meridionalis Günther, 1894
his month we move on to the African continent and to a large predatory
catfish which is indigenous to one of the Rift Valley lakes, Lake
Malawi. You can also find this bagrid in some of the surrounding
rivers such as the Shire and other connecting rivers. The Shire
River was actually the spot where the first known specimen was
One of the common names for this catfish
is "Kampango" from the local Chichewa language and it
is highly prized as a major food fish for the native population,
as it grows to around the 5ft (150cm) mark, and so can be quite
a challenge for the fishermen of Lake Malawi. It is served in
the local restuarants wrapped in leek leaves and gently poached
and placed on a bed of roasted vegetables.
As you can guess by now this is not a fish for your community
tank as it will eat anything that it can fit into its mouth. You
can of course keep it as a juvenile in a Rift Valley set-up containing
cichlids from the lake as long as the occupants are larger than
the catfish. When it gets to an adult size it would do better
on its own in a very large tank but realistically it is a fish
for the public aquarium when it gets to that size. Carsten Larsen
from the Malawi Danish web site, www.Malawicarsten.dk, states
below on how ferocious this Bagrid can be.
"It can be kept with cichlids from the lake without any problems,
as long the Bagrus can't get the other fish in it's mouth.
One of my Bagrus ate a Ancistrus sp. The Bagrus
was 12cm and the Ancistrus around 9cm... This tells a
lot about it's appetite and size of the "dangerous"
There is a strange phenomenon involving
the Hornet or bumblebee cichlid, Pseudotropheus crabro. It
actually acts as a cleaner fish to Bagrus meridionalis
in the Lake and eats the parasites from the skin of the catfish
including the fish lice Argulus africanus. There is a
darker side to this relationship as well. This cichlid is an egg
thief, it changes colour to a dark brown and sneaks past the "Kampango"
to feed on the eggs of this Bagrid in the cave nest, if it’s
seen, it returns to it’s striped colour and resumes cleaning
duties, waiting for it’s next chance… In the U.K.
the other common name for this Malawi species is the "Chameleon
Cichlid" which tells you a little of its mode of dress!
( Hornet or bumblebee cichlid)
A little bit of its habitat is that Lake
Malawi is the most southerly of the great African Rift Valley
lakes. It is about 560 km long and has a greatest width of about
75 km. In contrast with Lake Tanganyika, it consists of a single
basin with greatest depth of about 706 m near the western shore
about 45 km north of Nkhata Bay. It lies between 9:30-and 14:30S
at an altitude of about 500 m in a tropical climate. However it
lies far enough south of the equator to experience marked seasonal
variations in wind, temperature and precipitation.
The lake occupies part of the southern end of the Rift Valley
system and is to a large extent delimited by faults, particularly
to the north and on the eastern coast. In these areas the shores
are steep and depths in excess of 200 m are found close inshore.
At the southern extremity and along the southern half of the west
coast the shoreline is more gently shelving. From here the bottom
rises gradually to north and south and, except for a ridge some
20 m high at 10:25S, there is no trace of separate basins as in
Lake Tanganyika. In further contrast to Lake Tanganyika, where
a depth of 200 m is found within 20 km of the southern extremity
of the lake, in Lake Malawi such a depth is not encountered within
110 km of the southern end.
||This picture is taken
at Mumbo Island in the national park (Cape maclear) from a
trip undertaken by Carsten Larsen in 2001.
Aproximate depth at time is 11metres and the water was really
cloudy as can be seen in picture.
The size of the fish is around 75-85cm.. so not fully grown.
Mike Oliver from malawicichlids.com
for information and image.
Carsten K.Larsen from
Malawicarsten.dk for information and images.
Head about twice as long as broad, with smooth
texture. Dorsal fins widely separated.
Body Bronze/silver. Fins have a ruby colouration
when reaching adulthood.
Not a fish for your community tank as it will
eat anything that it can fit into its mouth. You can of course keep
it as a juvenile in a Rift Valley set-up containing cichlids from
the lake as long as the occupants are larger than the catfish. When
it gets to an adult size it would do better on its own in a very
large tank but realistically it is a fish for the public aquarium
when it gets to that size
Very caring parents. Lays its eggs in a nest
on bottom of lake and guards and feeds its young. The female also
produces non-fertile eggs for its young to feed on which makes it
a match for any parenthood properties that the cichlid population
of this lake indulge in.
A nocturnal feeder on cichlids on rocky shores,
and occurs from the lower reaches of rivers to the deepest habitable
parts of the lake. It also feeds on mollusks, crabs and zooplankton.
From 'bagre', a South American name for a catfish, but is
only used for African and Asian species.
Lake Environment Committee
Second & bottom: Carsten K. Larsen: www.Malawicarsten.dk.
Middle (P.crabro): Allan James @