Species Article: Lake Victoria & Area

Yssichromis pyrrhocephalus, Witte & Witte-Maas, 1987

by Greg Steeves

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Yssichromis pyrrhocephalus

Yssichromis pyrrhocephalus

Yssichromis pyrrhocephalus

Another of the spectacular species of the open water zooplankton eaters to have escaped the Nile perch (Lates niloticus) onslaught by adjusting to another habitat, is Yssichromis pyrrhocephalus. Its range is recorded as the northern portion of Mwanza Gulf, Lake Victoria. The name is of Latin origin and translates to “fire head”. It was nearly driven to extinction in the 1990’s only to take residence amongst rocky habitats where it was easier to evade predation. Remarkably, the surviving individuals underwent apparent morphological changes including a decreased eye size, smaller more compact head and larger gills (Frans Witte et al., 2008). This serves as a prime example of how very adaptable haplochromine cichlids can be.

Yssichromis pyrrhocephalus is another small cichlid with a maximum length of 8cm. Both females and quiescent males display a body coloration of metallic silver. All fins both paired and unpaired are largely translucent. The sexually active male sports an orange-red blaze with a prominent eye bar. The pelvic fins are black with orange dorsal, anal and caudal fins. One to three ocelli dot the back portion of the anal fin. The head is arrow-shaped with a sleek tapered body akin to other Yssichromis species.

Yssichromis pyrrhocephalus make ideal aquarium residents providing that the aquarium sports some sort of décor. In an empty or bare tank, these fish will always seem nervous and will not prosper. Aquatic plants and rockwork are desirable fixtures in the Y. pyrrhocephalus aquarium. Breeding is typical of other members of the genus with the fry sometimes being delicate for the first few weeks post-release. It is an extremely rare fish in the hobby, which is a shame, as it is a beautiful, undemanding, and relatively peaceful haplochromine.


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

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