So what can hobbyists do to help conserve African Rift Lake cichlids? Best Alternatives, a movement to promote environmental solutions for various industries, recognizes Pinoy cichlid specialists as bannerbearers for the propagation of pureblood strains and color morphs, ensuring that captivebred fish with undiluted genes are available locally. Remember that wild-capture fisheries are not necessarily bad, for they sustain the lives and livelihoods of many aquarium fish gatherers in the Rift Valley. However, wild stocks of in-demand species like Tropheus duboisi, Melanochromis chipokae, and especially Chindongo saulosi have already been decimated by collectors. Lastly, I’ve always believed that the best place to observe fish are in their natural habitats. Those longing to see cichlids in the shallow, sunlit edges of the Rift Lakes can travel to Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia from hubs like Kenya and don either SCUBA or snorkeling gear. It’s one thing to see cichlids in tanks and another to see them where they live, where they breed, and where they are most probably still undergoing their never-ceasing process of evolution.
Boldly-colored East African Rift Lake cichlids inhabit lakes which are extraordinarily similar to marine habitats. White sand, sponges, even jellyfish thrive in these lakes! Shown are various cichlids around Malawi’s Likoma Island. (African Cichlid Hub)
Possibly the first of the Rift Valley cichlids to be exported worldwide, highly-aggressive golden mbuna (Melanochromis auratus) have become a mainstay of cichlid lovers. Endemic to Lake Malawi, they are now bred and kept worldwide. (Gregg Yan / Best Alternatives)