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An Italian “Rift Lake”

by Francesco Zezza

NO! … I’m not drunk!!! Listen to me, Rome (yes, here in Italy where I happen to live!) is surrounded by a lot of – really - “volcanic” lakes geologically recognized by their roughly rounded shape and, in some cases, remarkable depth. One hot afternoon during the last summer, I visited one on of the smallest of them: Lake of Martignano, about half an hour driving from Stefania’s house. Despite the hot wheather, a lot of people were swimming since they only had to walk for ten minutes or so. You can get away from the noise and the crowd and face some nice, hidden places (with a bit – well … with a lot – of fantasy I kept, again, dreaming of Africa).

The lake is nicely "inserted" in the surrounding landscape, offering some interesting swamp areas where you can find nicely coloured insects and even water snakes. None of them is, even remotely, dangerous but, on the other hand, all are really intesting to look at.

One of the swamp areas in the lake.

A deep red dragonfly.

And a snake..

Some fishermen caught my attention since they were catching - using fishing rods from the shore - nicely  coloured fishes, in GREAT quantity. I got closer to them and being fascinated by those fishes I asked them for a few of the smaller specimens (supposed to be not suitable of being used as food). I got four of them but, regrettably, having been caught  on the hook none survived the quarantine period! … Yes, You got me right!!! I had the idea of keping them in captivity - this fish has the common, italian, name of “Persico sole”. A look at the photo below will tell you why I was tempted.

 

Lepomis gibbosus

And now some taxonomy data - I am not an expert in this field :

Class:                  OSTEICTHYS (true bony fishes)

Subclass:           ACTINOPTERYGIDS

Order:                  PERCIFORMS (this means they are REALLY closely related to cichlids!)

Family:                CENTRARCHIDS

Genus/species:   Lepomis gibbosus - (Linneo, 1758)

Common name:  Persico sole (in Italy, of course!)

FURTHER GENERAL REMARKS: Lepomis gibbosus was introduced in Italy about 100 year ago, from North America and quickly spread in all environments suitable to his needs. Most seeked areas resulted to be lakes, ponds, and generally speaking all still and/or slow flowing clean waters well oxigenated and with a lot of plants. Lepomis gibbosus attains a T.L. of about 20 cm (8 inches), feeding on crustaceans, insects and their larvae, molluscs, and eggs (of other fishes). When kept in aquariums they  will accept, after having been trained, all kind of food commonly used for our cichlids: flakes, pellets, tablets, fhesh/frozen stuff. It is a gluttonous feeder, by the way. In some areas, extremely suitable to its needs, Leposomis gibbosus can increase in great numbers, and will become a threat to the native fishes - at least to some degree.

Further remark (Jan. 2003): When Frank Panis (the other MCH author) read this page he was surprised to see that the fish that exists in Belgium also exists in such a warmer climate as Italy's. It seems that after its introduction from the American continent this fish managed to inhabit many fresh water bodies in Europe while managing to adapt in various climate conditions.

Yet another remark (Feb. 2003): It seems this particular species is full of surprises. When Johnny (my son) visited the Prespa Lakes in north Greece (at the borders with Albania and Macedonia / FYROM) he bought me a book about the Lakes. To our surprise, Lepomis gibbosus is present in this lake, too. In fact it is so successful that it is estimated that the current population is now "viable" in the sense that there are enough fish to sustain its presence in this environment. No information about its introduction in the Prespa Lake is available. Its Greek common name is "sun fish" or Heliopsaro. Source: Katsadorakis G. "Fishes and Fishing in Prespa", Agios Germanos Publ., 1996.

It should be noted that Lepomis gibbosus is already known to fish keepers and it is kept in a number of tanks around the world.

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