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Pundamilia nyrerei "Ruti Island"
by Marc Elieson

Pundamilia nyererei "Ruti 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 Ruti 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.

The Ruti Island variant of Pundamilia nyererei has lips lined with blue, with the top lip being slightly brighter than the bottom, and has a thick black bar running between the eyes. The lower half of its head is black, extending under the jaw. An undefined thin black bar runs behind the eyes and around the forehead, which is colored orange. The entire underside of the body from the tip of the jaw, extending well into the gill plate, is black. Seven black bars are superimposed on a bright yellow body, which is perhaps this fish's most distinctive characteristic. This yellow coloring extends all the way to the dorsal fin. The black body bars are thick ¾ way up the body and fade the top ¼ towards the dorsal. Five bars are dominant on the body with the last two towards the tail being not as clearly defined. The bottom ¾ of the caudal peduncle is black with an orange hue running along the spine. The region of the dorsal fin where it meets the body has a black line running along its length. The front 2/3 portion of the dorsal is bright yellow. The back dorsal section is yellow fading to almost colorless. The anal fin is of the same yellow coloration as the dorsal with the front portion being darker than the end. The back portion of the anal fin is hued red. The brightest, most vibriant yellow, is found in the middle of the anal fin. Three to six egg spots dot the back portion. The tail fin starts out black and fades to translucent with a faint hint of red. Females of this strain range from gray to black, with dominant females having more black than less dominant ones.

The nyererei complex is very similar to the insectivorous Mbuna of Lake Malawi in morphological and ecological traits. For example, 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. 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.

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 show 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. Adults reach sizes no larger than 4.5 inches, with females being more like 3.5 inches in length. □

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