Species Article: Lake Victoria & Area

Haplochromis sp. 'Kenya gold'

by Greg Steeves

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Haplochromis sp.
'Kenya gold' male

Haplochromis sp.
'Kenya gold' pair

Haplochromis sp.
'Kenya gold' male

Haplochromis sp.
'Kenya gold' male

The popularity of snail eating haplochromine cichlids from Lake Victoria has always been strong. Species such as Platytainiodus sp. 'red tail sheller', Ptyochromis sp. 'salmon' and Labrochromis ishmaeli (to name only a few) are favorites for several reasons. Firstly, the common aquarium pest Melanoides tuberculata (Malaysian trumphet snail) is abundant and tough to get rid of in many aquariums. These oral shellers do a decent job at controlling this pest. The body shape (particularly the head) is different from most other haplochromines and unique enough in regards to coloration that they can be kept with other cichlids that normally couldn’t be safely housed together without fear of hybridization. Another sheller from Mbita Point, Kenya is Haplochromis sp. 'Kenya gold'. It should be noted that placing this fish in the genus Haplochromis is only done as a place holder. Haplochromis sp. 'Kenya gold' is not closely related to other fish truly belonging to this genus such as Haplochromis lividus from Lake Victoria, or Haplochromis sp. 'ruby' from the Kyoga Basin of Uganda. We have yet to take a good look at the morphology of this cichlid to make our own opinion of where it best fits but it is possible that this might belong in its own genus. That will be a project for some rainy day.

Haplochromis sp. 'Kenya gold' has always been popular in the cichlid hobby but never plentiful. If memory serves, it was at one time raised commercially in Florida but we really don’t think that is happening anymore. This is another of a growing list of fish that are in the hobbyist's hands to ensure survival. The wild population density is not known, however many shellers did not fare well with the Nile perch. We speculate that their habit of feeding on snails along the mud or sand made them easy targets for the large predators. We, the hobbyists, should pay close attention to this species and ensure it is around for generations to come. H. sp 'Kenya gold' is always sought after in the hobby and the few times we’ve had fry to distribute, there was no problem finding them homes.

An incredibly beautiful little fish, Haplochromis sp. 'Kenya gold' should be housed with other lively cichlids. Ensure that tank mates, if other haplochromines, are very different in coloration and females are easily told apart. We have housed this species in such diverse colony mixes as Astatotilapia desfontainii, Pundamilia nyererei, Neochromis greenwoodi and others. We would not recommend housing with other snail eating species. The aquarium used to house H. sp. 'Kenya gold' should have a sand substrate, open areas for grazing and several rocks or driftwood placed throughout the tank. These objects will serve as territorial boundaries. A rudimentary pit will be excavated by the spawning male as a breeding site. Despite its small size of 9-11 cm, H. sp. Kenya gold' is capable of holding territory with more aggressive species. We have not experienced plant eating with this species but it would be advisable, if adding greenery, to use the more hardy species such as Anubias, Apontogeton or Java fern. No specific water conditions are necessary for this or most other haplochromine species from Lake Victoria.

Spawning is typical compared with the other haplochromines from the region, with small broods of 10-20 fry being normal. Perhaps the small batches of fry are the reason for its lack of abundance in the hobby. This fish is listed as CEN (endangered) on the CARES priority list, however that designation might have to be reexamined on the next revision. For all we know, it might already be extinct in the wild and survive only in the hobby. All in all, Haplochromis sp. 'Kenya gold' is a fantastic undemanding fish for anyone’s cichlid collection.


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

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