West Coast of Lake Tseny, Mahajanga Province, Sofia Region in Northwest Madagascar

32th place in Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2019

Italy. Martin Kocik

Volume: 450 L
Dimensions: 150x50x60 cm
List of fishes: Mature couple Paretroplus menarambo.
List of plants: Dry reed Phragmites sp.
Description of decorations: Substrate: Mix sand light 0.4-1.2mm. The color observed in the photographs.
Description of equipment: Filtration: JBL CristalProfi e1901 greenline — 1900l / h bucket capacity of 15l divided into 5 baskets with media, one is a protective sponge, the other four is a biology divided between, Jbl Micromec balls and good quality sintered glass (ceramics).
Circulation: Two aeration cubes, JBL ProSilent a400
Heating: Eheim Jager 500W heating element, connected with the STC-1000 precision thermostat
Light: The basic lighting is Aquatlantis Easy LED Freshwater, 1047mm, 6800 ° K-52w with EASY LED CONTROL, simulator of sunrise and sunset effect. Additionally, the lamp 6000 ° K-16w, led lamp 4000 ° K-10w, the old neon light T5 36w in a yellow shade, I suppose about 4000K was used to illuminate the background.
Water parameters: Ph 7.5 Gh14 Kh7 Temperature 28°C
Additional info: Due to the high organic content, water changes are 50% every 10 days, frequent refills, feeding takes place 4 times a day using JBL AutoFood, Fish often get sweets in the form of mussels, shrimps, etc.


Description of the area surrounding the biotope: Madagascar is a state island located in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Africa, opposite Mozambique, and is the fourth largest island in the world. There are no species of animals and plants typical of continental Africa on the island and their endemic reaches as much as 80%, together 5% of the flora and fauna of the whole world. Madagascar is a fragment of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, Doctor Harry Levin explains the Mesozoic geographical ties of India with Madagascar and Madagascar with Africa. Explaining that cichlids have evolved from marine fish, brackish fish (estuary) to freshwater fish, more or less after the beginning of the Permian era to the end of the Triassic, adapting to land movements and climate change. Once the pathways have been determined by the radiation of species, some of these fish still designate ancient geography. The cichlidae family tells us the amazing history of the land, Madagascar, about 245 million years ago, was part of India. In particular, the north-eastern coast of Madagascar was connected to the coast of Kerala, furthermore, in the middle of Madagascar it was connected to Africa by a land bridge, which was on common widths, Maevatanana in Madagascar and Lake Malawi in Africa. When Gondwana began to crumble (about 160 million years ago) Madagascar, it separated from Africa first and then from India (89 million years ago). This isolation made Madagascar what some biogeographers call “the eighth continent”. Cichlids belonged to the earliest freshwater fish and developed along the south-eastern coast of India, first as salty fish, stretching along the east coast of Madagascar, which was in the process of separation from India. In northwestern Madagascar, the species of cichlids have evolved into freshwater fish and crossed the land bridge to Africa. After rapid diversification, freshwater cichlids radiated throughout Africa; and they came to South America. The unique diversity of the family (freshwater fish) Cichlidae (order Perciformes) raised it to icons in textbooks of evolutionary biology (cichlids) have a wide range of colors, forms and habits. They come from warm rivers and lakes in Africa, Madagascar, southern India, Sri Lanka and South and Central America, most of these regions were part of the southern continent of Gondwana, the observation suggests an ancient pedigree for the whole family. Today, Paretroplus from Madagascar and Etroplus from India, and in particular P. polyactis, E. suratensis and E. maculates, are unique among cichlids and are considered primitive, 15 species are found in Madagascar and 3 in southern India. These eighteen species of “survivors from the earliest lines” indicate coherence between Madagascar and southern India in the distant past. Can these present-day cichlids from Madagascar and India be sufficiently closely related to justify the conclusion that their ancestors are from the same fish? Now, Madagascar and India are about 4,500 km apart. Many of these ancient species have survived in Madagascar, which their competitors growing in Africa could not reach; also India has been isolated for millions of years, by far the largest diversity of cichlids is found in Africa, in particular in the large East African lakes of Victoria, Malawi and Tanganyika. In addition to the above ancient geography lessons offered by these fish, the proving proofs of late-Palaeozoic conformations of India, Sri Lanka and Madagascar, offer two plants of primitive, insectivorous pitchers: namely Nepenthusian Nepenthus distillery and Nepenthes nepal, both order Caryophyllales, Nepenthaceae family, distillatoria is the only endemic plant in Sri Lanka. N. masoalensis is one of the two endemic plants of Madagascar. The characteristic rivers, lakes and swamps of Madagascar still hide some of these ancient fish species, one of such places is Lake Tseny, where we can find the hero of this biotope Paretroplus Menarambo. The geographical coordinates of the lake are 15 ° 40 ‘0.01 “S, 47 ° 50’ 59.59” E a reconstructed habitat: 15 ° 40’47.9 “S 47 ° 49’32.4” E near the village of Miadana in the south-west of Lake Tseny, depth in this place is 2.5 m-5 m, PH: 7.3, temperature 24 ° C-29.5 ° C. The lake is particularly beautiful, covered with light sand, located in the landscape of grassy hills, the coastline consists of numerous coves intersected by small islands overgrown with reeds with a height of three meters and sporadic palm trees. The lake is located in the wetland complex in the lower lagoon of the Sofia river, it is a seasonal transformation landscape because it undergoes serious water level fluctuations according to the rainy season (January-April) and dry (May-December) fishermen inform that the depth of the lake varies from three meters to twelve. Along the western shore of the lake is a sunken forest, which is a key feature of the lake, and its presence creates many spawning habitats for these endemic cichlids. Braided roots and branches provide free space from predators and competitors, and algae and bacteria that can feed large populations of invertebrates, diversifying the diet of young and adult P. menarambo. In some places only branches and branches emerge from the water, while the remains of trunks and trees are submerged. These trees prevent fishermen from spreading gillnets and these areas are subject to minimal fishing pressure, yet fishermen sometimes extend their nets in open water parallel to the sunken forest and hitting the water surface with rods, scare the fish. Such a fish fishing system is often used by most fishermen, a stick called debocas is a simple one and a half stick, at the end of which is a leather cone, which after hitting the surface of the water produces a specific noise (strong clap). Here it should be emphasized that P. menarambo are very sensitive to sound, which is associated with the spawning period and the problem of keeping the fry in aquarium conditions. During spawning the fish startle and eat roe, it’s hard to keep eggs with parents, as of today only two people have succeeded, other hobbyists take eggs and feed their parents to sterile tanks. In the natural environment, only a pair of P. menarambo was observed once in the company of two hundred young people. Fishermen say that the species reproduces in October and November and that it is the most numerous between October and December. Endemic cichlids reproduce in a sunken forest, while other species can reproduce anywhere within the lake. The name of the menarambo species refers to the combination of two words of the Malagasy word “mena”, which means red and “rambo”, which means the tail. Paretroplus menarambo is a relatively large fish, reaches 25 centimeters, and its body is high and flat, the tail has a crescent shape with a red border, which gives it the charm of sea fish. The body is covered with large, overlapping scales. The bases of the dorsal and anal fin have well-developed rays. The color oscillates from light gray to greyish-green, giving the fish a pinstripe “stripe damba” look. Like all cichlids, P. menarambo has pharyngeal teeth. The upper and lower throat tooth plates are well developed with strong teeth, two longer fangs give them a vampire look. There are no sexual dimorphic features, but there are minimal differences in the structure of fins, in males are slightly longer and pointed than in females. Like most cichlids from Madagascar, P. menarambo are slow-growing fish and it will take almost 2 years to reach maturity. In the aquarium it is recommended to breed in a group of six, so that after reaching maturity the fish become pairs. In Lake Tseny, you can find seven native species, including the first three endemics, Paretroplus menarambo, Paretroplus lamenabe, Paretroplus cf. kieneri, turtle (Erymnochelys madagascariensis), Arius festinus, Cyprinoides galops, Sauvagella robusta and Glossogobius giuris. Also the presence of invasive species: Heterotis niloticus, Channa maculata, Cyprinus carpio and three species tilapiine Oreochromis n. Niloticus, O. mossambicus and Tilapia zillii.

Description of the underwater landscape of the biotope: The aquarium presents the biotope of the coastal zone between the reeds and the sandy bottom of the lake, where the sunken forest is located. Boughs and branches of dead trees provide fish with shelter and suitable spawning grounds. The edges of the habitats are often overgrown reeds, where there are plenty of crustaceans, which are a great source of food for the young fry P. menarambo. The vertical branch on the right imitates a tree protruding above the water (as in the photograph in the link), which creates a natural barrier of the sunken forest. A matte self-adhesive foil backlit with warm light from an old neon lamp was glued to the rear window. A long branch over the big branch is arranged an interesting technique. Half of the branch is in the aquarium (wet) and the other half, behind the background (dry) combined into a whole gives us a greater underwater depth.

Description of the parameters of the habitat: PH: 7.3, temperature 24°C-29,5°C

List of fishes and invertebrates occurring in the nature biotope: Endemic: Paretroplus menarambo, Paretroplus lamenabe, Paretroplus cf. kieneri, turtle (Erymnochelys madagascariensis), Arius festinus, Cyprinoides galops, Sauvagella robusta and Glossogobius giuris.

Invasive: Heterotis niloticus, Channa maculata, Cyprinus carpio and three species tilapiine Oreochromis n. Niloticus, O. mossambicus and Tilapia zillii.

List of plants found in the nature biotope: Phragmites mauritianus, Cyperus papyrus.

Threats to the ecology: Madagascar lost 80% of the original forest cover, and many of its most charismatic species experienced a sharp decline in population because the availability of primary forest habitats has decreased. Experts, for example, estimate that 95% of 105 species of lemur in Madagascar are currently threatened with extinction and Madagascar was the main driver of habitat loss in Madagascar — according to the FAO 2010, Madagascar continued to lose around 57,000 hectares of forest annually. Deforestation applies not only to forest species, but also has a significant impact on Madagascar freshwater ecosystems. An example of this is the fact that of the 12 bird species in Madagascar classified as endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, 9 are wetland species. Since 1960, the wetlands of the Madagascar mountain region have decreased by 60% and during the same period, the country also lost 37% of coastal forests. Fish in Madagascar are particularly vulnerable to extinction as a result of habitat loss, as many species are not only endemic to the island, but have small ranges, meaning that the loss of one site can drastically reduce the chance of survival of many species. A recent study by the IUCN unit on freshwater biodiversity regarding the state of protection of Madagascar freshwater fish showed that 34% of species were threatened with extinction. However, even more worryingly, assuming that the same level of risk applies to those species for which there was no data (species insufficient for data), this number increases to 43% for all fish and up to 78% for those endemic to Madagascar. Two species (Ptychochromis onilahy and Pantanodon madagascariensis) are already classified as extinct. The percentage of freshwater species assessed as threatened with extinction was about twice as high as documented on the entire African continent as a whole. Tseny is the only lake where we can meet P.menarambo. Hence the efforts to protect this lake. All conservation measures have been taken into account, given that over 90% of the population around the lake are fishermen. The use of biological resources, fishing and collection of water resources, invasive species and, consequently, diseases of foreign origin, from year to year, decreases the populations of P. menarambo in the lake. The IUCN red list shows the status of Paretroplus menarambo as (Critically Endangered). Breeding populations of this species are kept in captivity. The Zoological Society of London, the Toronto Zoo, the Paul VI Loiselle protection fund and several other programs, jointly sponsoring breeding in artificial ponds with Mr. Guy Tam Hyok from Andapa, Madagascar. In 2017, the population of Paretroplus menarambo in Lake Tseny was increased by moving fish from the Andapa plant. The other endangered species of Malgrass cichlids Ptychochromis insolitus, Paretroplus maculatus, P. nourissati and several others are also included in this wonderful program. Thanks to Claudia Dickinson, the image of P. menarambo was placed in the logo of C.A.R.E.E., and his figure became the symbol of all dying species. As of today, this species is grown by few hobbyists and enthusiasts, the fact is that the most endangered species from Madagascar in Europe are found by collectors from Poland.

Sources of information: Book: The endemic Cichlids of Madagascar de Patrick de Rham, Jean-Claude Nourissat, Association France-Cichlid: ISBN: 9782951350212

Magazine Aquarium: Paretroplus menarambo — last Madagascarian November-December 2017 NO. 6/2017 (166) Poland

Journal: AIC Associazione Italiana ciclidofili, 1999 No. 2 Interview with Patrick de Rham, Jean-Claude Nourissat.

Why has such a background color been chosen: https://www.lakescientist.com/lake-color/

Photo No. 6 shows Lake Tseny https://acadonations.weebly.com/paul-loiselle-fund.html

Photography showing boughs http://www.peche.gov.mg/05/09/2014/1793/




















Comments of the members of the jury of Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2019