A brief summary of anatomical, physiological and behavioral traits of Malawi Cichlids.
The best known haplochromine cichlids from Lake Malawi are the mbuna, but the greatest morphological diversity is to be found among the non-mbuna haplochromine cichlids. The midwater feeding 'utaka' (Copadichromis) and a few other species are specialised to live on the rocky shores, but clearly have close affinities with species normally found over sand and mud bottoms.
There are 5 species of tilapiine cichlids recorded from Lake Malawi. Another species (Tilapia sparrmani) is known from the catchment area, but not the lake itself. The 5 lake species appear to represent 3 different lineages of invaders. All grow to large sizes and are prized as food by local people and tourists alike, usually being sold as 'chambo', although this name used to be reserved only for the three endemic Oreochromis (Nyasalapia) species.
Rhamphochromis fast moving predatory haplochromine cichlids endemic to Lake Malawi. Females and immature males are silvery fish. Some species show dark horizontal stripes and some can also develop faint vertical bars. Male breeding dress of tends to involve a lot of orange on the lower parts of the body, but in some species females can show a bit of orange too. All species seem to be maternal mouthbrooders.
The best known haplochromine cichlids from Lake Malawi are the mbuna. Most kinds are found on rocky shores, where they are the dominant fish. Most mbuna males remain on their territories all year round, perhaps for several years. Males of most mbuna are very brightly coloured. Females and juveniles are usually dull, but some are bright and look like males. Many mbuna species can be found together in same area of rocky shore.
Diplotaxodon & Pallidochromis
Diplotaxodon and Pallidochromis are deep-water or offshore haplochromine cichlids endemic to Lake Malawi. Members of both genera tend to have large eyes. Females and immature males are silvery fish with no dark spots or bars on their bodies. Male breeding dress of Diplotaxodon tends to involve black and white markings, sometimes with a bit of yellow. All species seem to be maternal mouthbrooders, laying small numbers of large eggs.
Region Non-Endemic Haplochromines
Two non-endemic haplochromine cichlids are reported from Lake Malawi, but others are found in inflowing rivers and in the nearby Lakes Chilwa and Chiuta. The non-endemic haplochromines are of particular interest in studies of the ancestry.
Photographs reproduced with permission.