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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.

Pike Cichlid finally gets a name

Drawing of Wallace’s Pike Cichlid c.1852.

Drawing of Wallace’s Pike Cichlid c.1852.

Originally collected in 1852, Wallace’s Pike Cichlid died during transport to England. It wasn’t until 160 years later that the specimen collected in the upper Rio Negro was identified from its drawings. The new species name of the 160 year-old mystery is Crenicichla monicae. The drawings were matched to 3 specimens collected by the Swedish Amazonas Expedition in 1923–1925. Unfortunately, the publication with more information is behind a paywall at BioOne.org.

Pike cichlid is a common term to describe fish belonging to the genus Crenicichla. Species of Crenicichla range in size from 3 inches all the way to the 20 inches. Crenicichla are predators with a large mouth and elongated body. They make their home in rivers, steams and lakes in South America. The library has several articles on Crenicichla, but for those looking for more information on the genus, check out the Introduction to Pike Cichlids article by Vinny Kutty.

Metriaclima sp. “Msobo” from Lake Malawi

Metriaclima sp

Metriaclima sp. “Msobo”; Male top, female bottom. Photos by Robert De Leon

Metriaclima sp. “Msobo” is a mbuna species that inhabits the rocky coastline on the Northeast part of Lake Malawi. Since arriving in the hobby, this species has seen many different names including Pseudotropheus “msobo deep”, Msobo Magunga and Deep Tanzania. For now the official name has settled as Metriaclima sp. “Msobo” but don’t be surprised if you see variations of the name on stock lists.

A noticeable characteristic of M. sp. “Msobo” is that the colors of the male and female resemble that of Pseudotropheus saulosi. Males have a dark blue and black color that develops as they age and become dominant while females remain yellow/orange. Like P. saulosi, M. sp. “Msobo” is a herbivore that is best kept in groups of one male and multiple females. However, while P. saulosi is relatively docile compared to other mbuna, M. sp. “Msobo” is very aggressive and larger. Males will harass other fish in the aquarium to claim their territory and will not tolerate other males of the same species. Females take constant abuse from the males and can also dish it out. Docile species should not be kept in the tank with M. sp. “Msobo” and a minimum of a 4 foot tank with lots of hiding places is recommended. If you have a tank with other aggressive fish and are looking for add a splash of color, M. sp. “Msobo” may be right for you.

To discuss Metriaclima sp. “Msobo” visit the Lake Malawi Species forum. More pictures of M. sp. “Msobo” can be found on the Species Profile. The video below by PISCES shows the species in action.

Psammochromis riponianus article

Psammochromis riponianus

Psammochromis riponianus. Photo by Greg Steeves.

Found throughout Lake Victoria, Psammochromis riponianus is one of those species that has been in the hobby since the 1990′s but never really gained widespread popularity. This species has made a comeback in Lake Victoria since the population decline of the Nile Perch. Unfortunately, poor water visibility in the lake poses a crossbreeding threat for the species.

A new article by Greg Steeves sheds some light on Psammochromis riponianus. The article includes a brief history on the species, collection locations and some tips on keeping and breeding the species. If P. riponianus is a species you are interested in or would like to learn more about, visit the Species Article in the Library. Discussion on P. riponianus can be done in the Lake Victoria Basin forum.

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