Micropanchax katangae, a poeciliid killifish found in the Lake Malawi drainage; illustration from Skelton (1993), used by permission of P.H. Skelton

Micropanchax katangae (Boulenger, 1912)

by Michael K. Oliver, Ph.D.

The "Striped topminnow," Micropanchax katangae, has a distribution that stretches from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the Indian Ocean. (A photograph of live individuals by Arend van den Nieuwenhuizen is available at Killi.net here.) It was long known as Aplocheilichthys katangae but Micropanchax is now the correct genus for it. It never figured in previous checklists of Malawi fishes, but FishBase documents M. katangae in southern Malawi (drainages of Lake Malawi and the Zambezi River). However, although it is "[f]ound in dense marginal vegetation of streams and rivers..." (Skelton, 1993), it can not be expected in Lake Malawi, even along vegetated shores adjacent to the mouths of inflowing rivers and streams. Although common in the lower Shire, it definitely does not occur in Lake Malawi (D. Tweddle, pers. commun. 29 Apr 2014).

Unlike Micropanchax johnstoni, M. katangae has a distinct, blackish stripe from the snout to the caudal fin base. Behind the pectoral fins, the stripe has a zigzag appearance because the pigment is confined to the exposed surfaces of the scales in a single scale row.

This topminnow reaches a total length of 5 cm or 2 inches. Skelton reports that it eats insect larvae and various small invertebrates including daphnia. It deposits eggs on vegetation in the manner of other serial spawners.

Long considered true killifishes (Cyprinodontidae), this and the other members of the genus Micropanchax are now classified as egglaying members of the generally livebearing family Poeciliidae, based on considerable anatomical evidence from the skeleton (Parenti, 1981).

The above color painting by Elizabeth Tarr is copyright © by the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (formerly known as the J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology). It is reproduced here from Skelton (1993) with the kind permission of Prof. P.H. Skelton.

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

Last Update: 29 April 2014
Web Author: M. K. Oliver, Ph.D.
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