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by Tom Sarac
Lake Victoria is the largest lake on the continent of Africa, this enormous body of water features an area of 68,800 square kilometers, ranking it as the largest tropical lake in the world. It is a relatively shallow lake for its massive area. The implications of this are dramatic in regard to natural climate change as the historical impact can be drastic as demonstrated by the core samples taken showing that it has completely dried out 3 times to date.
Lake Victoria is situated in the western part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley and is surrounded by one of the most densely populated region of Africa, and is a key resource for the countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. As with too many great natural resources on this planet, Lake Victoria suffered the introduction of an invasive species that permanently disrupted the natural fish fauna, a behemoth predatory maxing out at over 400 lb and six feet long. The Nile Perch was first introduced as a sport fish by Ugandan fisheries officials in 1962. In some areas of the lake, it has eaten so many of the native fish that it started eating their food source, various crustaceans. In fact, the Nile Perch had decimated the naturally occurring Haplochromines, a tribe of cichlids that includes the genus Haplochromis, 99% of which are endemic to this lake. Since the 1980’s, due to overfishing of the Nile Perch, the Haplochromines have made a limited comeback.
The Lake Victoria Haplochromines comprised approximately 500 species of which close to 300 remain undescribed, clearly the dominant fish in this lake. Unfortunately, due mainly to the introduction of the Nile Perch approximately 200 species have become extinct. Comparatively, this large number of species outnumbers any other lake in the world with the exception of Lake Malawi.
This huge body of water contains more than 3,000 islands, a substantial number of which are inhabited, with some becoming popular tourist destinations. It is drained by one river exclusively, the “White Nile” which begins in Tanzania. Truly an inland sea in appearance but sadly very much impacted by the huge population densities surrounding it.
The setup of an aquarium to contain many if not most of the various species found with the Haplochromine complex is relatively simple. A natural setup would contain fine sand as a substrate along with a variety of smooth rocks with cave structures and simulated outcrops.
Setting up an aquarium with larger rocks in the presence of cichlids that love to dig in the substrate should always incorporate the larger base rocks being placed directly on the glass to avoid mishaps such as rock structures collapsing.
Lake Victoria’s Haplochromines are distinctly sexually dimorphic with males being adorned with bright distinct colors and markings, and females being much duller and non-descript in general. Typical ratios for keeping a group of the same species in an aquarium would be a minimum of 3 to 1 ratio of females to males. Males do set up a dominance hierarchy within an aquarium as they do in nature, this often results in some males not showing their true bright coloration. Females are typically chased and displayed to by males, a good number of hiding spaces and structures are therefore necessary with these fish.
Hybridization is a very real possibility when keeping mixed communities of Haplochromines together, it is preferable to focus on a group of one species per tank. While fairly aggressive in nature, their temperament does make them suitable for keeping with many different Malawi cichlid species.
While some Haplochromis and related species are not large due to the type of environment they prefer, such as open sandy areas and a variety of rock structures, it does mean that a group typically requires at least a 40 to 50-gallon aquarium. Filtration needs to be supported with good water movement and capacity, typically this is best accomplished with canister style filters.
Temperature requirements range from 24 to 26°C (77 to 80°F) with a GH value of approximately 200 to 280 mg/L and pH values of 7.8 to 8.2. Regular water changes are appreciated by Haplochromines. It is also recommended to perform a minimum 25% water change every week.
These cichlids are generally easy to feed a variety of food including krill, shrimp, vegetables, and matter containing spirulina are ideal. Given their ecology, the inclusion of insect protein is also strongly recommended, such as those provided in the Bug Bites Fluval formulations.
Pundamilia igneopinnis, Pundamilia aka Hippo Point Blue Bar, Pundamilia sp. (crimson tide), Pundamilia nyererei (Anchor Island), Pundamilia nyererei (Makobe Island), Pundamilia nyererei (Mwanza Gulf), Pundamilia nyererei (Ruti Island), Pundamilia sp. (red flank), Pundamilia sp. (red head), Haplochromis sp. #44 (thickskin), Haplochromis sp. (blue obliquidens), Haplochromis sp. (fine bar scraper), Haplochromis sp. (flameback), Haplochromis sp. (Kenya gold), Haplochromis sp. (KK Beach), Haplochromis sp. (red tail sheller) aka Blue Neon, Haplochromis thereuterion, Haplochromis (Paralabidochromis) sauvagei (Mwanza Gulf) aka Rock Kribensis, Haplochromis (Paralabidochromis) sauvagei (Uganda) aka Blue Rock Kribensis, Harpagochromis sp. (orange rock hunter), Harpagochromis cf. vonlinnei, Paralabidochromis chilotes (Zue Island), Paralabidochromis chromogynos.
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