John Rosenstock & Jesper Enemark
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situated in West Africa and borders to the south to the Gulf of Guinea and the
Atlantic Ocean, to the north to Burkina Faso (the former Upper Volta), to the
west to the Ivory Coast, and to the east to Togo. It is almost rectangular in
shape and stretches 536 km. from east to west and 672 km from north to south.
With an area of approx. 240.000 square
km., its size lies somewhere between Minnesota and Michigan, and about the size
as Great Britain.
Denmark used to be in control of part of present day Ghana (at the time called the Gold Coast) via a number of forts from 1642 to 1850, where the Danish possessions were sold to the Englishmen, who already constituted the colonial power in the rest of present day Ghana. Several Danish forts and estates are still there, and the parliament of Ghana is e.g. still to be found in a former Danish castle (with the same name as the one that harbors the Danish parliament, namely Christiansborg).
Ghana is generally flat and the highest point is only 900 m. above sea level. The low height and the proximity to the Equator means a tropical climate, where day temperatures over 30 centigrade is the rule and night temperatures almost as high, at least in the densely populated southern part of the country along the Atlantic coast, where one also finds the capital, Accra. The rainy season is most often from March-April until September, with most precipitation in May-June.
In the eastern part of the country, close to the Togolese border, you will find the Volta River, part of the dammed Lake Volta that supplies most of the country with energy. Roughly speaking, the eastern part of the coast is warm and relatively dry, the western part of the coast is warm and humid, whereas the northern up-country part is warm and very dry (savanna).
The vegetation is consequently also considerably more vigorous and dense in the western part of the country, as also reflected in the killie-species found there. True tropical rainforest that used to be widespread has given way to felling, crops, and settlement and now to be experienced in national parks only.
rainforests of Africa close to the Equator is divided into a western and an
eastern part by the “Dahomey Gap” – a band of savanna stretching over Benin
(until 1975 called Dahomey), Togo, and the eastern Ghana. Dahomey Gap has thus
constituted a barrier to the spreading westwards of the Aphyosemion- and to a
considerable extent also the Fundulopanchax-species. And even if it is possible
to find Fundulopanchax- and Epiplatys-species on both sides of the Dahomey Gap,
you do not find the same species on both sides (with the exception of
the savanna-living Ep. bifasciatus and Ep. spilargyreius, both spreading over a
5000 km. wide belt across equatorial Africa).
15-20 killie-species are known from Ghana.
Fp. walkeri is the only Fundulopanchax found west of the Dahomey Gap. The type locality is Bokitsa Mine in Ghana and the distribution area Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Found also with crossbars, by some considered as a subspecies (Fp. walkeri spurelli). Both forms are relatively easily available in the hobby.
Pronothobranchius kiyawensis is a savanna-dwelling species with a huge distribution area – from the Gambia in the westernmost West Africa over Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, and possibly to Chad. A quite variable species, and has as a consequence been described as three different species: as Nothobranchius kiyawensis by Ahl in 1928 (from Kiyawe River, Nigeria); as Fundulus gambiensis by Svensson in 1933 (from the Gambia), and as Aphyosemion seymouri by Loiselle & Blair in 1971 (from Ghana). It constitutes a sort of an intermediate form between Nothobranchius and Fundulopanchax (genetically being closer to the latter in spite of the name). A very popular fish that has been in the hobby from time to time – the last time in 2001 – but has as a rule turned out to be difficult to deal with and every time disappearing quickly from the hobby.
Fundulosoma thierryi is a small fish (about 3 cm.) that to some extent shares both distribution area and biotope with kiyawensis. A population from Ghana (GH 94/1) appears in shows from time to time, but the species must be considered relatively rare in the hobby.
Archiaphyosemion petersi belongs to the former “Roloffia”-species. It has a rather limited distribution area in the border area between the eastern part of the Ivory Coast and the western part of Ghana. The population from “Banco Park” from the Ivory Coast is in the hobby.
Epiplatys is represented with the above-mentioned Ep. bifasciatus and Ep. spilargyreius, both with a huge distribution area. Besides, there is Ep. dageti, distributed in the three adjoining states Liberia, the Ivory Coast, and Ghana, and Ep. chaperi (Ivory Coast-Ghana-Togo). Some authors recognize subspecies of chaperi such as Ep. chaperi sheljuzhkoi, Ep. chaperi schreiberi and Ep. chaperi samborskii.
Finally, Ghana is the home for lampeyes such as Poropanchax normani and rancureli, Micropanchax pfaffi, Rhexipanchax schioetzi, Aplocheilichthys spilauchen and possibly Foerschichthys nigeriensis (until recently known as Foerschichthys flavipinnis, when it turned out that flavipinnis, described by Meinken in 1932, had already been described three years earlier by Brüning as nigeriensis).
As you can see there is a lot of interesting stuff for a “killiot” passing by here.
At the end
of 2005, the junior author was stationed in Ghana’s capital, Accra, for The
Danish Association for the Disabled, working for the Ghanaian sister-organization.
He is a former aquarist and his interest in tropical fishes is intact. He
traveled together with his wife, Katja, who is a daughter of the senior author.
They lived in Ghana from December 2005 until September 2007.
John Rosenstock is chairman of the Scandinavian Killifish Association. He has often traveled in Africa and collected many species that he has brought into the hobby, primarily Nothobranchius. He visited his daughter and son-in-law twice in 2006.
In connection with the first visit (in February 2006), we contacted a local exporter. He showed us a long list of species that he was able to supply, including some of the above-mentioned, e.g. Fp. walkeri to a wholesale price of two US$ each, transport exclusive, if one bought 100 specimens. We visited his facility that consisted of two rows of double concrete tanks, outdoor and with a light cover. Unfortunately, he had few species only at the time of our visit, and he has subsequently changed fully to saltwater.
John’s first visit in February 06, we prioritized looking for kiyawensis,
thierryi, and walkeri.
We first visited the nature reserve Shai Hills, a one-hour drive north of Accra, where kiyawensis has been reported. Everything was, however, very dry in February, and it was hard to find anything containing water in Shai Hills, except a pond with crocodiles. Neither had the ranger responsible for fishes, ever heard about kiyawensis.
Jesper later found Ep. bifasciatus at two localities near Shai Hills (GH 06-1 and GH 06-2). Locality GH 06-1 was a culvert under the main road from Tema to Akosombo at the foot of Krobo
Mountain at kilometerstone 54. The water collects there during the rainy season and the hole was pretty deep, around to meters, the water depth however varying over the year. Grass and a few low shrubs encircled it, but hardly any shadow over the water. The surface area was around 20 square meters. Apart from bifasciatus, the habitat contained small cichlids and many barbs.
Locality GH 06-2 was also a culvert under a road, about 10 km. from GH 06-1 as the crow flies(2).
This one had a more permanent character as a small stream flowed through it. There was dense vegetation along the edges consisting of water lilies and other aquatic plants and thus ample hiding places for the fishes. Around the pool were also some trees, yielding good shade, and also quite some bird life. Apart from bifasciatus, the pool also contained cichlids, barbs and a few elephant-nose fishes (Mormyridae). Both localities were easily accessible and visible directly from the road.
The only necessary equipment was a pair of wellingtons.
06, we also tried to find Bokitsa Mine, reportedly habitat for walkeri as well
as chaperi and petersi. It turned out that the now disused mine covered an area
of several square kilometers with a net of crisscrossing dirt roads, and it was
not possible with certainty to identify the original locality. We found nothing
but Tilapia at the place we supposed to be the right one(3).
By and large, locality names often give a false sense of exactness. Another walkeri-locality is Kumasi – but with over 1.5 million inhabitants, Kumasi is the second-largest city in Ghana and it is thus not easy to know where one should start searching.
Another walkeri-locality, Kutunse, maybe gives associations to a brook in the rainforest. We visited Kutunse, actually a suburb of Accra, and intersected by a wide freeway. At a culvert close to the “Kutunse”-sign, we found a small, shallow creek with gravel-bottom, 50-100 cm. wide, but again, we found Tilapia only, and walkeri is one of the species that we never managed to find.
After John’s return to Denmark, Jesper continued looking for killies. A main tarmac road runs from Accra to the east to Volta River and the border to Togo. This main road runs through the area known as Accra Plains – an up to 80 km. wide belt along the coast from Accra and almost to Togo.
Jesper found here thierryi(5) and sent a few specimens to Denmark; the males, however, died in transport. At the same locality, he later found kiyawensis also. When the two of us visited the place in November 06, the pool had shrunk to about 20 square meters, extremely muddy and with no vegetation in the water. German hardness (DH) less than 3, pH about 6.4, water temperature (at 10.30 a.m.) 32 degrees C., air temperature 35 degrees C. Twenty minutes of fishing yielded two kiyawensis males only.
furthermore found thierryi further eastwards along the same Accra-Ada-road,
i.e. between Sege and Koluedor, approx. 52 km. from Tema. We revisited the place the 19th November 06
and found a lot of thierryi. It was a fairly long pool along the main road,
approx. 3-5 x 100 meters, densely overgrown with water lilies. At 11 a.m. the
water temperature was 28 degrees C., air temperature 37 degrees C., water
values as above. Apart from thierryi, the pool also contained barbs(6).
Further along the Accra-Ada-road, Jesper found in July a fairly similar habitat with lots of kiyawensis and a few thierryi. Again a protracted roadside pool with lots of water lilies, 3-5 meters wide and maybe a couple of hundred meters long (7) . When we visited the place in November to collect kiyawensis, the situation was the opposite: there was few kiyawensis only - the place, however, teemed with thierryi.
Based upon aquarium observations, we assume that this phenomenon may be due to thierryi being much easier to water-incubate and thus securing a steady supply of thierryi, whereas kiyawensis hatch more or less exclusively when the rains start. Another explanation might be that the two species mainly stayed at different places in the pool at different times.
We found DH less than 3, pH 6.8, water temperature at 12.30 p.m. 31 degrees C., air temperature 37 degrees C.
A local man informed us that there was a lot more kiyawensis at a place nearby. The place turned out to be situated 5-600 meters behind the pool. When we arrived there he got, however, somewhat uneasy, because the “stream” he had referred to, was nothing but a 15-20 cm. wide furrow with some grayish silt and a few centimeters depth. Anyway, he started trustily – together with his wife and a child – digging in the mud with his hands and after first digging up some Tilapia, the family also managed to dig out some kiyawensis of the mud. Unfortunately, we did not bring the camera to this detour and thus have no photo of the place, but as so often before, after seeing how the fishes live in their natural habitats, one may wonder how we manage to kill the fishes in our tanks. As the fishes from this place were only a few hundred meters away from the pool and the whole area was flat with a few scattered trees, we have chosen the same locality name, i.e. “”Ada GH 06-5” and it is thierryi and kiyawensis from this locality we have spread in the hobby.
The whole area, from somewhat east of Accra and until Volta River, is a flat grassy plain with scattered vegetation and lots of roadside pools. Jesper also found kiyawensis closer to Ada, but we did not find any in November (8). It seems evident that there are hundreds of biotopes for thierryi and kiyawensis in the area between Accra and the Togolese border. Without our knowledge, another team was hunting for killies in Ghana in 2006 (October), viz. David Armitage and Tony Pinto, whose route was more to the east and north than ours. They also found thierryi (more eastward) and they have chosen to name their collection “GHN” (see reference list).
We found Epiplatys dageti many places in the western part, i.e. within 100 km. from the border to the Ivory Coast. We brought specimens from one locality back to Europe, collected at Ndatiem just before the sign to Axim Beach Hotel. This locality was a small stream, 30-50 cm. wide and a water depth of 15-25 cm. Gravel bottom, some water lilies and a slight current in the water. Water temperature at 3 p.m. 26 degrees C., DH close to 0, pH 6.2.(9). At the same place we found a lampeye that we were not able to identify. We found dageti a few more places in the area,(10) not far from Ankobra Beach Resort. The whole area is heavily vegetated with coco-, banana- and oil palms.
The area is only approx. 30 km. from Agona, where Ep. chaperi “Angona” is supposed to come from (Angona supposed to be a misspelling of Agona). We did not fish around Agona, though. Another area with many dageti was near Nkroful, where we found dageti literally everywhere where there was water, in a couple of cases syntop with a Neolebias-species.(11).
It was noteworthy that the males were quite variable. Not all of them had extensions in the lower part of the tail fin, some – but not all – had spots in the tail fin, some had light blue fin edges, others black etc.
We also imported Epiplatys chaperi from a single locality not far from Elubo, the border town to the Ivory Coast. (12) It was a small brook, quite shadowed by vegetation, with a slight current. DH less than 3, pH 6.2. At the same locality, we found a single Archiaphyosemion petersi, a female, and tried of course also to collect a male. After having tried in vain for some time, we decided to look for petersi elsewhere, but never found any. To find chaperi, you do not have to go that far from Accra – we found chaperi also at Pokuase on our way to Kutunse in a shallow river(13) syntop with Tilapia, and also found chaperi already in February at Ayenfor near Bokitsa Mine .
Jesper found furthermore in the spring of 06 Epiplatys spilargyreius. This species was found in two culverts under the main road between Dabala Junction and Keta, east of Volta River. The landscape was very flat and probably part of the Volta River-delta. Both pools were full of water plants, frogs and water insects. One of the pools also contained thierryi. The pools were few square meters only and with no encircling vegetation apart from grass. The water temperature is high, as the sun shines directly on the pool most of the day. The species was not imported to Europe. (14)
Jesper found Aplocheilichthys spilauchen in Volta River at Manet Paradise
Resort, at the bank of the Volta River. Spilauchen is definitely abundant all
over the Volta River delta, but here you can sit on a terrace over the water
and collect fish with one hand, while having a sundowner in the other. The
current is slight at the bank, the bottom is sand and the water depth rises
As the outlet of the river into the Atlantic Ocean is only a few km. away, the water is brackish, but the exact salinity was not measured. Spilauchen were schooling in schools up to 20 fishes, looking for food. Apart from spilauchen, one can observe Tilapia and other bigger river-fishes, to whom spilauchen no doubt constitutes part of their diet. (15) A few specimens were imported to Denmark .
fishes we collected in Ghana, we have in our tanks subsequently concentrated on
kiyawensis and thierryi. The senior author has had both in the past and found
in particular kiyawensis difficult to keep alive and breed. They used to be
very susceptible to diseases and water pollution and would die at a moment’s
notice with no prior warning.
The experiences with the present strain have so far been more positive, as they so far have been relatively unproblematic to keep and breed. It is, however, a frequent experience that newly imported fish are easy the first one or two generations, after which the problems arise in the form of failing egg-production, offspring of one sex only, proneness to disease etc. For example, Nothobranchius neumanni has been imported several times, but has as far as we know always disappeared after a couple of generations, and we can think of many other newly imported species and populations disappearing from the hobby after a few generations – and not always because of lack of interest.
We will summarize the experiences with this population of kiyawensis as follows: it can be kept in hard as well as soft water. The hardness of the water does not seem to be significant, and it does tolerate a broad spectrum of pH-values; values between 6.4 and 8.2 do not seem to have created problems. On the other hand, the temperature seems important. The temperature should not be less than 22 degrees C., as kiyawensis seems disease-prone at lower temperatures, in particular susceptible to fungus. They seem to thrive well between 22 and 26 degrees C. Live food is preferred, but also frozen food and decapsulated brine shrimp are eaten. Peat as a bottom substrate and some plants or other hiding places for females.
The incubation time is as always temperature-dependant, but seems generally highly unpredictable. We suppose that this is the reason why roughly half of the portions of eggs that we have distributed have given no result. A breeder informs us that he hatched eggs from the F1-generation for the first time after four weeks and got 200 fry, and he was still able to count another 100 undeveloped eggs. We have been less fortunate, and most reports tell about small batches and part of the batch being belly-sliders.
We recommend that you make your first hatching attempt after six weeks, if your incubation temperature is in the higher end, and thereafter every 6th to 8th week up to one year. If two subsequent hatching attempts after the year has passed are empty – and not until then – we use to give up, unless undeveloped eggs in the peat are still visible. With respect to kiyawensis, please remember what Churchill (almost) used to say: dry, dry, dry, and dry again.
A hatching tip is to pour the hatching container with water and peat (after having removed the fry that have hatched) into another hatching container. It seems as if the turbulence stimulates the ready-to-hatch eggs into hatching. They are able to take baby brine shrimp from day one.
The fry should be removed from the hatching container around the third day and transferred to a bigger tank, e.g. 12 liter, depending on the number of fry. The rearing from there is like other annuals and as usual it is mandatory to keep clean in the rearing tank. Dead brine shrimp must be removed daily using a thin tube, and water replaced and added.
With respect to thierryi, we have passed them on to others and thus have no personal experience with the species. Anita Persson’s experiences are that the incubation time is around four months (but she has also found water-incubated fry in the maintenance tank), and that the fry are very small at hatching and need infusoria, egg-powder or micro during their first days. The growth is slow in the beginning, but the first males are identifiable after one month’s time. They can be accustomed to eat flake food. Temperature 23-26 degrees C., DH 12-14 (500 microsiemens), pH 8.2-8.4.
As mentioned, Ghana has a lot to offer, both for the tourist and the killiot. Furthermore, it may be the safest country in Africa to travel in, and we fully agree with David Armitage when he states “Ghana is an excellent introduction to Africa”. On top of that, you can be pretty sure to be able to find killies.
Killifish of Western Africa. www.killifish.f9.co.uk
Armitage, David: Take me around the Volta, Walter (Ghana fishing). Killi-News no. 503, August 2006, p. 91-98. British Killifish Association.
Huber,J.: Killi-Data Online. www.killi-data/org
Murphy, W.J. & Collier, G.E.: Phylogenetic Relationships of African Killifishes in the Genera Aphyosemion and Fundulopanchax Inferred from Mitochondrial DNA-sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, vol.11(3), 1999, p. 351-360.
Wildekamp, R.: A World of Killies, vol. III & IV. American Killifish Association. 1996 & 2004.
(1)GH 06-1: N 06”06.199, E 000”02.793
(2) GH 06-2: N 06”00.309, E 000”06.612
(3) Bokitsa Mine N 05”56.919, W 001”53.892
(4) Kutunse, N 05”44.622, W 000”19.040
(5) GH 06-3: N 05”49.082, E 000”10.705
(6) GH 06-4: N 05”52.787, E 000”23.983
(7) GH 06-5: N 05”53.309, E 000”27.742 (1½ km. before Hwakpo, 6½ km. before the Big Ada turn-off).
(8) N 05”52.254, E 000”35.685
(9) Axim GH 06-6: N 04”53.724, W 002”12.283
(10) N 04”54.008, W 002”15.955; N 04”53.923, W 002”15.814
(11) N 05”02.999, W 002”23.158, and N 05”03.081, W 002”24.080
(12) Elubo GH 06-7: N 05”10.698, W 002”40.363
(13) N 05”41.663,W 000”17.129
(14) GH 06-8: N 05”55.837, E 000”41.868 and N 05”55.164, E 000”42.284
(15) GH 06-9: N 05”46.553, E 000”38.911