Ad Konings, 2012
Cichlid Room Companion

A different Chalinochromis

By , 2013. image

Classification: Taxonomy and phylogeny, Lake Tanganyika.

" A new species of Chalinochromis has been identified from Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, it was previously confused with Chalinochromis sp. 'bifrenatus', it is provisionally named Chalinochromis sp. 'patricki'. The reasons for identify it as undescribed are expressed in this article "

Chalinochromis at Lupita Island (Tanzania) The dark, bluish-gray Chalinochromis at Lupita Island (Tanzania). Photo by Ad Konings.

For at least 15 years we know of a dark, bluish-gray “morph” of Chalinochromis which I have, since I found it, regarded as the adult phase of Chalinochromis sp. ‘bifrenatus’ (Konings, 1998). At that time I called it “for the time being” as I had doubts that this gray fish would actually be a grown adult of the common C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’ which occurs at every site where I have seen the dark morph. The problem with the dark morph is that it is very reclusive and it seems restricted to islands and reefs. Chalinochromis sp. ‘bifrenatus’ is found in all types of rocky habitats and not restricted to such semi-isolated places.

The reason I write this short note is to direct attention to the fact that it seems that the dark species does not occur everywhere we find C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’. Secondly, C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’ (I have referred to this species as C. popelini before but I agree with Patrick Tawil (2011) that these are two different species) has been bred in captivity and there are no reports of the parents turning bluish gray and losing the stripe pattern. I have seen putative pairs of C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’ in the lake (no fry alas) where both male and female exhibited the regular black stripes on a light beige background. Thirdly, the shape of the head and body, and the detailed coloration of the head differ distinctly and consistently when both species are compared. I believe that these three reasons are sufficient to regard the dark cichlid as a different species and I suggest referring to it, until it will be officially described, as Chalinochromis sp. ‘patricki’. In recent times Patrick Tawil has worked extensively on the group of elongate lamprologines, Julidochromis, Chalinochromis, and Telmatochromis, and sorted out or discussed some of the problems that exist among these species.

When we study the color pattern of the head in C. sp. ‘patricki’ we’ll see that the eye has a bright orange upper and lower edge of the iris. Such has never been found in C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’ which at the most may show a tiny orange speck on the upper part of the iris. The distinct lachrymal and inter-orbital stripes in C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’ are absent in most C. sp. ‘patricki’, but very vaguely visible in some individuals. The mauve-colored line below the eye in C. sp. ‘patricki’ is very obvious and reminds one of the situation found in some Neolamprologus, while this line is very thin and hardly visible in C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’. Also the shape of the lips differ, with those of C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’ noticeably thicker than those of C. sp. ‘patricki’, which probably points to a different type of menu.

Head profile Chalinochromis popelini
Head profile Chalinochromis sp. 'patricki' Compare the heads of the two species (C. sp. ‘patricki’ above, C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’ below) regarding eye color and size, shape of lips, and the stripe pattern. Photos Ad Konings.

Like C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’, C. sp. ‘patricki’ lives exclusively in rocky habitats and has never been seen over sand or even near sandy patches. I have seen this shy species only in sediment-free rocky habitats and almost always in the dark recesses formed by huge boulders. You will sometimes also find C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’ there and I therefore believed, initially, that they belonged to the same species, but that is now very unlikely. Unfortunately C. sp. ‘patricki’ has never been collected for the hobby so there are no aquarium observations known. I have only observed large individuals, hence my earlier ideas that they could be adults of C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’, and believe that they are just very secretive when it comes to breeding. Also other members of Chalinochromis appear very cautious because in all my diving in the lake have I not seen a single brood of any of them. This is in sharp contrast to Julidochromis species which are almost always encountered with fry or juveniles in their nests.

All in all, the differences mentioned warrant the recognition of C. sp. ‘patricki’ as a species different from C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’. Tawil (2011) suggested that the former could be a natural hybrid of C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’ and another species, but I cannot imagine what other species could have been a possible parent that would produce a hybrid that is even slenderer than C. sp. ‘bifrenatus’ and with an overall bluish-gray color. Since I have encountered C. sp. ‘patricki’ at various isolated places along the Tanzanian shore of the lake, I believe that it is an older species that is present in some relict populations in areas where it does not have much competition. Such competition could possibly come from Julidochromis species which prefer much smaller rocks.

References (2):


Konings, Ad. (Oct 24, 2013). "A different Chalinochromis". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Feb 24, 2024, from:

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