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Fishes of Madagascar – Malagasy Fish

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The Fishes of Madagascar are rarely seen in the UK, and for good reason. They are in severe decline in the Wild and I feel it is important that as aquarists, we play our part in the conservation of these rare species. Here is a quick introduction to Malagasy fish in the hope of raising awareness of their struggle.

Fishes of Madagascar – Malagasy Fish

Madagascar is located West of Africa, roughly 250 miles off the coast of Mozambique. Most of us have heard of Madagascar, whether that be from a geography class, on the TV or from an animated film.

Madagascar is the worlds 4th largest Island and has been isolated from any other mainland for around 80 million years.

Madagascar is a very special place, it is home to some very unique species, most of which are found nowhere else on earth. It has a richness of biodiversity that is unlike anywhere else on the planet.

So who lives there?

There are many species that are unique to Madagascar (Endemic) and these unique species include many fish. The fish of Madagascar are very special and just like its animal population, many are found nowhere else in the world.

Natives of Madagascar are often referred to as ‘Malagasy’, this includes its population of fish. Malagasy species include Cichlids, Rainbowfish, Panchax and many more.

There are thought to be around 175 species of fish that are either endemic or native to Madagascar, but no one knows for sure and new species are still being found to this day…..

(For a list of known Malagasy fish species, click HERE).


fishes of madagascar malagasy

(A young Paratilapia Polleni awaiting his forever home at Scope Aquatics)

Conservation of Malagasy Fish

Unfortunately, Madagascar has some serious environmental issues, this has meant that many of these rare species that do not occur anywhere else in the world are in decline. Many are threatened, many are endangered and for many, it is sadly already too late.

Madagascar is also home to humans. Humans take up space, we use the land to our own perceived benefit and, in general, make a real mess of the natural world.

It is estimated that since the arrival of humans, Madagascar has lost 90%+ of its forests. This forest has been replaced by settlements, industry, farmland and rice paddies etc, all of which has adversely affected the natural waterways and its wildlife.

Invasive species also pose a threat, many exotic non-native species have been introduced to Madagascar which has had a severe impact on the numbers of native species, through competition for food and space along with predation.

This has left the fishes of Madagascar with far less territory, less food and more threats.

If you click on the link below it will take you to the IUCN red list, click it, type ‘Madagascar’ in the search box and scroll through the results.

IUCN Red list


That’s a lot of red! Many of the animals that are native to Madagascar are in decline. This includes its fish, many of which are thought to be the most vulnerable of Madagascar’s vertebrate species.


Research on the fishes of Madagascar

There seems to be limited research on many of the fish species endemic to Madagascar, and from what little there is much of it is conflicting and most of it is dated.

For those regular to this page, you may have seen that I started a Knowledge base, I have filled it with information on many fish that I have kept over the years and have included a section for Malagasy fish. You may have noticed this section is pretty bare.

I do not want our knowledge base to be full of conflicting/incorrect information, I want it to be filled with accurate information from first-hand experience where possible, so the Malagasy section is awaiting those with real, first-hand experience to submit guides to keeping these special and rare fishes of Madagascar.

It would be awesome if we could compile some recent, first-hand knowledge of these fish here!

Mr Jose Gonzalez was kind enough to send in a profile he had written on his Ptychochromis Oligacanthus which he has kept for many years, click the link and give it a quick read – the pictures he sent in are great!

Hopefully, we will have some more Malagasy fish guides uploaded by those with experience soon!


Mr Gonzalez is a moderator for one of the best sources of information I have found on Malagasy fish, the Madagascar Endangered Fishes Facebook group.

Whilst I do not ordinarily recommend social media as a source of reliable information, this group is headed up by some very knowledgeable fish keepers who have specialised in the keeping of Malagasy fish.


malagasy fish fishes of madagascar

(Photo of one of Mr Gonzalez’ Ptychochromis Oligacanthus)

Malagasy fish in the Aquarium trade

The fishes of Madagascar in many cases are tremendously rare, but some can be found in the aquarium trade.

Here in the UK, it is pretty rare that you will find a Malagasy fish, but it isn’t unheard of. Paratilapia Polleni seems to be the most commonly seen of the Malagasy Cichlids and Madagascan Rainbowfish can be found too if you’re willing to search for them.

Specialist dealers may be able to acquire more species, but I have not seen any others on offer in any aquarium shop.

Malagasy fish seem to be a little more numerous in the US, but they are still a speciality.


What if I find a Malagasy Fish?

The fishes of Madagascar are stunning and can easily tempt you into a purchase if you spot one in an aquarium shop. Before purchase though, research is important.

Many of these fish have special care requirements and can be particularly tricky to keep.

As I mentioned, research seems to be sketchy at best on the web, so I would implore anyone who is looking to take on the care of a Malagasy fish to join the Madagascar Endangered Fishes group and ask some questions there.

This seems to be the best place to get real information from those with experience.

Once you’re armed with knowledge, there is nothing to stop you from keeping these rare and beautiful fish!


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(Madagascan Rainbowfish – Wikipedia)

Awareness of Malagasy fish

The reason I have written this article is simply to increase awareness of the fishes of Madagascar. These fish are mostly in decline and many may soon be extinct in the wild at least.

This could mean that the only remaining Malagasy fish are those that we keep in our aquariums.

Hopefully, if you had never heard of any Madagascan fish previously, you are now aware of them, and even better are considering keeping some.

Whilst it may seem contradictory to conservation to keep endangered and vulnerable species in our aquariums, it may be necessary. The natural habitats of Madagascar are in turmoil and it seems unlikely that these areas will be restored in the near future.

There are many conservation efforts ongoing and hopefully, they will ensure the safety of many of these rare and beautiful species.

Whilst the struggle for the wild fish continues, a population in our aquariums means that the species continues to exist and could one day when conditions improve, be reintroduced to its natural habitat should the worst happen.

SO, if you do come across any Madagascan fish on your next trip to your favourite aquarium shop then maybe consider them, providing of course that you have done a little research first!



IUCN Freshwater fish specialist groupĀ 

IUCN Red List

USAID – Madagascar



About the author

James @Seriously Fishy

I am a fish keeping enthusiast with over 20 years experience. I currently keep American Cichlids (CA) which are my favourite fish to keep so far. I started Seriously Fishy as I noticed a large volume of people on various web pages looking for help with Aquarium basics. I created the first Seriously Fishy book to solve the issue in 28 pages, that led to the Seriously Fishy UK fish forum and blog.

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