Pundimalia nyererei

Common Name: Flameback

Synonyms: Haplochromis nyererei, Astatotilapia nyererei

Note: This is not Haplochromis sp. 'Flameback' (There are 3 species with the common name of Flameback)

This fish comes from Lake Victoria and is considered endangered in it's natural habitat. Lake Victoria (named after the Queen of England) is found in Africa surrounded by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. It is the world's largest tropical lake and the second largest freshwater lake. The lake covers 69,000 square kilometres. There are several problems with Lake Victoria; the introduction of the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and Nile perch (Lates niloticus -the main problem fish)after overfishing reduced the numbers of ngege (Oreochromis esculentus), waste and sewage dumped into the lake (Tanzania alone dumps 2 million litres of untreated sewage and industrial waste into the lake), and the accidental introduction of water hyacinth. This plant forms a dense mat, blocking sunlight and lowering the oxygen level. The lowered oxygen level is hard on the fish. This also leads to a population explosion in snails that cause bilharzia. No wonder the fish have a hard time in their native habitat!

The water temperature for flamebacks should be around 78F. The pH should be 7.5 to 8.5. Frequent water changes are recommended to keep this species in good shape.

Male colouration is completely different than females. The body is black along the bottom half of the body. Darker vertical bands along body alongside a yellow colour (sometimes greenish). Intense red on forehead and extending to rest of back above the lateral line. Forehead has some black lines going across the head. Ventral fins are black. Dorsal fins are red trimmed in powder blue. There are eggspots on dorsal fin. Anal fin is powder blue going towards red on the bottom of the fin. There are eggspots on this fin too. Caudal fin is black with a light red on the outside part of it. If the male is frightened for any reason the black mostly disappears and the fish appears washed out and mostly yellow.

There is another variety of this fish. This color variant is powder blue along the back with a dark blue to black belly. There is yellow along the dorsal fin edge and though most of the anal and caudal fins.

Females are basically grey with the areas on the bottom half of the body that can turn black depending the mood of the female. They turn black when she is aggressive or ready to breed, occasionally while she is holding. The female has a gorgeous colouration if she is seen in sunlight. Her grey scales reflect green and yellow highlights.

This fish eats anything. It has eaten frozen, shrimp flake, spirulina flake, regular flake, beefheart, shrimp, pellets and feeder fish.

It is recommended to keep large groups in large tanks with only a few males and many females. Males are highly territorial.

I bought these fish at Wet Thumb aquatics approximately one year ago. I bought a group of two fish. They gave me what they assured me was a male and a female. The female was a lot larger than the male (from a earlier batch). They were eventually put into a 55g tank with many other residents. Approximately a year ago, I attended the ACA'97 in Chicago. When I got back 90% of the residents of this tank had perished (I believe one large fish died and when it was not taken out, polluted the water so badly that the others died as well). Fortunately, this pair had survived. I wanted to start this tank over. But these fish were too big by now to put in other fish that I wanted to grow out. So my friend Richard offered to take them for awhile and try to spawn them. (They were spawning by then but the female never held more than 5 days). Many months later, I got my 90g and Richard got enough fry from them. I got my fish back. Within a week or so, she was spawning for me again. She held them for 18 days. I then stripped her because I had run out of space for her to release them on her own. The first batch of fry that I got numbered 11. She spawned again 1 month after releasing the last batch. This batch numbered almost 40.

The fry at release are smaller than Malawi mouthbrooder fry. They don't grow fast until they are about 2 months old and then it seems a growth spurt takes over. The fry look like their mother (mostly). They have a white to sky blue dorsal with a grey-yellowish body.

Pundimalia nyererei seems to be a very hardy fish. It is aggressive however, (my male was dominant until my kennyi beat him in size - even now he doesn't back down from him or any other fish in the tank). It only goes after fish that go into his chosen hiding area, he then chases them down with a vengeance. But colourwise, this fish has got to be one of my all time favourites. I always get comments on him. I plan on keeping this fish! Maybe you'd like to try keeping them too.

Additional Notes: There are many variants of this fish found in the lake. A few examples are Ruti Island, Makobe Island, Python Island, Igombe Island, Anchor Island, Luanso Island, Nansio Island, Zue Island, and many more.

A small selection of variant photos

Igombe Island
Makobe Island
Blue Dorsal
Igombe Island
Makobe Island
Blue dorsal -young male
Python Island

Zue Island red head

Python Island
Zue Island

© Copyright 1999-2003 Lisa Boorman
All Rights Reserved

Suggested Reading:

The Cichlid Aquarium by Dr. Paul Loiselle

Baensch Aquarium Atlas: Photo Index 1-5 by Hans A. Baensch, Gero W. Fischer

Lake Victoria Rock Cichlids - taxonomy, ecology, and distribution by Ole Seehausen

African Cichlids II : Cichlids from Eastern Africa : A Handbook for Their Identification, Care and Breeding by Wolfgang, Dr. Staeck, Horst Linke

Darwin's Dreampond : Drama in Lake Victoria by Tijs Goldschmidt

To see more references on cichlids:

Cichlid Book List

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