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Husbandry of a Lake Victoria cichlid, the Pitch-black fulu Haplochromis piceatus, in public aquariums: a 20 year retrospective



The Lake Victoria haplochromine cichlids comprise a unique ‘species flock’ of over 500 historic species, of which perhaps only half still exist because of the introduction of invasive species and eutrophication of the Lake. Dr Les Kaufman supervised the establishment of captive populations of those cichlids he was able to acquire from Africa and Europe by developing the first North American regional studbook. Long-term propagation of these fish was then undertaken by public aquariums in Europe and North America. One species, the Pitch-black fulu Haplochromis piceatus, stands out as it has thrived at public aquariums and within the organizational structure of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plans. These cooperative breeding programmes focus on the conservation of select species of threatened animals. Captive populations of H. piceatus at public aquariums in the United States show a relatively slow loss of genetic diversity. Additionally, fish in at least two breeding programmes show a higher than expected heterozygosity, indicating that these programmes are successfully keeping their fish from inbreeding. The husbandry and genetic management of this population of fish is outlined, hopefully providing useful information for nascent breeding programmes of other aquatic species at zoos and aquariums around the world.