Patrick Tawil, 2004
Cichlid Room Companion

Cyprichromis sp. 'kibishi', a new species of Cyprichromis close to C. zonatus

By , 2014. image

Classification: Taxonomy and phylogeny, Lake Tanganyika.

Cyprichromis sp. 'kibishi' Cyprichromis sp. 'kibishi' male at Milima Island, Lake Tanganyika (Democratic Republic of Congo).

Cyprichromines are a small lineage of plankton-eating cichlids which are remarkable for their body shape as well as their sexual dimorphism, which is related to their advanced maternal mouth-brooding behavior. Male breeding coloration and lek forming behavior are most evolved in the most advanced members of Cyprichromis, where males show a unique polymorphism involving multiple color morphs. On two occasions I wrote a review of members of this genus, including officially recognized taxa as well as undescribed species (Tawil, 2006; 2008), but one distinct species still remained to be discussed by me: Cyprichromis sp. 'kibishi', which has been known in the trade for a long time, but which was till recently considered to be a variant of Cyprichromis sp. 'leptosoma jumbo' (Konings, 1998). As I was able to observe it, I think that this species is closer to Cyprichromis zonatus, even though it still appears to share some features with the so called 'jumbo' types. C. sp. 'kibishi' will be dealt with in a forthcoming article (Tawil, in press), but the newly recognized species is introduced here.

The geographical distribution of C. sp. 'kibishi' is poorly known, since it comes from the Congolese coast of Lake Tanganyika, which has been rather dangerous to visit for white explorers for a few decades now. Fortunately, the situation has just changed, and Ad Konings (personal communication) was able to explore very recently the Congolese coast north of Kalemie. He has found C. sp. 'kibishi' only at the Kavala islands (Bilila, Milima, and Kibige) but not further north. As for my specimens, they were reputedly from Kiku, far more south along the Congolese coast. This would mean that the distribution area of this species would be very large and encompasses that of the so called 'jumbos' and 'brilliant jumbos'. As for the provisional name, C. sp. 'kibishi' is kept here since it is already widespread among aquarists, even though its significance is not evident: it could be derived from Kibige Island, one of the Kavala islands, from where come most imports.

As for the courtship behavior of males, in C. sp. 'kibishi' it seems to be intermediate between that of C. zonatus and other members of the genus (apart from C. pavo which leads its females toward a substrate). Males of C. zonatus court females with fully erect fins and with the belly directed towards the female. Besides, the open water spawning species usually fold their fins while courting a female. In C. sp. 'kibishi', the folded-fins-courting is rare, in the same way as it is in C. zonatus. Both C. zonatus and C. sp. 'kibishi' seem to favor spawning along a vertical surface rather than in the water column. All these observations were still to be considered preliminary, since I made them only on a few specimens, but fortunately Ad Konings (personal communication) could observe the species in the natural habitat in May 2014, and he confirms me that the courting male leads the female to vertical rocky substrates to spawn.

The reasons why I consider C. sp. 'kibishi' a potentially undescribed species are: (1) there is no color polymorphism among males of C. sp. 'kibishi' (versus in C. 'leptosoma jumbo', C. leptosoma, and in C. pavo), (2) breeding does not take place in the water column (versus in C. leptosoma, C. 'jumbo leptosoma' and C. coloratus). (3) The coloration is different than in C. zonatus,the putative closest relative.

References (3):


Tawil, Patrick. (Jun 18, 2014). "Cyprichromis sp. 'kibishi', a new species of Cyprichromis close to C. zonatus". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Oct 04, 2023, from: