Discover 7 Spectacular Fish Found in Niger

Nile Tilapia on Surface of Pond
© neenawat khenyothaa/

Written by Cindy Rasmussen

Updated: February 20, 2023

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For a country that is mostly desert, you will be surprised to discover several intriguing fish species that are found in Niger. Niger is located in West Africa with the Sahara Desert and the Sahel covering more than 80% of the country. However, in the southwest, the Niger River cuts through the country and passes through the capital of Niamey. There are several national parks like the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex, which is in Niger and neighboring Burkina Faso and Benin. Lake Chad is located in the neighboring country of Chad, but the Lake Chad basin spreads into the southeast corner of Niger and northeast Nigeria. Despite the limited habitats for fish, the Niger River and Lake Chad basin do have a variety of interesting fish. Let’s discover seven spectacular fish found in Niger.

1) Nile Perch

Nile perch are big silver fish.

Nile perch are big silver fish.

©Cheng Wei/

One of the largest fish in Niger is the Nile perch. While the Nile River is in Eastern Africa, the Nile perch is native to many of the African river systems, like the Niger River, Congo River, and Senegal River, as well as in Lake Volta in Ghana, Lake Turkana in Kenya, and Lake Chad. Nile perches are greenish-brown on the top half and silvery on the bottom half. Compared to the common yellow perch in the U.S., the Nile perch is massive! Yellow perches in the U.S. are panfish and average around 7.5 inches long and between 2-4 pounds. Nile perch can get to be 6 feet 7 inches and weigh up to 440 pounds! More commonly, the Nile perch is in the 4-4 ½ foot range but that is still quite a fish. Nile perches provide an important resource for the local Niger fishermen and fisherwomen.

2) African Lungfish

animals that estivate: African lungfish

The African lungfish can breathe air due to an adapted lung.


The African lungfish really is a spectacular animal due to its very unique abilities. What special abilities might a fish have? Well, for one, these fish can breathe air with an adapted lung. So, in addition to having gills for breathing underwater (technically extracting oxygen from the water), they have a lung that can extract oxygen from the air. They also have the ability to burrow deep in the mud and estivate (like hibernating) for months at a time during dry periods.

African lungfish have long eel-like bodies but are thicker than American eel. They have small eyes and large, gaping mouths. The longest African lungfish can reach lengths of 3.3 feet long. African lungfish can actually make their way across land for short distances using long finger-like fins that they use to walk through the mud. When the dry seasons roll through this is a magnificent adaptation.

3) Bichir

Ornate bichir fish. This fish is found in nature in the waters of West and Central Africa

Bichirs have primitive lungs, which allow them to come up for air, much like the African lungfish.

©Galina Savina/

A fish that looks similar to the African lungfish is the Bichir. Bichirs have elongated bodies as well, and they also have primitive lungs, so they can come up for air. Their dorsal fin really stands out with a serrated look with a row of individual fins, almost like a stegosaurus! They have “normal” pectoral fins compared to the long skinny fins of the lungfish. The gray bichir can use these fins to scoot along land as well. Bichir usually fall between the 12- 24 inch range and can be found along the Niger River. Truly a spectacular fish found in Niger!

4) Nile Tilapia

Nile Tilapia on Surface of Pond

Nile tilapia call the Niger River basin and Lake Chad basin home.

©neenawat khenyothaa/

Another important food fish in Niger is tilapia. Nile tilapia are in the family Cichlidae and are found in the Niger River basin and the Lake Chad basin. These silvery fish have an impressive dorsal fin and a vertically striped tail fin. They average around 14 inches long but can get up to 2 feet long. Nile tilapia are pretty adaptive, which is why they have been successfully introduced in many African countries. They can live in freshwater and brackish waters preferring the shallower parts of lakes, rivers, and streams. Nile tilapia live off of phytoplankton and algae but also dine on the insect larvae of insects like mosquitoes.

5) African Cichlids

A brightly colored Strawberry Peacock African Malawi Cichlid swimming in an aquarium

Despite its often colorful appearance, African cichlids can be quite aggressive.

©Grigorev Mikhail/

African cichlids are known to have aggressive personalities. In the pet trade, they are coveted for their bright colors and feisty attitudes. Tilapia are in the same family. Some of the more common cichlids include discus, angelfish, and Oscars. Cichlids vary in size and shape from some of the smaller ones only reaching 1-2 inches and the largest up to 3 feet. African Cichlids that are used in the pet trade are more commonly found in neighboring countries in Lake Malawi, Lake Victoria, or Lake Tanganyika, but the Niger River also has a variety of cichlids.

6) African Carp

Labeo parvus - One Fish Sometimes Called the African Carp


Labeo parvus

is sometimes called the African carp.

©J. Green via Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1902/Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

African carp (Labeo parvus) are found both in the Niger River and Lake Chad. These spectacular fish have a tall triangular dorsal fin and torpedo-shaped body. They have an upturned mouth and what looks like bumpy pimples on their face. They are not very large fish, with the largest reaching lengths or around 12 inches, but most are smaller.  These freshwater carp are in the family Cyprinidae. The IUCN has them listed as a species of Least Concern meaning there are currently healthy populations of the African carp.

7) Niger Barb

Labeobarbus bynni - Niger Barb

The Niger barb lives in Lake Chad and the surrounding waterways.

©Biodiversity Heritage Library/Flickr – Original / License

The Niger barb (Labeobarbus bynni ssp. Occidentalis) is a freshwater fish found in Lake Chad and the surrounding waterways. The Niger barb has golden scales on the top and silvery scales below with the dorsal side behind the head sloping upward towards the dorsal fin. They have a heavily forked tail and triangle anal fin. Niger barbs can get up to 32 inches long (almost 3 feet) and are caught as food fish. Their diet consists of algae, organic debris, insects, and crustaceans. Depending on the sunlight their golden scales can give off a spectacular shimmer!

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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