The genus name Lethrinops can be broken into two parts. ‘Ops’ means ‘appearance’ and Lethrinus is a reference to the marine fish genus Lethrinus (Lethrinidae) which they somewhat resemble. Together they give the meaning that these species have the appearance of the genus Lethrinus.


All Lethrinops species have a silver colored body. Only during the breeding period do the dominant males get a little more colour.

The reason for this monotonous color is their living environment. They inhabit the sandy plains of Lake Malawi where they mainly live in groups. A predatory fish is confused by a group that prevents it from focusing on one specimen. The monotony is therefore almost a condition for survival. If you deviate from the group, you are easier prey.

The aquarium

In the aquarium, Lethrinops are gentle fish. With other busy or hunting species, they often do not come to color. However, under the right circumstances, the males can show great color.


In the wild, most Lethrinops breed only during a certain breeding season. With a few exceptions, they build a burrow in the sand. This is fiercely defended against other Lethrinops males during the day. At night the burrow is abandoned and they join the foraging females. They are thought to do this to avoid being eaten by catfish at night.

During this breeding period, the males develop a species-specific pattern. This allows them to lure Lethrinops females of their own species to their burrows to spawn.


The genus Lethrinops has about 24 officially described species. However, there are many more species still awaiting their description.

Lethrinops altus
Lethrinops argenteus
Lethrinops auritus
Lethrinops christyi
Lethrinops furcifer
Lethrinops gossei
Lethrinops leptodon
Lethrinops longipinnis
Lethrinops lunaris
Lethrinops macracanthus
Lethrinops macrochir
Lethrinops macrophthalmus
Lethrinops marginatus
Lethrinops micrentodon
Lethrinops microdon
Lethrinops mylodon
Lethrinops oculatus
Lethrinops parvidens
Lethrinops stridei

Species still to be described:

sp. ‘aulonocara type’
sp. ‘silver crescent’
sp. ‘auritus lion’
sp. ‘auritus selewa’
sp. ‘boadzulu’
sp. ‘longimanus likoma’
sp. ‘longipinnis deep-water’
sp. ‘longipinnis ntekete’
sp. ‘black chin’
sp. ‘longipinnis white-lappets’
sp. ‘macrochir mumbo’
sp. ‘macrochir nkhudzi’
sp. ‘marginatus liuli’
sp. ‘mbenji roundhead’
sp. ‘mdoka red’
sp. ‘micrentodon makokola’
sp. ‘christyi fort maguire’
sp. ‘nyassae’
sp. ‘red bar’
sp. ‘red cap tsano’
sp. ‘red cap’
sp. ‘yellow chest’
sp. ‘deep-water albus’
sp. ‘mbenji deep’
sp. ‘macrophthalmus goldhead’
sp. ‘chilingali’
sp. ‘big head’
sp. ‘blue orange’
sp. ‘dark’
sp. ‘deep-water altus’
sp. ‘domira blue’
sp. ‘grey’
sp. ‘loweae’
sp. ‘macrostoma’
sp. ‘matumbae’
sp. ‘oliveri’
sp. ‘yellow’
sp. ‘yellow chin’
sp. ‘yellow tail’
sp. ‘deep-water albus yellow’
sp. ‘gossei white-bar’
sp. ‘longimanus red-head’
sp. ‘zebra’

Lethrinops auritus - Nkhata Bay

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