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The Little Known Arrow-fish; Yssichromis
by Greg Steeves


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Yssichromis pappenheimi (Boulenger, 1914)

Named for the German biologist Artur Pappenheim (1870-1916) Yssichromis pappenheimi is native to Lakes George and Edward in the left arm of Africa's Great Rift. Despite over-fishing in both waterways, Y. pappenheimi still appears frequently in native catches.

This is a very small sardine-like cichlid at just over 6cm. Other than a slight darker coloration with adult males, both sexes are essentially silver fish with uncolored fins. It is fascinating to speculate how this Yssichromis and representatives of this genus from Lake Victoria have got to be where they are today and how they are related. It is unknown if this is a case of parallel evolution or geological seeding. Either way, this is yet another beautiful fish that has not made it to the aquarium trade.

Fin Underwater Organism Fish Marine biology

Yssichromis piceatus

Yssichromis piceatus (Greenwood & Gee, 1969)

The beautiful little cichlid Yssichromis piceatus is aptly named as the Latin root (piceatus) means "smeared with pitch" referring to the black body coloration of the adult male. Originally found near Jinja, Uganda (Napoleon Gulf opposite the Jinja prison) Y. piceatus is known to have had a wide distribution throughout Lake Victoria.

It is a rather small fish growing to 9cm with little dimorphism between the sexes. The head has a straight incline and is arrow shaped (as is typical of Yssichromis; 'yssos'- Greek for arrow). The body is slender and laterally compressed. The adult male has an all black body with a striking orange caudal fin. This same orange hue is found on the posterior of the dorsal and anal fins as well. The pelvic fins are black while the pectorals are clear. The females are dull silver with a mid lateral horizontal bar splitting the flanks. A black face bar lines through the eye and around the forehead. This same patterning can be seen on non-dominant males only with darker body coloration.

The teeth are comprised of mainly unicuspid and tricuspid structure with the first tooth series being the only row completely exposed. Much as in Lipochromis, the back rows are not always uncovered above the gum. Natural food consists of small pupae (northern Lake Victoria samples while a diet of zooplankton was found in Mwanza populations. It is likely that Y. piceatus is an opportunistic feeder taking whatever minute fare is available at the time. Diet varies throughout the year.

These fish make ideal aquarium residents. One must ensure not to house them with overly rambunctious tank mates. To show these fish at their best, they must not suffer any dominance issues with another species. Unless one is highly versed in haplochromine temperament, the best idea is to house Y. piceatus as the only cichlid species in an aquarium. Small Synodontis species as flavitaeniatus or alberti and some passive eels as Mastacembelus liberiensis work well for a little aquatic diversity. Y. piceatus is a good choice for one wanting to incorporate plants into aquascaping. These fish will generally not do any harm to all but the most tender of plants. The décor of the aquarium makes little difference to Y. piceatus. Plants or rockwork serve the same purpose and will allow these little haplochromines to feel comfortable. The deep adult male coloration will rarely develops in a bare tank.

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