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Lake Malawi oil drilling

lake malawi

Lake Malawi satellite image

This week an environmental assessment study into the possible effects of drilling for oil in Lake Malawi was completed. Oil production, especially to a country like Malawi, can be a big economic boom for the region. Environmental risks should always be factored into the equation whenever drilling for oil is considered. Lake Malawi isn’t just where cichlids come from, it is a source of water and food for millions of people. That being said, a troubling detail about the environmental assessment is that it is being conducted by the same company licensed to drill for oil. The study isn’t being conducted by an independent organization that can gain from turning a blind eye to environmental dangers. To find out more about SacOil and the environmental concerns in Lake Malawi, visit OOSKAnews.

Lake Tanganyika; Jewel of the Rift

lake tanganyika

The other day I was feeling a bit nostalgic so I decided to pop in an old favorite VHS tape. Yes I still have a VHS player, don’t judge me. In the mid-90s National Geographic released Jewel of the Rift, and it turned me on to Lake Tanganyika cichlids. Until them I had only kept Lake Malawi and Victorian cichlids. Unfortunately, Jewel of the Rift was never released on DVD. The video has some great in the wild footage of Tanganyikan cichlids; from the smallest cichlids living their lives in shells to emperor cichlids protecting their young. If you have never seen the video or haven’t in a while, take some time to view it. There are several YouTube channels that have the entire video in parts. Unfortunately, they all appear to have originated from one of two versions. One version has good audio while the other version has better video, but poor audio. I found that Dailymotion has a pretty good version.

Nicaragua canal threatens local environment

nicaragua canal

Proposed canal path. Image by Nature magazine

The Nicaraguan government has granted Hong Kong based Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company permission to develop a canal linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The $40-billion project will undoubtedly help the economically struggling Central American nation. The proposed paths of the new canal will not only cross various wetlands and reserves, but also Lake Nicaragua. Lake Nicaragua is home to a variety of cichlid species which have already been devastated by the introduction of non-native fish species.

Professors Axel Meyer and Jorge A. Huete-Pérez are leading the charge for an independent assessment of the environmental impact of the Nicaragua canal. For more on this story read their article, Conservation: Nicaragua Canal could wreak environmental ruin, on the Nature website.

Northeast Council of Aquarium Societies Convention

northeast council

Mark your calendar for the Northeast Council of Aquarium Societies 39th annual convention. The convention will be held at the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell, CT from March 28 – 30, 2014. The NEC was established in 1956 to assist and strengthen member societies. Currently there are 29 member organizations including the Boston Aquarium Society, New England Cichlid Association, and the Cichlid Club of York to name a few. If you live in the Connecticut, Massachusets or New York City area, seriously consider attending this event. Talks will include digital photography, keeping and breeding cichlids, aquascaping, and many more fish topics. These is a great list of speakers. Vendors will be present to show off their stuff and of course Sunday there will be a huge auction.

For more information visit the Northeast Council of Aquarium Societies 2014 Convention page. If you live in the area, don’t miss out!

Apistogramma helkeri – New dwarf Apistogramma

Apistogramma helkeri

Apistogramma helkeri. Photo by Frans Vermeulen

A new species of dwarf Apistogramma has been formally described. Apistogramma helkeri, named after collector Oliver Helker who found the fish, becomes the 83rd described Apistogramma species. Currently found only in a black-water swamp of the lower río Cuao, a tributary of the lower río Sipapo in Venezuela. Individual Apistogramma species are known to be limited to small ranges which is one of the reasons there are so many different species in the Apistogramma genus.

The detailed description of Apistogramma helkeri can be found on Senckenberg.de in pdf format. For more information on keeping the small tank friendly dwarf Appistogramma, check out the Apisto Keeping & Maintenance article by David Soares.

Telmatochromis temporalis – evolution in action

Telmatochromis temporalis

Telmatochromis temporalis Magara. Photo by Ad Konings

A study of Telmatochromis temporalis by the University of Bristol has shown that competition plays a role in the evolution of new species. T. temporalis is an endemic cichlid from Lake Tanganyika. According to the study, the larger T. temporalis drive the smaller temporalis away from the preferred rocky habitat. The smaller T. temporalis are forced to build their homes in shells along the sand. The competition for the preferred habitat has separated the two groups of fish. Once separated, the two groups will only breed among themselves. This separation opens the door for different evolutionary paths. Ad Konings has always considered T. sp. “temporalis shell” to be a morph of the original T. temporalis.

A video by one of the authors of the study explains the process:

A quick synopsis of the study can be found on the International Science Times website.

More information on the smaller variant can be found in the Telmatochromis sp. “Temporalis Shell” article by Brett Harrington.

Telmatochromis temporalis mbita. Photo by Ad Konings

Telmatochromis temporalis mbita. Photo by Ad Konings

Amazon River source found?

amazon river

Possible source of Amazon River (red circle)

For hundreds of years the starting point of the Amazon River has been disputed. The starting point, at one time or another, has been attributed to many different rivers. A new study claims the Mantaro River in southwestern Peru is the beginning of the world’s largest river. This same region has claimed the title in several locations. If the study is correct, the new starting location extends the overall length of the Amazon River by 47 to 57 miles. The read more about the quest to determine the origins of the Amazon River and opposition to the study’s results, visit National Geographic Daily News.

Mantaro River. Photo by J. Valeriano/Google Earth

Astatotilapia flaviijosephi

Astatotilapia flaviijosephi

Astatotilapia flaviijosephi. Photo by Greg Steeves

Astatotilapia flaviijosephi is a rare cichlid that has the distinction of being the only non-African Haplochromine. Populations of this species can been found in rivers and lakes in Israel and Jordon. How this Haplochromine managed to get from Africa to its current habitat isn’t exactly know. It is believed that its ancestors migrated over a land bridge that joined Egypt and the Middle east millions of years ago. A. flaviijosephi’s closest relative is Astatotilapia desfontainii, a North African cichlid. Due to habitat destruction, A. flaviijosephi’s is currently listed as endangered.

Greg Steeves was able to obtain some specimens of A. flaviijosephi’s. Through his experience with its closest relative, A. desfontainii, he was able to keep, raise and successfully spawn them. You can read all about Astatotilapia flaviijosephi and how to successfully keep this unique fish from his article titled Astatotilapia flaviijosephi – The only Non-African Haplochromine.

Aquascapes: Underwater art


Pale Wind, Takayuki Fukada. Japan. 2013 IAPLC Gold Prize

The International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest (IAPLC) holds an annual competition to determine the best aquascapes in the world. The 2013 results are out, and everyone is a winner. The participants in this competition take their art very seriously. These aquascapes take months to mature and competitors need to have a keen eye for design and biology. 2013 had a total of 2,164 applications from 57 countries/areas, with the majority of entries being from Japan, China and India. Although the IAPLC publishes a list of the results (pdf), they don’t show the actual pictures. Brazilian site AquaA3.com.br appears to have published the results for the last couple years and they can be found here: 2013 and 2012.


First Place. Truong Thinh Ngo VIETNAM

New river dolphin species discovered

new river dolphin

Newly discovered Inia araguaiaensis. Photo by Nicole Dutra

It has been almost 100 years since a new river dolphin species has been discovered. Unfortunately, the news comes with a reminder of the problems facing the Amazon river basin. The new river dolphin species has been named Inia araguaiaensis, and as few as 600 individuals live in the Araguaia River. It is believed that the formation of rapids along the Araguaia River separated a group of river dolphins over 2 million years ago. In that time, the isolated dolphins evolved into a distinct new species. Their habitat is threatened by dam construction and I. araguaiaensis, like all other river dolphins, is already endangered.

new river dolphin

Inia araguaiaensis habitat in blue

For more information on Inia araguaiaensis, visit the National Geographic Daily News page.

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