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Saturday, July 13, 2024

10 Species of Fish in African Continent

Surprisingly the African rivers, lakes, oceans, and seas harbor innumerable fish you have never imagined. These varieties of aquatic animals vary both in body structures and in appearance.

The species of fish in Africa’s seas and oceans are distinct, and for over 500 million years, they have increased to over 32,000.

The critical fact here is that over 80% of these fish species belong to the bony categories of fish species.

Proceed with your readings to get detailed information about the various species of fish you can find in the African continent.

1. African butter catfish

The African butter catfish, also called butter barbel, Africa glass catfish, Lubanga, mystus catfish, silver barbel, or silver catfish, belongs to the group Schilbeidae.

Initially, Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish explorer and naturalist named the silurus mystus in 1758.

  • Where we can get the African butter catfish

Interestingly, this fish species is available in the Cross Wouri (Vouri or Vuri) Cameroon, Sanaga river basins, and East Africa.

Also, this species of fish stays in western Africa and the Nile River system.

  • Classification of the African butter catfish

The African butter catfish belongs to the Animalia kingdom in the species of Scbibe mystus.

Again the fish belong to the Actinopterygii group, and its genus is Scheibe.

  • Habitat of African butter catfish

The African butter catfish stays mainly in the more extensive river system.

Physical appearances 

– One can easily recognize this fish species because it has an average length of about 16 inches (40.6 cm).

– Again, while considering its coloration, the fish has a ground-like color resembling silvery-white.

 – Its head and back are usually brownish, while its fins are colorless.

  • Feeding

African butter catfish feed on other fishes, insects, crustaceans, snails, seeds, diatoms, fruit, ostracods, etc.

2. Bull fish

Bull fish; otherwise, Zambezi Sharks, Bull Sharks, or horned pout, is another African fish species.

  • Where bull fish resides in Africa

You can get these fish species in South Africa, along the shore water of Mozambique and the Kwazulu- Natal.

  • Classification of bull fish

The bull fish belongs to the family of the Requiem sharks with the scientific name Carcharhindae.

Also, its kingdom is Animalia, in the class of Chondrichthyes, from the Carcharhiniformes order, the genus of Carcharhinus, and species of C. leucas.

  • Physical appearances of bull fish

– Bull fish has features like a spindle shape body, a wider middle body, and tapering.

– Also, the eyes of Bull fish have an internal nictitating membrane that protects them; the membrane is around its shape.

– Again, it has thick, stout bodies and as well long fins, with an arch-like mouth and teeth that look like a blade. 

  • Habitat of the fish

 They prefer to stay in warm and shallow water in their homes.

  • Feeding

They feed on many small animals like bony fish, small sharks, birds, turtles, crustaceans, echinoderms, with many others.

3. Silver cyprinid 

It is another unique fish one can get in the African continent, with rapid growth and maturity age, just at 16 to 25 months.

The silver cyprinid is the only native species that stay abundantly in Africa’s great lake, the lake of Victoria. 

  • Where the silver cyprinid lives in Africa

You can see the silver cyprinid fish species mainly in the Eastern and the Western part of Africa.

Generally, the fish stays more in Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga, and lake Nabugabo, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

 You can still get in Lake Victoria sardine, the Mukene, and the Omena.

  • Classification 

Silver cyprinid is a member of a Cyprinidae family under a subfamily Danioniae.

The fish happens to be the only member of the Rastrineobola, and just like the previous one mentioned, it is of the Animalia kingdom. At the same time, it belongs to the Actinopterygii class.

Again the silver cyprinid belongs to the rastrineobola argentea species.

  • Physical appearance

– The silver cyprinid, just as the name implies, has a silver color while the body has lateral lines that are low and also prominent lateral stripes.

– Also, this fish species has a compressed body covered with large scales with an iridescent sheen and yellowtail.

– It grows to a length of 9 cm [3.5], and there is a delicate suborbital bone that protects its cheek.

  • Habitat of the silver cyprinid

It prefers a dark, moist environment that has a humidity level of 75 to 95.

  • Feeding

Primarily this species of fish feeds on zooplankton and inserts it gets from the water.

4. Hepsetues Odoe

Another unique fish in Africa is the Hepsetus odoe, otherwise called the African pike characin.

Captivating enough, this set of fish species lays its egg on a bubble nest, from which they guide the egg until it is due for the younger ones to come out.

Furthermore, it takes the nest of the fish four days to harsh before the younger ones come out.

  • Where we can find Hepsetues odoe in Africa

Hepsetus odoe is prevalent in the Western sub- Sahara Africa, particularly in the Sassandra river of the Ivory Coast. 

You can also get it from the central Africa Republic east and southwards up to the Kienke River in Cameroon.

  • Classification 

Hepsetues odoe belongs to the family of Hepsetidae, under the Animalia kingdom, in the class of Actinopterygii, and it falls into the Hepsetus genera.

  • The physical appearance of the Hepsetues odoe

– The upper and lower jaws of the Hepsetues odoe are all filled with sharp pointed teeth.

– Again, the fish has a pike-like body, with an estimated length of 28 cm [11 inches].

– Furthermore, the Hepsetues Odoe has a light green or brown with district dark brown stripes which radiate from the eye.

– Lastly, there is always a variation in the color between the adult and the young ones.

An example is that the color of the adult species is radiating stably while the young ones are more variable.

  • Habitat 

 They live primarily near the banks of rivers in heavy vegetation, and one can get them too in lagoons, swampy environments, and backwaters.

  • Feeding

Hepsetues odoe feeds on many species of smaller fishes.

5. Thyrsites atun

Thyrsites atun, snoek or barracouta, is a long, thin snake mackerel species that resides mainly in the seas of the Southern Hemisphere.

The Dutch colonists who arrived in the Cape in 1652 gave it the name “zeesnoek” (sea snoek).

It is a popular fish in the Southern hemisphere and famous food in South Africa, especially on the southwest coast.

Again, Thyrsites atun stays in seawater with a temperature of 13 and 18 °C (55 and 64 °F).

  • Where the Thyrsites atun reside in Africa

This species is mainly distributed from Mocamedes in Angola to Mossel Bay in South Africa, and it is also available in the waters of Namibia.

  • Classification 

Thyrsites atun belongs to the Animalia kingdom and the Actinopterygii class, in the family of Gempylidea under the genus of thyrsites from T. atun species.

  • Physical Appearance of the Thyrsites atun

The fish can grow up to 200cm in length, while many do not grow past 75cm in length.

However, it can weigh a maximum of about 6 Kilograms, and it also has a firm mouth with sharp, large teeth.

  • Habitat of the fish

Thyrsites atun prefer staying in the seas and river banks.

  • Feeding

It feeds on crustaceans, cephalopods, and other small fishes like anchovy and pilchard.

6. Redbelly Tilapia

Redbelly tilapia, otherwise known as St. Peter’s fish or Zille’s redbreast tilapia, is an endemic species in the African continent.

It is exceptionally tolerant of saline conditions, with its growth and survival occurring in 40% salinities and reproduction appearing through 29%.

The redbelly tilapia species serve one major economic benefit as a potential competitor with native fish for food, containing essential vitamins and omega-6 fatty acids.

The fish species got its name ‘Zille’s redbreast tilapia’ from Paul Gervais in honor of M. Zill, a distinguished naturalist.

  • African continents where the fish resides

The fish is spread in northern Egypt’s Nile basin and then progress to Lake Turkana in Ethiopia.

Apart from these mentioned locations, you can also see the redbelly tilapia in the Middle East and the northern half of Africa.

  • Classification 

Redbelly tilapia or tilapia zillii belongs to the Animalia kingdom and the family of Cichlidae.

The group or class of this fish is the Actinopterygii, while its species is Coptodon zillii.

Again the redbelly tilapia belongs to the genus of Coptodon and the phylum of Chordata.

  • The physical appearance of the redbelly tilapia

It can grow up to 40cm in length and attain a weight of 300g. Its color is brownish–olivaceous, with a whitish or yellowish belly.

  • Habitat 

 The dwelling place of the fish is mainly in the fresh and brackish water.

However, they also live in more open habitats like sandy shores that are about 30 meters deep.

Redbelly tilapia has a preference for shallow waters with vegetations as its habitat.

  • Feeding

It primarily feeds on algae and higher plants; however, it can also take smaller quantities of invertebrates and eggs of fishes.

The younger ones feed mainly on tiny crustaceans.

7. West African lungfish

The fish West African lungfish is another species of fish we can find in Africa. It is under the omnivorous categories of animals, which indicates, they feed on both flesh and plant.

Surprisingly, this species of fish has a long duration life span living up to 20 to 25 years.

  • Where the West African lungfish stays in Africa

Categories of this fish species dwell in the west, South Africa, and other African Countries like Senegal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Western Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, and the Gambia. 

  • Classification of the West African lungfish

West African Lung Fish happens to be a species of P. annectens, then from the Lepidosirenidea family and Animalia kingdom.

Also, the fish species are from the Chordata Phylum and the Dipnoi order.

  • Physical appearance

The West Africa lungfish has a long body up to 9 to 15 times the length of its head, and it also has cycloid scales that implant in its skin.

Again, the fish has a prominent snout, small eyes, and two pairs of long, filamentous fins.

There are about 40 to 50 scales found between the operculum and the anus of the West African Lungfish.

 It has 34 to 37 pairs of ribs, while the dorsal side is olive or brown.

  • Feding

Mainly the West African lungfish feeds on frogs, fish, and mollusks, even the tree roots and seeds.

  • The habitat of the West African lungfish

The fish reside in still or slow-flowing pools of the African river systems. 

Also, this species of fish makes freshwater, swamps, and backwaters its inhabitant.  

8. Nile Perch

Nile perch or lates niloticus is a large, predaceous food fish widespread in the African rivers and lakes. 

The fish, which is also called Goliath barramundi, Goliath perch, Giant lates, Victoria perch, African barramundi, or African snook, reside in northern and central Africa.

  • Where the Nile perch stays in Africa

You can easily see the Nile perch in Congo, the Nile river, Senegal, Niger, and Lake Chad.

Also, the species of fish reside in Volta, Lake Turkana, and other river basins.

Still, on the African continent, the fish species lies in the brackish waters of Lake Mary in Egypt.

  • Classification of the Nile Perch

Under the classification of the Nile perch, it belongs to the Actinopterygii class and the Perciformes order.

Still, the Nile perch belongs to the Anatidae family, Animalia kingdom, and the Lates niloticus.

The physical appearance of the Nile perch

– The Nile perch has silver-like color and a blue tinge, with distinctive dark black eyes.

– It is among the largest freshwater fishes with a total length of approximately 2m [6ft 7] with a weight of about200 kg.

– Its maturity size ranges from 1.21-1.37 m [4 ft -4 ft 6].

  • Habitat of the Nile perch

It prefers to stay in the African lakes and rivers.

  • Feeding

The Nile perch feeds on crustaceans, insects, and smaller zooplankton.

9. African Arowana

African Arowana fish is another species of fish one can find in Africa. It is closely related to the arapaimas, a member of the subfamily of the Arapaiminae family.

Unlike other fish species, the African Arowana has more of a terminal mouth and feeds on plankton.

  • Where the African Arowana stays in Africa

You can get these fish species in the Sahel-Sudanese region, Senegal, the Gambia, all parts of Africa, and even the Middle East.

Classification of the African Arowana

The species belongs to the Animalia kingdom and the Actinopterygii class, in the subfamily Arapaiminae.

Again, it has Heterotis as its genus and Chordata as the phylum, belonging to the species of Heterotis niloticus.

  • Physical Appearance 

The fish has a long body with a large scale too; it has a long dorsal and anal fin set on its body, you can get a rounded caudal fin.

Based on the fish’s coloration, it has a gray, brown, or bronze color; also, there is no significant change between the color of the adult and that of the young ones. 

The length of the species is estimated to be 3.5 to 5.0, while its weight is up to 10.2 kg.

  •  Characteristics of African Arowana

One of the characteristics of this species is that it has air-breathing organs on its branchiae, which enables it to survive in the water.

  • Habitat of the African Arowana

The habitat of this special of fish is freshwater bodies, rivers, lakes, ponds, tropical swamps, lakes, floodplains, and even the river basins.

  •  Feeding

African Arowana feeds on smaller fish, krill, shrimp, small fish, filter feeders, etc.

10. Clarias gariepinus

The clarias gariepinus, also called the African Sharptooth catfish, is another unique fish in the Africa continent.

 It belongs to the carnivorous habit, which consumes another minor animal as food.

As of the 1980s, the Clarias gariepinus was made known in all aspects of the world for agricultural purposes.

Where does the Clarias gariepinus reside in Africa?

One can get this fish species in all parts of Africa, including the Middle East.  

Classification of the Clarias gariepinus

Clarias gariepinus belongs to the Animalia kingdom, the Actinopterygii class, from the Clariidae family, and Clarias genus.

Characteristics of the Clarias gariepinus

Clarias gariepinus is rapid growth and a flexible phenotype with a broad habitat preference.

Again, the Clarias gariepinus has a high tolerance their extreme water conditions.

 It has fair long dorsal and anal fins and also has solid pectoral fins with spines.

What the Clarias gariepinus feed on

Clarias gariepinus feeds on detritus, fish, zooplankton, insects, macrophytes, phytoplankton, with other varieties of aquatic animals.

 Habitat of the Clarias gariepinus

They make all varieties of freshwater environment their habitat; this type of freshwater includes the lake, ponds, and pools.

Other species of fish you can also find in Africa includes the following

Aside from the ten different species of African fishes in our lists above, you can also get Hydrocynus vittatus, Merluccius capensis, freshwater butterfly, Blackchin tilapia, Alestes baremoze, and the European bass.

Some other ones are:

-The Mozambique tilapia

White steenbras



The Ichthys, etc.

Final words

Little did some people know that the African rivers and lakes harbor a unique set of fish species.

The above-listed information about fish species in Africa will serve as an educational tool to those researching the topic.

Again, it serves as an eye-opener to all interested in knowing the fish species they can find in Africa.

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