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Bagrus 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 recorded.



Bagrus meridionalis

 

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" end"


Bagrus meridionalis 15cm. Juvenile  

Bagrus meridionalis
(15cm juvenile)



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!

Pseudotropheus crabro

Pseudotropheus crabro
( 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.


Acknowledgements : Mike Oliver from malawicichlids.com for information and image.
                                   Carsten K.Larsen from Malawicarsten.dk for information and images.

 

 

Characteristics
Head about twice as long as broad, with smooth texture. Dorsal fins widely separated.

Colour
Body Bronze/silver. Fins have a ruby colouration when reaching adulthood.

Compatibility
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

Breeding
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.

Feeding
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.

Etymology
Bagrus: From 'bagre', a South American name for a catfish, but is only used for African and Asian species.

Factsheet Request
Matthew Childers

References
Oliver, Mike: www.malawicichlids.com
Carsten,
Larsen K. : www.Malawicarsten.dk.
International Lake Environment Committee


Photo Credits
Top:                       Mike Oliver: www.malawicichlids.com
Second & bottom: Carsten K. Larsen: www.Malawicarsten.dk.

Middle (P.crabro):  Allan James @
ScotCat

Factsheet 86

Synonyms:
Porcus meridionalis
Common Name:
Kampango
Family:
Bagridae
Subfamily:
Bagrinae
Distribution:

Malawi: Malawi: Mozambique: Mozambique:
Tanzania: Tanzania:
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe: (click for location  map)
Size: 
150cm ( 5ft)
Temp:
24-27°C (75-81°F)
pH.:
7.5 - 8.2
Donation:
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                                                                                                                                               Factsheet 86= updated January 2, 2005, © ScotCat 1997-2016  Go to Top