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December 5, 2014

Happy Holidays! I’d like to express how grateful I am for each and every one of you – Whether you’ve been a customer through the years or just started reading our newsletter since the Chicago Aquatic Experience, you are the reason we are here and why I am able to write these articles for you every week. As a small business, every one of you makes an impact on our company. It is wonderful to know that our commitment to healthy, high-quality livestock and one on one customer care has kept many of you returning year after year, as well as bringing those of you who are new around to see what we are all about.

On the note of the holidays, I sincerely apologize for the lack of email and telephone notifications that we were closed for business both on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, as well as working only a half day on the Wednesday before. I thank you all for your understanding and once again apologize. We will be closed Christmas Day but, as of today, I will be in the rest of the holiday week.

Now, on to the fish I’m sure you’ve been waiting to hear about. This week I’ve decided to focus on some of the African Great Lakes of Victoria Basin. Lake Victoria is the second largest lake in the world in terms of surface area (seventh in volume) behind our Lake Superior, though it is significantly less deep than Lake Tanganyika (the second largest lake in the world in terms of volume behind Lake Baikal of Russia, seventh in surface area). The African Great Lakes all occur in the Rift Valley – an area of stretching and uplift caused by plate tectonics and noted for its alkaline water quality. While there are many wonderful genera of cichlids in these lakes, I’ve chosen to focus on some of the fish of questionable taxonomic standing, the “Haplochromis”. Most “Haplochromis” species occur in large schools in the wild with brightly-colored breeding males defending substrate territories – these three species are no exception.

“Haplochromis” burtoni occurs naturally in the swampy margins of Tanganyika but has been introduced to nearby Lake Kivu and the Kagera River. Breeding males grow to five inches in length and will display vertical barring broken by their lateral line, their lighter areas overlain with yellows, reds and blues. A distinct line of yellow egg spots bordered with black mark their anal fin. Their caudal and dorsal fins are cherry red and lips are blue. The coloration of their body will vary from specimen to specimen with some bluer whilst others are more yellow. This species is omnivorous and should be fed a varied diet with a good portion of greens and kept in Tanganyikan conditions – a pH value between 8 and 9 will be perfect.

Haplochromisburtonifemale

Haplochromisburtonimale

In contrast, “Haplochromis” sp. “Fire” or “Fire Red Uganda” hails from the rocky areas of northern Lake Victoria and possibly Lake Kyoga. It appears to be one of the larger “Haplochromis” with an adult size of four inches or more for males. Breeding males sport brilliant fire red flanks and tails and sky blue coloration over their dorsal and ventral edges and fins. Some red striping can be seen in these fins, as well as red and black in their ventrals. Their anal fins are marked with an average of three distinct yellow egg spots. Some black barring may be seen, especially in subdominant specimens and over the faces of all fish. The Fire Red Ugandans are insectivores and will eat just about any prepared cichlid or community flake or pellet. House this species in a 7-8 pH for best results.

HaplochromisspFirefemale

HaplochromisspFiremale

Finally, “Haplochromis” sp. “Ruby Green” is a bit more of a mystery – they are reported to occur in the plant-filled areas of Lake Kyoga and Lake Nawampassa, but this is unconfirmed. Breeding males, at a maximum size of 4”, will display bright cherry red coloration over their foreheads and most of their dorsal edge, with their ventral half and tail showing deep emerald green coloration. The male’s dorsal fin displays green at the front edge and red at the rear, as does their caudal fin. The Ruby Green is an algae grazer and should be fed a diet heavy in green matter or spirulina flake. A pH value between 7 and 8.5 will keep your Ruby Greens in good condition.

HaplochromisspRubyGreenmale

Once again, thank you all for reading and supporting us through the years. I look forward to next week; perhaps we will visit more Victoria Basin cichlids.

Jessica Supalla