Lake Victoria and satellite lakes: Riverine and Madagascan

Lake Victoria

Did You Know?

  • Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and the second largest freshwater lake in the world (after Lake Superior). The lake is:
    • nearly 34 342 square kilometres in area (roughly the size of Ireland).
    • 320 kilometres long
    • 80 kilometres wide
    • 84 metres at its deepest (average 40 metres)
  • Also known as Victoria Nyanza, Lake Victoria is bordered by Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
  • Lake Victoria is the youngest of the three rift lakes and is fed by the Nile River.
  • Lake Victoria is also the most northern of the three main Rift Lakes.
  • The water in Lake Victoria is not as clear than that of Lakes Malawi and Tanganyika.
  • The temperature can drop to 21oC at the surface during the dry season and reach 27oC during the wet season. Interestingly, it receives more rainfall in the middle than near its edges.
  • Many of the biotopes of the lake consist of numerous large rocks.
    • pH: 7.2-8.6
    • Total Hardness: 4-6dH
    • Water Temperature: 21 – 27oC.

The Fish

  • This lake is one of the most ecologically threatened places on Earth. Due to the introduction of the Nile Perch, it is believed that more than half of the original 500 endemic haplochromine cichlid species have become extinct.
    • Nile Perch grow to approximately 6 feet in length. These predatory fish were introduced in the 1950s to provide food for the people of the lake and to develop a commercial fisheries industry.
  • Satellite lakes contain more fish of the Victorian species flock that are closely related to their Victorian cousins. Most of the fish in aquariums are endemic to lakes Edward, Kyoga, Albert, Nabugabo, George, Kivu and Yala Swamp. There is much exploration going on in this area.

About the Fact Sheet Information

Lake Victoria and satellite lake Cichlids

Astatotilapia latifasciata
Haplochromis brownae

Pundamilia nyererei Makobe Island (Flameback)
Xystichromis phytophages (Christmas Fulu)
Lake Victoria and satellite lake Cichlids
Lake Victoria and satellite lake Cichlids

Riverine and Madagascan Cichlids

A large number of cichlids live in the numerous rivers of Africa. Among these are the Zaire, Zambezi, Nile, Gambia, and Niger Rivers; the Okavango River Delta, the Sierra Leone regions and the rainforests of Central Africa.

The water of these rivers is often acidic, although some are alkaline. These species differ enormously in behaviour, feeding habits, biotopes, and size.

For example, fish of the genus Steatocranus have specially adapted swim bladders to allow them to live in rapids – not unlike the Goby Cichlids of Lake Tanganyika. The cichlids of Madagascar can tolerate brackish water conditions. They are mostly small in size, with the exception of Paratilapia polleni.

Tank care…

The ideal set up for these fish is a tank that gives plenty of swimming room, with some plants and hideaways among rocks or ornaments. Some of these fish dig a little, especially when spawning, so a fine grade gravel is best.


These fish vary in temperament. Some are placid cichlid and good community fish, such as Pelvicachromis species and African Butterfly Cichlid, while others, such as Jewels and Humpheads (Steatocranus casuarius) can be nippy and quite pugnacious. Kribensis (Pelvicachromis species), Steatocranus tinanti and African Butterfly Cichlids are generally considered to be community fish, although they should not be mixed with very timid or fancy-finned fishes.

Jewels and Steatocranus casuarius are best mixed with robust community fish, including the smaller Central American cichlids. Well-established or potted plants can be used, as they will not be eaten – although some species may dig.

The Madagascan cichlid Paratilapia polleni is a large predator that fits well in a large tank with other large robust fish.


African Butterfly Cichlids, Paratilapia polleni and Jewels are open spawners that make use of rocks as spawning sites. Jewel cichlids also dig protective pits in which the fry are guarded. Both male and female guard the eggs and young.

Kribensis and Humpheads spawn in caves and the female guards the eggs while the male patrols the territory. When the fry are free-swimming, both parents guard the school of baby fish.

About the Fact Sheet Information

Riverine and Madagascan Fish

Anomalochromis thomasi (African Butterfly Cichlid)
Hemichromis bimaculatus (Jewel Cichlid)
Hemichromis lifalili
Paratilapia polleni
Pelvicachromis pulcher
Pelvicachromis subocellatus Matadi
Steatocranus casuarius (Humphead)
Steatocranus tinanti

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