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Haplochromis sp. "fire" Uganda

Text: Francesco Zezza, George J. Reclos, Photos: John Reclos

Fast facts on Haplochromis Sp. “fire” Uganda.

Biotope: Lake Victoria, it is a member of the Victoria Rock Cichlids Flock (also known as Mpibi: a term to be used in a similar was as the more widely known term  M’buna, used for their Malawi Lake counterparts).

Tank: A group of fifteen of them (fry from those arrived in Greece from Laif DeMason’s facility in U.S.A.) is currently living in the upper unit (125 liters) of the “tower tank”. The tank is aquascaped with (of course) rocks, a few bogwoods, planted with Anubias barteri (attached on the rocks by themselves) and a LOT of Riccia fluitans (floating at the surface), the latter resulting in a shaded area in the right side of the tank where it is moved by the water flow, which the fishes seem to enjoy !

Water chemistry: Lake Victoria water chemistry is quite similar to the one of Lake Malawi which means a pH reading of about 7.2/7.5 and a water temp (Celsius readings) of 24° C in my tank.

Spawning: These fishes (like most of those coming from the African Rift Valley Lakes) are mouthbrooders and “active performers” too! One of the females (sized about 4 cm; roughly half the expected final adult size) is already carrying … This is NOT good news since it’s said that spawning activity could affect growth both as a rate but also as a final adult size. This, in turn may result in smaller broods during the years. The expected final adult size for this species is reported to be 8-10 cm.

Food: Anything will do; ranging from flakes to pellets and from frozen to live foods (my offer being black mosquito larvae during spring/summer). Each and every food offered is eagerly taken, which means that you should be cautious not to overfeed. Starving them once a week could be wise, at least that’s what I do.

Tank Mates: All other Victoria cichlids and / or Malawi M’buna will do. As a matter of fact the only tank-mates in my tank are two (supposed to be a pair) Synodontis petricola “dwarf” and things go on happily (at least up to now). Since I am always afraid of hybridization I have never kept two Victorian species together in the same tank (even though I admit that this may be too conservative).

New photos

Photo by Francesco Zezza /MCH

Photo by Francesco Zezza /MCH

Photo by Francesco Zezza /MCH

  On the left: "First among equals" - The first male to color up in this brood is "exaggerated" a bit in this photo. On the right: A fry escaped the net and grew up to an adult female. Click on the images to get the high resolution picture. Photos by G.J.Reclos/MCH

Two males side by side. This would not be possible if they were Haplochromis (Pundamilia) nyererei.

An excellent photo showing the dentition of the fish. If you take into account the size of the fish.. you can understand the difficulty in taking such a photo.

Another male yawning in front of the camera.

The fish showing part of its remarkable coloration. The red hues were barely seen when they arrive in Athens two days ago. I am sure that in their final tank these colors will be far more intense.

The female. As with most Victoria rock fishes, dully colored. However, the colors of the males make up for it.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger image. Photos by G.J. Reclos / MCH, March 2004

This species belongs to the "rock fishes" of Lake Victoria and fully justifies the commercial name "fire" under which it is sold. The fishes shown in the photos above had arrived from USA two days ago and were just kept by us for a couple of days before they were repacked to be sent to the island of Corfu where the actual owner (Spyros Paolinellis) is located. However, even though their stay was short and despite the stress from the 45 hour trip they did manage a couple of things. First, they showed a sample of their bright orange / red coloration and second, they managed to spawn in our tanks. Since the carrying female would probably spit the eggs if transferred again, we decided to keep it with us and perhaps send it to Corfu in the near future. The male fish will display its bright colors even in the presence of other males while the aggression level is the one expected from Victorian rock fishes. A bit less than Haplochormis "nyererei" but still a lot of it. The fish were purchased from www.oldworldexoticfish.com (Laif De Mason) and were sized between 6 and 10 cm. Males were considerably larger than females while - unfortunately - the females are the usual (for Victoria rock fish) beige color. In my experience, any fish will cross breed if given the chance. We already have the experience of a fertile Haplochromis nyererei x Aulonocara sp. hybrid so I would strongly recommend to keep only one species per tank. If space does not permit that then the hobbyist should avoid keeping fishes which have the same color or melanin pattern. It doesn't take a genius to predict that if Haplochromis sp. "fire" is kept with Haplochromis nyererei, soon he will not be able to tell which is which. This fish is very similar to Haplochromis sp. "Orange Rock Hunter" but it is not the same. According the the best of Stefanos' knowledge, this particular species has not been scientifically classified yet.

Johnny and Stefanos netting the fishes for the final stage of a really long journey. Not an easy task despite the relatively small size of the tank. The fish are very quick, so the entire decoration of the tank had to be removed. Still, after spending more than 45 minutes, they only managed to collect 15 out of the 18 which were initially added in there. For a moment we thought that the remaining two (one was the carrying female) were dead but next day we saw all three of them happily swimming again. Thus, a second shipment will probably follow soon.

It was a good thing that Stefanos had kept the original packaging material. Since they made it in there for more than 40 hours, chances are that their 8 hour stay will be just a piece of cake. Stefanos decided to give them as much space as possible so we used two such cartons for the 15 fishes.

Just to keep you updated: Less then two weeks after their arrival in Greece, the male managed to spawn with the second female, too. We are already tight as far as tank space is concerned (already raising Neolamprologus brichardi, Cryptoheros nigrofasciatus and Parachromis.managuensis fry) therefore the situation is becoming critical.

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