Sunday, November 28, 2010


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Osteichthys
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
The following is an outline of the tribes found in the Family Cichlidae of Lake Tanganyika:

Bathybatini - Large elongate deep-bodied cichlids built for speed. Ground color is usually silver with varuious dark blue stripes and/or spots. They are exclusively picsivicorous (fish-eating) open-water dwellers. They range in size from 10-18 inches. All species are mouthbrooding. The eggs are the largest for the family Cichlidae, approximately 1/3 inch in diameter. Species include:
  • Genus: Bathybates; Species: fasciatus, ferox, graueri, horni, leo, minor, vittati
  • Genus: Hermibates; Species: stenosoma

Cyprichromini - Small elongate mouthbrooding cichlids with highly protrusible mouthes for extracting plankton from the water. Body color is brownish with bright yellow, blue or black markings on the fins. These species form huge schools, often of several thousand above rocky dropoffs. They have a tendency to swim with their head tilted downward, and often completely upside-down. They range in size from 4-6 inches. Species include:

  • Genus: Cyprichromis; Species: leptosoma, microlepidotus
  • Genus: Cyprichromis pavo
  • Genus: Paracyprichromis; Species: brieni, nigripinnis

Ectodini - Small to moderate sized (3-10 inches) mouthbrooding cichlids. Silver ground color with varying black or iridescent spots or streaks on the body and fins. Males may have brilliant metallic coloration and the fins may have filamentous extensions. They inhabit the coastline of the lake. Genera include:
  • Genus: Asprotilapia; Species: leptura
  • Genus: Aulonocranus; Species: dewindti
  • Genus: Callochromisa; Species: macrops, melanostigma, pleurospilus, stappersii
  • Genus: Cardiopharynx; Species: schoutedeni
  • Genus: Cunningtonia; Species: longiventralis
  • Genus: Cyathopharynx; Species: furcifer
  • Genus: Ectodus; Species: descampsi
  • Genus: Enantiopus; Species: melanogenys
  • Genus: Grammatotria; Species: lemairii
  • Genus: Lestradea; Species: persipicax, stappersii
  • Genus: Microdontochromis; Species: rotundiventralis, tenuidentatis
  • Genus: Ophthalmotilapia; Species: boops, heterodontus, nasutus, ventralis
  • Genus: Xenotilapia; Species: bathyphilus, boulengeri, burtoni, caudafasciata, flavipinnis, longispinis, nasus, nigrolabiata, ochrogenys, ornatipinnis, papilio, sima, spilopterus

Eretmodini - Small stocky mouthbrooding cichlids with small swim bladders, and therefore inhabit the upper 6 feet of the lake. They tend to hug the bottom, and seems to hop around rather than swim.They have a underslung mouth with thick lips. Body may be vertically banded or spotted blue on the upper half. Adult size is 4 inches. Genera and species include:
  • Genus: Eretmodus; Species: cyanostictus
  • Genus: Spathodus; Species: erythrodon, marlieri
  • Genus: Tanganicodus; Species: irsacae

Haplochomini - Stocky large-headed mouthbrooding cichlids with a pointed snout. Light beige to brown ground color with vertical barring or spots. They are predatory and often referred to as utaka. Adult size is 6-8 inches. There are two species found in lake Tanganyika. They are:
  • Genus: Ctenochromis; Species: benthicola, horei

Lamprologini - A highly recognizable, variable and extensive cichlid group. The body tends to be quite elongated. Coloration can be brown, yellow, blue or black, or any combination. A thin blue trim occasionally seen on unpaired fins and around the eye. Eggs are remarkably small, and all species practice substrate spawning. The Genera include:
  • Genus: Altolamprologus; Species: compressiceps, calvus
  • Genus: Chalinochromis; Species: brichardi, popelini
  • Genus: Julidocromis; Species: ornatus, regani, marlieri, transcriptus, dickfeldi
  • Genus: Lamprologus; Species: callipterus, finalimus, kungweensis, laparogramma, lemairii, meleagris, ocellatus, ornatipinnis, signatus, speciosus, stappersi
  • Genus: Lempidiolamprologus; Species: elongatus, cunningtoni, attenuatus, profundicola, kendalli, nkambae
  • Genus: Neolamprologus; Species: bifasciatus, boulengeri, brevis, brichardi (now pulcher), buescheri, calliurus, caudopunctatus, christyi, crassus, cylindricus, falcicula, fasciatus, furcifer, gracilis, hecqui, helianthus, leleupi, leloupi, longicaudata, longior, marunguensis, meeli, modestus, mondabu, moorii, multifasciatus, mustax, niger, nigriventris, obscurus, olivaceous, pectoralis, petricola, pleuromaculatus, prochilus, pulcher (previously brichardi), savoryi, schreyeni, sexfasciatus, similus, splendens, tetracanthus, toae, tretocephalus, variostigma, ventralis, wauthioni,
  • Genus: Telmatochromis; Species: temporalis, vittatus, dhonti, bifrenatus, burgeoni, brichardi

Limnochromini - Heavy-bodied moputhbrooding cichlids. Black spot is present on upper outer edge of the gill cover. Ground color is a mother-of-pearl sheen with incandescent stripes or spots. Adult size ranges from 4-10 inches. They inhabit the sandy muddy areas in deeper water. The Genera include:
  • Genus: Baileychromis centropomoides
  • Genus: Benthochromis; Species: melanoides, tricoti
  • Genus: Gnathochromis; Species: permaxillaris, pfefferi
  • Genus: Greenwoodochromis; Species: bellcrossi, christyi
  • Genus: Limnochromis; Species: abeelei, auritus, staneri
  • Genus: Reganochromis calliurus
  • Genus: Tangachromis dhanisi
  • Genus: Triglachromis otostigma

Perissodini - Mouthbrooding cichlids. Body is usually elongate, silvery to beige ground color overlaid with with several iridescent bluish spots. Some vertical bars may be see on some species. Diet is scales of other fish, with one exception, H. microlepis. Inhabits all depths from inshore to offshore. Adult size range is 4-13 inches. Genera include:
  • Genus: Haplotaxodon microlepsis
  • Genus: Perissodus; Species: eccentricus, microlepsis
  • Genus: Plecodus; Species: elaviae, multidentatus, paradoxus, straeleni
    Genus: Xenochromis hecqui

Tilapiini - A deep-bodied large substrate spawning cichlid found throughout the lake. Adult size range is 16-36 inches. The two species are:
  • Genus: Boulengerochromis microlepsis
  • Genus: Neotilapia tanganicae

Trematocarini - Small slender-bodied mouthbrooding cichlids with a silvery ground color and subtle black banding on the body and fins. Unpaired fins tend to be large and eyes are large. They are a deep water schooling fish , that migrate to the surface at night to feed on plankton. They are a fragile, light, shy cichlid.Adult size range from 3-6 inches. The Genera include:
  • Genus: Telotrematocara macrostomata
  • Genus: Trematocara; Species: caparti, kufferathi, marginatum, stigmaticum, unimaculatum, variabile, zebra
  • Genus: Trematochromis schreyeni

Tropheini - Heavy bodied mouthbrooders that are beige to brown overlaid with darker vertical stripes. Lighter stripes or blotches may show bright colors. Most of these cichlids are found in the shallow rocky areas of the lake. Anal fin spots are present on the majority of the species.Adult size ranges from 3-16 inches.
  • Genus: Cyphotilapia frontosa
  • Genus: Interochromis loocki
  • Genus: Limnotilapia dardennii
  • Genus: Lobochilotes labiatus
  • Genus: Petrochromis; Species: ephippium, famula, fasciolatus, macrognathus, orthognathus, polyodon, trewavasae
  • Genus: Pseudosimochromis curvifrons
  • Genus: Simochromis; Species: babaulti, diagramma, margaretae, marginatus, pleurospilus
  • Genus: Tropheus; Species: brichardi, duboisi, kasabae, moorii, polli

Tylochromini - A large mouthbrooder reaching a length of 14 inches. Very deep laterally compressed body. Adults sport a small red patch at the lower cheek. Inhabits the shallow sandy areas and river mouths. Only one species:
  • Genus: Tylochromis polylepis

Coming Soon: Gallery of Lake Tanganyika Cichlids

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Neolamprologus pulcher (formerly brichardi)

Fairy Cicihlid, Lyretail Cichlid, Brichardi Cichlid, Princess Cichlid, Princess of Burundi

Family: Cichlidae
   Tribe: Lamprologini
      Genus: Neolamprologus
         Species: pulcher (formerly brichardi)

The The Fairy Cichlid, also known among aquarists as the Brichardi Cichlid, is undoubtedly the most famous cichlid to come out of Lake Tanganyika. The Brichardi Cichlid is an elegantly graceful and beautiful cichlid. It's beauty is not in an outstanding or vibrant coloration, but because of its subtle colors, and more importantly its graceful design, with its elongated fins and lyre-shaped tailfin often highlighted with outlining white, blue or yellow borders.

The brichardi was named after Pierre Brichard, a Belgian who set up a collection station, for the export
of Tanganyikan cichlids in 1971, named "Fishes of Burundi." The current day collectors and admirers of African Lake Cichlids owe much gratitude for the early exports, and discoveries of Pierre Brichard.

In his book Fishes of Lake Tanganyika, [TFH Publishing 1978, p251], Pierre Brichardi described these cichlids as follows: "32-36 scales in longitudinal line; 20 scales in upper lateral line, 5-8 in lower; 6 canines in upper jaw, 4-6  in lower; 7-14 gill rakers; body depth 3.2-3.7 in standard length; pharyngeal teeth conical and thin; body pale beige, eventually with orange spots at the rear; all unpaired fins with long white filaments; black stripe from eye to opercular bone; size 90 mm (usually much less)"

It is found throughtout the lake over rocky areas down to a depth of about 50 feet. Virtually each population around the lake sports distinctive markings and color variations. They reach an adult size of about 4 inches, and exceptional aquarium grown specimens have commonly grown to 6 inches.

It is known to be an ideal beginner's Tanganyikan cichlid. It can be maintained in aquariums as small as 15 gallons. Extensive colonies can be maintained in large aquariums (150 gallons) wit several pairs and schools of juveniles present. Each pair must have a territory of its own, like a cave or pile of rocks.

With a minimal amount of on-line research, it's possible to quickly recognize the "key" markers that identify this species. The lyre-tail finnage is paramount in identifying the species. Following this there are several key things to note, particularly around the head and gills:

Neolamprologus brichardi, close-up of head to study identifying marks.

Above the operculum (the gill cover plate), there is an orange-yellow spot. Below this on the spot, the operculum sports an elongated black marking, which resembles a "checkmark" which extends up to the eye and transverses the eye itself. Below the checkmark, the face will have iridescent blue and yellow scribbles.

Brichardi are unique in a number of ways. First, this fish is an egg-laying substrate spawner, laying their eggs on a surface such as a stone, sandy pit, or empty snail shell. While this is not unique on its own, it is the only known substrate-spawning cichlid that schools. It is not unheard of to find a school numbering near 100,000 individuals within a 50 meter square area. Second, a unique characteristic of its spawning habits in the wild, are in the rearing of the fry. It is the only known fish in Africa that utilizes a collective nursery. This means that adults, juveniles, and even half-grown fry all participate in a multi-generational rearing of the fry. Brichardi individuals not only care for their own fry but the fry of those who spawn around them as well as keep vigil over other adults when actively spawning. Spawns of over 100 eggs are not uncommon.
A Brichardi parent nurturing her fry.
The fish will begin to breed in the aquarium as early as 2 inches and aren't choosy in selecting spawning mediums, and are known to spawn in rocks, shells and inverted flower pots. As in the wild, the parents will allow many generations of fry to stay within the territory, and the fry will assist the parents in guarding the youngest fry.

An important consideration in selecting Brichardi for an aquarium is being aware of how protective this fish is in defending their fry.  It is not at all unheard of, for a single pair of  Brichardi to take over a mixed tank of Tanganyikans, even as large as a 75-gallon aquarium. They pair off earlier than most other cichlids. It is not uncommon to have a pair to have all of the other fish either huddled in the top corner, often with damage and even some fatalities.

There is tremendous variation among the species colonies around Lake Tanganyika.

We have found that the best way to build a strong confidence level in identifying species and colony variations, is by viewing lots of pictures. Here is a gallery of variations that show many commonly seen coloration differences.

N brichardi, showing the common coloring and key markings.
N brichardi 'fulwe' variation
A White-tail Brichardi variation.
N pulcher (brichardi) 'electric blue' variation
N brichardi 'Sunflower' variation
N Brichardi 'albino' is a genetic variation denoting an absence of coloration

Taxonomy UPDATE
The Fairy Cichlid (Brichardi) is the same as the Daffodil Cichlid...
Formerly known as Neolamprologus brichardi, the Fairy Cichlid or Brichardi may now be called Neolamprologus pulcher.
     You may recognize this as the scientific name for another popular cichlid, the Daffodil Cichlid. These two fish are almost identical in appearance. The distinguishing characteristics that help the hobbyist to identify the Fairy Cichlid is the black stripe running from the eye to the gill cover and a yellow spot just above it, which are absent in the Daffodil Cichlid. These two fish are also never found occurring together in the wild, but rather in close vicinity to each other. However color patterning and location are not the only determination of a species, today there is also DNA sequencing.
     A recent study published in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution has suggested that these two fish are a single species. Because Neolamprologus pulcher is the older of the two scientific names, the rules of scientific nomenclature would make this the correct name for the species. 

See the results of the study to learn more about it:
 Authors: Nina Duftner, Kristina M. Sefc, Stephan Koblmuller, 
      Walter Salzburgerf, Michael Taborsky, Christian Sturmbauer

Friday, May 14, 2010

African Rift Lakes

The African Rift Lakes refer to three major lakes in eastern Africa, specifically Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Victoria. Each lake has developed it's own unique habitat and inhabitants.

Along the rift, the northern most lake is Lake Victoria, and Lake Malawi is the southern most lake, with Lake Tanganyika situated between them.

Lake Malawi is the ninth largest lake in the world.with an overall area of about 12,000 square miles. It is the southern most lake of the rift lakes. This lake is bordered by Tanzania, Mozambique, and Malawi. The lake is long, narrow and quite deep, reaching depths of 2,300 feet at its deepest point. Only the upper 300 feet or so contains enough oxygen to sustain life of cichlids. Due to the geography of rapids to the north and south of the lake, this lake is effectively cut off. As a result, the dominant fish family, Cichlidae, have evolved from the riverine forms of Tilapia and Haplochromis have been totally isolated within the lake and have evolved to a point where the lake contains more known cichlid species  than in any other lake in the world. More of the popular species of cichlids among aquarium hobbyists come from Lake Malawi.

Lake Tanganyika contains by far the most unique and diverse array of freshwater fishes of any other lake on earth. NOtably, the cichlids of Lake Tanganyika show the greatest adaptation and uniqueness of shape and habitat preferences than elsewhere in Africa. In a 1986 review, Professor Max Poll defined 12 distinct  lineages among the lake Tanganyika cichlids, as compared to the three groups of Lake Malawi cichlids. Lake Tanganyika is 420 miles long and about 40 miles at its widest point. It's shores are bordered by four countries - Zambia (on the south), Congo (to the west), Tanzania (to the east), and Burundi (on the northeast end). The lake is nearly 4800 feet at its deepest. The pH ranges from 8.7 to 9.4, and the water is quite hard.

Lake Victoria, with its adjoining sister Lake Kyoga, are the northern most of the major African Rift Lakes, and is bordered by three countries - Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the north, and Kenya on the northeastern edge. Lake Victoria is around 240 moles long and about 190 miles wide, with a maximum depth of 300 feet, making it a shallow saucer-shaped lake with a large surface area. This makes it a well oxygenated body of water. The pH ranges from 7.0 to 9.0, and the temperature runs between 70 and 81 degrees F.

The chemical composition of the African Rift Lakes is hard and alkaline.The pH of the water varies from 7.7 to 8.7, and is quite alkaline, and also very hard. In general the water temperature at the shorelines where the cichlids are found averages about 78 degress F.

There is alot of interesting information about why these lakes are so unique. For more detailed about the geography and history of these unique lakes, check out: THE GREAT LAKES OF EAST AFRICA

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle

The Nitrogen Cycle typically takes approximately 4 to 5 weeks to get to the healthier "nitrate" producing state. This is why you shouldn't add additional fish until the Nitrogen Cycle matures to this point. The good news is that once your tank is properly "cycled" the beneficial bacteria in the aquarium will continuously break down fish waste and uneaten food, helping to keep your tank healthy, as long as you continue routine maintenance.

To illustrate the maturation process of the Nitrogen Cycle in the aquarium, this chart demonstrates what happens to the ammonia (NH3), nitrite (NO2-) and nitrate (NO3-) levels in a new aquarium:  


Here are the basics of how the biological ecosystem in an aquarium matures the Nitrogen Cycle.  Basically, the Nitrogen Cycle is the process where the biological ecosystem disposes of the most toxic Nitrogen based compounds by rendering the poisonous Nitrogen to a less toxic chemical form… 
  • Wastes and debris (like uneaten food) decays and is broken down into AMMONIA (NH3) which is toxic to your aquarium's inhabitants; 
  • Ammonia builds up (see the green bell curve on the chart) while the first significant part of your biological ecosystem, NITROSOMONAS bacteria, grows until it is breaking down the ammonia faster than it is produced. The Nitrosomonas bacteria is specialized to absorb the ammonia, and convert it into NITRITE (NO2-). Nitrites are also toxic to the aquarium's inhabitants; 
  • As Nitrites build up (see the purple bell curve on the chart), the second significant bacteria in your biological ecosystem, NITROBACTER, is triggered to multiply. The Nitrobacter bacteria is specialized to absorb the nitrites, and convert it into NITRATES (NO3-). Nitrates are the least toxic nitrogen-based compound to your aquarium’s inhabitants.

Friday, May 7, 2010

What are MBUNA?

MBUNA - pronounced "Mm-Boo-na"
Mbuna is a native Malawi term (from the local Chitonga language) that means "rock fish". It is not a specific type of fish, but rather refers to the collective group of species that live in the rocky shorelines of Lake Malawi.

Mbuna are not large cichlids. This makes them attractive as inhabitants for the home aquarium. When referring to "Mbuna", numerous African Lake Cichlid species are represented, including species from the popular Genera of  Pseudotropheus (represented by the Zebras), Labeotropheus (represented by the Roman-Nose species), Melanochromis (represented by the Gold Auratus and Chipokae species), Labidochromis (represented by the Yellow Labs), Cynotilapia (represented by the Lion Afra), Gephyrochromis , Iodotropheus (the Rusty Zebras), as well as the Genyochromis, Petrotilapia and Cyathochromis genera. Aulonocara (represented by the Peacocks) are a member of the haplochromines, but are oftern given an honorary status as mbuna.

Blue Cobalt Zebra - Pseudotropheus species

Roman-Nose Mbuna - Labeotropheus species

Gold Auratus (female) - Melanochromis auratus

Rusty Mbuna - Iodotropheus species