The predictability of scale check formation in Barbus liberiensis has been investigated. Scale length is shown to be linearly related to body length. The formation of the check can be interpreted in terms of the reproductive cycle and changes in somatic condition. Throughout the population check formation takes place in two phases, resorption of material from the scale edges coinciding with the early and middle phases of gonad maturation, and the formation of the check itself as a result of repair as maturation is completed. Check formation is not correlated with actual spawning activity and fluctuations in food intake and temperature are insignificant.
The first scale check is formed at the end of the first year and from analysis of check frequency the mean body lengths at the end of the first, second and third years were 6·9 cm, 8·3 cm and 9·3 cm. There was no significant difference in the growth rate of males and females although the females tend to live longer and therefore attain a greater maximum size. Some individuals may not have formed a check at the end of the first year.
The difference between check formation in tropical and temperate fish and also between forest and savanna types are discussed. The predictability and the factors affecting check formation in tropical freshwater fish are considered.