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Zoo seeks mate for last surviving ‘gorgeously ugly’ fish

Submitted by on May 10, 2013 – 9:46 amOne Comment |
Male mangarahara cichlids are distinguished from the females by their size and flowing fins

Male mangarahara cichlids are distinguished from the females by their size and flowing fins

London Zoo is appealing to fish keepers to try to find a mate for a critically endangered, tropical species.  The Mangarahara cichlid (Ptychochromis insolitus) is extinct in the wild but the three in captivity are all male.

Described as “gorgeously ugly”, the Zoo is hoping to start a conservation programme if a fit female can be found for the captive males.  And with two of the males now 12 years old, the quest is said to be extremely urgent.

These cichlids were named for the Mangarahara river in Madagascar where they were first found.

The construction of dams on the river caused the streams they lived in to dry up and the fish is now believed to be extinct in its natural habitat.

Bachelor boys

There are two males in captivity at London Zoo and another in Berlin. There had been a female in captivity at the German zoo but attempts to breed ended in disaster when the male killed her. “It’s a fairly common thing with cichlids,” London Zoo’s aquarium curator Brain Zimmerman told BBC News.

“They are unusual fish compared to many in that they practise pair bonding and parental care of the eggs and the fry, so there’s a lot of tussling that goes on between them.”

Having carried out a search with other aquariums around the world and failed to find a mate for their bachelor boys, the team at ZSL are now hoping that someone may have a female in a private collection. According to Brian Zimmerman, if you have one you’re likely to know it.

“They are not a particularly beautiful fish, they are gorgeously ugly, they are unusual. They are more a connoisseur’s type of fish. They need quite a bit of space, the males are bigger than your hand, and they need a decent tank,” he added.

Given the age profile of the London males and the failure to find a mate in the world’s zoos, Brian Zimmerman is not very confident for the future of the species. “I’m not very hopeful. This fresh water fish crisis is huge worldwide and as water becomes diverted for human use it becomes scarcer and fish generally lose out,” he said.

“I think there’s probably a very slim to no chance of this fish surviving.”

London Zoo is asking anyone with information about female cichlids to email the team at

Source: BBC News

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One Comment »

  • Ken Luchterhand says:

    Zookeepers should have employed the knowledge of cichlid keepers worldwide to attempt a spawning. With aggressive cichlids, it is better to be safe than sorry. To attempt a spawning, zookeepers should have used a semi-impervious divider method. For example, in cichlid keeping, we use a material called “egg crate,” which is a plastic squared material often used in fluorescent lighting fixtures. Place it so the material will act as a divider, allowing water to pass, but not fish. Place a flat rock or other material, such as a clay flower pot, near the divider. The female will lay eggs on the material and the male’s sperm will pass through the divider to fertilize the eggs, all without the adult fish ever making contact. That way the male can’t beat up and kill the female, yet a spawn can be achieved.

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