Juan Miguel Artigas Azas,
Cichlid Room Companion

Reintroduction efforts for Pseudotropheus saulosi

By , 2014. image
Last updated on 14-Nov-2014

Classification: Distribution and exploration, Lake Malawi.

" This year has taken place the second re-introduction of captive bred individuals of Pseudotropheus saulosi to their depleted habitat at Taiwanee Reef. 92 aquarium raised specimens now swim in their home waters "

Pseudotropheus saulosi Pseudotropheus saulosi. Photo by Ad Konings.

Pseudotropheus saulosi is a small mbuna cichlid endemic to a very small area in Lake Malawi in what is known as Taiwanee Reef, some 7 km northwest of Chizumulu Island in Mozambique, just at the border with Malawi. The reef does not emerge and just a few boulders can be seen from the surface, making difficult its location without GPS equipment. Ad Konings was able to discover this species in 1988 because of the advice he got from local fishermen.

The species name saulosi has been given by Ad Konings, who also described the species, to honor Saulos Mwale (Stuart Grant’s most skillful diver), who led him on many trips. Saulos has unfortunately passed away. The beautiful Saulos cichlid, one of the smaller in Lake Malawi, is represented by solid yellow females and juveniles and beautifully colored adult males with blue and dark bars, faces, and fins. The great beauty of this cichlid has made it a very popular aquarium fish after its discovery.

This popular species has been widely bred in the aquarium even from the beginning of its debut. Even so, during the frequent visits by Ad Konings to its habitat he contemplated with worry how their numbers started to significantly decrease since, due to the pressure posed by aquarium fish collectors who then knew about this fish, where to get it, and wanted to cover the great existing demand for wild specimens. On a visit Ad made in September 2010, he was just able to see a few of the other times plentiful species at Taiwanee Reef. It was time to react.

To this end, and with funds gathered by the Stuart M. Grant Cichlid Conservation Fund and the Ohio Cichlid Association's Jim Smith fund, a captive breeding program was initiated to reintroduce stock of this species to the natural habitat before the population reached a critical number.

David Nkhwazi of Stuart Grant Ltd. took the responsibility to raise this fish in aquarium facilities in Malawi. In September 2013, the first 32 aquarium-bred specimens were released at Taiwanee Reef. This past September, 92 specimens raised by David were released in a second event during a safari led by Larry Johnson. Before the release, Larry and three other divers made a count of the observable fish. While in 2013 they had counted 40 fish under similar circumstances, this time in 2014 they counted 55. So an almost 40% increase, although this is still a critical number, particularly when you consider that a genetically viable population of a species must count with at least 300 specimens that interbreed.

Even given this success, the efforts to bring back the small population of this jewel to a normal balanced number can just succeed if people around the globe understand that we don’t need to have wild fish swimming in our aquariums to get full enjoyment of them. Think about Labidochromis caeruleus, where most of the many thousands of captive fish descend from a single pair (Konings, 2001).

This wonderful news reflects that people do care and work to protect our natural heritage, an effort in which we can all participate in many ways, including donations to the Stuart M. Grant conservation fund. Habitats and populations are being lost all around the world, and the need is urgent for people to get educated and conscious of this situation and takes action. The effort should make us also reflect on just how easy and cheap is to collect hundreds of specimens of a certain species and how hard and expensive is to reintroduce just a few.

Some of the people participating in the second release were Larry Johnson, Adam Delohery, Pete Barnes, Marc Boulton, Kathy Brown, Dave Hale, and Greg Irvine.

References (2):


Artigas Azas, Juan Miguel. (Nov 14, 2014). "Reintroduction efforts for Pseudotropheus saulosi". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Sep 23, 2023, from: