Greg Steeves,
Cichlid Room Companion
Furu Fanatics

Pundamilia (Seehausen & Lippitsch 1998), a Genus Review

By , 2006. image
Last updated on 26-Jan-2006

Pundamilia (Seehausen & Lippitsch 1998)

Pundamilia is derived from the Kiswahili (Swahili) word for zebra. The correlation refers to the lateral striping pattern found within the genus. Members of this genus are among the most brilliantly colored of all fish. Pundamilia are primarily planktivores restricted exclusively to Lake Victoria. Gut analysis routinely show fragments of insects as well (Fermon, 1998). The cranial profile is straight or incurved. The outer rows of teeth contain pointed cylindrical unicuspid dentition Pundamilia species carry between 2 and 5 rows of inner teeth. Ocelli, (egg spots) are often arranged in a cluster rather than dotted in a single row and do not cross the fin rays. These ocelli are large in comparison with many other haplochromine types and the orbiting rings touch each other. Differing Pundamilia species are often found cohabitating same location. These intraspecific relationships are well documented in experimentation regarding water clarity and visual recognition with regards to mate selection. With the exception of Pundamilia macrocephala and Pundamilia sp. "red head", most Pundamilia females differ very little in coloration from within the species and on the genus level as well. Pundamilia individuals normally reach a length of 12cm. Exceptions can be found within this group as well with specific locales known for larger individuals. These exceptions (see below) attain in excess of 15cm. Further revisions of the Pundamilia genus will undoubtedly include further species and variants as only a portion are described.

Male Pundamilia are brilliantly colored while females are coal black, tan brown or a shade of grey with 5-7 vertical bars adorning the body. There is little sexual dimorphism; the male perhaps slightly larger than the female.

Pundamilia species frequent rocky shelves never far from cover. The evasive crevices between this substrate have helped the members of the genus survive the Lates niloticus invasion of Lake Victoria.

Pundamilia nyererei (Witte-Maas & Witte, 1985) Mwanza Gulf, Tanzania, Lake Victoria

Named in honor of Julius Kambarage Nyerere, first president of Tanzania, the Pundamilia nyererei complex contains some of the most beautiful brightly colored organisms found in Lake Victoria. Populations are recognized by where they are found rather than an adopted common name. There is likely more taxonomic work within the Pundamilia genus; we could see further descriptions of species, sub-species, and locale variants. Identifying an individual nyererei is important to the hobbyist because all fish in this grouping will interbreed. We must do everything we can to ensure our strains are as pure as possible. Pundamilia nyererei, like most Victorian furu, is threatened with a number of changing environmental and habitat conditions. There may be no going back to the wild to collect these fish so it is our responsibility to do everything we can to propagate true lines. Never mix variants of Pundamilia.

Pundamilia nyerereiare not large fish. Maximum length is around 10cm with the females usually being a bit smaller. Nearly all the female Pundamilia nyererei, regardless of locale, look similar. Basic coloration consists of a tan brown body with straight vertical striping. Fins are translucent and colorless for the most part with slight tingeing of blue in the dorsal fin. It is the males of this species which we concentrate on because color and body patterning is unique enough to be able to pin down what variant we are dealing with. Pundamilia have a nearly straight slope to the forehead. The mouth contains three to five rows of randomly spaced bicuspid and unicuspid teeth. Along the lateral line nyererei have small, deeply embedded scales. This is very evident when comparing these fish along side any of the Paralabidochromis species. All males of this complex are brightly colored, with red being predominant in most cases. Throughout the southern portion of Lake Victoria, Pundamilia nyererei are restricted to small pockets where it would appear that they have evolved as an isolated group (Seehausen, 1998). The most obvious barrier that keeps differing nyererei locales from interacting is open water. These fish frequent the shallows where they feed mostly on the small creatures associated with algal growths. There are local populations far removed from each other that are similarly colored, but it is unlikely that these fish came from a common ancestor. More likely, this is a case of parallel evolution.

Keep in mind when reading the following species descriptions that these observations were mostly made on dominant males in full breeding dress. Differentiation is much more obvious this way. Pundamilia nyererei show individual color fluctuations depending on mood as well as some variation between individuals.

Python Island

runs from the bottom of the jaw, through the eye on a slant and around the forehead. A dominant black bar runs across the forehead between the eyes. Gill plates are blotched black.

Body coloration: Four dominant black bars mark the body. A black bar is also found behind the gill plate but blotched in a manner that it is not as evident as the more defined bars on the body. There is a bar on the caudal peduncle as well but again, not as defined as the four that adorn the body. The thick barring fades to a thin line 3/4 up the body towards the dorsal. Back portions of the body are a dull orange. Yellow body portions are evident between the thick black bars but are also blotched black along the lateral line. Underside of the fish is jet black. The orange of the back extends throughout the caudal peduncle and ends where the dorsal fin begins.

Fin Coloration: The dorsal fin is light blue almost white with tinges of orange at the front half. The dorsal fades to almost translucent towards the tail. The anal fin is brightly colored a vibrant blue that fades to red away from the body. Four to seven egg spots adorn the back portion. Tail fin has bright blue fin rays that fade into red as they reach the end. Tail fin is blue 2/3 and red 1/3. Pelvic fins are the same black coloration as the belly portion of the body.

Python is one of the many islands that dot Mwanza Gulf in Lake Victoria. Each island region has its own color variants of Pundamilia nyererei. The maximum size of these colorful fish is 10cm with the exception of Makobe Island. Pundamilia nyererei from Makobe Island grow larger than most of other variants with males reaching 13cm. According to Yves Fermon, noted ichthyologist, nyererei grow larger in the aquarium than in their native waters. An interesting note is the misnomer we associate with various regions containing one easily distinguishable variant. We commonly associate a variant of Pundamilia nyererei with locale; for example, the Ruti Island variant is readily available in the hobby as one distinct population whereas in the wild, Ruti Island has multiple nyererei populations each with distinct and slightly differing coloration. We associate our nyererei variants with populations imported before sanctions were placed on Victorian cichlid exports.

The Python Island variant of Pundamilia nyererei is typical of nyererei species. This is a boisterous species. Males can become hyper dominant sometimes killing other males that threaten his harem. A high female to male ratio should also be employed when dealing with this species. Males will harass lone females as well as other cichlids it may consider a threat. That said, once a group is established, a community of Pundamilia nyererei is a stunning sight. The Python Island male will display a rainbow of colors dominated by bright orange. Many caves and obstacles should be implemented into tank décor. This will help to ensure refuge areas for females and subdominant males to evade the aggressiveness of alpha males. Water parameters are easily maintained with good filtration. A pH between 7.5 and 8.5 is ideal. Temperature in the range of 72-82F are within the Pundamilia nyererei comfort zone. High quality flake supplemented with occasional feedings of live or frozen protein including brine shrimp or daphnia works well for these omnivores.

I have found that a good method to build a breeding colony is to raise a group of fry. Pundamilia nyererei from Python Island will reach breeding size at about eight months. When males start to show color, these fish are sexually mature. There is no problem to induce spawning. Females will produce clutches of fry every three months. First spawns may result in around ten fry but as the fish get larger, so increases the number of eggs. A full sized female may have clutches of 50 fry or more. Pundamilia nyererei is far more prolific when young. Adult fish can be tougher to induce to spawning. Although as with most fish, the bigger the tank the better, we house our nyererei breeding groups in 55 gallon tanks.

Rearing the young is not difficult. Our fry are raised in ten gallon bare tanks powered by a mature sponge filter. We offer the fry crushed flake and Cyclop-eeze®. Growth is rapid. The fry will reach 2cm in less than two months.

Igombe Island

Head coloration: The head fashions a bright red forehead that fades to orange as it recedes into the back portion of the body. A bright blue band rims the top lip. A black bar extends from the bottom of the jaw and ends at the top of the eyeball. A single thin black bar curves the forehead between the eyes.
Body coloration: Seven wide black bars located from behind the gill plate to the caudal peduncle. Barring fades 3/4 of the way to the dorsal. The underside is solid black. Mid sections of the body are bright yellow. Back portion is orange and fades to yellow towards the tail. Caudal peduncle is dark, almost black.
Fin coloration: The dorsal begins at the first body bar just behind the gills. The bottom portion is colored orange 2/3’s of the way back. A blue line begins at the first dorsal ray and turns blue-green as it progresses towards the tail. The tail portion of the dorsal fin is totally blue with no orange left at all. The anal fin is bright blue with 3-5 egg spots. Pelvic fins are jet black. The tail fin is translucent tinted blue with a dull red trim on the end. Top portion of the dorsal is lighter than the rest of the fin and a yellow color.

Makobe Island

Head coloration: Top and bottom lips are rimmed bright blue. From the top of the lip, through the eye, and to beyond the gill plate is black. Forehead is brightly colored deep red. Thin black bar runs between the eyes. Thick black bar runs around the forehead fading towards the back portion of the eye. A third black bar runs around the back portion of the head where the dorsal slope begins.
Body coloration: Five distinct thick black bars run from the belly 2/3's up the body. Another bar is located behind the gill plate but is obscured by the black cheeks. The barring on the caudal peduncle is not evident as the portion of the body from the beginning of the anal fin to the tail fin is predominately black. Bright yellow body markings are evident along the lateral line. The top portion of the back is the same bright red coloration found in the forehead. Faint traces of black run to the dorsal from the body bars. The black under side extends to engulf the full back section of the fish with just a hint of red running along the top of the caudal peduncle.
Fin coloration: The dorsal fin is bright red, the same coloration as the top of the body. The last 5 dorsal spines are colored blue and contrast clearly with the rest of the fin. The tail is a solid red with blue tinges in the rays along the middle of the fin. The anal fin is sky blue with an orange tinge contained in the first 3 fin rays. Three to seven egg spots are found near the back portions of the tail. Pelvic fins are solid black with the first 2 fin rays extending beyond the others.

Ruti Island

Head coloration: Lips are lined blue with the top lip being brighter than the bottom. A thick black bar runs between the eyes. Lower half of the head is black extending underneath the jaw. An undefined thin black bar runs behind the eyes and around the forehead. Top of the forehead is colored orange.
Body coloration: The entire underside of the body from the tip of the jaw, extending well into the gill plate, is black. Seven black bars are super-imposed on a bright yellow body. The yellow coloration extends to the dorsal fin. The black body bars are thick 3/4 way up the body and fade the top 1/4 towards the dorsal. Five bars are dominant on the body with the last two towards the tail not being as clearly defined. Bottom 3/4 of the caudal peduncle is black with an orange hue running along the spine.

Fin coloration: The region of the dorsal fin where it meets the body has a black line running along its length. The front 2/3 portion of the dorsal is bright yellow. The back dorsal section is yellow fading to almost colorless. The anal fin is of the same yellow coloration as the dorsal with the front portion being darker than the end. The back portion of the anal fin is hued red. The brightest, most vibrant yellow, is found in the middle of the anal fin. Three to six egg spots dot the back portion. The tail fin starts out jet black and fades to translucent with a faint hint of red.

Anchor Island

Head coloration: This nyererei is instantly recognizable by its incurved cranial slope, that is the forehead is somewhat concave compared to other nyererei which have a straight declining slope. Lips are a blue green color. Bottom part of the head is black with the throat region being lighter, nearly white. A clearly defined black line runs between the eyes. The upper 1/3 portion of the head is red and this coloration extends into the body. Another black bar runs between the eyes up into the forehead.

Body coloration: Seven black vertical bars adorn the body. The barring is so wide that this fish has the appearance of having a solid black belly region. Smidges of purple red speck between the bars and becomes more predominant towards the dorsal.

Fin coloration: The dorsal is a solid red and of the same shade and coloration as the upper regions of this fish are. The anal and tail fin is colored solid red as well. Three to five egg spots are located in on the further reaches of the anal fin. Long black pelvic fins flow underneath.

Lunaso Island

Head coloration: Basic head color is steel gray with a blue sheen. Three well defined lines run across the forehead. The first bar is right above the lips and does not run completely across the snout. The middle bar runs between the eyes midway down the cranial slope. A thick black vertical bar stretches from the corners of the mouth, through the eye and across the top of the forehead. Lips are light blue. A black patch stretches from the throat and covers the gill plate.

Body coloration: Underside is black. Seven black stripes run vertically up the body and fade out 2/3 the way towards the dorsal. A yellow background is visible between the body bars and fades to red near the dorsal. Caudal peduncle is yellow on top and black on the bottom.

Fin coloration: Dorsal fin is bright blue specked in red and black where it meets the body. Tail fin is black where it emerges from the caudal region and then turns bright red. Anal fin is blue with red markings along the fin rays. First two fin rays in the anal fins are black. Five to seven egg spots are found near the upper back portion of the fin. Pelvic fins are black.

Pundamilia nyererei is well represented in the southern portion of Lake Victoria. There are well over twenty differing locale variants found in the Mwanza Gulf region alone. I have included the more common varieties that we as hobbyists are likely to see. The eastern coast of Lake Victoria is largely unexplored when compared to the south, so it would stand to reason that we may see more amazing variants as exploration continues. These fish instantly become favorites of aquarists. Their small size, vibrant coloration, and non demanding requirements, along with their ease of reproduction are factors that will hopefully keep Pundamilia nyererei in our tanks for generations to come.
Pundamilia nyererei is compatible with most Malawian mbuna and are certainly a welcomed addition to any African cichlid collection.

Pundamilia azurea (Seehausen & Lippitsch, 1998) Speke Gulf, Ruti Island., Lake Victoria, Tanzania. Dorsal spines (total): 14 - 17; Dorsal soft rays (total): 8 – 10; Anal spines: 3; Anal soft rays: 8 – 9. Azurea refers to "blue of the sky" (French) derivative of the Latin adjective azureus and correlates to the blue body color.

Formerly referred to as Haplochromis sp. "blue nyererei" and found at Ruti Island, Vesi Archipelago as well as Mabibi Island in Speke Gulf. It is abundant in the shallow waters less than 2m but can occasionally be found as deep as 12m. Pundamilia azurea inhabits crevices between large boulders on rocky slopes. It can be found in the presence of the undescribed Pundamilia sp. "red anal" in the Vesi Archipelago. At Ruti Island Pundamilia azurea can be found in the presence of Pundamilia nyererei as well as Pundamilia pundamilia where each species frequents differing strata (Seehausen 1998).

Base body male coloration of Pundamilia azurea is dark blue of varied shading. The caudal fin is flushed red or sometimes a lighter pink coloration. The anal and pelvic fins are mostly black. Two or three yellow oculli spot the anal fin. Females are brown with darker vertical bars and much the same as female of other species within the genus Pundamilia. This is typically one of the smaller Pundamilia representatives with males reaching 9.5cm, and 7.5cm for females. Females and immature males form "grazing" schools. Mature males are somewhat solitary staking out and defending small territorial blocks. Pundamilia azurea is plankton feeder.

Pundamilia pundamilia (Seehausen & Bouton, 1998) Speke Gulf, Makobe I., Lake Victoria, Tanzania

Formerly known as the Zebra nyererei, Pundamilia pundamilia hails from numerous locations in Lake Victoria. Most known locale variants are restricted to the southern portion of Lake Victoria, Mwanza Gulf specifically. Most Pundamilia pundamilia variants display little differentiation in regards to coloration and morphology. There is sexual dimorporphism with males reaching 12.4cm and the females 8.5cm. The Pundamilia pundamilia species we have in the hobby are believed to be a Makobe Island variant. There are Pundamilia pundamilia-like cichlids found in the northeastern region of Lake Victoria. It is unknown at this time if these are Pundamilia pundamilia variants or a similar species that may have evolved in a parallel manner.

Pundamilia pundamilia was used in interesting laboratory experiments in conjunction with Pundamilia nyererei. This series of experiments successfully tested the theory that haplochromine cichlid rely primarily on sight recognition for mate selection (Seehausen & Witte, 1998).

Male Pundamilia pundamilia can vary greatly in terms of coloration dependant on mood. As with most haplochromine cichlids, the advent of mating brings out a males most vibrant dress. Body coloration is generally black on the underbelly running into 4-8 vertical stripes. Striping is seen on the females of the species as well and differs very little from female Pundamilia nyererei. The body itself can be jet black to grey. This color pattern is where the fish obtained the "zebra nyererei" moniker. The dorsal fin exhibits a bright blue coloration in the anterior merging to brilliant red towards the rear. A red edging runs the length of the dorsal. The caudal fin is red as well. The anal fin of Pundamilia pundamilia can be red to orange with many intermediate variations. Numerous ocelli adorn the anal fin. An incurved cranial slope merges to a pointed snout. Foremost bicuspid and unicuspid teeth positioned rearmost in the outer row in this insectivore’s mouth aid in feeding on may flies and other small animals. Ideal habitat for Pundamilia pundamilia is a steep slope near shore with large boulders making up deep crevices.

In captivity Pundamilia pundamilia can obtain a length in excess of 10cm and can be aggressive towards it’s own as well as other species. An aquarium of 55 gallon will house a colony of Pundamilia pundamilia nicely. Large rounded river rocks on a small grain gravel substrate happily suit this beautiful cichlid. Suitable tank mates can include various Synodontis species, some of the smaller mbuna such as Pseudotropheus flavus or Pseudotropheus demasoni. They will mix well with most of the Aulonocara species as well. We have maintained our colonies with Astatotilapia latisfasciata, Lipochromis sp. "Matumbi hunter", Ptyochromis sp. "salmon" and others. So long as there are members of both sexes in the colony, hybridization is not a huge worry. For obvious reasons (hybridization), one should probably avoid the other Pundamilia species as well as some of the darker colored Victorians as Haplochromis sp. "blue back". All Pundamilia are undemanding in regards to food requirement and will accept most foods readily. A good quality flake coupled with occasional feedings of brine shrimp will bring Pundamilia pundamilia into condition quickly.

Spawning occurs in the typical haplochromine manner with the male displaying to a ripe female in a series of shimmies. The male will try to lure the female into his selected spawning area all the while defending the spot against all who make the mistake of venturing near. After numerous dry runs, the male and female circle one another. The female drops an egg or two and quickly turns to pick them up. The male, slanted at an angle, displays his anal fin against the substrate. This seems to entice the female into thinking the males ocelli are her own eggs. As she mouths at the egg spots, attempting to pick them into her mouth, the male releases his milt. When the female has released all her eggs she will try to find a secluded spot to recover and avoid the males unending advances. The larvae will become free swimming and be released from the mother’s buccal cavity on or around day 18. The fry are easily reared on crushed flake and Cyclop-eeze®. Spawns can yield between 15 and 40 fry. The young grow to sexual maturity in 10 months. Pundamilia pundamilia, like many other Victorian haplochromines, is a more avid producer when young.

Pundamilia igneopinnis. (Seehausen & Lippitsch, 1998) Speke Gulf, Igombe Island, Lake Victoria, Tanzania.

Pundamilia igneopinnis, formerly known as Haplochromis sp. "orange and black" nyererei, inhabits rocky shelves in waters to 15m deep. This beautiful mbipi is known to occur at three locales on the shore of Speke Gulf, Lake Victoria, along with several Islands. The Ndurwa Point male, in dominant coloration, sports a dark blue (nearly black) body with pelvic, anal, caudal, and dorsal fins bright yellow/orange. Pundamilia igneopinnis can show orange on the throat region. The Igombe Island variant is very similar but with fins of a wine red coloration. Another similar colored variant hails from the Vesi Archipelago. Pundamilia igneopinnis attain a length of 10cm.

The cranial profile is straight. The outer tooth row in adult specimens is lined with unicuspid dentition while smaller individuals (>8.5cm) a combination of unicuspid as well as bicuspid teeth can be present. Inner rows number between 2 and 4 with a mixture of tricuspid and unicuspid teeth (Seehausen & Lippitsch, 1998).

Gut content of wild specimens contained blue-green algae and detritus (Seehausen & Lippitsch, 1998). Pundamilia igneopinnis is an opportunistic feeder and will accept all fare offered in captivity. So with most furu, captive maintenance denotes that the larger the aquaria the better. A small group may be successfully housed in an aquarium of 120 liters (40 gallons). It is helpful to include large river stones with many gaps and crevices that may keep these cichlids from constant sight of each other.

Pundamilia macrocephala (Seehausen & Bouton, 1998) Mwanza Gulf, Python Island, east side of the western. big island, Lake Victoria, Tanzania,

Dorsal spines number 24-26. Of these 9-10 are soft rays. The anal fin contains 11-12 rays, of these, three are hard spines. Pundamilia macrocephala is thought to be mostly solitary inhabiting steep rocky shelves at a depth of 2-10m. Pundamilia macrocephala feeds on insect larvae, epileptic sponges, ostracods, plankton, detritus and snails (Seehausen & Bouton, 1998). Formerly, Pundamilia macrocephala was known as Haplochromis sp. "deep water". Male coloration consists of a basic very dark, pitch black body coloration. The cranial profile is straight and steep with a slight hook at the snout. Depending on mood, 4-5 triangular vertical bars are visible on the body. The dorsal fin is black along the bottom half (merging into the body) and lined blue along the forward edge. The rear portion of the dorsal is line red. The scarlet red coloration paints the edge of the caudal fin as well while the portion nearest the peduncle is black. The anal fin is mostly crimson red with 2-3 orange yellow ocelli adorning the top portion. The pelvic fins are jet black as well. Female Pundamilia macrocephala are dark grey with black vertical barring. The dorsal fin is lined lightly in smoke blue fading darker towards the posterior. Maximum size is 10.5cm for males and 8.5cm for females.


Pundamilia sp. "blue bar". Hippo Point Kenya

Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" is found near Hippo Point in Kenya. Hippo Point is renowned for stunning wildlife, birding, and of course a number of cichlids that call this area home. It is common along the rocky shelves near shore. Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" resembles Pundamilia pundamilia in color and body patterning. Pundamilia pundamilia is found in numerous locations south of Hippo Point in Mwanza Gulf. I do not know if this superficial correlation is a valid observation or a case of "look-alike".

Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" attains a size of 14cm for males, 12cm for females. There are 3-5 rows of teeth. The outer row consists of mostly unicuspid with some bicuspid frontal teeth especially in smaller individuals. The cranial slope is mostly straight with an indentation at eye level giving the impression of s slight nuchal hump. Dominant male body coloration is grey blue fading to a turquoise underbelly. Passive males have a green sheen and lighter body tinge. Seven vertical bars stripe the body. Another bar splits the gill plate and continues on across the head. Another vertical bar begins under the corner of the mouth and in an "s" shape passes through the eye and on across the forehead. Two horizontal bars cross the snout between the eyes and lips. The pectoral fins are black. The anal fin is blue at the base, streaked blood red at the outer portion and is dotted with 5-11 yellow egg spots. The caudal fin has red trim with bright blue highlights between rays. The dorsal fin is blue with a thin line of red running along the outer edge. There are black blotches at the base of the dorsal where the body stripping meets. Females are typical of other Pundamilia types. Seven vertical black bars line a tan brown body. The anal and caudal fins have a yellow tinge to them. Females sometimes carry an egg spot on the anal fin as well.

In a species only tank, Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" males are aggressive to each other. The fighting usually leads to torn fins. The fish on the losing side of this hostile behavior cowers in a corner or hides somewhere out of sight. Even the females establish a hierarchy amongst themselves and are not above taking a nip at each other as well.

In captivity, Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" should be maintained in a large tank. Suitable tank mates include many of the Lake Malawi Protomeleus. We have also had good luck housing our colony with Cyphotilapia gibberosa. They are not aggressive with other species when given ample room. Our colony is part of a 125 gallon cichlid collection with the two afore mentioned species along with Orthostoma stormsi, and larger Synodontis species.

Nourishing Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" is easily done with good commercial flake. Some protein matter such as white worms or brine shrimp supplements the insect matter that is presumably a portion of their wild diet.

Spawning occurs in the typical haplochromine manner. Gestation is about 18 days. The fry are easily reared on crushed flake and Cyclop-eeze®.

Pundamilia sp. "blue bar" is a good candidate for populating a summer pond. The larger size of this species and splashes of color make for a delightful outside candidate. So long as there are suitable areas for the fry to inhabit without being eaten, a season in the pond will produce ample individuals for the future of your colony.

Pundamilia sp. "red head". Mabibi Island, Zue Island.

Pundamilia sp. "red head" is a unique and beautiful fish from the southern end of Lake Victoria. There are only two known locales where populations of Pundamilia sp. "red head" reside. The Mabibi Islands variant of Pundamilia sp. "red head", to my knowledge, has never made it to the hobby. It is reportedly more elongated with a shorter head, but similar in coloration to the other variant that hails from Zue Island in Speke Gulf. This is the fish familiar to aquarists as Pundamilia sp. "red head". This species has also been called Pundamilia sp. "Zue Island" or "Zue Island red head nyererei".

Pundamilia sp. "red head" is not an actual nyererei variant although commonly referred to as "red head nyererei". Six to eight vertical bars are visible on the body (albeit faint), but the Zue Island red head has a high body profile also found in Pundamilia macrocephala. The belly region is orange and fades to yellow then pink towards the dorsal. The section of the body above the anal fin is green. A lighter blaze runs across the spine. Bottom lip is lightly colored a white blue. Basic face coloration is pink. Three faded bars run across the forehead. The throat region is deep red and merges into the pink of the face. A faded vertical bar runs across the face and through the eye. The dorsal fin is bright blue lined and spotted red as it extends. The tail fin is transparent and red colored. The anal fin is a blue green with three to five egg spots. Pelvic fins are black along the elongated first two fin rays and fade to lightly colored red. Maximum size of Pundamilia sp. "red head" is around 12cm. As the fish ages, males become very dark, nearly black. A triangular caudal peduncle marking is similar to the spot found in many Xystichromis species.

At Zue Island, Pundamilia sp. "red head" is found in the area between the shore and water not more than 15 feet deep. This shallow water gem can be found over a rocky bottom amidst schools of algae grazing Neochromis. No Pundamilia nyererei inhabit their range. Pundamilia sp. "red head" at Zue Island is an aufwuchs grazer. Other species in the aquarium hobby from Zue Island include Paralabidochromis chilotes and Paralabidochromis chromogenys.

In the aquarium, Pundamilia sp. "red head" is un-demanding. These furu are not as aggressive as other Pundamilia variants and in a tank with nyererei, care must be taken as they can be easily bullied. Suitable Victorian tank mates might include Neochromis rufocaudalis, Xystichromis sp. "flameback", or Haplochromis sp. "Kenya gold". Be certain to carefully observe any mixing of fish from this region. Try to include species of differing body shape and coloration. Any commercial high quality flake food, brine shrimp, and algae tabs should adequately suffice for nutrition. A good regiment is to occasionally mix food sources. A carotene based color flake will cause dominant males to literally glow.

Provided that no overly robust species are housed with Pundamilia sp. "red head", spawning occurs readily. As with the other haplochromines of Lake Victoria, the Zue Island red head is a maternal mouth brooder. The eggs are quite small so an adult female would be able to incubate a good sized batch. First spawns number 8-14 for young females, and reach near 50 for a full grown female.

Pundamilia sp. "red head" is not a common species in the hobby. It is available from some specialty breeders. It is with certainly that when more hobbyists are exposed to this wonderful little fish, demand will increase. The Zue Island red head is one of the many furu from the ecologically threatened Lake Victoria. Although it appears to remain in good numbers within its range, man has proven time and time again how quickly he can cause the extinctions of creatures he shares the earth with through blatant disregard for habitat. Let's hope we can keep captive populations strong and thriving for many years to come.

Pundamilia sp. "red flank" Nansio Island
Pundamilia sp "red flank" is a "nyererei" type species. Males grow to 10cm while the females reach 9cm. The head coloration is a dull gray to steel blue color. The throat is shaded lighter to almost white. The bottom lip is lighter colored than the upper. A bar runs from the corner of the mouth into the eye and thickens as it streaks around the head. A light barely distinguishable bar runs between the eyes halfway up the forehead. An orange spot adorns the gill plate; and is more distinct in some individuals than others.
The underside of the body is a red orange coloration fading lighter to yellow towards the tail. Seven black bars run from the belly right to the dorsal region on the back. A red hue is present throughout the body but much lighter along the belly and darkening towards the dorsal. The region of the caudal peduncle is dark blue black.
The dorsal fin is turquoise in some individuals and blue in others. Dorsal has a red border running along the top in a thin line. The beginning of each ray is red and fades to the blue color halfway up the fin. The tail fin is black in the region immediately extending from the caudal peduncle and deep red for the remaining portion. The anal fin is the same red coloration as the tail with five to seven yellow egg spots. The pelvic fins are black, fading to red in the upper back section.

Pundamilia sp. "crimson tide"

Thought to be a form of Pundamilia sp. "nyererei red", this cichlid was dubbed "crimson tide" by Laif DeMason. No definite locale has ever been documented for Pundamilia sp. "crimson tide". There is some speculation that the "crimson tide" might not be a wild occurring species but rather a product of accidental hybridizing. Whatever the origin of Pundamilia sp. "crimson tide", it is a beautiful animal highly sought after in the aquatic cichlid hobby.

The red snout is a distinctive feature of this species. Body coloration is crimson red with seven dark vertical bars lining the body. The red coloration is more intense on the abdominal region. Two vertical bars paint the head with one passing through the eye. Two horizontal bars run across the forehead. The two front rays of the pelvic fins are black, contrasting with red in the remaining portion. The anal fin is red/orange and dotted with 3-5 yellow ocelli. The caudal fin is red. The anterior portion of the dorsal fin is blue fading to translucent at the rear. A thin red line trims the dorsal. Females are brown with dark stripes, typical of other Pundamilia patterning and color.

In the aquarium Pundamilia sp. "crimson tide" is moderately aggressive. Most all prepared food is readily accepted. A larger tank with large rounded "river rock", and some open areas adequately ornament a suitable aquatic habitat.

Pundamilia sp. "Luanso" Luanso Island

Pundamilia sp. "Luanso is a naturally occurring hybrid of Pundamilia nyererei and Pundamilia pundamilia. Found in shallow turbid water at Luanso Island.

References (7):

  • Andreola, Nick. 2005. "What's in a Name". Lateral Line (Publication of the Hill Country Cichlid Club, USA). 2:5:10-13 (crc01228)
  • Fermon, Yves & C. Cibert. 1998. "Ecomorphological individual variation in a population of Haplochromis nyererei from the Tanzanian part of Lake Victoria". Journal of Fish Biology. 53:66-83 (crc01225) (abstract)
  • Hansen, Dave. 2004. "Pundamilia Igneopinnis, a Breeding Report". Lateral Line (Publication of the Hill Country Cichlid Club, USA). 2:4 (crc01229)
  • Seehausen, Ole. 2002. "Patterns in fish radiation are compatible with Pleistocene desiccation of Lake Victoria and 14 600 year history for its cichlid species flock". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 269:491-497. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2001.1906 (crc01227) (abstract)
  • Seehausen, Ole & E. Lippitsch, N. Bouton, H. Zwennes. 1998. "Mbipi, the rock-dwelling cichlids of Lake Victoria: description of three new genera and fifteen new species". Ichthyological Explorations of Freshwaters. 9(2):129-228 (crc00316) (abstract)
  • Seehausen, Ole. 1996. "Lake Victoria Rock Cichlids: Taxonomy, Ecology, and Distribution". Verduyn Cichlids (crc00686)
  • Taylor, Martin I. & F. Meardon, G. Turner, O. Seehausen, H. Mrosso, C. Rico. 2002. "Characterization of tetranucleotide microsatellite loci in a Lake Victorian, haplochromine cichlid fish: a Pundamilia pundamilia × Pundamilia nyererei hybrid". Molecular Ecology Notes. 2(4):443-445. DOI: 10.1046/j.1471-8286.2002.00272 (crc01226) (abstract)


Steeves, Greg. (Jan 26, 2006). "Pundamilia (Seehausen & Lippitsch 1998), a Genus Review". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Dec 01, 2023, from: