RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube




Tag: killifish

Video – Saving the Corfu Killifish

February 23rd, 2016 — 1:45pm
Valencia robertae male

Image depicts V. robertae, the other Valencia species endemic to Greece. © Jörg Freyhof

Inspiring video from ZSL presenting details of an ongoing, long term conservation program for Valencia letourneuxi, one the most endangered freshwater fishes in the Mediterranean basin. Many congratulations to Brian Zimmerman and the team; it is awesome to see a project which it seems will deliver tangible results for wild populations of this species.

Category: Blogs, Conservation | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 comments »

New killifish from Greece

May 6th, 2014 — 9:36am
Valencia robertae male

© Freyhof et al.

The killifish genus Valencia is the only fish genus found only Europe and the Mediterranean basin, and the recent description of a new member brings the total number of species to three.

This trio forms the family Valenciidae and all members are critically-endangered with restricted natural ranges within which they have been subjected to extensive habitat degradation and competition with introduced species. V. hispanica is found only in a handful of localities along the Mediterranean coastline of Spain, V. letourneuxi occurs in northwestern Greece and Albania, and V. robertae, new species, is known with certainty from the lower Pinios River in Peloponnes and the lower Mornos River in mainland Greece, but may also occur further north.

V. robertae can be told apart from V. letourneuxi by the presence of short lateral bars or small vertically-elongated blotches along the flanks in females (vs. no lateral bars or blotches) and an almost triangular anal fin with a straight posterior margin (vs. anal fin almost rounded, posterior margin convex) and anal fin depth, measured from anal-fin origin to tip of third branched ray, fitting 1.4-1.5 times in the caudal peduncle depth (vs. 1.2-1.3).

Valencia robertae female

© Freyhof et al.

Male V. robertae are distinguished by having prominent bars on flank between the axial blotch and the base of the caudal fin (vs. bars absent or very faint anterior to a vertical through the pelvic-fin origin); nape and back bluish-brown (vs. yellowish) and a long anal fin, reaching to or almost to the base of the caudal fin in individuals measuring longer than 30 mm SL (vs. to middle of caudal peduncle).

It is distinguished from V. hispanica by having a hyaline to bluish caudal fin (vs. yellow to orange) with a bold black posterior margin in males (vs. reddish-brown).

The new species is named for Roberta Barbieri from Athens, who “studied the Greek Valencia species for many years and is engaged in the conservation of the two species”.

For further information refer to the full, open access paper: Freyhof, J., H. Kärst and M. Geiger, 2014. Valencia robertae, a new killifish from southern Greece (Cyprinodontiformes: Valenciidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters v. 24 (no. 4): 289-298.

Category: Blogs, Ichthyology | Tags: , , , , , | Comment »

New killifish from Cameroon

June 24th, 2013 — 10:39am

© Rudolf Pohlmann

A new species of the genus Aphyosemion has been described in the journal ‘Zootaxa’. Continue reading »

Category: New Species, News | Tags: , , , , | Comment »

Doing Things Their Way

June 17th, 2013 — 7:43pm

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

The Aquarium of Brussels is a hidden gem in the Belgian capital…

In contrast to our usual waffle this experiment blog post is going to be heavy on photos and low on word count, so let’s see how it goes.

While visiting Belgium a couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend an enjoyable few hours at the wonderfully impressive Aquarium of Brussels.

It’s possibly the cleanest such set up I’ve ever seen, and puts many zoos and larger ‘chain’-style public aquaria to shame.

Cooler still, the vast majority of installations are dedicated to freshwater fish and amphibians with a number of rare and endangered species among them.

They also have an off-public area which is equally as spotless as the main displays and lots more endangered fish are being bred and raised there.

A few pics should help illustrate what I’m talking about…

Ptychochromis oligacanthus from Madagascar:

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Bedotia sp. ‘Namorona’ is an undescribed (and huge!) species restricted to parts of the Namorona River, also in Madagascar. The zoo are having trouble breeding these so any tips would be much appreciated.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Malagasy display with Bedotia sp. ‘Namorona’, the killifish Pachypanchax sakaramyi and Ptychochromis oligacanthus.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Fundulopanchax display – great to see killis getting some attention.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Iberian ribbed newt, Pleurodeles waltl. These are being bred in quite large numbers behind the scenes…

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

…speaking of which. Here’s one of the ‘backstage’ area tanks with the goodeid Ilyodon furcidens.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Goodeids, newts and poison frogs, all breeding at the aquarium.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

More Ptychochromis oligacanthus. The tank itself is interesting as like all of those at the aquarium it’s made of a type of marine wood with a glass front panel.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Young cichlids growing on.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Quarantine for future display fish.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Breeding and raising tanks for endangered species containing the Corfu killifishValencia letourneuxi, various cichlids, Melanotaenia spp., goodeids, etc.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

This area must require as much upkeep as the display area to maintain these standards and the whole set-up is a massive credit to the managers and staff.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Back in the main aquarium, this display contained endangered goodeids.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Finally, a lovely little paludarium housing a breeding population of the Oriental fire-bellied toad, Bombina orientalis plus some White Cloud Mountain minnows in the water.

© Matt Ford/Seriously Fish

Aside from the standard of husbandry and attention to detail on display there were other things to admire here.

For example, this is a relatively small, low budget project funded by the Belgian National Lottery, yet is Brussels’ only public aquarium and on a Saturday afternoon was busy with a number of larger kids’ groups inside.

The aquarium offer audio tours in several languages which offer information about the various animals on display including the reasons why they are being maintained in the case of endangered species, while kids are able to undertake a series of activities on the way round.

Some of these involve ticking off the species on display, or even drawing them, and it was the first time I’d heard young children talking excitedly about goodeids in a public aquarium, for example.

Since the majority of such aquaria in the world tend to feature an identical series of displays (coral reef, clown fish, ray touch pool, shark tunnel, piranhas, Amazon display, rinse, repeat) this modest yet inspiring place is well worth a visit.

It was brilliant to see a focus on freshwater rather than marine species given that the ongoing environmental crisis affecting their habitats around the planet continues to be largely ignored by conservation groups and mainstream media alike.

Matt Ford

Aquarium of Brussels home page: http://www.aquariologie.be/

Category: Articles, Conservation | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 comments »

Pupfish form evolutionary ‘mountain ranges’

January 22nd, 2013 — 4:57pm

Male of C. sp. ‘lepidophage’ in the aquarium. © Anthony Terceira

Members of the genus Cyprinodon, often referred to collectively as ‘pupfishes’, aren’t particularly well-known in the aquarium hobby for a variety of reasons, not least that many of the 50 or so species inhabit isolated environments and are not especially easy to maintain in captivity, plus they tend to lack the gaudy colouration which has made African relatives such as Nothobranchius or Aphyosemion so popular. Continue reading »

Category: Articles, Science | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 comments »

European killifishes part 1: the genus Aphanius in Spain

December 6th, 2012 — 12:23pm

Matt Ford introduces a little-known group…

Male Aphanius iberus from the Delta del Llobregat, Barcelona. © Matt Ford

The traditional image of killifishes is that of ostentatious, highly-coloured African or American species from genera such as Aphyosemion, Nothobranchius or Simpsonichthysbut it might be surprising to learn that there also exist a number of rarely-discussed, very attractive species native to Eurasia of which several are found in southern Europe.

In particular the genus Aphanius Nardo, 1827 contains more than 20 species which are probable descendants of ancient fishes inhabiting the former Tethys Sea.

They’re found throughout the Mediterranean region and Arabian Peninsula as far as Pakistan and India with this irregular pattern of distribution a result of geologic activity during the Cenozoic Era, and most remaining populations are geographically isolated from one another.

Map of populations in Spain with A. iberus (dark blue) and A. baeticus (purple).

Species diversity is highest in the eastern Mediterranean, Middle and Near East regions with Turkey a particular hot-spot, whereas the western Mediterranean is less rich with only four native species of which two, Aphanius iberus (Valenciennes, 1846) and A. baeticus Doadrio, Carmona and Fernández-Delgado, 2002, are endemic to Spain.

These two were once widespread throughout lowland, littoral habitats in the country, but in the last century their range has diminished dramatically and they currently exist only in a handful of brackish and hyper-saline coastal lagoons, salt marshes, and first order streams along the country’s Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines.

This huge decline has been caused exclusively by human interference via the detrimental impact of introduced species such as the mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki, and mummichog, Fundulus heteroclitus, plus extensive habitat degradation caused by dessication and pollution of wetlands and human overpopulation of many coastal areas.

Introduced Gambusia holbrooki are highly-invasive throughout Mediterranean Spain. © Matt Ford

Both species are considered to be under extreme risk of extinction, and as a result they’ve become largely inaccessible to aquarists, are protected under Spanish and European law and illegal to collect without a near-impossible to obtain license. Despite these measures their numbers continue to dwindle on an annual basis, however.

A. iberus (Valenciennes, 1846) is the most well-distributed of the two in nature and best-known in the aquarium hobby. It originally occurred along the majority of Spain’s Mediterranean coastline from Catalonia to Almería but a 2006 study for the IUCN concluded that its numbers had decreased by as much as 50% in the previous decade and it’s been protected under Spanish and international conservation law since 1994.

The 16 remaining subpopulations are highly-fragmented in geographical terms, with a resultant lack of genetic flow. The situation is hardly aided by the indifference of the national authorities towards fish conservation in general, and even management of existing protected zones is totally inadequate.

The ‘Arroyo Mascardó’ in Sevilla province is a typical habitat of A. baeticus which has been degraded by human activity without intervention by authorities. © Matt Ford

For example the mummichog was originally restricted to a relatively small area in southern Spain but has recently been recorded around 800 km further north in the Ebro river delta, a wetland and natural park of internationally-recognised conservation significance which also happens to be saturated with invasive fish species.

A. baeticus was previously considered to be a geographic form of A. iberus and is restricted to less than a dozen localities mostly within the lower Guadalquivir River basin and along Spain’s southern Atlantic coastline.

Adult male of A. baeticus from the Río de la Vega, Andalucía. © Matt Ford

Although it looks very similar it can be told apart from A. iberus by possession of  9-11 branched anal-fin rays (vs. 8-9 in A. iberus), a noticeably shorter snout, relatively thick (vs. thin) vertical bars in males and a flank patterning consisting of a few large (vs. numerous, small) dark markings in females.

The reproductive biology of Iberian Aphanius shows adaptations typical of species inhabiting unstable environments and is characterised by early sexual maturity, a high reproductive effort and short lifespan with most individuals surviving less than a year.

Females spawn continuously between the months of April and September and can deposit over 1000 eggs over the course of the season. These are laid singly or in small batches among aquatic vegetation or filamentous algae and hatch in around 8 days.

Adult female of A. baeticus from the Río de la Vega. © Matt Ford

Sexual dimorphism in both species is pronounced with males possessing a series of steely-blue vertical bars in the posterior portion of the body, these becoming more intense in nuptial individuals.

Females are less colourful, possessing only a series of irregular dark blotches on the flanks, and larger with a maximum size of around 50 mm SL compared with 35-40 mm in males.

Aquarium breeding is not difficult but at time of writing it remains illegal to remove either species from their natural waters and the fish shown here were released immediately after being photographed.

Flank patterning of male A. baeticus (left) vs. A. iberus. © Matt Ford

Case example

I first visited the Río de la Vega in Andalucía, southern Spain while sampling several rivers in the area in late August 2008. It’s a short, first-order river rising in the mountains of the El Estrecho Natural Park, its lower reaches running alongside the coastal town of Tarifa before emptying into the Atlantic.

This area is notable for its great diversity of bird and marine life as well as its position as the southernmost point in Europe. Northern Morocco can appear to be within touching distance on a clear day and the stretch of coastline close to the town is one of the few in the south of Spain yet to have been destroyed by tourist developments.

The Río de la Vega in summer. © Matt Ford

Although there were plenty of A. baeticus here the situation initially appeared dire as the fish were surviving in what amounted to little more than a series of large puddles in the dry river bed. Worse, they were concentrated underneath a motorway bridge and directly adjacent to a new commercial development.

The pool under the bridge in particular was filthy and contained a number of aluminium cans and other refuse. Sympatric species in the pools included an Atherina species, probably A. boyeri, the invasive and highly-destructive red swamp crayfish Procambarus clarkii, two species of shrimp and the spined loach Cobitis paludica, another endangered Spanish endemic that I was very pleased to find.

The loach Cobitis paludica is another Spanish endemic inhabiting the Río de la Vega. © Matt Ford

Subsequent visits in 2009, 2010, and 2011 made for enlightening experiences since the habitat is highly seasonal in nature, so while one can walk along the dry bed for several hundred metres during summer this is impossible in autumn, winter and spring due to the beautiful, flowing river which is several metres deep in places!

During these three seasons A. baeticus can be found in both slow-moving, clear water and faster-flowing, more turbid sections of the river, but always in marginal zones with submerged grasses, filamentous algae and riparian vegetation.

It’s restricted to a freshwater stretch a few hundred metres from the sea and it’s this limited range along with the proximity of the habitat to human developments that places this population in a precarious position.

The Río de la Vega in spring. © Matt Ford

Furthermore southern Spain is in the midst of an ongoing water shortage and it’s conceivable that a couple of dry summers could eradicate the temporary pools in which the fish spend the warmer months of the year, plus the habitat is not formally protected.

Despite the gloom there are reasons for positivity, and I’m proud to be involved with the Sociedad de Estudios Ictiológicos (Society of Ichthyological Studies), one of the few groups in the country concerned with preservation of these little-known killifishes. Look out for more about them and their work in upcoming blogs and articles.


Doadrio, I., J. A. Carmona and C. Fernández-Delgado, 2002. Morphometric study of the Iberian Aphanius (Actinopterygii, Cyprinodontiformes), with description of a new species. Folia Zoologica 51: 67–79

Hrbek, T. and A. Meyer, 2003. Closing of the Tethys Sea and the phylogeny of Eurasian killifishes (Cyprinodontiformes: Cyprinodontidae). Journal of Evolutionary Biology 16(1): 17-36

Oliva-Paterna, F. J., I. Doadrio. and C. Fernández-Delgado, 2006. Threatened Fishes of the World: Aphanius baeticus (Doadrio, Carmona & Fernández Delgado, 2002) (Cyprinodontidae). Environmental  Biology of Fishes 75(4): 415-417

Oliva-Paterna, F., M. Torralva and C. Fernández-Delgado, 2006. Threatened Fishes of the World: Aphanius iberus (Cuvier & Valenciennes, 1846) (Cyprinodontidae). Environmental  Biology of Fishes 75(3): 307-309

Wildekamp, R.H., F. Küçük, M. Ünlüsayin, and W. V. Neer, 1999. Species and Subspecies of the Genus Aphanius Nardo 1897 (Pisces: Cyprinodontidae) in Turkey. Turkish Journal of Zoology 23: 23-44

Blanco, J.L., T. Hrbek and I. Doadrio, 2006. A new species of the genus Aphanius (Nardo, 1832) (Actinopterygii, Cyprinodontidae) from Algeria. Zootaxa 1158: 39-53

Category: Articles, Freshwater Fishes | Tags: , , , | 3 comments »

1200 endangered killifish released in Barcelona, Spain

November 22nd, 2012 — 9:12am

© Matt Ford

On 28th October the Spanish conservation and study group ‘Sociedad de Estudios Ictiológicos’ (SEI) released 1200 adult individuals of the Spanish toothcarp, Aphanius iberus, into a coastal lagoon within the protected ‘Espais Naturals del Delta del Llobregat‘ nature reserve, located close to Barcelona. Continue reading »

Category: Articles, Conservation | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 comments »

Aphanius sp. ‘Namak’ given official name

August 14th, 2012 — 12:13pm

Males of the new species possess 12-19 vertical bars on each flank. © Barbara Nicca

The undescribed killifish commonly referred to as Aphanius sp. ‘Namak’ or ‘Namak River’ in the aquarium hobby has been formally named. Continue reading »

Category: Ichthyology, New Species, News | Tags: , , , | Comment »

Two new killifishes described

July 20th, 2012 — 11:21am

Two new killifish species are described in the latest volume of the journal ‘Bonn zoological Bulletin’ this week.

Aphyosemion pseudoelegans © Sonnenberg & Van der Zee

Continue reading »

Category: Discoveries, Ichthyology, New Species, News | Tags: , , , , | Comment »

Back to top