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Stomatepia pindu of Barombi Mbo, Cameroon
by Jim Beck
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I have been an aquarist on and off most of my adult life. Three years ago my interest turned to cichlids and this fascination has been growing ever since. I belong to the Hill Country Cichlid Club, an organization which fuels my need for information and also aids me in collecting cichlids. The HCCC started a conservation program for endangered species (ESP) which is another article in itself. Our club is only one of many that have initiated projects and awareness concerned with the plight of the family cichlidae. We use the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species as well as several cichlid experts to determine the status of the animals in the ESP program. I realized I already had two species that were on the list: Neochromis sp. "Madonna" (Kaufman, 1996) from Lake Nawampassa, Uganda and from Madagascar, Katria katria (Reinthal & Stiassny, 1997). One thing led to another and I now process nine threatened cichlid species. I purchased a colony of six attractive black Stomatepia pindu in October 2006. So began my interest in the threatened species of Barombi Mbo.

Stomatepia pindu are endemic to Barombi Mbo, West Cameroon. There are several such crater lakes along the African Pacific coastline that were formed thousands of years ago by inactive volcanoes. The climate is tropical (25 - 27 C / 77 - 80.6 F). "Lake Barombi Mbo is a small lake only 2.5 kilometers wide, but 110 meters deep. As there is no large current to turn the water, only the top portion (40 meters) contains acceptable oxygen levels to harbor vertebrate life. Still here, a rich mostly endemic group of cichlids (and other fish) have evolved." (Steeves, 2003) S. pindu is listed as critically threatened on the IUCN red list (Critically Endangered (CR) (B1+2c)(Ref. 57073) ). Human population growth, deforestation of the region and predation by other species are leading factors threatening its existence.

A normal coloration of solid black, S. pindu illuminates during spawning but will lighten considerably if stressed. Both sexes of S. pindu sport similar black body coloration and this hinders identifying individual fish until maturity. The body is elongated with a pointed head and nose. Maximum size for males is to be 9.1 cm (3.5 in.). I appear to have two males, the larger being just over 3.5 inches and smaller one just under the 3.5 mark. Of the three remaining fish, two are approximately three inches and the third lies somewhere between three and 3.5 inches.

My S. pindu are housed in a 55 gallon tank along with five Stomatepia mariae (Holly, 1930) and a pair of Limnochromis auritus (Boulenger, 1901). The water temperature is maintained at 80 degrees F. The local water here is hard and very suitable for these fish. The tank has a small gravel base with four rocks and one live plant, Aponogeton fenestralis "West Coast Madagascan Lace". Water changes of 20% every week are made and filters inspected and cleaned as required.


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