Ptychochromis insolitus Stiassny & Sparks, 2006:32

Mangarahara cichlid, joba mena (malagasy)



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Ptychochromis sp. nov. 'Joba mena'; Ptychochromis spp. Sofia; Ptychochromis spp. Amboaboa


Conservation Status

Rediscovered in 2013

IUCN RedList status: Critically Endangered


Following a survey of predominantly European institutions with holdings of Madagascan freshwater fish it was realised that there were only four known Ptychochromis insolitus individuals, 3 males and a female (Zimmerman, 2014). In an attempt to breed the male and female in the Berlin Zoo, these individuals were separated (Ibid.). However, the male killed the female and the species was sadly reduced to three known individuals, all male. (Ibid.). Following an appeal for females of the species, Brian Zimmerman was contacted about a possible wild caught P. insolitus. Following a trip to Madagascar, Zimmerman and his team were able to record Mangarahara cichlids (P. insolitus) at 3 of 6 potential sites near the Mangarahara River, from which the species derives its common name. In all they collected 20 individuals*, one of which died during the 30 hour trip to the ponds of Guy Tam Hyock, who originally contacted Zimmerman. Breeding has subsequently been recorded and the species has been saved from extinction.

There were presumably still some wild P. insolitus left as collecting was not exhaustive (Zimmerman, 2014), however it appears that more recent efforts to relocate the wild population, or find any new ones, has completely failed and the species might now be extinct in the wild (Máiz-Tomé et al., 2018).

* According to Zimmerman (2014). This conflicts with a press release by the Zoological Society of London, which claims that Zimmerman and team collected 18 individuals.


Transfer to European Zoos since rediscovery (c.2019-present)

"According to ZIMS [Zoological Information Management Software] the species is held at Toronto Zoo (Canada) and in six zoos in Europe: Tiergarten Schönbrunn, Vienna (Austria), Den Bla Planet Aquarium (Denmark), Cologne Zoo, and Wilhelma Stuttgart (Germany), Zoological Society London, and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo (UK). According to Zootierliste, the species is further held in the EAZA region in Rotterdam Zoo (Netherlands). Originally, in November 2019 we received 30 individuals bred at Toronto Zoo. Cologne Zoo was the first institution at that time, which received the species after it was formerly kept at Berlin Zoo. To extend the breeding network in Europe, where no breeding happened in the past years, the first group of offspring from Cologne Zoo was sent to Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna (Austria) in January 2020 (n = 30). Further, groups of our offspring were sent to Berlin Zoo (Germany) (n = 15) and to Wilhelma, Stuttgart (Germany) (n = 30) in March 2020, to Ostrava Zoo (Czech Republic) (n = 15) in June 2020, to Leipzig Zoo (Germany) (n = 15), Nürnberg Zoo (Germany) (n = 15), Duisburg Zoo (Germany) (n = 20), and Tiergarten Bernburg (n = 30) in July 2020 and to Malmö Museer (Sweden) (n = 25) in September 2020. In March 2020, another group of our offspring was sent to private breeders in Poland associated with the DCG, the German Cichlid Society (n = 20). In addition to these 215 surplus young bred at Cologne Zoo and so far distributed to other institutions/breeders we still have more than 400 surplus individuals of P. insolitus from more than ten clutches available to be provided to other institutions, such as Rotterdam Zoo and ZieZoo (Netherlands), as well as Plock Zoo (Poland). Both have already shown interest in maintaining this species."

(Ziegler et al., 2020)



Amboboa & Mangarahara Rivers, Madagascar


Biology & Ecology







Many photos of the species (fry to adults) can be seen in (Ziegler et al., 2020).



Original scientific description:

Stiassny, Melanie L. J. and Sparks, John S. (2006). Phylogeny and Taxonomic Revision of the Endemic Malagasy Genus Ptychochromis (Teleostei: Cichlidae), with the Description of Five New Species and a Diagnosis for Katria, New Genus. American Museum Novitates, Number 3535, 55 pp., 26 figures, 2 plates, 11 tables.


Other references:

Holmes, Branden. (2021). What's Lost and What Remains: The Sixth Extinction in 100 Accounts (eBook). Self published.

Leiss, Laura et al. (2022). Review of threatened Malagasy freshwater fishes in zoos and aquaria: The necessity of an ex situ conservation network—A call for action. Zoo Biology 41: 244-262.

Loiselle, P. & participants of the CBSG/ANGAP CAMP "Faune de Madagascar" workshop, Mantasoa, Madagascar 2001 2004. Ptychochromis sp. nov. 'Joba mena'. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. ( Downloaded on 17 May 2013.

Máiz-Tomé, L., Sayer, C. and Darwall, W. (eds.). (2018). The status and distribution of freshwater biodiversity in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands hotspot. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. viii + 128 pp.

Sparks, John S. (2008). Phylogeny of the cichlid subfamily Etroplinae and taxonomic revision of the Malagasy cichlid genus Paretroplus (Teleostei, Cichlidae). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, Number 314, 151 pp., 60 figures, 1 plate, 13 tables. [WARNING: 42.31 MB file]

Ziegler, Thomas et al. (2020). Keeping and breeding of threatened endemic Malagasy freshwater fishes at Cologne Zoo (Germany): a contribution towards the advancement of a conservation breeding network. Zool. Garten N.F. 88: 123-155.

Zimmerman, Brian. (2014). In search of the Mangarahara cichlid. Saving Freshwater Fishes and Habitats 4: 17-22.


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