Description

Gnathochromis pfefferi (Boulenger, 1898)

The species were for the first time described by Boulenger as Paratilapia pfefferi in 1898. The name pfefferi was given to honour famous German zoologist Johann Georg Pfeffer – the director of museum in Hamburg who lived in 1854-1931.

The first “Gnathochromis” pfefferi was caught in the surroundings of Mpulungu in Zambia. Holotype BMNH 1898.9.9.27.

In 1986 Poll classified “Gnathochromis” pfefferi together with Limnochromis auritus to Limnochromini tribe. In 1995 Kocher and his associates basing on mitochondrial sequence analysis showed few inaccuracies in indexing made by Poll and among the others heterogeneity of Limnochromini tribe. In 2003 Sturmbauer and others placed  “Gnathochromis” pfefferi Tropheini tribe as it had already been suggested earlier. (Kocher, 1995; Salzburger, 2002). Also in 2003 new division into tribes (after taking into consideration current state of knowledge) was done by Takahashi. The author also suggested the change of species name “Gnathochromis” pfefferi. It was caused by the fact that progenitor of Gnathochromis species – Gnathochromis permaxillaris remained in Limnochomini tribe. Takahashi says that till the moment of introducing new name for “Gnathochromis” pfefferi, the first phrase of current name (species name) should be written in quotation mark. In 2005 Duftner and others observed one more feature of  G. pfefferi, which distinguishes it from Limnochromini tribe. The fact that with “pfefferi” the spawn and fry are incubated only by female and with the other Limnochromini this function is shared by both parents. It constitutes one more proof confirming earlier researches and backing the decision to move it to Tropheini tribe. Unfortunately, up till now there is no new name for “Gnathochromis” pfefferi.

Gnathochromis pfefferi - Chaitika - Vrouw
Gnathochromis pfefferi – Chaitika – Vrouw

Habitat

“Gnathochromis” pfefferi inhabits all area of the lake. They are to be met both in rocky as well as in sandy plant-clad habitat. They live on the depth ranging from 0 to 30 meters. In the lake most often are observed solitary individuals (information passed by Evert van Ammerlooy).

“Pfefferi” preys on cichlids fry that hides in rock crevices and caving. It feeds exclusively on shrimps and small fish. It preys alone.

Physical description

Male reaches 14 and female 12 cm of length.  The body of  “pfefferi”  is elongated, silver-grey with 10 dark vertical stripes. The first stripes are on head end the end on eyes level. The other 7 stripes are on body and they pass from back to pelvic area. The last one is at the base of caudal fin. The dorsal fin has yellow edge (in case of our individuals it is observed only with male). Snout is elongated and can be protruded in the shape of a trumpet. On operculum are very often visible orange-brown discolorations.

Gnathochromis pfefferi - Chaitika - Man
Gnathochromis pfefferi – Chaitika – Man

With “Gnatochromis” pfefferi is very well marked sexual dimorphism. The body of male is longer, broader and bulkier that that one of female. At the base of pelvic fins are visible orange-brown discolorations. On dorsal and caudal fins of male individual and between spin rays are orange discolorations. On the back part of anal fin are seated small, intensive red spots – mock-up eggs. Around spawning season the body of female individual takes orange-brown glow – markings on operculum, snout and body sides are especially visible. “Pfefferi” female is equally silver-grey with dark, vertical stripes. It has no coloured markings. Offspring immediately after being freed from mouth is silver-grey in colour, with dark, oblong stripe along whole body, with dark vertical stripe at the base of caudal fin and dark spots on snout and body. After few weeks young individuals become true copies of their parents both as far as colouring and behaviour is concerned.

Fish body colour may vary depending of their habitat. On Ad’s Konings photograph of an individual originating from Isanga the fish is dark, brown coloured, and incubating female’s body originating from Kambwimbwa has yellow-brown glow. In similar way are coloured fish coming from Sibwesa (photographs by Juan Molina). Admiring photographs by Evert van Ammelrooy we observed that fish that were photographed in rocky surrounding are darker in colouration than those that were photographed in sandy, vegetation-clad environment. Changing colouration depending on habitat is most probably the way to camouflage in order to make preying easier.

Gnathochromis pfefferi - Chaitika - jong
Gnathochromis pfefferi – Chaitika – Jong van 5 mm lang.

Reproduction

“Gnathochromis” pfefferi are polyphyletic mouthbreeders. A male calls females whenever they are close to him. The first phase of courting is following the chosen female and pinching her in her perianal area. Female that is not ready for mating looks for shelter among rocks. Female that is interested in courting swims in fish tank in the company of male. Her body takes orange-brown shade that is especially visible in the area of flaps and mouth. The male chooses place for breeding and starts mating dance. He flaps his body encouraging female to approach and spawn. “Pfefferis” spawning may take place anywhere ( in our fish tank it is most often beach that is in front part of the tank. Fish do not erect spawning ground structures and do not seek shelter (for example in rock crevices or in properly sized shells). Female spawns one (sometimes two or three) granules directly on sand and leaves – her place takes male that sprinkles them with roe. Than, female takes them into her mouth. It happens, that female who already has spawn granules in her mouth still collects additional roe from anal fin of male. Most probably it is her way to be sure that spawn granules will be fertilized. From time to time male leaves spawning ground and chases away intruders that are too close to it. However, he comes back immediately and encourages female to continue spawning. A part of ritual is turning face to face – fish touch each other as with their mouth as if they wanted to identify each other. The breeding dance continues till the last granules are spawned (there are approximately 50 of them). It is female that takes the duty of sole guardian. The male is ready for another spawning almost immediately and therefore incubating female takes shelter between rocks where she spends most of her time. Every leaving of her shelter is the threat of injury caused by aggression of male (most often happening injuries sustained by female are cracking of fins, excoriation and loss of scales). After approximately three weeks female sets out offsprings. Fish offsprings are about 5 mm long and are silver-brown coloured.

Gnathochromis pfefferi - Chaitika - Balts
Gnathochromis pfefferi – Chaitika – Balts

Fish Tank for “Gnathochromis” pfefferi

The tank for “pfefferi” should be at least  150 cm long and have volume of over 500 litres. It should be arranged in a way that fish can swim actively. Significant part of a tank should be covered by sandy beach but we have to remember about placing some rock for females to hide between when they need to avoid pressing advances of a male.   “Gnathochromis” pfefferi are best kept in small groups consisting of one male and few females.

Water parameters should be characteristic for those that are for fish from Tanganyika. Plants are not obligatory, but if they are in a tank they are not being destroyed.

Feeding

Fish in a fish tank eagerly feed on both alive food: artemia, larvae of Chaoborus  and Chironomidae species, frozen food: artemia, larvae of Chaoborus species, krill, gammarus, black larvae of mosquito, shrimps, bivalves (crushed and without exoskeletons or shells) as well as granulated and flaked artificial food such as: Dainichi Primary Krill, Dainichi Ultima, Tropical Tanganyika and Tetra Cichlid. Food is served two times a day. Once a week fish are on starvation diet.

The first couple of weeks offsprings are fed wit: artemia larvae, frozen cyclop, OSI plankton and crushed dry food. Starting from month 2 of their lives the offsprings may be fed the same food as grown up individuals providing it is properly crushed.

Gnathochromis pfefferi - Chaitika - Vrouw met gescheurde rugvin
Gnathochromis pfefferi – Chaitika – Vrouw met gescheurde rugvin

Breeding experiences

Fish in a fish tank eagerly feed on both alive food: artemia, larvae of Chaoborus  and Chironomidae species, frozen food: artemia, larvae of Chaoborus species, krill, gammarus, black larvae of mosquito, shrimps, bivalves (crushed and without exoskeletons or shells) as well as granulated and flaked artificial food such as: Dainichi Primary Krill, Dainichi Ultima, Tropical Tanganyika and Tetra Cichlid. Food is served two times a day. Once a week fish are on starvation diet.
The first couple of weeks offsprings are fed wit: artemia larvae, frozen cyclop, OSI plankton and crushed dry food. Starting from month 2 of their lives the offsprings may be fed the same food as grown up individuals providing it is properly crushed.

Breeding experiences

We have bought one male and two females of G. pfefferi in November 2007. They were placed in an already functioning fish tank of 1287 litres. At present we have: 3 “Gnathochromis” pfefferi, 8 Cyphotilapia frontosa Bulumbora, 12 Altolamprologus calvus Black, 4 Altolamprologus compressiceps Gold, 3 Neolamprologus prochilus, N. fasciatus, N. brevis, 2 Lepidiolamprologus attenuatus Yellow, Mastacembalus moori and 18 Cyprichromis sp. “Leptosoma Jumbo” Mpimbwe Yellow Head.

“Pfefferi” were immediately accepted by other inmates and they quickly adapted to new conditions. They feed eagerly both on alive and artificial food that they can pick up both during its falling down or from the bottom. When looking for “choice morsels” they are searching shells and crevices in rocks. Their edgy, protruding snout makes it much easier to them.

Fish that we bought were grown up individuals coming from fishing. The male from the very first day started to encourage females for spawning that up till this day occur regularly. The fish do not require here any special treatment. What is interesting it is the fact that females spawn by rotation and most often at the end of incubation period of one of them, the male mates with another female. Thanks to that in our fish tank all the time one of females either carries spawn or her offspring in her mouth. We have never observed the male to mate with two females at the same time. It has also never occurred that the second female in the tank would try to join the mating or to disturb it.

After mating female should find proper shelter (between the rocks, behind filter etc) and when it is not possible to find one in this tank she should be moved to a special tank that is prepared for bringing up offsprings. After approximately 3 weeks the female frees offsprings. After freeing them the female is not interested in them any more so we can move her back to general tank.

Our experiences give us ground to state that breeding in 1:1 combination is not recommended. The best solution is when there are two or even three females per each male. It provides for distribution of male’s attention and decrease of intraspecific aggression.

Company for „Gnathochromis” pfefferi

“Gnathochromis” pfefferi may be bred together with most representatives of carnivorous Tanganyika. The cases of interspecific aggression are not known to us. Good company are also fish of  Cyprichromini species.

In Evert van Ammerlooy’s tank “pfefferi” swim together with tropheuses. Fish are similar in their temper. Such combination proves to be successful for many years. However, we definitely do not recommend it to beginners mainly due to feeding problems as there are significant differences in their feeding requirements.

“Gnathochromis” pfefferi are great fish with great temper. They swim eagerly in all tank and they are everywhere. “Pfefferi” are also very social fish; they get used to their keepers quickly and are not afraid of them. We recommend closer acquaintance with these fish.

Acknowledgements

We express our gratitude to Evert van Ammelrooy for sharing precious information on “pfefferi” in their natural environment, for sharing his experiences in breeding.

Literature:
1.Duftner N., Koblmüller S., Sturmbauer C., 2005, Evolutionary Relationships of the Limnochromini, a Tribe of Benthic Deepwater Cichlid Fish Endemic to Lake Tanganyika, East Africa, J. Mol. Evol., 60: 277-289.
2.Kocher T. D., Conroy J. A., McKaye K. R., Sauffer J. R., Lockwood S. F., 1995, Evolution of NADH Dehydrogenase Subunit 2 in East African Cichlid Fish, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Vol. 4, No. 4, December, pp. 420-432.
3.Konings A., 2002, Piel�gnice – moja pasja, Cichlid Press – Tigra System Polska, Piaseczno.
4.Konings A., 2005, Back to Nature. Przewodnik po �wiecie piel�gnic z Tanganiki, Fohrman Aquaristic AB – Tigra System Polska, Piaseczno.
5.Salzburger W., Meyer A., Baric S., Verheyen E., Sturmbauer C., 2002, Phylogeny of the Lake Tanganyika cichlid species flock and its relationship to the Central and East African haplochromine cichlid fish faunas,  Syst Biol 51: 113-135.
6.Sturmbauer C., Hainz U., Baric S., Verheyen E., Salzburger W., 2003, Evolution of the tribe Tropheini from Lake Tanganyika: synchronized explosive speciation producing multiple evolutionary parallelism, Hydrobiologia, 500: 51-64.
7.Takahashi T., 2003, Systematics of Tnganyikan cichlid fishes (Teleostei: Perciformes), Ichthyol Res, 50: 367-382.

WWW websites:
http://www.tanganyika.ru/fishdesc.php?&fid=130
http://www.destin-tanganyika.com/Galerie/page-gnathochromis-pfefferi.htm
http://www.cichlidae.com/gallery/species.php?s=1717
http://www.cichlidae.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2043
http://fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?id=8579
http://cichlids.akvariefisk.dk/species/show/?Name=Gnathochromis_pfefferi
http://www.suephoto.com/index.php/galeria/index/5/235

Glossary:
holotype – a holotype is a standard physical example that was used when new species was singled out and formally described.
heterogenous – diversified (varied)
protoplast (gr. próton plastós – first + derived) – initially referred to the first organized body of a species. This meaning is similar to the non-biological definition, the first from which all subsequent forms are derived.

Author

Magdalena Mirek and Przemyslaw

Copyright photos

Magdalena Mirek and Przemyslaw

Source

Suephoto.com (no longer available)
This article has been published in Tanganika MAGAZYN 4 / 2008

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