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Pundamilia sp. “red head” Zue Island

Pundamilia sp

Pundamilia sp. “red head” Zue Island. Photo by Greg Steeves

On the southern side of Lake Victoria there are two locations where Pundamilia sp. “red head” where originally found, Zue Island and Mabibi Island. The Zue Island P. sp. “red head” spends its days grazing the rocks along the shore. It is the only Pundamilia species at this location and its been said that they don’t compete well with other Pundamilia.

In the aquarium, Pundamilia sp. “red head” are often bullied by aggressive fish, especially other Pundamilia species. Suitable tankmates include Neochromis rufocaudalis, Xystichromis sp. “flameback”, or Haplochromis sp. “Kenya gold”. Other fish may work as long as they are not too aggressive and differ in color and body shape. Diet is also a consideration when picking tankmates. P. sp. “red head” needs a diet high in vegetable matter, perhaps more than other other Pundamilia species. Finding P. sp. “red head” on stock lists can be difficult but not impossible. Males are beautifully colored, sporting red, yellow and green. They would make a great addition to suitable aquariums and are best kept in groups of one male to multiple females. To discuss Pundamilia sp. “red head” visit the Lake Victoria forum.

Nandopsis tetracanthus from Cuba

A short Nandopsis tetracanthus video by Lee Nuttall of The Central Scene – North & Central American Cichlid Keeping magazine.

Nandopsis tetracanthus is a beautiful cichlid found throughout Cuba. It lives in rivers, streams, and lagoons. N. tetracanthus also has a high tolerance of salt water. In the wild this species is under pressure since the introduction of Oreochromis mossambicus, a type of Tilapia.

In the aquarium, Nandopsis tetracanthus can be a handful. Not only do the males reach 10+ inches, but they are extremely aggressive toward their own kind and other species. Females are sometimes killed by their male partners. Males are larger and have a golden/silvery color while the females have a well defined black and white pattern. Females can lay hundreds of eggs on a flat surface and the pair will protect the fry while they are small. To discuss N. tetracanthus visit the Central American Cichlids forum.

Nandopsis tetracanthus

Female Nandopsis tetracanthus with fry. Screen capture from video.

Prognathochromis perrieri from Lake Victoria

Prognathochromis perrieri

Prognathochromis perrieri. Photo by Greg Steeves

Prognathochromis perrieri has not been seen in its native waters of Lake Victoria since the mid 1980s. Surveys during the early 80s saw its decline and disappearance. Since then, other surveys have seen a comeback of other species in the area, but not P. perrieri. Fish that could possible be P. perrieri have been caught, but are most likely hybrids or simple misidentification. Although the Nile Perch decimated their numbers, poor water clarity probably caused the remaining population to hybridize.

Prognathochromis perrieri is a predator that lived in the close to shore over sandy or muddy bottoms. The remaining populations of this species exist in hobbyist tanks. To discuss P. perrieri and other species from Lake Victoria visit the Lake Victoria Basin, West African, Madagascar & Asian Species forum.

Cichlid fossils from the Rift Valley

cichlid fossils

Cichlid fossil. Photo credit: LMU/B. Reichenbacher

A study attempting to determine what the Rift Valley of east Africa looked like during the mid to late Miocene Epoch (11 to 16 million years ago) found that cichlids made up the majority of fish species in the area, like they do today. Cichlid fossils ranged is size from under an inch to about 6 inches. Although the study wasn’t about cichlids, their fossils helped to paint a picture of what the landscape was like during that period. The amount of cichlid fossils and the sediments surrounding them told of catastrophic events and changing water levels during that time.

The study also identified several new species of cichlids. Future studies hope to identify the relationship between the fossilized fish and the fish found today. The complete publication is behind a paywall, but a summary can be found at the PHSY.ORG website.

Shell dweller biotope video

An interesting take of a shell dweller tank by Fatih Bolat.

I’ve used rock formation in shell dweller tanks, but only for aesthetics or to divide groups of shellies. The aquarium in the video above presents a different use of hardscaping that is beautiful and helps push the shellies to the front of the tank. This design also gives me ideas on possible uses for the large rock formations. It helps create a second layer where bottom hugging fish that don’t need the sand can make their home without directly competing with the shell dwellers.

The video description doesn’t give any info other than the two species that inhabit the tank; ‘Lamprologus’ ocellatus Gold and ‘Lamprologus’ similis. It would have been great to learn about the rock formation. Is it natural rock? A large piece with smaller rocks surrounding it or is it man-made? Regardless, this setup offers great possibilities. A rock dwelling species like Julidochromis, Neolamprologus or Altolamprologus could be added to inhabit the upper rocky area without the two different types of fish sharing the same ground.

Discussion on the possibilities can be done in the Aquarium Setups forum. Lake Tanganyika species, like the shell dwellers, can be discussed in the Lake Tanganyika forum. Also, the library has a section devoted to shellies called the Shell Dweller Corner.

shell dweller

‘Lamprologus’ ocellatus Gold. Photo by Greg Steeves.

Paratheraps guttulatus from Central America

Paratheraps guttulatus

Paratheraps guttulatus. Photo by Greg Steeves

This beautiful fish, formally classified as a Vieja species, can be found in lakes and rivers of Central America. Paratheraps guttulatus specimens have been collected from Lake Coatepeque in El Salvador but has been reported, correctly or incorrectly, in other lakes in the region.

Although not very aggressive, Paratheraps guttulatus is a large fish. Males reach 12 inches while females are a little smaller. A large tank is required. P. guttulatus is an omnivore and care should be taken to ensure it gets protein and plant matter in its diet, especially if breeding is desired. Spawning takes place on a flat surface or cave. Females do most of the care and can sometimes become aggressive toward the males. To discuss P. guttulatus visit the Central Americans Cichlids forum.

Cynotilapia aurifrons Mphanga Rocks

Cynotilapia aurifrons

Cynotilapia aurifrons Mphanga Rocks. Photo by Greg Steeves

Cynotilapia aurifrons Mphanga Rocks is a variant of C. aurifrons from the Mphanga Rocks area of Lake Malawi. The different locations and variants of C. aurifrons show slight color differences. Male Mphanga Rocks variants show a little more yellow along the dorsal fin and head than the Nkhata Bay variant, but not as much as the Chilumba variant.

In the aquarium, Cynotilapia aurifrons should be fed a diet high in vegetable matter like a spirulina based flake or pellet like other mbuna. While somewhat shy around other species, C. aurifrons males can be very aggressive toward their own. Best kept in groups of one male and multiple females. The presence of other aggressive species will dull the color of males and they will take on the neutral color of females. Male colors are best when spawning. A minimum of a 4 foot tank with plenty of rocks is recommended. To discuss Cynotilapia aurifrons visit the Lake Malawi species forum.

Pterochromis congicus from the Congo River

Pterochromis congicus

Pterochromis congicus. Photo by Greg Steeves

A very rare Congo River cichlid, Pterochromis congicus has not had much traction in the hobby. This species is widespread throughout the central Congo River and is often a source of food for the locals. There are several references to the species reaching on 6″ in length. There isn’t much information on P. congicus despite being on the cover of Cichlid News magazine 4 years ago. This species is also described as demersal, meaning it spends its time and feed along the bottom.

Hopefully more information will become available about Pterochromis congicus in the near future. If you know anything about them, please share your experiences in the West African species forum.

Mosquito nets impact Lake Malawi fish

mosquito nets

Small fish caught by mosquito net. Photo by Ripple Africa

Aside from all the other factors that threaten cichlid species in Lake Malawi, on major problem is the use of mosquito nets for fishing. These nets were given out in an effort to reduce cases of malaria. Unfortunately, these same nets, with their tight weave, were used for fishing. In deep waters, these nets are used to catch the larger fish that are usually a food source for people in the region. The small openings of the nets meant that young fish, which in the past slipped through larger openings, were now being caught. These mosquito nets were so effective that fish stocks in Lake Malawi have fallen by 90%.

The problem isn’t restricted to deep waters. The rocky shores which offered protection for small cichlids are being fished with these mosquito nets. Efforts to outlaw the use of mosquito nets or restrict there use is underway with signs of positive results. For more information on the issue, check out the article on the Deutsche Welle website.

Ptyochromis sp. “salmon” from Lake Victoria

Ptyochromis sp

Ptyochromis sp. “salmon”. Photo by Greg Steeves

Ptyochromis sp. “salmon” was originally collected from Hippo Point in Southwest Lake Victoria. This species is also commonly found under the name “Hippo Point salmon”. For a couple years P. sp. “salmon” became the must-have fish due to its pink, salmon color. After a while the enthusiasm for the species died down but the species is still available if you are determined to find it.

In the wild, Ptyochromis sp. “salmon” is a snail eater. In tanks, the species can be a little shy and the namesake colors aren’t always displayed. Females don’t display any color. A food high in protein is recommended. Although not aggressive toward other species, P. sp. “salmon” can be aggressive toward its own species. They are best kept in groups of one male and multiple females. Discussion on this species can be done in the Lake Victoria Basin forum.


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