Outside of the breeding season, juvenile and adult marakely are solitary creatures. Juveniles are usually found in water less than three feet deep, typically in heavily vegetated habitats. Adults usually inhabit deeper water and are often found around waterlogged tree stumps or branches.


Marakely eat freshwater shrimp and both aquatic insect larvae and terrestrial insects that fall into the water. They also prey on smaller fish. They typically hunt most actively at dawn and dusk.

Life Cycle

Marakely parenting is a two-fish job. A male and female will pair and stay together for the entire breeding season. Breeding takes place during the rainy season, in December and January (the height of summer in the southern hemisphere). Before spawning begins, the pair will dig a shallow pit in the substrate. This pit gives shelter to the eggs, which can number more than 1,000 per spawn. The male keeps an eye out for intruders, while the female fans the eggs to keep them clean until they hatch 48 hours later. The young fish become mobile after four to five days. Both parents spend the next six to eight weeks defending their active juveniles from predators. Like most Malagasy cichlids, marakely only raise one brood per year. It takes 18 months to two years for these fish to reach sexual maturity in captivity, and slightly longer in nature. It is not known how long these fish live in the wild, but marakely have lived for up to 15 years in aquariums.

Some of My Neighbors

Nile Crocodiles, Tsipoy, Lamena, Pinstripe Damba, Fruit Bats, Terns, Frigates

Population Status and Threats

Because the crater lakes of Nosy Be are relatively pristine and no exotic predators are present on the island, the marakely is presently classified as a low risk species. However, mainland populations contend with habitat loss due to erosion from deforestation. In the southern part of its range, the exotic spotted snakehead is both a competitor and predator. Like another endemic fish, the tsipoy, it will also be impacted by the effects of climate on the rivers of northwestern Madagascar.

WCS Conservation Efforts

A secure captive population descended from specimens collected in 1991 by Jean-Claude Nourissat and Patrick de Rham provides insurance against the global extinction of the marakely. WCS field staff in Madagascar are exploring the possibility of buffering the effects of climate change through reforestation of the watershed of the Anjingo River, an important marakely habitat. Learn more about WCS work in Madagascar. 

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