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Neolamprologus mondabu from Lake Tanganyika

Neolamprologus mondabu

Neolamprologus mondabu. Photo by Ad Konings

Although found throughout most of Lake Tanganyika’s shores, Neolamprologus mondabu isn’t often seen in the hobby. Living mostly around rocky areas, N. mondabu occationally ventures out over the sand, especially when it’s time to breed. This species feeds on Lamprichthys tanganicanus eggs or invertebrates living on the rocks. Both sexes look very similar, but males reach 4 inches in length while females are about an inch shorter.

In the aquarium Neolamprologus mondabu needs rocks and a sandy bottom to feel comfortable and to demonstrate their natural behavior. Pairs can deposit upwards of 200+ per spawn. The female will protect the young fry until they are old enough to be on their own. Although not an overly aggressive species, N. mondabu can become problematic when breeding or caring for their fry. Tankmates should have a compatible diet, but not share the same hiding areas. To discuss this species visit the Lake Tanganyika Species forum.


Haplotaxodon microlepis from Lake Tanganyika

Haplotaxodon microlepis

Haplotaxodon microlepis. Photo by Ad Konings

Found throughout the open waters of Lake Tanganyika, Haplotaxodon microlepis is usually spotted alone or in pairs. Occasionally, schools of H. microlepis have been seen close to rocky shores. A lot about H. microlepis‘ behavior in the wild is unknown. They are bi-parental mouthbrooders that feed mostly on zooplankton and can reach up to 12 inches in length. They are rarely exported for the hobby. Haplotaxodon is a small genus with only two described species.

Not many hobbyists have kept Haplotaxodon microlepis. Their large size and limited availability being a contributing factor. Some hobbyists have reported pairs spawning, but fry rarely survive long enough to be released. It is unclear if the problem is with the females holding them long enough to transfer them to the males or with the transfer itself. Aside from reproduction, H. microlepis is not a problematic tankmate. They aren’t very aggressive and don’t seem to attract the attention of other species. They will however eat anything small enough to fit in their mouth. These fish require very large tanks, not only due to their size but their nature to swim in open waters. Tankmates should not be overly aggressive and also share a need for a more carnivorous diet. To discuss this species visit the Lake Tanganyika Species forum.


Aulonocara aquilonium from Lake Malawi

Aulonocara aquilonium

Aulonocara aquilonium. Photo by Ad Konings

Not often seen in the hobby, Aulonocara aquilonium has only been found in the waters off of Mdoka in northwestern Lake Malawi. Mature males have light blue coloration on the face and the fins have distinctive black edges. A. aquilonium live over sandy bottoms where they feed on buried invertebrates. When not spawning, A. aquilonium can be seen in swimming together in large groups.

Often incorrectly imported under the name Aulonocara auditor, Aulonocara aquilonium is not a species that is usually carried by retailers. If you are fortunately enough to find them, A. aquilonium isn’t much different than most other Aulonocara. They don’t do well with aggressive tankmates and should be fed quality food to be healthy and happy. Best kept in large groups (8+) over a sand substrate so you can see their natural behaviors. To discuss this species visit the Lake Malawi Species forum. For more information on Aulonocara check out the Peacock Corner in the library.


Petrochromis sp. kasumbe from Lake Tanganyika

petrochromis sp

Petrochromis sp. kasumbe. Photo by Ad Konings

When it comes to being large and very aggressive, the Petrochromis genus arguably is the clear winner from Lake Tanganyika. While some species of Petrochromis are only about 6 inches in length, others can reach well over a foot. Despite their size, they all have aggressive personalities. While some species have a reputation for being more docile, that doesn’t mean the inter-species aggression isn’t there. Petrochromis sp. kasumbe is no exception.

Although not officially described, Petrochromis sp. kasumbe has been in the hobby for some time. The popular variant P. sp. kasumbe Halembe sports colorful orange-blotching making it a favorite among Petrochromis keepers. Keeping Petrochromis isn’t easy. Their diet, housing requirements, and aggressive nature make them unsuitable for inexperienced hobbyists. Even experienced hobbyists need to make an effort to successfully keep and breed these cichlids. For more information on Petrochromis check out the various articles found in the library (Care and Maintenance, Myth, and “Red – Bulu Point”. To discuss Petrochromis sp. kasumbe or any other Petrochromis visit the Lake Tanganyika Species forum.


Trematocranus pachychilus from Lake Malawi

Trematocranus pachychilus

Trematocranus pachychilus. Photo from publication.

A new species of Trematocranus has recently been named. Joining a small group, Trematocranus pachychilus becomes only the forth species in the genus to be described. This species of haplochromis has only been collected in one part of Lake Malawi along the Mozambique shore. Trematocranus species are known to be snail eaters and it appears T. pachychilus is not exception. The species is named pachychilus for its thick lips which stand out from most other Trematocranus.

The description publish on ZooKeys goes into detail of other distinguishing characteristics setting Trematocranus pachychilus apart from other species in the genus. Hopefully pictures of live specimens will be available soon. Discussion on T. pachychilus can be done in the Lake Malawi Species forum.


Plecodus straeleni teeth

Plecodus straeleni

Plecodus straeleni teeth. Photo by Ad Konings

Pictured above is a closeup view of the specialized teeth of a Plecodus straeleni. The genus’ name is derived from Greek and roughly translates to folded teeth. These hook-like teeth are designed to pull scales off of other fish. Scales are the primary food source for P. straeleni.

In addition to having specialized teeth for eating scales, Plecodus straeleni also mimics the appearance of two species from Lake Tanganyika, Neolamprologus sexfasciatus and Cyphotilapia gibberosa. Both of the impersonated species known for not being aggressive toward other species of fish. This mimicry allows P. straeleni to take advantage of other fish’s perceived nature of the mimicked species. More pictures of P. straeleni can be found in the species profiles section. To discuss Plecodus straeleni visit the Lake Tanganyika Species forum.


Petrotilapia sp. “mumbo yellow” from Lake Malawi

Petrotilapia sp

Petrotilapia sp. “mumbo yellow”. Photo by Ad Konings

Found in the waters around Mumbo Island in southern Lake Malawi, Petrotilapia sp. “mumbo yellow” is a large and colorful mbuna. Like other Petrotilapia, this species can reach lengths of 7 inches, which is unusual for most mbuna. P. sp. “mumbo yellow” spend their days around the sediment-free rocks grazing on aufwuchs. Males are a dirty yellow color with black fins while females are drab with dark barring.

Because of their size and aggressive disposition, Petrotilapia sp. “mumbo yellow” need to be kept in tanks with suitable tankmates. Other species should be hearty and accustomed to aggression. Shy or delicate fish will not do well with P. sp. “mumbo yellow”. Other mbuna with a different color pattern are best and their dietary requirements will be similar. A diet high in plant matter is a must. Best kept in a ratio of one male to multiple females. To discuss this species visit the Lake Malawi Species forum.


Neolamprologus obscurus cooperative group behavior

Neolamprologus obscurus

Neolamprologus obscurus. Photo by Ad Konings

A species of cichlid from Lake Tanganyika has been found to exhibit group cooperative behavior that benefits all members of the group. Neolamprologus obscurus are small cichlids (3.5″ max) that live in the crevices and caves of rocky areas in the southern part of the lake. Researchers have found that members of the family-group dig under rocks in order to provide shelter and food for other members, particularly for those breeding and caring for young.

The dug out areas not only serve as shelter for other members of the group, but during the day small nocturnal crustaceans are drawn to these crevices and end up being meals for Neolamprologus obscurus. Researches found that the size and amount of dug outs correlated to the amount of shrimp being available for the group. By manipulating the size of the crevices and the amount of helpers, researchers could see the impact it had on available food for the group. The study can be found at Springer.com. To discuss N. obscurus visit the Lake Tanganyika Species forum.


Rhamphochromis esox from Lake Malawi

Rhamphochromis esox

Rhamphochromis esox. Photo by Ad Konings

Rhamphochromis esox is a large, sleek predator found close to shore throughout Lake Malawi. Reaching upwards of 17 inches, R. esox primarily hunts freshwater sardine, but will consume any fish it can fit into its mouth. A maternal mouthbroader with spawns said to be in the hundreds.

Not an easy fish to keep in an aquarium. Rhamphochromis esox is very large and needs space to swim around. Its appetite for other fish make it difficult to keep with anything small enough to eat. Despite the difficulties, some hobbyists have been successful keeping this species. If you have the tank space and are willing to devote it to this out of the ordinary predator, it is certainly a sight to see. To discuss R. esox visit the Lake Malawi Species forum.


Wild Caught Project fundraiser

A short video introducing the Wild Caught Project fundraiser.

The Wild Caught Project is a documentary film detailing the benefits and costs of the wild-caught fish industry. This film will document everything and everyone that is involved from the fishing communities to our aquariums. The goal is to raise $5000 for the completion of the documentary. More information can be found on the American Cichlid Association website.

When done properly, the wild-caught fish industry can support the local communities and provide an incentive to protect the waters and the species being collected. When done wrong, it can have a terrible impact on the very fish we like to keep. For instance, the Labidochromis caeruleus is a popular and well known Lake Malawi mbuna. Its popularity contributed to over-fishing and eventually the species could not be found in its native waters. Check out the short video and if you can support the project.

Wild Caught Project

Labidochromis caeruleus. Photo by Robert De Leon


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