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Lipochromis sp. 'Mwanza' - Caught in the Act
by Greg Steeves

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Paedophage literally translated means 'child eater', and refers to the macabre feeding strategy employed by these fish. One such method, as witnessed by myself in Lipochromis sp. 'Matumbi hunter' is to bump the fry out of the buccal cavity. The other method is thought to be 'snout engulfing'. It is suspected that a paedophage using this method will hit a brooding female head on, putting its mouth over the females snout and sucking the fry or eggs out. I find this all fascinating and have spoken with Dr. Paul Loiselle, who had more concrete information on this feeding strategy than any literature I was able to find. He had relayed to me that he had housed Oreochromis esculentus with Lipochromis melanopterus. O. esculentus spawned frequently, but even though notoriously brooding to term, the holding female would, soon after spawning, lose her brood. Of course the L. melanopterus was the obvious culprit, but as with other such experiments, the actual act of fry extraction was never witnessed. Dr. Loiselle believed that the feeding probably took place in the evening or even at night. As far as I know, the snout engulfing extraction method of feeding had never been witnessed or photographed. That changed this evening.

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While making my rounds in the fish room, I noticed that the Enterochromis sp. 'blue obliquidens' had spawned once again, which was a frequent occurrence but successful brooding of the eggs was rare. I should have thought about this earlier because a decade ago I kept this haplochromine and found it very easy to spawn. The females were dependable brooders and the fry hardy. They had either just spawned or were in the process of it so the male was in fantastic coloration. I wanted to take some photographs of the male while in full dress. While snapping pictures, the Lipochromis species met the brooding female 'blue obliquidens' head on, quickly opened its mouth, covered the females snout and just as quickly broke his grasp and chomped greedily. I was very lucky to catch this photo just as the Lipochromis was about to feed. It was an incredible bit of luck to be able to witness it, let alone capture an image of it. Later when I fed the aquarium, both of the fish involved fed leading me to believe that the 'blue obliquidens' female was no longer holding any eggs at all. As far as I know, this is the first definitive proof of this feeding method, and I consider myself very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time.

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Until the paedophage is positively identified, I will refer to it as Lipochromis sp. 'Mwanza'.
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