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.
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
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.
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. Itactually 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
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.
The picture above was 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
Oliver from malawicichlids.com for information
and image. CarstenK. Larsen
from Malawicarsten.dk for information and images.
Shire River and Lake Malawi. Type locality:
Upper Shire River (British Central Africa).(click
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.
Care & 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
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.