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Lophiobagrus cyclurus  (Worthington & Ricardo, 1937) 

his small species from Lake Tanganyika, Africa is now beginning to be found in the aquatic shops especially in the U.S.A and Canada where shipments are turning up more regularly. It was a member of the Bagridae family until 1991 when Mo split it up up and constructed a new family, Claroteidae, which included not only the Lophiobagrus genus but also the Clarotes-like and Auchenoglanis-like groups.

Lophiobagrus cyclurus


It was first collected in Lake Tanganyika by A.Lestrade in 1937 and named by Max Poll in 1947 as Lophiobagrus lestradei, Worthington & Ricardo 1937. This was later found out to be a junior synonym of our Factsheet of the Month subject and renamed Lophiobagrus cyclurus by Poll again in 1952. There was also an unidentified collection in 1955 in M'Toto, rocky, Lake Tanganyika which was named Chrysichthys cyclurus but again this was the same fish that was collected by Lestrade in 1937. As the first collection was the correct fish but was named for the wrong species, the authors which the fish were named after, was put into parentheses.

Now after all that scientific jargon how do we keep Lophiobagrus cyclurus. Dinyar Lalkaka an accomplished catfish enthusiast from New York is presently keeping two of this species and he sent me this short composition below.

"I keep them at pH 7.8-8.0, 78-80 F with my Lake Tanganyika synos. I feed the usual catfish cuisine: flakes (esp. Tetra ColorBits), frozen food (brine shrimp, bloodworms) and live bloodworms. They’re not fussy eaters, but obviously prefer steak (meat) to potatoes (veggies). The tank has a coarse, calciferous substrate with lots of caves and crannies formed by “Moon Rock” (grey, looks like spongy concrete, but is a naturally occurring agglomeration of sea shells and such).

Two of the four I got as 0.5” juveniles; one of these is now 2.5”, the other still 1.5”. They grew fast! The larger one is brown, the smaller one black. Apart from color and growth rate, they look quite similar, but I wonder if they are not different species. There are several Lophiobagrus species in Lake Tanganyika and all of them look very similar. I would not be surprised — in fact, I’d expect — that more than one of these has entered the trade and not every Lophiobagrus sold as L. cyclurus is in fact such. But that’s only a hunch."

To further capitulate on Dinyar's theory about being more than one Lophiobagrus species sold in the trade we have to take a closer look at the Lophiobagrus genus residing in the lake. There are four species of Lophiobagrus in Lake Tanganyika, L.cyclurus, L.aquilus, L.asperispinis and L.brevispinis. Below you can see the differences particularly in the body and caudal shape, and the length relative to the eye, of the nasal barbels.

There has been a story going about (Pierre Brichard; Fishes of Lake Tanganyika) for a few years that they secrete a mucus that mixes with the water if they are stressed or in cramped conditions and it kills any other fish in its vicinity. There has been no collaboration to prove or disprove this notion.

Acknowledgments: Dinyar Lalkaka for his contribution to this months factsheet.
                                Shane Linder for his information on the family Claroteidae.

Body short, weekly compressed; eyes small, subcutaneous.

Colouration of body; dusty black or brown. Clear edging to dorsal and caudal fins. Barbels show some white colouring.

They will certainly eat smaller fish in the aquarium as most Bagrid-type catfish will do. A setup as Dinyar has expanded on with probably a Lake Tanganyika or Lake Malawi setup being the best bet with either Cichlids from these lakes or with other similar sized alkaline loving species such as the Lake Syno's.

Has been bred in the aquarium with the eggs laid in a cave which had been excavated by the parents and the eggs hatched in about four to five days.

In Lake Tanganyika it feeds on chironomid larvae, beetle larva, and small crustaceans with the occasional vegetable matter mixed in. In the aquarium they will feed on any meaty foods, frozen or freeze-dried.

Lophiobagrus: Lophia, lophos = mane, crest; bagrus = 'Bagre' meaning catfish.

Eccles, D.H. 1992 FAO species identification sheets for fishery purposes. Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Tanzania. Prepared and published with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (project URT/87/016). FAO, Rome. 145 p.
Burgess, W.E. 1989 An atlas of freshwater and marine catfishes. A preliminary survey of the Siluriformes. T.F.H. Publications, Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey (USA). 784 p.
Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2002. FishBase.World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, 20th August 2002
Risch, L.M., 1986. Bagridae.. p. 2-35. In J. Daget, J.-P. Gosse and D.F.E. Thys van den Audenaerde (eds.) Check-list of the freshwater fishes of Africa (CLOFFA). ISNB, Brussels; MRAC, Tervuren; and ORSTOM, Paris. Vol. 2.

Factsheet Request
Paul Belanger.
Alex V.Tilburg.

Photo Credits
Top picture:      © Hippocampus Bildarchiv
Line Drawings: Michel Lamboeuf from, Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Tanzania.
Factsheet 072

Chrysichthys cyclurus, Lophiobagrus lestradei
Common Name:
African bullhead, Tanganyika bullhead.
Africa: Lake Tanganyika    
10cm. (4ins)
23-26°C (73-79°F)
7.5 - 8.0
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