Haplochromis (Pundamilia) nyererei

Haplochromis (Pundamilia) nyererei

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Scientific Name or classification 

Haplochromis (Pundamilia) nyererei (Witte-Maas e Witte, 1984)



Pundamilia nyererei

Common Name




Type Locality

Endemic to Lake Victoria, lot of intralacustrine endemism known. The "Haplochromis nyererei complex" is a monophyletic group whose complexity takes up to 28 pages of discussion in O. Seehausen's book, Lake Victoria Rock Cichlids.


Haplochromis: from the Greek haplos (απλός) = simple and chromis (χρωμίς): a fish, perhaps a perch; pundamilia (in Swahili) = zebra; nyererei: in honour of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, one of Africa's great leaders

Species Information

Size (TL or SL in cm)

Males up to 10 cm (rare), females stay smaller.


see Witte-Maas E, Witte F., Haplochromis nyererei, a new cichlid fish from Lake Victoria named in honour of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, president of Tanzania, 1985, Leiden (The Netherlands): Brill.


Males show bright colours, whose pattern changes according to given local morph, including red, orange and yellow hues, while females are, generally, greish with some darker vertical bars.



Natural distribution 

Occurs mostly in shallow waters  in close vicinity of rocky shores and rocky islands, feeding on algae and insects.




22° - 28° C

Other parameters 

 suggested water hardness: 15dH - 20dH




Will easily accept all kind of offerd foods: flakes, pellets, frozen and live mosquito larvae.


Other fish from lake Victoria. Amongst the fish from other lakes (Rift Valley region) Lake Malawi cichlids do better by comparison to Tanganican cichlids  because they require similar water chemistry conditions. Also Synodontis catfishes are worth a try.

Suggested Tankmates

In theory all "Victorians" are suitable tankmates. In reality you should take into consideration that all Haplochromines from lake Victoria have a "genetic compatibility" far more pronounced than lake Malawi cichlids. In the wild hybridization does not take place for a number of reasons. For instance, it is stipulated that each male has "his own" females ready to spawn; the typical light of Lake Victoria's water allows each male to chose the right, conspecific, female.  It has been argued that if indeed hybridization does take place in the wild it is quite limited. This being as it may, in the limited space of a tank it is very difficult to avoid crossbreedings. It is highly recommended to keep toghether species (or genuses) the females of which are markedly different (i.e. they differ in size, colour, melanin pattern etc) to avoid cross-breedings. (1)


Lots of rocks (forming tunnels, caves and hiding spots) piled up to almost reach the water surface, sand or gravel at the bottom.

Recommended Tank Size

Nothing less than 200 liters. Aquascape according to the typical "cichlid's setting": sand and stones of different sizes. I have also seen these fishes kept in planted tanks with very few problems. Plants are likely to do well in a tank hosting Haplochromis nyererei; Seehausen (ibid.) suggests Anubias (which I keep), Microsorium, Bolbitis and Cryptocorinae.

Behaviour in

Very territorial and extremely aggressive towards other Haplochromines, especially the males. It is recommended to keep one male to several females. In our experience this fish is extremely aggressive towards conspecifics and other species. Its level of aggression should be characterized as 'very high', comparable to that of the most aggressive Malawi mbuna (Melanochromis sp. and Maylandia sp.). The males will not tolerate each other even if they belong to the same brood (usually all but one are killed in any tank), while the females are constantly chased and severely harassed. Despite the many caves and crevices, the females will very rarely be seen in the open and this happens only during feeding times or spawning. We would like to note that, strangely enough, the fry is not chased or eaten by the males - at least not in the early stages, when probably they do not represent a challenge to them. Raising the fry is only possible in multiple tanks each housing 2-3 males only. Even then, casualties are the rule rather than the exception.

Other remarks 

There have recently been some rumours to the effect that the export of fishes from lake Victoria (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda) is about to be prohibited due to the fact that local fisherman use some kind of poison to catch fishes (even for food use). Apparently this way of fishing has resulted in fatalities amongst the population. These rumours have not yet been verified.



Haplochromis nyererei is a maternal mouthbrooder. It is not a difficult to breed fish. Having said that I have experienced difficulties when the fish were kept in crowded tanks. Similarly, on some occasions I have moved holding females to a hatching tank they spat or swallowed the eggs. In my experience it is best to watch the fish carefully and wait until a few days prior to the expected day of release in order to move the mother to the hatching tank. Thus you can be sure that the mother will not swallow the fry while, even if she spits them out, they are grown enough to survive.
N.B: I encountered very similar problems, in the past, with Haplochromis (now Astatotilapia) burtoni. However, with proper care, you should expect regular and big broods.

You can watch two short video clips showing the spawning sequence in the photo gallery of Haplochromis (Pundamilia) nyererei.



1. See, for instance, Dr. Kopeny, Lecture III – Species and Speciation: "Non-Random mating in a polymorphic species may have led to sympatric speciation the Genus Pundamilia in Lake Victoria. Two closely related species of Cichlids in the genus Pundamilia: Reproductively isolated in nature and in captivity under natural light conditions – females only choose conspecific males. Under monochromatic orange light, males look similar (presumably) to females – and females mate indiscriminantly with males of either species. Inference from experiment that speciation occurred relatively recently and that color is the main, perhaps only “reproductive barrier.” in Virginia Education.

Enter Haplochromis (Pundamilia) nyererei gallery.