have a lower tolerance for nitrate than many other cichlids species, aquarists keeping Madagascan cichlids should aim to keep nitrate levels below 30ppm.

Mdoka white lips size

They can grow up to 25 cm (10 inches) in length.

Placidochromis phenochilus tank size

The minimum recommended tank size is 350 Liters (100 gallons)

Tank set up

Since placidochromis phenochilus is a fairly peaceful fish, a moderately sized tank with plenty of hiding places will work fine. Set up your tank with an efficient filtration system and keep it stocked with fresh water and clean decorations. Like other large African cichlids, placidochromis phenochilus does best in warmer climates.

Be sure you have a heater installed in your tank if you’re keeping them indoors during cooler months; temperatures should be between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit (21-27 degrees Celsius). A weekly water change is recommended and can be maintained by siphoning out about 10% of your tank’s water each week. If you don’t want to do frequent water changes yourself, consider hiring a local aquarium cleaning service to help.

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Placidochromis phenochilus tank mates

Placidochromis phenochilus doesn’t seem to mind living with other Mbunas, and will probably get along with most other non-aggressive African cichlids. However, Mbunas are highly territorial and aggressive towards their own kind, so if you want a peaceful community tank, it’s best to avoid housing several of these fish together. Other good tank mates include peacocks, Pseudotropheus demasoni, Aulonocara sp.

Placidochromis phenochilus mdoka breeding

placidochromis phenochilus mdoka white lip

It is very easy to breed placidochromis phenochilus. Just place 3 fish in a 150-gallon tank and they will be ready in less than 2 months. Fry will be tiny and most of them won’t make it, but those that do are quite hardy. Fry can eat newly hatched brine shrimp or crushed flake food as well as microworms.

However, they do not adapt as well to high temperatures, so you should try to keep their temperature lower rather than higher. In my experience, Placidochromis phenochilus seem more resilient when they are young. I believe keeping their water parameters at slightly basic values may help increase their resilience (7.2 pH, dH 14) but only time will tell if I am right about that.

Some people have found success with breeding Placidochromis phenochilus by removing some nutrients from their water; such as phosphates and nitrates. This could be done by feeding your fish foods high in these nutrients which would then remove them from your water column through waste; such as sinking pellets.

Are white lips cichlid aggressive or peaceful?

Placidochromis phenochilus is a peaceful fish that will coexist well with other fish in its aquarium. However, it is wise to avoid mixing fish from different families together, because each family has its own personalities and predilections. For example, some catfish species have been known to attack even their own species under certain circumstances.

Mdoka white lips care

placidochromis phenochilus mdoka white lip

Mdoka white lips can tolerate a variety of water conditions and temperature fluctuations. As long as your tank is not located in direct sunlight, you can vary water temperature from 25°C (77°F) up to 30°C (86°F). Like many other cichlids, mdoka white lips cannot tolerate nitrate concentrations above 40 ppm, so regular water changes are a must.

Blacknose Shiner (Notropis Heterolepis)

Placidochromis phenochilus needs some time to get acclimated to its new home; ensure that all systems go before adding them into an already established tank. Once they’re settled in, they’ll be mostly bottom-dwelling fish that won’t bother much with their tankmates.

Mdoka cichlid diet

They eat frozen and/or live foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and tubifex. Frozen foods are ideal, as they stay fresh longer, but at times it may be difficult to find frozen live food. Tubifex is ideal because it can be stored at room temperature with little risk of spoiling. Bloodworms (while high in protein) are very perishable and should be used quickly or kept refrigerated. Be sure that your fish are eating their food before you leave it in their tank overnight!

Water parameters

placidochromis phenochilus mdoka white lip

Water chemistry should be maintained within a pH range of 7.2 – 8.0, a temperature of 79 – 82 degrees F (26-28 degrees C), and dKH = 10 – 12. Strong currents should be avoided in order to prevent injury from sharp objects or abrasive rocks. Water clarity should be kept high enough for fish to be observed without distortion or excessive shadows. Low water quality can cause stress and lead to health problems.

Perform daily partial water changes regularly if required by monitoring your tap water with an aquarium test kit such as those offered by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals or Tetra. These are not expensive and are easily obtained at most pet shops or online stores such as Amazon.

White lip mdoka cichlid lifespan

Placidochromis phenochilus live about 12 years. During their lives, they grow from just under an inch long and weigh about as much as a nickel at birth to about eight inches long and three ounces when fully grown. Males are smaller than females.

Parasites and diseases

Placidochromis phenochilus are generally hardy fish and can be a valuable addition to most community tanks, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any health issues. The most common problem is Ichthyophthirius multifiliis (Ich), which has been known to plague freshwater tropical fish since it was first discovered in 1910. The protozoan parasite infects gills and skin and is easily treated with salt or praziquantel.

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Placidochromis are a small genus of fish that primarily inhabit freshwater. These tiny members of Cichlidae have evolved to be largely indifferent toward other fish species, and they don’t actively seek out conflict. Still, they live in an aquatic ecosystem, so there is an occasional risk of predation — especially if you own multiple Placidochromis phenochilus. As such, it’s important to know how you can best protect your Placidochromis from other fish.

Some common predators are zebrafish, danios, tetras, characins, and catfish.

As mentioned above, Placidochromis can live successfully in a home aquarium with other fish species (provided they’re not hostile). It’s possible you could keep other Placidochromis phenochilus in your tank if you’re willing to make some adjustments.

Do Placidochromis phenochilus make good pets?

Placidochromis are known as very peaceful and friendly fish. They can be kept in a community tank environment but should be removed if there are any aggressive or territorial fish. Placidos enjoy swimming around rocks and plants, and will often hide behind them if they feel unsafe. Their small size makes them an easy target for more aggressive breeds of fish, which may attack them out of fear or boredom.