Barbus paludinosus, a cyprinid
found in Lake Malawi; illustration from Jubb (1967), used by permission
of A. A. Balkema Publishers
Barbus paludinosus, the "Straightfin barb," is a very widespread species found from the Congo basin to Ethiopia to Natal in South Africa. Worthington (1933) reported 42 specimens (of 38-100 mm SL) from Bar House, a locality on the shore of Lake Malawi just east of the lake's outflow into the upper Shiré River. It is probable that they were collected in a lakeshore swamp. Jackson (1961: 549) asserted that this species is "never [found] in the open waters of Lake [Malawi]," but it should be expected in sheltered lake waters adjacent to swamps, like other species from this habitat, as well as under the floating islands of swamp vegetation seen frequently in the southern part of the lake (Oliver & McKaye, 1982). Indeed, David Eccles and I collected three individuals of B. paludinosus 1 August 1971 in the shallow intermediate zone at Chingubi Point, in the Southeast Arm of the lake, where there was no adjacent swamp.

This barb is omnivorous, eating detritus, benthic crustaceans, small fish, insects, phytoplankton, and aquatic plants (FishBase). In parts of its range it can reach a standard length (without caudal fin) of 15 cm (6 inches), but becomes sexually mature at around 5 cm or 2 inches (maturity summary at FishBase). According to the FishBase species summary, B. paludinosus is "hardy" and "prefers quiet, well-vegetated waters in lakes, swamps, and marshes or marginal areas of larger rivers and slow-flowing streams.... Spawns amongst vegetation during summer."

Jubb (1967) describes its coloration in life as "silvery ... with olive dorsal surface, fins yellowish or pale olive. In large specimens a faint lateral stripe following the dorsal contour can just be seen. This lateral stripe becomes accentuated in specimens preserved in formalin, and in some ... the anterior lateral line tubules are bordered with pigment."

Within the Lake Malawi Barbus fauna, B. paludinosus can be identified by possessing all of the following characteristics (modified from Jackson, 1961: 595):

  1. Striae (streaks) are radially arranged on exposed edges of the scales.
  2. Last simple (unbranched) ray of dorsal fin is an enlarged, bony spine and is serrated behind.
  3. Coloration is plain silvery, lacking any spots or distinct, dark midlateral stripe (but see photo and color description, above).
Additionally, there are at least 32 scales in the lateral line (Jubb, 1967: 92), more than in most other small barbs in the area.

The above illustration by Hilda M. Jubb, from Jubb (1967), is used here with the generous permission of Mr. A. T. Balkema of A. A. Balkema Publishers, Rotterdam.

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The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi, Africa:

Last Update: 1 February 2004
Web Author: M. K. Oliver, Ph.D.
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