Champsochromis spilorhynchus,
photo © by Hisao Masui used by permission
Above: Champsochromis spilorhynchus is a pursuit predator that is occasionally exported to the aquarium trade. This photo of a young male, and the two photos of it below, were taken by Tokyo aquarist Hisao Masui, who graciously allowed me to use them here. (For a rare look at keeping Malawi and Tanganyika cichlids in Japan — where he says these fishes are still "very unpopular" — take a look at Hisao's Web site, My Exotic Blue Aquarium.)

These photos clearly show the most characteristic feature of this obliquely striped species: the distinct black blotch on the snout. All Malawi cichlids, in both "hap" and mbuna flocks, display at least a vestige of a dark "preorbital bar" over the lacrimal bone, below and in front of the eye. Such a bar is a primitive feature of the color pattern in all African cichlids. In C. spilorhynchus, however, this preorbital mark has become emphasized by enlargement, by darkening of the pigment, and by a contrasting white lower edge in at least some individuals, such as the one seen here. I do not know whether this black mark has any functional significance (in intraspecific communication, for example, or in the fish's hunting behavior), but I would not be surprised if observation and experiment prove it to have some such importance.
Champsochromis spilorhynchus,
photo © by Hisao Masui used by permission

At AkwaFoto, a Polish site, photos illustrating the coloration of mature male ("samiec") and female ("samica") individuals of Champsochromis spilorhynchus are displayed. As those photos show, the mark on the snout may be somewhat obscured by the darker ground coloration of adults, but it is still present.

Champsochromis spilorhynchus is most similar, and probably most closely related, to its better-known, and more elongate, congener, C. caeruleus. Like that species, it has widely spaced, single-cusped jaw teeth. Males of C. spilorhynchus also tend to develop elongated soft rays on their dorsal and anal fins, but not quite to the degree seen in C. caeruleus males.

The distribution of C. spilorhynchus is "...inshore all around the lake and in the upper Shire River, but also extends well offshore" (Eccles & Trewavas, 1989). Konings (1995c: 237) reports that C. spilorhynchus attains a total length of greater than 35 cm (14 inches). He states that this species "...is a formidable piscivore following its prey over long distances (rather than ambushing it...)." Young utaka (Copadichromis spp.) apparently constitute its chief diet. Indigenous names recorded for C. spilorhynchus include "Tabwa," "Damphila" or "Dumphila," and "Njeruwa" (Jackson, 1961). Konings notes that it has been exported under the trade name of "Haplochromis Mbwanae" (a name with no scientific validity).

In captivity, this large, fast-swimming, open-water predator should be given large quarters; an aquarium of 1000 L (172 gallons) might be regarded as the minimum for a mature specimen. A longer aquarium should be preferred over one with greater depth, to maximize swimming room. (Additional text and figures below)
 

Champsochromis spilorhynchus,
photo © by Hisao Masui used by permission  

 

Champsochromis spilorhynchus (1)
 

Drawing above: The lectotype specimen of Champsochromis spilorhynchus (BMNH 1921.9.6:181), from Regan (1922: Plate VI, fig. 2). Drawing below: Another specimen, a sexually active male with elongated pelvic fins [the holotype of Haplochromis longipes, a subjective synonym of C. spilorhynchus, BMNH 1921.9.6:185; from Regan (1922: Plate V, fig. 2)].
 

Champsochromis spilorhynchus (2)
 

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The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi, Africa:  MalawiCichlids.com

Last Update: 5 July 2002
Web Author: M. K. Oliver, Ph.D.
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