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Pundamilia nyrerei "Python Island"
by Marc Elieson

The Python Island variant of the nyererei complex is very aggressive and territorial. Even the females often lock jaws and tear each other apart. Fortunately, they are tough and every time they are driven to death's door they are able to hold on and pull through. I recommend having no fewer than 2 females to each male, and more would not hurt. More than one male should not be kept in anything less than 100 gallons, and a single pair should not be kept in anything less than 75 gallons. These fish need lots of rockwork in the aquarium to give them room to hide.

Pundamilia nyererei "Python Island" is one of the eleven variants of nyererei. They were formerly called Haplochromis nyererei but were reclassified by Ole Seehausen in 1998, I believe. These different variants are distinguished by the region in which they are collected: Ruti Island, Makobe Island, Python Island, Nyegezi Rocks, Senga Point, Anchor Island, Ukerewe Island (Nansio), Zue Island, Igombo Island, Luanso Island, and Bwiru Island. Each location has a slightly different coloration of this species. This particular fish comes from Python Island. With time, I am sure, we will see a more thorough reclassification of this species, giving each variant a scientific name to distinguish them.

Nyererei are a very colorful fish. The Python Island variant has an orange forehead, with the jaw region being dark blue and a dark blak bar running from the around the forehead, through the eye at a slant (I love this part) and down to the bottom of the jaw. Another dominant black bar runs across the forehead between the eyes. Gills are blotchy black. On the body, four dominant black bars are clearly seen, while another black bar is can be distinguished in a blotchy manner just behind the gills. Another blotchy black bar can be seen on the caudal peduncle as well. These thick bars fade to a thin line ¾ up the body towards the dorsal fin. The dorsal portions of their bodies are a dull orange, while yellow coloring is evident between the thick black bars but is blotched black along the lateral line. The underside of the fish is jet black, and the orange of their back extends through the caudal peduncle and ends where the dorsal fin begins. The dorsal fin is light blue, almost white with tinges of orange at the front half. The anal fin is brightly colored a vibrant blue and fades to red as it spreads away from the body and has anywhere from four to seven egg spots. The tail fin has bright blue fin rays fading into red as they reach the end. The tail fin is 2/3 blue and 1/3 red. Pelvic fins are the same black coloration as the belly portion of the body - jet black. Females of this strain are grayish yellow, with dominant females having very strong vertical bars and glittering yellowish silver on their bodies.

The nyererei complex is very similar to the insectivorous Mbuna of Lake Malawi in morphological and ecological traits. For example, dominant males also almost always display their full color (unusual for many Victorians) and display their fins. Furthermore, their natural habitat consists of holes and crevices between rocks in shallow water. They are undemanding fish that can tolerate most any water conditions and can be housed with most all Malawi or Victorian Cichlids and even some of the Tanganyikans.

In the wild they feed by removing insect larvae from crevices between and under rocks by picking and digging so don't be surprised to find this fish constantly rearranging your gravel - especially after just feeding. In the aquarium, however, they readily accept most foods, but spirulina flakes supplemented with frozen foods is recommended.

All of the nyererei complex are difficult to breed. It is well known that males have fertility problems. In fact, even wild caught males have been shown to have low fertility rates. When they are successful, the incubation period is about 28 days, and the fry are guarded by the female for about a week once they have been released. I have some great pictures of spawning nyererei from this strain in my article on Breeding Cichlids. Unfortunately, the female did not hold the brood full term and they have been unsuccessful in every subsequent spawning attempt. Adults reach sizes no larger than 4.5 inches, with females being more like 3.5 inches in length.

Video: Spawning male and female Pundamilia nyererei "Python Island" [File size = 4.0 MB]

Further reading: Pundamilia nyererei of Mwanza Bay by Greg Steeves.
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