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Lake Malawi cichlids’ possible origin

lake malawi

Astatotilapia calliptera. Photo by Greg Steeves

The debate surrounding the origin of cichlids in Lake Malawi continues today. Astatotilapia calliptera and Astatotilapia swynnertoni, both cichlids found outside of the lake, have been linked to all cichlids in Lake Malawi. A recent paper titled ‘Geographical ancestry of Lake Malawi’s cichlid fish diversity’ proposes that the lake’s cichlids are tied to a yet unsubscribed species named Astatotilapia sp. ‘Ruaha’.

Needless to say, the results of the DNA analysis and how the species are related is difficult to understand for the layperson. Hopefully the mystery will be solved soon and most of us can get the condensed version. For those who can understand, the paper can be found at The Royal Society Publishing website. If this link only takes you to the abstract, do a search for the paper’s title and the full paper should be the first result.

Eretmodus cyanostictus: bi-parental mouthbrooder

Eretmodus cyanostictus

Eretmodus cyanostictus. Photo by Dave Hansen

Happy Father’s Day Cichlid-Forum fathers. Thought it would be appropriate to highlight male cichlids that take their parental responsibilities seriously. In most mouthbrooding cichlids, holding the young is something that is only done by the female. Cichlids like Eretmodus cyanostictus or some Xenotilapia species from Lake Tanganyika, both male and females take turns holding the eggs until they are ready to be released. Male only mouthbrooding cichlids like Sarotherodon melanotheron do exist, but this West African tilapia is rare in the hobby. On occasion, some male Lake Victoria basin cichlids have been seen holding eggs, but it is rare and not something that is seen with all males of a species. To read more about bi-parental mouthbrooding behavior, check out the Eretmodus cyanostictus Species Article by Marc Elieson.

Astronotus ocellatus: the Oscar

Astronotus ocellatus

Astronotus ocellatus. Photo by Jón Helgi Jónsson. CC BY-SA 3.0

Most new cichlid hobbyists have probably started on the wrong foot when it came time to stock their first tank. I know, because I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. One of those mistakes was picking up a young Astronotus ocellatus for tank that would be inadequate within a few months. The Oscar, as it is commonly known, is a mainstay of pet store tanks. Their energy, large eyes and fearless attitude toward people make them very attractive to first-time cichlid keepers.

While Astronotus ocellatus can make a great addition to your tank, they aren’t the best fish for beginners who don’t know what they are in for. Oscars get large, and they do it quickly. Most of the time first tanks are on the small side and not suited for a fast growing Oscar. First tanks also tend to go through some water quality issues that are unhealthy and stressful for fish. Stress and poor water quality are a recipe for disaster with Oscars. If you are new to the hobby or Oscars in general, make sure you read up on the library article by Brett Harrington and the Oscars 101 forum post by TheFishGuy.

Etia nguti from West Africa

etia nguti

Etia nguti. Photo by Dave Hansen

This West African gem clearly falls into the category of out of the ordinary. Etia nguti was only recently described about 12 years ago after being discovered in Cameroon. Dr. Melanie Stiassny, who coauthored the species’ description, has referred to E. nguti as “an odd little fish” due to having unusual characteristics not found in other West African cichlids.

Etia nguti makes its home in small rivers and streams. Not much is known about their behavior in the wild. E. nguti is a maternal mouthbrooder that first lays all eggs to be fertilized by the males. It is not until after all the eggs are fertilized that the female will pick them up for mouthbrooding. However, males have also been observed holding the developing fry. Hopefully as more hobbyist start keeping Etia nguti, more about this species can be learned. For discussion visit the Lake Victoria Basin, West African, Madagascar & Asian Species forum.

Lake Tanganyika Ndole Bay video

A short video of some of the cichlids of Ndole Bay in Lake Tanganyika.

This video of Ndole Bay was captured by LightSearch3D, the same people who put together the Battle of the Shells documentary. According to the video’s description, all the scenes take place just a few yards into the water. A good part of the video is shot with a stationary camera, which allows the fish to behave more naturally. The video shows some great footage of what looks like Variabilichromis moorii in all black dress. Other fish include Tropheus, Ophthalmotilapia, and Telmatochromis. LightSearch3D has also put together other great videos from Lake Tanganyika.

lake tanganyika

Variabilichromis moorii. Image capture from video.

Metriaclima lanisticola article

Metriaclima lanisticola

Metriaclima lanisticola. Photo by Frank Mueller (fmueller)

Metriaclima lanisticola is a species of shell dwelling cichlids that make their home in Lake Malawi, not Lake Tanganyika. The naming of these species has undergone some changes over the years including Pseudotrophues, Maylandia, and livingstonii. There is even some question of whether there are two separate species. Nonetheless, an article written by Frank Mueller (fmueller) has been added to the library. The article discusses breeding of this little known Lake Malawi oddity as well as having some great pictures.

Make sure to check out the new in the article on Metriaclima lanisticola in the library. Discussion on M. lanisticola can be done in the Lake Malawi Species forum.

Cryptoheros nanoluteus from Central America

Cryptoheros nanoluteus

Cryptoheros nanoluteus. Photo by Dave Hansen

Cryptoheros nanoluteus is a small cichlid from the fast moving rivers of Panama. It is sometimes called the yellow convict and is found in the same habitat as the better known convict cichlid (Amatitlania nigrofasciata). As popularity goes, these two species could not be further apart. While A. nigrofasciata is a mainstay in the hobby, C. nanoluteus isn’t very common. However, their small size and bright yellow color along with their mild temperament make them idea for a smaller species only tank or a larger community tank. Keep in mind that they can be more aggressive while breeding and their tankmates can’t be too aggressive. There is a small write up about Cryptoheros nanoluteus on their Species Profile page. To discuss C. nanoluteus visit the Central American Cichlids forum.

Texas State Aquarium recovers

texas state aquarium

Islands of Steel exhibit. Photo: Texas State Aquarium

The Texas State Aquarium is almost back to full capacity less than two months after a mislabeled chemical killed nearly 400 fish. The mistake caused the deaths of marine fish in multiple exhibits, including the 125,000 gallon Islands of Steel exhibit.

The recovery is just in time for the World Oceans Day celebration this Saturday, June 6th. If you are going to be in the Corpus Christi area this weekend, make sure you stop by to support the Texas State Aquarium. If you can’t make it this weekend, the aquarium will be open all summer long with all their new fish exhibits.

Neolamprologus helianthus from Lake Tanganyika

Neolamprologus helianthus

Neolamprologus helianthus. Photo by Dave Hansen

Neolamprologus helianthus became very popular as they started becoming available about 10 or 15 years ago. Since then they seem to have fallen out of favor by hobbyists looking to add color to their aquariums. The species name, helianthus, comes from the Greek words meaning sun and flower. N. helianthus‘ sunflower yellow color made them very desirable. Everybody wanted a pair for their Tanganyika community tanks. Unfortunately, like Neolamprologus pulcher and N. brichardi, a spawning pair can be extremely aggressive toward any other fish in the tank. It is often recommended that they be kept in a species only tank. If you must keep them with other species, a minimum 4 foot tank with hardy tankmates is recommended. Spawns can be quite large and the fry will swim close together under the watchful eyes of the parents.

Neolamprologus helianthus can be discussed in the Lake Tanganyika forum.

Lake Tanganyika oil drilling in question

Lake Tanganyika

Fishermen on Lake Tanganyika. Photo by Worldtraveller CC BY-SA 3.0

In a recent move, Woodside Petroleum pulled out of an agreement to continue oil exploration in Lake Tanganyika. Woodside, which had a 70% stake in some exploration permits, is the second oil company to withdraw from further exploration. News articles don’t give a reason as to why they’ve backed out. It may just be that low oil prices have not made it economically sound to drill around Lake Tanganyika. Of course, as an East Africa cichlid fan, I hope this means there just isn’t enough oil to make it worth drilling. Hopefully more news on this topic will come in the near future. To read more about it now, visit Yahoo News.

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