Species Article: Lake Victoria & Area

Astatotilapia nubila

by Greg Steeves

One of the very first cichlids to be discovered and classified from the Lake Victoria region is the little insectivore Astatotilapia nubila. Nubila are not only found in Lake Victoria itself, but also in the surrounding bodies of water. Lakes, rivers, and swamp areas are all home to the nubila. The differing populations of this mbipi may well be subspecies of a larger grouping, but as Victorian rock cichlids go, its uniformity across locales is unusual.

Unlike most cichlids from this region, which have adapted to utilize specialized feeding niches, it seems that the nubila is adept at taking advantage of available food sources wherever it is found. This adaptability is apparent in the aquarium as well. The nubila will eat anything it can.

Males are capable of drastic color changes depending on mood. It is sometimes so drastic that from day to day it can appear to the unwary aquarist that he or she posesses an entirely different fish. Males of the species, as with most cichlids, display their most vibrant coloring while displaying to females to entice spawning. Nubila darken to a deep blue to black with vibrant coloring in their finnage.

Astatotilpia nubila, or a closley relate ancestor, is thought to be the fish from which the entire Victorian species flock has evolved. In the lake itself, nubila is found almost everywhere, feeding alongside many different species. It is not usually as abundant as other furu that have taken advantage of a feeding niche and developed in that locale, but they are present. Their status in Lake Victoria is at present listed as "non-threatened".

Astatotilapia nubila is not a demanding fish. In a captive enviroment, the nubila will prosper nicely on commercial flake. No food is refused. Live or frozen "animal matter" such as brine shrimp, various worms and even chopped clam are greedily ingested. They are not picky in the least when it comes to water conditions, and as long as the water is clean, they will prosper.

The nubila breeds readily. Small eggs are held by the female, gestating for roughly two and a half weeks. Broods of 40 fry are normal for an adult female.

This fish grows to three inches and is not highly aggressive to other tank mates or to members of its own species. The nubila seem to prefer open water, but rock caves to retreat into make the fish feel secure. I would suggest that due to its opportunistic nature, care should be taken when mixing with other Victorian Haplochromines as crossbreeding is a possibility. Fortunately, nubila mix well with some of the less aggressive Malawian mbuna and can even be housed with many Tanganyikan species.

I would recommend this fish as a Victorian cichlid suitable not only for the beginner aquarist, but as a wonderful addition to the collection of a more experienced fish keeper as well.


Cichlids of Africa
Volume I: The Haplochromines
Cichlids of Africa; Volume I: The Haplochromines

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