Buccochromis rhoadesii, photo © by M.K. Oliver

Buccochromis rhoadesii (Boulenger, 1908)

by Michael K. Oliver, Ph.D.
Closeup of Lernaea lophiara, a parasitic copepod, on the dorsal and caudal fins. Photo © M.K. Oliver.
Closeups showing Lernaea lophiara, a parasitic
copepod, on the dorsal and caudal fins of the
above B. rhoadesii. Photo © M.K. Oliver.

Above: A large female Buccochromis rhoadesii, a predator of sandy shores. Photo copyright © by M. K. Oliver.

Among the obliquely striped "haps" of Lake Malawi, this species is most distinctive for its deep head (from top to bottom), with a very wide preorbital depth between the eye and the mouth. Look at the size of her head! The massively built jaws are a good indication that B. rhoadesii is a piscivorous, or fish-eating, predator. The deeply emarginate (indented) caudal fin is typical of rapid swimmers. Buccochromis rhoadesii is, in fact, a pursuit predator.

This individual was caught 3 July 1980 off the Nankumba Peninsula between Chembe and Otter Island, some 150 meters offshore on a sandy substrate. It was chased into a gillnet with SCUBA; collected by M.K. Oliver, K.R. McKaye, & T.D. Kocher; collection field no. MKO80-48.

The specimen in the photo (as Carsten Klarborg Larsen pointed out to me) is parasitized by two individuals of a Lernaea species, which I believe is almost certainly L. lophiara Harding (see enlargements at left of parts of the dorsal and caudal fins). Excellent drawings of this copepod are available in the original description by Harding (1950). Most specimens have been found on the dorsal fins of haplochromine cichlids, with a few from other locations on the body.

B. rhoadesii is found over sandy substrates all around the lake and also occurs in the upper Shire River (between Lake Malombe and the southeast arm of Lake Malawi). Although it was described over 100 years ago, it is not common in museum collections and has not been intensively studied.

This species attains a length of at least 28 cm (11 inches) in standard length (without the caudal fin). It is occasionally exported to the aquarium trade, but would require quite a large tank to maintain it satisfactorily. Even one of 110 gallons (416 liters) would cramp the style of a full-grown adult.

Adult females of Buccochromis rhoadesii characteristically have the yellow coloration on the lower body that is so prominent in this specimen. Males are predominantly blue. Aquarium specimens of mature males may be seen in photos by Frank Panis at Malawi Cichlid Homepage, and by Carsten Klarborg Larsen at MalawiCarsten.

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    Last Update: 10 February 2013
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