First-ever import of mutant fish!
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.