The country of Mali in Western Africa is mostly desert. However, the Niger River and its tributaries flow through the country, providing the perfect habitat for various freshwater fish. Mali is also a landlocked country, so all the fish in Mali are freshwater species. Have you heard of upside-down catfish? What about a fish with an elephant-like snout?
Read on to find out all about seven spectacular fish found in Mali!
1. Niger Barb
The Niger River begins in neighboring Guinea and flows through Mali before circling south to Niger, Benin, and Nigeria, emptying into the Niger Delta and eventually reaching the Atlantic. Finally, the river runs through Bamako, which is the capital of Mali and plays a vital role in the country’s economy. The Niger barb is a common food fish that lives in the Niger River. They can be identified by their impressive dorsal fin that forms a triangle with a curved edge. Niger barb can be quite large, with some reaching lengths of 32 inches.
2. Elephantnose Fish
The Elephantnose fish has a protruding lower lip that looks much like an elephant‘s trunk. They use their elongated lip to sift through the sandy bottom of rivers to locate food. Elephantnose fish also use electroreceptors to help locate food like worms and insects. Besides their unique snout, they have an interesting shape with a dorsal and anal fin set at the fish’s rear. The caudal fin seems to abruptly stick out to form a skinny forked tail. They can get to be around 10 inches long. You are not likely to see a school of these fish because they are pretty territorial and tend to be aggressive toward other fish. A spectacular-looking fish!
3. Upside-Down Catfish
These fish don’t just look upside-down. They actually swim upside-down! They are one of the smaller catfish species, with a maximum size of 20 inches, but most are much smaller. As catfish, they have the same characteristic whisker-like barbels coming off the face. Their coloration is lighter on the dorsal side and darker on the belly with dark spotting. Upside-down catfish are sometimes called “squeakers” due to the unusual sound they make to communicate with each other. They live in the Niger River Basin, and they prefer marshland and slower-moving waterways. Some fish hobbyists find their upside-down swimming entertaining, so they add them to their aquarium setups!
4. Nile Tilapia
One of the most common food fish in Mali is the Nile tilapia. They are plentiful in the Niger River and the surrounding river basins. Nile tilapia are grayish with light vertical banding. Their dorsal fin is long with a jagged edge, and their caudal fin has vertical black stripes. Nile tilapia can get to be 2 feet long and weigh 10 pounds or more. They are a pretty hardy species and can adapt to rivers, streams, lakes, and even some brackish water. Mali is a landlocked nation, so there is no contact with the salty ocean waters. However, as their name implies, Nile tilapia they can be found in the Nile River and some of the brackish water in the Nile River Delta in Eastern Africa.
5. Nile Perch
The Nile perch is a good-sized fish! They can get to be between 4-4 ½ feet long, with the largest getting to be 6 feet or more. Nile perch are heavily scaled silver fish with big black eyes. They are full-bodied fish with thick lips and large upturned mouths. Other names for the Nile perch include “African snook” and “Goliath perch” — that makes sense due to their size! Nile perch don’t live only in the Nile River but also in much of Western Africa, including the Niger River Basin in Mali.
Now onto some colorful fish found in Mali! The spectacular variety of colorations of killifish makes them a favored fish for fish hobbyists. They are often multicolored with complimenting colors like blue and red or orange and blue. With hundreds of different variations, they all have a few features in common, like their flattened head shape and bright colors. Most are relatively small in the 2-3 ½ inch range, but some can get as large as 6 inches.
The Togo killifish (Fundulosoma thierryi) is an endangered type of killifish found in Mali. These are on the smaller end of the scale, around an inch long, and have silvery bodies with yellow fins. The fins are striped and edged with red making them colorful little fish. Mali does not border Togo, though (Togo is south of Burkina Faso, which borders with Mali).
7. African Arowana
The African Arowana is also called “African bonytongue” or “Nile Arowana.” This is another good-sized fish, with the longest reaching 3 feet or more. African Arowana is a long-bodied fish with large distinct scales. It has a dorsal fin, but it is located near the back of the body and has a matching anal fin below. The caudal fin is small and rounded. One of the interesting facts about the African Arowana is they can do quite well in oxygen-deprived waters, whereas other fish might not fare so well. This is because they have an adaptation that allows them to “breathe” air (extract oxygen from the air) as well as gills to extract oxygen from the water.
The African Arowana was featured in one of the Mali stamp collections in 1976. The fish series of stamps included the African Arowana, upside-down catfish, African catfish, blue tilapia, and large-scaled robber. The colorful stamp collection had beautiful colored pictures featuring each fish. A nice way to recognize some of the most spectacular fish found in Mali!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Zenobillis/Shutterstock.com
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