Species Article: Lake Victoria & Area

Pundamilia sp. "blue bar"

by Greg Steeves

Pundamilia is derived from the Kiswahili (Swahili) word for zebra. The correlation refers to the lateral striping pattern found within the genus. Members of this genus are among the most brilliantly colored of all fish. Pundamilia are primarily planktivores restricted exclusively to Lake Victoria. Gut analysis routinely show fragments of insects as well (Fermon, 1998). The cranial profile is straight or incurved. The outer rows of teeth contain pointed cylindrical unicuspid dentition Pundamilia species carry between 2 and 5 rows of inner teeth. Ocelli, (egg spots) are often arranged in a cluster rather than dotted in a single row and do not cross the fin rays. These ocelli are large in comparison with many other haplochromine types and the orbiting rings touch each other. Differing Pundamilia species are often found cohabitating same location. These intraspecific relationships are well documented in experimentation regarding water clarity and visual recognition with regards to mate selection. With the exception of Pundamilia macrocephala and Pundamilia sp. "red head", most Pundamilia females differ very little in coloration from within the species and on the genus level as well. Pundamilia individuals normally reach a length of 12cm. Exceptions can be found within this group as well with specific locales known for larger individuals. These exceptions (see below) attain in excess of 15cm. Further revisions of the Pundamilia genus will undoubtedly include further species and variants as only a portion are described.

Male Pundamilia are brilliantly colored while females are coal black, tan brown or a shade of grey with 5-7 vertical bars adorning the body. There is little sexual dimorphism; the male perhaps slightly larger than the female.

Pundamilia species frequent rocky shelves never far from cover. The evasive crevices between this substrate have helped the members of the genus survive the Lates niloticus invasion of Lake Victoria.

Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" is found near Hippo Point in Kenya. Hippo Point is renowned for stunning wildlife, birding, and of course a number of cichlids that call this area home. It is common along the rocky shelves near shore. Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" resembles Pundamilia pundamilia in color and body patterning. Pundamilia pundamilia is found in numerous locations south of Hippo Point in Mwanza Gulf. I do not know if this superficial correlation is a valid observation or a case of "look-alike".

Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" attains a size of 14cm for males, 12cm for females. The jaw contains 3-5 rows of teeth. The outer row consists of mostly unicuspid with some bicuspid frontal teeth especially in smaller individuals. The cranial slope is mostly straight with an indentation at eye level giving the impression of s slight nuchal hump. Dominant male body coloration is grey blue fading to a turquoise underbelly. Passive males have a green sheen and lighter body tinge. Seven vertical bars stripe the body. Another bar splits the gill plate and continues on across the head. Another vertical bar begins under the corner of the mouth and in an "s" shape passes through the eye and on across the forehead. Two horizontal bars cross the snout between the eyes and lips. The pectoral fins are black. The anal fin is blue at the base, streaked blood red at the outer portion and is dotted with 5-11 yellow egg spots. The caudal fin has red trim with bright blue highlights between rays. The dorsal fin is blue with a thin line of red running along the outer edge. There are black blotches at the base of the dorsal where the body stripping meets. Females are typical of other Pundamilia types. Seven vertical black bars line a tan brown body. The anal and caudal fins have a yellow tinge to them. Females sometimes carry an egg spot on the anal fin as well.

In a species only tank, Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" males are aggressive to each other. The fighting usually leads to torn fins. The fish on the losing side of this hostile behavior cowers in a corner or hides somewhere out of sight. Even the females establish a hierarchy amongst themselves and are not above taking a nip at each other as well.

In captivity, Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" should be maintained in a large tank. Suitable tank mates include many of the Lake Malawi Protomeleus. We have also had good luck housing our colony with Cyphotilapia gibberosa. They are not aggressive with other species when given ample room. Our colony is part of a 125 gallon cichlid collection with the two afore mentioned species along with Orthostoma stormsi, and larger Synodontis species.

Nourishing Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" is easily done with good commercial flake. Some protein matter such as white worms or brine shrimp supplements the insect matter that is presumably a portion of their wild diet.

Spawning occurs in the typical haplochromine manner. Gestation is about 18 days. The fry are easily reared on crushed flake and Cyclop-eeze®.

Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" is a good candidate for populating a summer pond. The larger size of this species and splashes of color make for a delightful outside candidate. So long as there are suitable areas for the fry to inhabit without being eaten, a season in the pond will produce ample individuals for the future of your colony.


Seehausen, O., E. Lippitsch, N. Bouton & H. Zwennes. 1998. Mbipi, the rock-dwelling cichlids of Lake Victoria: description of three new genera and fifteen new species. Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, 9: 179-197.

Fermon, Yves & C. Cibert. Ecomorphological individual variation in a population of Haplochromis nyererei from the Tanzanian part of Lake Victoria. Journal of Fish Biology (1998) p 53, 66-83.

Seehausen, Ole. Lake Victoria Rock Cichlids. Verduyn Cichlids, 1996.


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Volume I: The Haplochromines
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