Pseudocrenilabrus philander, a widespread cichlid found in waters surrounding Lake Malawi; photo of a Lake Chilingali (Malawi) specimen by Prof. George Turner
Pseudocrenilabrus philander, a widespread little cichlid found in waters surrounding Lake Malawi. Specimen from Lake Chilingali (Malawi); photo © by Prof. George Turner

Pseudocrenilabrus philander (Weber, 1897)

by Michael K. Oliver, Ph.D.

Above: a specimen of Pseudocrenilabrus philander fresh from the water of Lake Chilingali, Malawi, a small lake about 11 km west of Nkhotakota (on the western shore of Lake Malawi). Photo by Prof. George F. Turner (Bangor University, UK).

So far as I am aware, the "dwarf bream" or "southern mouthbrooder," Pseudocrenilabrus philander philander, is not found in Lake Malawi proper. This cichlid has been collected from a swampy lakeside backwater, Kampambe Lagoon, at Nkhota Kota, Malawi (Jackson, 1961). Oddly, this fish is listed without comment from "Lake Malawi" by FishBase (see the account of this species at FishBase). However, Turner (1996: 12) makes the definite statement that "During the dry season, most rivers consist of a series of separate muddy pools, often heavily overgrown with swamp vegetation.... Pseudocrenilabrus philander [is] occasionally found in such smaller water bodies, but [has] never been recorded from the main lake."

Prof. Turner recently gave me some further information about the distribution of P. philander in Malawi. He writes (pers. commun. 9-May-2013):

The exact same [distribution in Malawi as for Tilapia sparmannii] goes for Pseudocrenilabrus philander: Nkhotakota and Kyela and nowhere in between — also avoids Lake Malawi, common in Chilingali (photo shows the classic red spot!), but appears to be absent from the crater lakes round Kyela [Tanzania].

Outside of the Lake Malawi basin, P. philander occurs throughout much of southern Africa, from the Kasai (Cassai) branch of the Congo River all the way south to Natal, South Africa. It is easily distinguished from all Lake Malawi endemic haplochromines in that, unlike all of them, it has a rounded, convex posterior margin to the caudal fin.

According to information summarized at FishBase, this species attains a total length of 13 cm (5 inches) and

...[f]eeds on insects, shrimps and even small fish. Breeds from early spring to late summer; males defend a territory, construct a simple cleared nest and attract ripe females. Eggs are laid in the nest, fertilised and collected by the female. The females withdraws [sic] to a nursery to brood the eggs until juvenile stage.

In the past, Pseudocrenilabrus philander has been called Hemihaplochromis philander or Haplochromis philander.

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The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi, Africa:

Last Update: 7 September 2013
Web Author: M. K. Oliver, Ph.D.
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