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December 12, 2014

The Lake Victoria basin is noted for the incredible number of haplochromine cichlids and their explosive and radiative speciation – that is to say, the rapid transition from a mere handful of species to a veritable plethora of different fish. There have been several mass extinctions in the lake followed by repopulations and further speciation. Most recently, the introduction of the Nile Perch as a cultivated food source caused the near or complete extinctions of many hundreds of native cichlids. Commercial fishing utilizes the haplochromines of the lakes as bait for long line fishing, further threatening populations, and decreasing lake transparency due to erosion and excessive plant growth creates conditions wherein unique species cannot see the visual breeding cues of their own strains, opening the door for hybridization. These issues place us hobbyists in the unique position to cultivate the endemic fish of Victoria and potentially preserve the unique species and localized strains of the lake.

While not currently threatened as evaluated by the IUCN, Pundamilia nyererei of Lake Victoria is noted as a species to monitor due to the potential for hybridization and overfishing as bait. Males have cherry red dorsal edges and blue ventral edges with bright yellow over their flanks. Their flanks are marked by vertical black barring, along with some black face masking and black ventral fins. Each of their unpaired fins is colored with oranges, reds and blues. These males will grow to just about three inches in length, with their yellow and grey female counterparts slightly smaller.

Pundamilianyerereimale

Pundamilianyerereifemale

Astatotilapia nubila, the “Blue Victorian Mouthbrooder”, is another species prone to hybridization in murky waters. Unlike P. nyererei, however, A. nubila is classified as Vulnerable, only one step from endangered status. Males are a deep black with a blue overlay and brilliant cherry red fins. They will reach up to four inches in peak condition, with the sunny yellow females slightly smaller at 3-3.5 inches.

Astatotilapianubila1

The “Dwarf Victorian Mouthbrooder” or “Philander”, Pseudocrenilabrus multicolor victoriae, thankfully has no identified threats and is well distributed through the entire Lake Victoria Basin, making its home over the muddy substrate. Males are renowned for their beautiful golden color, blue lips, and red fin edges. With a maximum size of only three and a half inches, these little fish are suitable for fairly small species tanks with few males and several of the mouthbrooding, shimmering silver females.

Pseudocrenilabrusmulticolorvictoriaemale

Paralabidochromis sp. “Red Fin Piebald” is a bit bigger at up to five inches, native to Lake Kyoga and Lake Nawampassa. These are a truly unique fish with mottled black spots over a blue base in the case of males, and over orange in the females.   Males sport brilliant orange edges to their dorsal and caudal fins and orange anal fins with faint egg spots. Females, on the other hand, have mostly clear fins with only faint splashes of orange coloration. There is an unfortunate dearth of information on this particular species of Victorian cichlid.

ParalabidochromispRedFinPiebaldmale

Thank you all for reading and I look forward to my next two newsletters – the last for the year. It’s been a good one here at the Wet Spot and we’re looking forward to an even better one next year.   Stay tuned for a special announcement in your email on Sunday from this address!

Jessica Supalla