someone else’s word that this or that location is where they found
such and such fish. This means that both sides are just arguing
about what someone else had told them.
Pelvicachromis taeniatus is a widespread species with locality
variants found over a large area of coastal West Africa, from Benin
through Nigeria in the north, and into Cameroon in the south. In
all of the populations from the Kienké River northward, the males
exhibit black spots in the upper part of the caudal fin. Those from
the Nyé’été River and the Lobé River are at the southern edge of the
known range for P. taeniatus, and the males from these populations
do not exhibit any spotting in the caudal fin. It has been suggested
that there is so much variation in the populations that the northern
and southern variants may, at some point, be separated into
different species. I’m a hobbyist, not a scientist, so I’ll leave that for
others to discuss, as it is beyond the scope of this article.
Instead, I’m going to simply focus on one recent import from
southern Cameroon, which is supposedly from the area around the
small town of Bandéwouri (also spelled Bandévouri). The subjects
of this article came to me as wild-caught stock from a reliable
importer who got them from a trusted source, so the collection
information is likely to be reasonably accurate. Of course, it could
be entirely wrong, as some have suggested. I don’t have an opinion
either way, as I did not collect the fish, so I’m relying on what others
tell me about where they got them. We’ll come back to this later.
For now, let’s look at the wild habitat, the wild diet, the aquarium
care, and the breeding of these beautiful fish. Then we’ll take a look
at the Bandéwouri conundrum.
Pelvicachromis taeniatus “Bandéwouri,” male.
But this is slowly changing. Part of this change will also challenge
our assumptions about what we know, or think we know. And, of
course, we are still at the mercy of the local collectors who wish to
protect their secret collecting sites. Until hobbyists and scientists
make a thorough and unbiased study of the area, I’m sure that
much of what comes out over the next few years will be subject to
hot Internet debate, as new information challenges what we might
consider to be facts (and should make for interesting times for all
of us). In all of this, I hope we can all remain focused on fellowship
and fish and not stay so attached to our own arguments. After all,
if you’re not actually there collecting the fish, you are just taking
The Wild Habitat
Over its entire range in the wild, P. taeniatus is found in purely
freshwater streams. They are normally found in areas where the
current isn’t moving too fast, and this usually results in a large
amount of debris building up on the bottom. P. taeniatus is reported
to favor areas where there are large numbers of submerged branches.
It carves out territories and either excavates small caves or takes
advantage of naturally occurring holes so it can spawn under and
around the submerged branches. These areas are generally under
the forest canopy and thus not brightly lit. There is usually little in
the way of aquatic plants in most of the areas where P. taeniatus is
found, but as the forests are cleared, that is changing. In those areas,
P. taeniatus are found where a lot of these aquatic plants remain.
Water in these areas is reported to vary from a pH of about 5 to
just over 7. 5 and have a high tannin content, with little in the way
of carbonate hardness. This is to be expected, as most of Cameroon
is made up of volcanic soil, which is usually low in carbonates. The
falling leaves and branches in the jungle that reach the water decay
slowly and release their tannins into the water as they break down.
Although Cameroon is just above the equator, the mountainous
nature of the country and the fact that the streams are shaded
from direct sunlight allow the fish to tolerate much cooler water
than we would expect from this area of the world. I’ve found the P.
taeniatus “Bandéwouri” that I’ve worked with to be perfectly happy
at temperatures in the mid to upper 70s.
Care and Feeding
As there is abundant rainfall and little in the way of industrial
pollution in the air, the fish can expect the water quality to remain
high. In the aquarium, replicate this with frequent large water
changes and good filtration—but remember that they don’t like