PRETTY AS A PEACOCK:
by Craig Morfitt
is a very attractive cichlid from Lake Malawi. It is, without doubt, as pretty as any of the Aulonocara "Peacock" species that are probably more well known in the hobby. This article will look at this species and its natural habitat, how I have kept it in captivity, and the resulting spawns.
(there is no common name) is one of the Utaka, or open water cichlids that inhabit Lake Malawi, one of the great Rift Lakes of Eastern Africa. It has a fairly wide range and is usually found above underwater reefs (Staeck, p39). Utaka are primarily plankton feeders and occur in huge numbers. This means that they can be caught in bulk by the African fishermen so, despite their small size, they represent an important food source for the local inhabitants (Staeck, p37).
The maximum size of C. borleyi
is 16cm (roughly 6 inches) for males and 13 cm for females (Konings (1), p. 116). Its sedentary behaviour restricts it to the rocky shores and this has resulted in the evolution of many geographical races. The most obvious of the differences involves the colouration of the males but some of the races show differences in the spots on the flanks (Konings (2), p. 313). Whilst the norm tends to be three spots along the flank, some species have less, or none at all. In the wild, territorial males defend spawning sites alongside large boulders and spawning usually takes place against the vertical face (Konings (2), p. 314). In the races that inhabit water deeper than 12 metres, the males have elongated pelvic fins. The fins are shorter where the water is shallower (Konings (1), p.116). These elongated pelvic fins are generally white to bluish on the anterior edge and, in older males, can reach the back edge of the anal fin (Baensch, p. 894). In contrast to the bright colours of the males, females tend to be a plain grey colour.
The race of borleyi
that I have is not featured in any of my books. The male Copadichromis borleyi
Namalenje is a very attractive. The whole of the head is a metallic blue, reaching back past the gill plates. This same metallic blue extends along the full length of the fish to the tail, in the top quarter of the body. The rest of the body is a golden, honey yellow. The yellow colouring extends into the anal fin which also features a dark band and light coloured egg-spots. The dorsal fin has a white band running along the upper edge. The pelvic fins are white and extended. The female is grey in colour with a golden yellow anal fin. As the name suggests, this race is found at Namalenje Island which is situated off the western (Malawi) coast of the lake near to Senga Point. It is the nearest island to Kambiri Point, home of Stuart Grant.
An underwater shot, taken whilst snorkelling at Namalenje Island.
I had the pleasure of visiting Namalenje Island and snorkelling in its waters, during my visit to Lake Malawi in October 1999. The island itself is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of cormorants. These fish-eating birds are now a protected species and they seem to thrive on the local cichlids. All of the rocks that protrude above the lake surface are white, the result of thousands of bird droppings over the years. This blanket coating of bird droppings is not confined to the rocks. Much of the vegetation on Namalenje Island is equally coated, as I found out on a short hike up the steep edge of the island to take photographs. Fortunately, it washed off easily once I returned to the water! The snorkelling around Namalenje is excellent, with a wide variety of cichlids to be seen.
I did not catch my own borleyi
at Namalenje. I found them in the vats at Stuart Grant's fish collecting and exporting facility, where I spent the week. At least two or three of the concrete vats were holding borleyi
Namalenje and they were one of the most visually striking species that I saw there. When a net full of these adult fish were pulled out of the vat for inspection they shone magnificently in the sunlight. Hand-held fish display their colours more brightly than when viewed through water and these borleyi were simply stunning. I knew as soon as I saw them that I had to bring some home with me.