Species Article: Lake Victoria & Area

Haplochromis sp. 83 'purple yellow'

by Greg Steeves

Haplochromis sp. 83 "purple yellow" is a herbivore found in Lake Victoria. This fish aparently occupies a similar niche as Haplochromis sp. "blue obliquidens". I don't know its distribution throughout the entire lake, but it is well represented in the southern portions around the Speke Gulf area (Mwanza). Les Kaufman has told me that at present, the "purple yellow" does not appear to be as threatened as some of the other mbipi that call Lake Victoria home. Perhaps abundance is due to its preferred habitat in and around papyrus stands and areas of thick water lily growth. This fish frequents shallow water near shore. Haplochromis sp. 83 "purple yellow" is also found in purely rocky areas, but not in abundance as it is in the afore mention locations. It would stand to reason that the Nile perch, a large predator, would have a tougher time taking this fish as prey in and about tree roots. Specialized bicuspid tooth structure aid this fish in scraping algae from bolders and roots.

Our colony of Haplochromis sp. 83 "purple yellow" are still young. The males are just beginning to color up now. When young, under six months of age, these fish are a light beige color. From the pictures of mature fish I have seen, males are beautiful. The bottom portions of the body are colored a green-yellow, while the upper area is a dark purple-red. The dorsal fin, on the bottom portion carries the color of the upper body region, while the top portion is vibrant blue. The dorsal is line with a thin red stripe. The tail fin is colored red on the top half and blue on the bottom. This split in coloration of the dorsal is also seen in Haplochromis sp. "red back scraper". Very faint vertical barring is seen in both sexes. A dark black stripe runs through the eye. Three to seven egg spot adorn the anal fin. Pelvic fins are a dark blue to almost black.

In the aquarium, Haplochromis sp. 83 "purple yellow" is a peaceful algae grazer. These fish constantly forage around rocks and gravel in the tank. Our population also picks aglae off of live plants but seem to do no damage to the leaves. I know nothing concerning breeding practices of this animal, but an update will follow when spawning occurs.

In nature Haplochromis sp. 83 "purple yellow" is commonly found with Haplochromis sp. "red back scraper", Haplochromis sp. "blue obliquidens" and Haplochromis sp. "lividus". These are all very colorful fish and I can just imagine the sight they would present seeing them in their natural habitat These fish are still quite rare in the hobby and if anyone reading this can add any information to what I have outlined here, please forward it to me.

Update November 2001...

I have just witnessed our Haplochromis sp. 83 "purple yellow" spawn! This morning I noticed a very ripe female with her ovipositor fully extended. I was hopeful that a spawning would take place, but being under two inches, I was passive in my optimism. I examined that fish in this 29 gallon tank closely. The purple yellows share the tank with a colony of Neochromis rufocaudalis.

One of the purple yellows, a male, had changed drastically in coloration. The normally solid body coloration had changed. This fish was sporting a solid black line horizontally midway through the body. A black bar was running through the eye. The fish had taken on a bluish-green tint with deep red coloration in the anal and tail fin. The dorsal was a brilliant tourquoise.

The ripe female was following this male wherever he went. The male began chasing fish from in and around a section of the rockwork that contains a slate bottom as well as a top. This cave is open at the front and back and is midway up to the surface of the water. The pair had selected their spawning spot. Gentle slow circling began with periodic anal fin nipping by both fish. The male frequently paused to defend his territory, darting out at any other fish that ventured too close, all the while his coloring intensifying even further.

Dry runs were made for fifteen minutes, then I was able to see her drop her first egg. She slowly circled around and scooped it it. Eggs are small, when compared to Malawian mbuna eggs... probally 1/3 the size. They are a light orange color. With the egg in her mouth, the male slanted on a 45 degree angle with his anal fin laying flat against the surface of the bottom piece of shale. The egg spots on his anal fin look identical in coloration and size to the egg the female had picked up. She nipped at it. This is when fertilization takes place. The fish continued this circling process each time the female only dropping a single egg. I estimate somewhere around 30 eggs were dropped and are now rolling in her buccal cavity.

I believe spawning is complete, but on an interesting note, the male is not harassing the packing female, wanting to breed more as some of the other Victorians and Malawians that I have seen spawn have. At present she has positioned herself in a stand of artificial plants out of the main stream of traffic. The male is still fully colored and seems more intent on harassing the other fish.


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

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