Cichlid naming conventions


Word cloud image from

So what does the word mean that often follows a cichlid’s scientific name? For example, you see Julidochromis transcriptus Bemba. What is Bemba? That’s the location from which that particular strain of fish originates or was collected from. So in the Julidochromis example I gave above, Bemba would be a specific town, island, bay, or cape on Lake Tanganyika. Sometimes the word will be in quotation marks, like Julidochromis transcriptus “Bemba”.

A word following the scientific name does not mean that particular fish was caught there, however. Sellers will typically classify a wild caught fish as “wild” or F0. So if you saw a fish listed as Julidochromis transcriptus Bemba “wild” or Julidochromis transcriptus Bemba F0, that would mean the particular species or variation is wild caught from the Bemba area of Lake Tanganyika.

Why is this important? Many species posses colors and other physical characteristics that are indicative, and sometimes exclusive, of where they come from in a particular habitat. These distinct variations help scientists and hobbyists pinpoint where a fish, or a fish within a particular breeding line, might have been collected or even originated from. Conscientious breeders and sellers will always utilize this information when breeding or selling certain “lines” of fish as a means to keep breeding lines as pure as possible and to provide proper information about the fish.

The above explanation is a bit simplistic. Much of species naming applies to species taxonomy, species delineation, speciation, and other scientific applications that I did not discuss because, well, if you’re not a scientist, it’s probably overkill. I just wanted to provide a clear, straight-forward explanation so that you understand what you’re seeing when you see a species name. What I left out is nomenclature such as Julidochromis sp. “XXXX” where X equals some descriptive words. This is an example of where a particular fish is given a provisional name because it is in classification “limbo” or otherwise undescribed with respect to species.

For more in-depth information on species naming, consider reading the following:

How do cichlids get their names?” by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas.

How do cichlids get their taxonomic names?” by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas.


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