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
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.