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The Barombi Mbo Sponge Eater
Pungu maclareni
by Troy Veltrop
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Genus: Konia
First, the genus Konia, which contains K. dikume and K. eisentrauti. Both prefer open water; however, K. dikume likes it much deeper, at 20 meters (66 ft) and greater, where there are low oxygen levels in the water. K. dikume prefers mosquito larvae, whereas K. eisentrauti likes a more varied diet consisting of algae, fish eggs, and small insects.

Genus: Myaka
Then there is the monotypic genus Myaka, with M. myaka, a fine particle feeder that feeds on the phytoplankton in the open water column. M. myaka is also reported to eat small insects.


Myaka Myaka

Genus: Pungu
There is yet another monotypic genus, Pungu, with P. maclareni, which is a highly specialized freshwater sponge eater.

Genus: Sarotherodon
Four members of the Sarotherodon genus also call the lake home. They are S. caroli, S. linnellii, S. lohbergeri, and S. steinbachi, all of which are primarily phytoplankton feeders living in different areas of the lake.

Genus: Stomatepia
Lastly, the genus Stomatepia, consisting of S. mariae, S. mongo, and S. pindu. Members of the genus Stomatepia feed primarily on shrimp and insect larvae; however, S. mariae also eats small fish. So, there they are folks; 11 endemic cichlid species from which to choose. Which will it be? I have decided to work with as many species from the lake as I can acquire, and both Myaka myaka and Pungu maclareni currently grace my fishroom. If their status changes to 'Extinct in the wild,' will future generations also be able to look to your tanks to see the only living specimens? They will mine, and I would now like to tell you a bit about one of my favorites, Pungu maclareni, in hopes of enticing you to do the same.


Stomatepia pindu

They Call Me Mellow Yellow One of the most colorful fish from Lake Barombi Mbo, P. maclareni, or 'pungu,' as known by the natives, has a yellow base color with black splotches all over the body. Depending on the viewing angle, one can also see hints of silvery-grey and a light silver- blue. The black spots are also randomly scattered on all fins, with the exception of the pectorals, which for the most part lack any markings. Black streaking is also visible in the pelvic, dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. The very most outer edges of the dorsal and caudal fins are sometimes edged with a light red-orange color.

Both males and females have a black cheek and throat with the black being more prominent in the males. During both spawning and periods of slumber, the black coloration becomes more intense. Yellow-golden spots also sometimes appear smack in the middle of the operculum. Not only are no two specimens ever marked the same, no single fish is ever marked identically on the right side and the left side. This unique pattern of markings among specimens makes it rather easy to identify and track individual fish.

While pungu is the name used by the locals, 'mellow yellow' would certainly be fitting as well, for this is the most peaceful cichlid I have ever kept. Every time I sit looking into the tank and see the colony peacefully cruising around, I begin to sing, "They call me mellow yellow," and a strange calm washes over me. The troubles of the day fall away and I lose myself in their slow deliberate movements. They appear completely at peace and are oblivious to the chaos of their tankmates, M. myaka. The pungu are my 'hippie fish' and represent the yang to M. myaka's yin.

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