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What's New ©by Laif DeMason

One topic that I have not written about in this column is responsible fish keeping. Most cichlid hobbyists are advanced  hobbyists and have a large base of information and experience on which to conduct their hobby. As we all know, a small portion of freshwater fishes sold annually are actually collected from the wild. Ornamental fish can usually be harvested in reasonable numbers without effecting their natural populations. Harvestable limits are actually well known by fisheries models for most common food fish species. Ornamental fish collecting is usually seasonal and carried out by rudimentary hand netting methods, not modern, high-tech gear as food fishing is done. Thus, it is nearly impossible for ornamental fishermen to actually harvest 100% of any species within a certain area. However, this does not mean that from time to time, origination countries may impose a ban on certain ornamental fish species, or the importation countries may ban certain species for other reasons. In order for populations to rebound to harvestable levels in the future, collectors, exporters, and importers all need to obey the restrictions. Of course as a responsible hobbyist, if you see a restricted fish available for sale, don’t buy it! 

Here’s “what’s new” on the cichlid scene:

Lake Tanganyika 

Interest in some types of Tanganyika fishes remains reasonably good considering the current economic conditions. Collecting trips to the southern Congo area occur with regular frequency. Newly established exporters falsely believe that there is an endless demand for many species, and thus push out very large shipments. However, the worldwide demand for any ornamental fish is always finite.

what's new: Lake Tanganyika

Cyprichromis leptosoma is collected from many different places around the lake. Often some types arrive and do not have a good reference photo to view. Here is a blue body, yellow tail version from Karilani Island, Tanzania.

Collected in the extreme northern Congolese coast around Makobola, Tanganicodus irsacae has been exported again after many years. The fish sports brighter colors than the normal fare from Burundi.

Several localized Petrochromis species are currently sought by specialists. Here a Petrochromis from southern Congo, called Longola, sports red finnage, cheek striations, and delicate blue body markings. Only scant numbers are exported each season.

This new variety collected near Mpimbwe, Tanzania, is perhaps a Lamprologus calliurus. Noticeable is the gold head patch and gold ventral markings absent in the normal form from the Zambian border.

Lake Malawi

Exporters from the Lake Malawi areas are suffering from the current economic crisis as much as anyone. Some of the exporters have closed up and are no longer collecting. There is no “must have” fish from the list of export items. Thus most all wild caught varieties are sold under tepid conditions. Hopefully, when the economic climate improves, so will the sale of wild caught items from Malawi.   

what's new: Lake Malawi


Hailing from Mara Rocks, Malawi, another Cynotilapia afra form has been recently found. This variety has a more elongated body than most other C. afra found elsewhere, thus perhaps it will later be described as a different species. Photo by A. Konings. 

Many Malawi cichlid hobbyists are turning to the classical species from times past. Metriaclima pyrsonotos, formerly know as Red Top Zebra, is one such fish which has found new popularity and was first exported in the 1970s. 

Over the last couple of years, C. afra varieties have been popular among Malawi cichlid fans. Here the C. afra from Nkhata Bay, Malawi sports a brilliant yellow head blaze and was formerly sold as an “edwardi” type. Other yellow blaze types of afra are found in a few other locals around the lake. Photo by A. Konings. 

Larger predatory cichlids from Malawi have also gained interest. Many of these species have beautifully colored males. Here a Stigmatochromis modestus (first exported 15 years ago) still has good demand especially when available as small bred items. Photo by A. Konings. 

Recently described as Otopharnyx spelaeotes, this fish used to by sold as Stigmatochromis King Cave from Malawi. This interesting cichlid is usually found in cave-like structures on the east coast and is rarely exported. Photo by A. Konings. 

Another recently described cichlid from Malawi is Otopharnyx antron, formerly known as Stigmatochromis sp. “modestus eastern”. As far as I know, the fish has never been exported for the aquarium hobby. Photo by A. Konings.

West Africa

Sales of wild caught West African items are down somewhat; also suffering from the current economic decline. Some exporters are changing their species lists to reflect hard-to-find items. Some export prices are being re-adjusted to help with sales although freight costs continue to rise. Thus fans of certain rarely seen fish may be pleasantly surprised.

what's new: West Africa


Exported infrequently in the recent past, Congochromis dimidiatus is now available from Kinshasa exporters. This dwarf cichlid is usually erroneously sold as Nanochromis dimidiatus. Photo by O. Lucanus.

Often mixed among the normal buffalohead species, Steatocranus casuarius, this species is distinguishable by its body shape and is now sold as S. gibbiceps. It displays blue lines when they are older. Photo by O. Lucanus.


Recent developments with the Brazilian government and exporters have been reported. Several exporters were arrested in a wide sweep by the Brazil government to stop the flow of restricted fish. Certainly the actual culprits were only a few, but this served as a wake-up call to those who ignore the regulations. Hopefully this will not negatively affect the normal exports from that country for long. 

what's new: Neotropics


Rare collections and exports of Caquetaia umbrifera from Columbia and Panama make this fish a difficult item to find. The blue “umbie” is one of the most impressive large cichlids from the new world. Photo by O. Lucanus.

Only two species of Crenicichla are now allowed to be sold from Brazil. Here C. stocki are sometimes mixed by accident with C. alta (allowed) in shipments as they are difficult to tell apart when small. Photo by O. Lucanus. 

Several wild “brown” discus varieties are exported from Brazil. Sold as red Tucurui and exported from Belem, this discus displays red markings in its anal fin area along with red in its ventral fins.

Fortunately several Geophagus species are allowed to be exported from Brazil. Here a colorful red head form arrived from the Tocantins area near Belem. There are several red head Geophagus varieties from this area.
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