First-ever im­port of mu­tant fish!

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Fishkeeping News -

Lake Malawi fish have their own unique con­coc­tion of ge­net­ics. Many peo­ple un­der­stand that rift lakes are a bit spe­cial when it comes to the ge­netic his­to­ries of the species they con­tain, but most of us know lit­tle more than scratch­ing at the sur­face. How­ever, fans of Rift ci­ch­lids may well have re­searched fur­ther into this sub­ject be­cause it’s ex­tremely in­ter­est­ing, of­fer­ing more than just pretty fish in a tank but also a back­story and an ever-chang­ing sci­en­tific in­ter­est to the hobby.

Peo­ple have ded­i­cated their pro­fes­sional lives to study the lakes and their in­hab­i­tants and con­tinue to de­scribe changes oc­cur­ring within each lake. A new or rare species or vari­ant is al­ways of ma­jor in­ter­est to those in the know and now two spe­cial fish have cropped up in the UK.

Ricky Ward of UK Aquatic Im­ports, a spe­cial­ist Malawi ci­ch­lid im­porter, has taken de­liv­ery of a fish that’s not been seen for many years, that pos­si­bly has never been ex­ported be­fore and asks more ques­tions about ge­net­ics than it an­swers at this point.

The at­trac­tion of this fish isn’t skin-deep: look at the im­age – it’s not go­ing to set hearts rac­ing on colours and mark­ings, but to afi­ciona­dos this fish rep­re­sents an in­trigu­ing mys­tery. Ricky has sug­gested that this fish is a mu­tated

Tropheops macropthal­mus type from the Tan­za­nian coast. He says: “There has been some sug­ges­tion that one may have pre­vi­ously been caught and ex­ported, but this hasn’t been clar­i­fied just yet. Ei­ther way this is a UK first for Malawi ci­ch­lids and one I doubt will be seen any­where else right now.”

African ci­ch­lid ex­pert and PFK con­trib­u­tor Ad Konings com­ments: “I have seen such a fish, the Spreinat fish*, a few times among var­i­ous species of

Tropheops. Once we

col­lected a male spec­i­men with this ‘mu­tant’ col­oration and a day later in the aquar­ium it had lost that colour and had re­verted back to what the other males of that species look like. It may be a mu­ta­tion, a ‘dis­ease’ or prob­lem with its melanocytes that plays up when­ever the male gets ex­cited or ag­gres­sive.”

ad fur­ther says that this fish “looks like a hy­brid be­tween Tropheops and some other mbuna, per­haps or­ange-blotch (ob) Ze­bra or ob es­therae. Tropheops usu­ally have a much rounder head.”

For­mer PFK edi­tor and ci­ch­lid ex­pert Jeremy Gay adds: “I’d say that the fish is a deep-wa­ter fish, hence the big eye and rar­ity, but it has clear scrap­ing or comb­ing teeth. There won’t be al­gae down there. So, a sponge eater? But no Tropheops have the front loaded, seem­ingly uni­cus­pid, teeth that this ‘mu­tant’ has.

“If it dies, and gets de­scribed, I would say that it won’t be placed in ei­ther Pseu­dotro­pheus or Tropheops. right now, it looks more like a

Si­mochromis from Tan­ganyika!” ricky says: “The mu­tant fish has been a dream for many wild fish hob­by­ists for as long as I re­mem­ber, not for the colour, to study it. Will fe­males re­act to the males as one of their own? Will the mu­tant form be passed onto the young? We’ll have to wait and see in the breed­ing pro­gram planned for these fish in the UK.

“How­ever, to have re­ceived two wild male mu­tants col­lected at the same time and same reef makes us all won­der that maybe this fish could be be­com­ing a small pop­u­la­tion, as to see just one is such a great rar­ity.” * re­fer­ring to an­dreas Spreinat who pub­lished an im­age of this fish in his book Lake Malawi

Ci­ch­lids from Tan­za­nia, 1996 - Ed.

No Tropheops species has the front loaded, seem­ingly uni­cus­pid, teeth that this ‘mu­tant’ has.

It may not be pretty but it is in­ter­est­ing to many.

Teeth give clues to di­ets and life­styles of Malawi species.

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