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New to the hobby Haplochromines
by Greg Steeves
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In recent years, a sector of the cichlid hobby has rocketed in popularity. There is a growing awareness of a group of fish we refer to as "haplochromines". This moniker has its basis in the 1888 description of Haplochromis obliquidens by evolutionary scientist Frans Hilgendorf. Although there are many different lineages of cichlid fish, primarily from East Africa, the term "haplochromis" has become a generic term used to depict a group of quickly evolving mouth brooding cichlid fish that share common ancestry.


Astatotilapia sp. “thick skin” was among the first fish
exported from the Lake Victoria region.

Whether the interest stems from the smaller size of the brightly colored fish and their ability to so easily adapt to life in our aquariums, or from the growing knowledge that many of these fish no longer exist in the wild and with each passing day, those remaining lose more and more of their habitat, one thing is certain, cichlid hobbyists want these fish in their aquariums!


Prognathochromis perrieri, originally collected in the 1980’s
from Lake Victoria, is now considered extinct in the wild.

Haplochromines are not "new" fish. Forty years ago Astatotilapia bloyeti, A. callipterus, and A. burtoni were available. In the 1950's, Astatotilapia sp. "thick skin" (then erroneously named Haplochromis obliquidens) found their way to the US. In the mid 1980's exportation of Lake Victoria haplochromines was well underway. A pioneer in this operation was the Swedish collector Bo Selbrink. Ultimately, many of the fish found by Selbrink in Lake Victoria, soon after fell victim to the Nile perch (Lates niloticus). Among the fish he incidentally saved from extinction is Prognathochromis perrieri. This charming little piscivore exists only in captivity today. Sadly, many fish collected during this time are now gone forever. Similar stories can be told of the Whitehead's in the Kyoga Basin, Les Kaufman and the Lake Victoria Species Survival Plan (LV-SSP) in Lake Victoria's Ugandan waters, Paul Loiselle in Kenya's Yala Swamp, and the fish studied in the Southern regions of Lake Victoria by the Haplochromis Ecological Study Team (HEST) and individuals such as Ole Seehausen and Yves Fermon. There have been no frequent cichlid exports from the Lake Victoria region since the 1990's.


Lipochromis melanopterus from Makobe Island Lake Victoria
is a recent import from American and European exchanges.

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