Found throughout Lake Victoria, the beautiful furu Psammochromis riponianus is making a comeback in the cichlid hobby. Since the 1990's this species has had limited stints of availability but no long lasting captive populations. European stock originated at the southern portion of the lake (Mwanza Gulf region) while North American stocks are rooted to Ugandan waters. In 2001 Dr. Yves Fermon catalogued P. riponianus from Kenyan waters as well. Today, as the Nile Perch (Lates niloticus) industry collapses in on itself, P. riponianus is easily found in good numbers.
The genus name of Psammochromis is a Greenwood moniker based in Greek. 'Psammos' is in correlation to sand, the preferred bottom strata over which these cichlids are found, and 'chromis', of course meaning color. Members of this genus include P. graueri, P. schubotzi, P riponianus, P. saxicola, P. aelocephalus, P. acidens and P. cassius. These differing species differ in terms of body shape, coloration and other obvious anatomical differences. What the species share is a specialized dentition unique to the genus. Fully mature Psammochromis possess teeth that are long and cylindrical but curve inwards.
It is interesting to be able have a glimpse at Greenwood's thought process as he tried to tie the many haplochromines of Lake Victoria into some sort of phylogeny. Initially, he proposed that these fish were most closely related to the piscivores Harpagochromis and Prognathochromis. In particular, he thought a close affinity with the "tridens" complex (members of the Prognathochromis sub genus Tridontochromis) was worth examining (Greenwood, 1974). Years later he noted, on basis of tooth structure, that perhaps Allochromis welcommei, the lepidophage, might be considered a close relative. Lastly, it would seem that he settled on Psammochromis species, aside from their teeth, to be a generalized haplochromine more akin to Paralabidochromis and Ptyochromis species.
P. riponianus is named for the collection location of the lectotype for this species, near Jinja, Uganda. It is an average sized furu at 13cm male size while the females are generally slightly smaller and not as robust. In the aquarium, this length can be exceeded up to 15cm.
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