Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Hemichromis letourneuxi
(African jewelfish)



Hemichromis letourneuxi (African jewelfish)


  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Hemichromis letourneuxi
  • Preferred Common Name
  • African jewelfish
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • H. letourneuxi, is a small, popular ornamental freshwater fish from Africa that has become established in aquatic habitats in Florida and Hawaii, Puerto Rico. In recent decades the distribution of H. letourneuxi has rapidly expan...

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Hemichromis letourneuxi (African jewelfish); adult.
CaptionHemichromis letourneuxi (African jewelfish); adult.
CopyrightPublic Domain/released by the U. S. Geological Survey/original photo by Noel Burkhead
Hemichromis letourneuxi (African jewelfish); adult.
AdultHemichromis letourneuxi (African jewelfish); adult.Public Domain/released by the U. S. Geological Survey/original photo by Noel Burkhead


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Hemichromis letourneuxi Sauvage

Preferred Common Name

  • African jewelfish

Other Scientific Names

  • Hemichromis bimaculatus saharae Sauvage
  • Hemichromis letourneauxi Sauvage
  • Hemichromis rolandi Sauvage
  • Hemichromis saharae Sauvage

International Common Names

  • English: jewel cichlid; jewelfish

Local Common Names

  • Finland: ruskotimanttiahven
  • Germany: Letourneaux Roter Cichlide
  • Kenya: Nile jewel cichlid
  • Sudan: saraba

Summary of Invasiveness

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H. letourneuxi, is a small, popular ornamental freshwater fish from Africa that has become established in aquatic habitats in Florida and Hawaii, Puerto Rico. In recent decades the distribution of H. letourneuxi has rapidly expanded and the species is now found across the southern half of the Florida peninsula. H. letourneuxi has become established in aquatic habitats because of wide environmental tolerances, the ability to colonise disturbed habitats, trophic opportunism, fast growth rates and advanced parental care of offspring. Of particular note is that H. letourneuxi is highly tolerant of hypoxia and high salinities. Potential ecological impacts upon endemic fish fauna may include resource competition and predation and predation of aquatic invertebrate communities as a whole. H. letourneuxi becomes aggressive when breeding as territories are established on the substrate and defended against intruders.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Actinopterygii
  •                     Order: Perciformes
  •                         Family: Cichlidae
  •                             Genus: Hemichromis
  •                                 Species: Hemichromis letourneuxi

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The genus Hemichromis was erected by Peters (1858) based on the type species H. fasciatus. The species attributed to the genus and the morphological attributes of species included in the genus, were modified by Gill (1862), Boulenger (1915), Burchard and Wickler (1965) and Payne and Trewavas (1976). Loiselle (1979) revised the genus including the redefinition of H. fasciatus and H. bimaculatus and the rehabilitation of H. elongatus, H. guttatus and H. letourneuxi. Loiselle (1979) did not include a species key and subsequently Loiselle published a key to the genus that specifically addressed identification of living and preserved specimens and thus was of use to aquarists as well as scientific researchers (Loiselle, 1992). Currently, there are 11 species recognised in the genus Hemichromis (Froese and Pauly, 2016).

There has been some confusion over the spelling of the species name “letourneuxi” because the literature produced by Loiselle (1979; 1992) incorrectly listed the species as “letourneauxi”.


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Species of Hemichromis are difficult to discern, in part due to wide variation in colouration within species as well as small meristic and morphological differences between species. The following description was compiled using Page and Burr (1991), Loiselle (1992), Loftus et al. (2006), Schofield et al. (2009b) and Froese and Pauly (2016).

H.letourneuxi is a small fish with a fairly long, slender body with a rounded caudal fin. Background body colouration is highly variable and can be green-yellow to red-brown or even dark (almost black) depending on various factors including, sex, season, habitat and disposition of fish. While breeding, males may develop red colouration on the gills and ventral surface. The species has limited blue “spangling” (small, brilliant blue iridescent spots or flecks) on the head, body and fins that may be more pronounced in breeding adults. There is a dark black lateral spot above the lateral line on the side of the fish and smaller blotches on opercular tab and caudal peduncle. Although the species grows to 12 cm standard length, the average size is much smaller, approximately 7 cm. There are 13-15 dorsal fin spines and three anal fin spines.

Species of Hemichromis available within the ornamental fish industry are prized for (i) bright red colouration covering the whole body and (ii) blue “spangling” also covering much of the body. Neither of these traits are apparent in wild-type H. letourneuxi. According to Loiselle (1992), one of the external diagnostic traits of H. letourneuxi, the blue spangling, is “…sparse in males and virtually absent in females…”. Reproducing male fish may develop some red colouration on the gill opercula and the anterior ventral surface.

Loiselle (1979) revised the genus Hemichromis and provided diagnoses, photographs and synonyms for the species and Loiselle (1992) includes a species key utilizing morphological and meristic characteristics that allows identification of living as well as preserved specimens.


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H. letourneuxi is native to large areas of the northern half of Africa and occurs at the northern and eastern extremities of the native ranges of members of the genus Hemichromis (Loiselle, 1992). According to Loiselle (1992), H. letourneuxi occurs in Lake Turkana (Kenya), the middle and lower reaches of the Nile River (below Murchison Falls, Uganda), in oases throughout the Sahara, in Lake Chad and its inflowing streams (Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria) and in the Niger, Volta, Komoe, Bandama, Sassandra, Gambia and Senegal Rivers in West Africa. Native populations may potentially occur in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Uganda (Daget and Teugels, 1991; Loiselle, 1992; Bailey, 1994: Okeyo, 2003; Getahun, 2007; Kara, 2011). 

Records of H. guttatus in Cuatro Cienegas, Mexico (Contreras-Balderas and Ludlow, 2003; Lozano-Vilano et al., 20006) are likely to be H. letourneuxi.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 17 Dec 2021
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes


AlgeriaPresent, WidespreadNative
Burkina FasoPresent, WidespreadNativePresent in Komoe River
CameroonPresent, WidespreadNativePresent in Lake Chad and tributaries
ChadPresent, WidespreadNativePresent in Lake Chad and tributaries
Côte d'IvoirePresent, WidespreadNative
EgyptPresent, WidespreadNative
EthiopiaPresent, WidespreadNative
GambiaPresent, WidespreadNativePresent in Gambia River
GhanaPresent, WidespreadNativePresent in Volta River
KenyaPresent, WidespreadNativePresent in Lake Turkana
NigerPresent, WidespreadNativePresent in Lake Chad and tributaries
NigeriaPresent, WidespreadNativeOccurs in Lake Chad and tributaries
SenegalPresent, WidespreadNative
SudanPresent, WidespreadNative
UgandaPresent, WidespreadNativePresent in Nile River below Murchison Falls

North America

Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedCollected from Lajas Irrigation Canal, south of road PR-117, Platas Ward, 2007.The collection record also states that taxonomy is uncertain
United StatesPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FloridaPresentIntroducedInvasiveHistorically identified as H. bimaculatus; First reported: pre 1965
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedCollected in lakes and streams on the island of Oahu

History of Introduction and Spread

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H. letourneuxi has been introduced and has established in the USA (Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico) (USGS NAS, 2016) and is reportedly found in the Philippines (Froese and Pauly, 2016) and Europe (Gherardi et al., 2009). However, no further information is available regarding populations in the Philippines or Europe. In the Philippines, it is unclear whether the document referenced by Froese and Pauly (2016), refers to established nonindigenous populations and/or the presence of the species within the country (for example, present within the ornamental fish trade). Froese and Pauly (2016) also list introduced populations of H. bimaculatus as present within the Philippines and provide the collection information as “Introduced in the 1970's. Collected from Limnological Station, University of the Philippines Los Banos”. Considering the historical tendency to label all Hemichromis species as H. bimaculatus, it is possible that this record may refer to other species. Nonetheless, as the status of H. letourneuxi in the Philippines is unclear, the Froese and Pauly (2016) reference is considered unreliable. Similarly, Gherardi et al. (2009) lists H. letourneuxi as “present” in Europe as an introduced species with no further details. Hanel et al. (2011) state that H. fasciatus and H. guttatus were established in a hot spring near Austrian Villach around 1970. It is unknown if Gherardi et al. (2009) refers to this record and thus the presence of H. letourneuxi in Europe is also considered unreliable.

H.letourneuxi was first documented in south Florida in the Hialeah Canal-Miami River Canal System, Miami area (Rivas, 1965) and prior to 1972 the species was only found in this localized area, i.e. only in Miami Canal and canals on western side of Miami International Airport (Hogg, 1976). In the 1970s H. letourneuxi became abundant in many canals in and around the Miami/Homestead area (Courtenay et al., 1974; Hogg, 1976; Loftus and Kushlan, 1987) and in the late 1990s and early 2000s the species was found in the Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve (Kline et al., 2014; Zokan et al., 2015; USGS NAS, 2016). Regular wet-season flooding (includingoccasional hurricanes) likely assisted in the expansion of H. letourneuxi westward through the Rocky Glades in the Everglades National Park in 2005 (Loftus et al., 2006). H.letourneuxi is now abundant in southern Florida and spreading westward and northward. It is present along the Gulf Coast of Florida in Charlotte Harbor and in the lower Caloosahatchee, Peace and Alafia rivers (USGS NAS, 2016). It has also been collected from the central Florida counties of Glades, Hardee, Hendry and was first collected in the Archbold Reserve, Highlands County, in 2008 (O'Connor and Rothermel, 2013; USGS NAS, 2016). Although the species has been present in Florida since the early 1960s, it was identified as H. bimaculatus until the 1990s (USGS NAS, 2016). 


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Florida Early 1960s Aquarium trade (pathway cause) Yes Rivas (1965); USGS (2016) First reported by Rivas (1965) in the Hialeah Canal-Miami River Canal system, Miami
Hawaii   USGS (2016) Collected in lakes and streams on the island of Oahu, Hawaii
Puerto Rico  Pre 2007 USGS (2016) Collected from Lajas Irrigation Canal, south of road PR-117, Platas Ward, 2007

Risk of Introduction

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The potential for the release of H. letourneuxi is correlated with the popularity of it and its abundance among fish hobbyists. “Jewelfish” or “jewel cichlids” are popular aquarium fish, however, due to incorrectly identified species of Hemichromis and the propensity of the ornamental aquarium industry it is possible for this species to be introduced accidentally. For example, in Australia approximately 10,000 + fish labelled as H. bimaculatus are sold annually. There is also the potential for natural dispersal and anthropogenic translocation of introduced populations of H. letourneuxi. This is however more likely to occur in areas that contain multiple populations and/or larger and widely distributed populations for example in Florida. Overall, when the popularity of H. letourneuxi is considered, along with the number of countries the species has been successfully introduced to, the likelihood of further introductions is low/moderate. 


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Within its native range, H. letourneuxi is a savannah-associated species which prospers in a range of lentic habitats that include brackish water lagoons, large lakes and riverine flood plains. Within these habitats it occurs near vegetation beds and fringes of larger aquatic habitats (Froese and Pauly, 2016).

As an introduced species, H. letourneuxi occurs in shallow vegetated or rocky areas in marshes, along river banks and on the margins of mud and sand-bottomed canals and culverts. It is tolerant of high salinities and is collected in estuarine regions adjacent to freshwater systems where it is established (Page and Burr, 1991; Schofield et al., 2009b; USGS NAS, 2016). For example, it occurs in the Charlotte Harbor Estuary, Florida (Idelberger et al., 2011). 

Habitat List

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FreshwaterIrrigation channels Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterIrrigation channels Present, no further details Natural
FreshwaterLakes Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterLakes Present, no further details Natural
FreshwaterReservoirs Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterReservoirs Present, no further details Natural
FreshwaterRivers / streams Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterRivers / streams Present, no further details Natural
FreshwaterPonds Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterPonds Present, no further details Natural
BrackishEstuaries Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
BrackishEstuaries Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
BrackishLagoons Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
BrackishLagoons Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
MarineInshore marine Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
MarineInshore marine Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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The diploid/haploid chromosome numbers of H. bimaculatus are 44/22 (Froese and Pauly, 2016). It is assumed that H. letourneuxi would be the same as this.

Reproductive Biology

Species of Hemichromis are monogamous, biparental substrate spawners with advanced parental care of offspring. Reproduction of H. bimaculatus and H. lifalili in aquarium environments are similar and are considered representative of members of the genus (Seriously Fish, 2016). Once pairs of fish have formed, they are monogamous and will remain together for life. During reproduction both sexes will intensify in colour and a spawning site will be chosen; usually a flat rock. The male will vigorously pursue the female to initiate spawning. Spawning occurs in a similar fashion to many other cichlids, with the female laying a line of eggs before the male fertilises them. Up to 600 eggs may be laid and during this period the male will defend the spawning site while the female tends to the eggs. The eggs hatch in approximately 72 hours and the brood is moved into a shallow depression in the substrate near the spawning site. The fry become free-swimming after approximately 24 hours and parental care may continue for some time while the fry grow (Seriously Fish, 2016). Bailey (1994) suggested that reproductive activity occurred early in the flood season in native populations of H. letourneuxi in Africa.

A study by O’Connor and Rothermel (2013) at Archbold Biological Station in peninsular Florida found that the mean total length of 864 H. letourneuxi captured was 56.0 + 11.2 standard deviation (SD) mm and the mean mass was 3.14 + 1.80 SD g. The length of the smallest reproductive individual was 47 mm and the adult sex ratio was 51:49 (M:F). Mean total length of males (60.3 + 0.5 mm) was slightly greater than that of females (59.5 + 0.3 mm). Over half (57%) of females were gravid and the rest were sub gravid (carried unfertilized eggs that were less developed than in gravid females).

In addition to this research by Lopez et al. (2012) in the Everglades National Park (ENP) found that populations from the invasion front (western ENP) had higher reproductive investment than inner populations (eastern ENP). These researchers theorized that as the invasion progressed, lower intraspecific density at the invasion front may have relaxed competition and allowed for higher fitness and reproductive investment.

Physiology and Phenology

H. letourneuxi is an aggressive species, particularly during reproduction and it likely that this behavioural trait has assisted it to spread across the Florida peninsula in syntopy with other larger, aggressive cichlids (USGS NAS, 2016). A study by Lopez et al. (2012) within Everglades National Park found that fish along the invasion front generally had higher fitness though were not bolder or better dispersers than individuals from established populations. It was theorized that as the invasion progressed, lower intraspecific density at the invasion front may have relaxed competition and allowed for higher fitness and reproductive investment.


Species of Hemichromis may have a life span of five to eight years in an aquarium environment.

Activity Patterns

Loftus et al. (2006) found that H. letourneuxi was most active after dark.


H. letourneuxi is an omnivore with a strong preference towards carnivory.

Hogg (1976) conducted the first investigation of the diet of H. letourneuxi in Florida and recorded filamentous algae, juvenile introduced cichlids including H. letourneuxi, assorted insect parts and predominantly plant material in the stomachs of 26 fish. O’Connor and Rothermel (2013) also concluded that their diet consisted primarily of fish and macroinvertebrates. The seasonal diet of H. letourneuxi was investigated in the Rocky Glades area of the Everglades National Park, Florida and was found to be primarily carnivorous and included small fishes, arthropods (shrimp and other crustaceans and insects) and varied according to prey availability which was mediated by seasonal water levels (Loftus et al., 2006). The heaviest feeding occurs during seasonally dry periods, when marshes begin to dry and prey becomes concentrated. Groundwater “solution holes” provide dry-season refuge to native and introduced aquatic fauna and within these specific environments H. letourneuxi preyed heavily upon the Eastern mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki (Loftus et al., 2006).


In Florida, introduced populations of H. letourneuxi often occur in syntopy and next near to spawning areas of other larger, aggressive, introduced cichlids such as Tilapia mariae, Cichlasoma urophthalmus and Cichlasoma bimaculatum (Loftus and Kushlan, 1987).

Environmental Requirements

Considerable research has been conducted to determine the physiological tolerances of introduced populations of H. letourneuxi in Florida.

A study by Langston et al. (2010) found that H. letourneuxi survived and grew equally well at salinities between 0–50 ppt. The survival rate at salinities above 50 ppt decreased rapidly. The acute response to changes in salinity was also tested; all fish transferred directly from freshwater to salinities up to 20 ppt survived, only 56% survived when transferred to 25 ppt and none survived transfer above 25 ppt (Langston et al., 2010). Whilst H. letourneuxi is euryhaline and regularly collected in estuarine areas and tidal rivers e.g. Charlotte Harbor Estuary, Florida (Idelberger et al., 2011), it does exhibit a preference for low salinities or freshwater (Rehage et al., 2015).

Schofield et al. (2010) investigated the cold tolerance of H. letourneuxi in field and laboratory conditions. In the laboratory it was found that there was a loss of equilibrium at 10.8–12.5°C and death at 9.1–13.3°C. In the field, all fish died during exposure to 4.0°C in shallow marsh habitat (Schofield et al., 2010). Shafland and Pestrak (1982) also investigated the cold tolerance of H. letourneuxi in laboratory conditions by decreasing water temperature 1°C day, from a baseline of 21°C. Six fish (95-100 mm total length) reduced feeding at 16.8°C (range 16-17°C), ceased feeding at 13.5°C (range 13-15°C), lost equilibrium at 11.5°C (11-12°C) and died at 9.5°C (range 9-10°C).

H. letourneuxi is tolerant of environmental variability and introduced populations in Florida have been found to be euryhaline, resistant to low dissolved oxygen (hypoxia) and low temperatures (Loftus et al., 2006). The species is particularly tolerant of hypoxia and it is though that this conveys an advantage against native fishes such as centrarchids and has assisted in its ability to exploit the seasonally inundated wetlands of south Florida (Schofield et al., 2007; Schofield et al., 2009a). 


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Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
BS - Steppe climate Preferred > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Preferred < 430mm annual precipitation
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) 4-18 Optimum
Salinity (part per thousand) 50 0-20 Harmful
Water pH (pH) 6-10 Optimum
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 14 16-28 Optimum
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 9 17 Optimum

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Amia calva Predator All Stages not specific Blewett et al. (2013)
Centropomus undecimalis Predator All Stages not specific Blewett et al. (2013); Stevens et al. (2010)
Cichlidogyrus dracolemma Parasite All Stages not specific Rehulková et al. (2013)
Lepisosteus osseus Predator All Stages not specific Blewett et al. (2013)
Lepisosteus platyrhincus Predator All Stages not specific Blewett et al. (2013)
Micropterus salmoides Predator All Stages not specific Blewett et al. (2013)
Nerodia floridana Predator All Stages not specific Krysko et al. (2012)

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Introduced H. letourneuxi were consumed in low numbers by Centropomus undecimalis (the common snook) in the Peace River near Charlotte Harbor, Florida (Stevens et al., 2010). Low levels of predation were also recorded by Centropomus undecimalis, Lepisosteus platyrhincus, Micropterus salmoides, Lepisosteus osseus and Amia calva in the Peace River, Florida (Blewett et al., 2013). The Florida green watersnake, Nerodia floridana, also preys upon introduced populations of H. letourneuxi (Krysko et al., 2012).

Native populations of H. letourneuxi from the Gambia River basin in the Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal, were found to be parasitized by Cichlidogyrus dracolemma n. sp. (Rehulková et al., 2013).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

H. letourneuxi can naturally disperse itself into new locations via interconnected riverways, canals and ditches (O’Connor and Rothermel, 2013). This has been demonstrated in Florida where, since its introduction it has rapidly expanded to inhabit aquatic habitats over much of the southern half of the Florida peninsula. The tolerance of high salinities enables H. letourneuxi to move within and between freshwater habits and nearby nearshore marine habits (i.e. seagrass beds, mangroves) (Page and Burr, 1991; Schofield et al., 2009b; USGS NAS, 2016). Dispersal is likely to be mediated by the seasonal inundation ditches with studies showing that ditches are important for fish dispersal within seasonal wetlands (Hohausava´ et al., 2010).

Accidental Introduction

Researchers have speculated that introduced populations of H. letourneuxi in Florida are the result of escapes from fish farms (USGS NAS, 2016).

Intentional Introduction

USGS NAS (2016) state that the initial introductions in canals near the Miami airport in the late 1950s and/or early 1960s may have originated from intentional releases from nearby ornamental fish farms or aquariums.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Flooding and other natural disastersDispersed in Florida by seasonal flooding and/or natural disasters such as hurricanes Yes Loftus et al. (2006)
Intentional releaseReleased and/or escaped aquarium fish thought responsible for populations in Florida Yes Yes USGS (2016)
Interconnected waterwaysNatural dispersal in Florida through drainage canals/waterways Yes Loftus et al. (2006)
Pet tradeReleased and/or escaped aquarium fish thought responsible for populations in Florida Yes Yes USGS (2016)

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Pets and aquarium speciesSpecies of Hemichromis are popular aquarium fishes Yes Yes USGS (2016)
WaterDispersed in Florida by seasonal flooding, drainage canals and interconnected waterways Yes Loftus et al. (2006)

Impact Summary

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Environment (generally) Negative

Environmental Impact

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Dietary studies (Hogg, 1976; Loftus et al., 2006; Lopez et al., 2012; O’Connor and Rothermel, 2013), in situ mesocosm experiments (Porter-Whitaker et al., 2012; Rehage et al., 2012; Schofield et al., 2014), field surveys (Rehage et al., 2014) and ex situ laboratory behavioural and competition experiments (Dunlop-Haydon and Rehage, 2011; Porter-Whitaker et al., 2012) have inferred deleterious impacts of H. Letourneuxi on aquatic habitats and invertebrate, amphibian and fish communities. H. letourneuxi can reach high densities and numerically dominate the ichthyofauna in anthropogenically-modified habitats in Florida (O’Connor and Rothermel, 2013). As a result, it is likely that the species will impact on aquatic invertebrate and fish communities and therefore affect broad scale environmental processes such as food webs and nutrient cycles (Schofield et al., 2014). Loftus et al. (2006) observed that the native Lepomis marginatus would not reproduce in close proximity to H. letourneuxi in controlled mesocosm trials (Loftus et al., 2006).

An in situ nonnative predation mesocosm experiment that tested the effects of predation by H. letourneuxi on native fishes found that mortality of eastern mosquitofish Gambusia holbrooki, was greater in the presence of H. letourneuxi than that associated with deteriorating water quality alone (Rehage et al., 2014). Additionally, in controlled mesocosm experiments, H. letourneuxi nearly eliminated populations of native shrimps and snails (Schofield et al. 2014).

It has been suggested that H. letourneuxi may have a negative predatory effect on larval anurans and that it can attack tadpoles larger than their gape size (unlike native centrarchids). Such predation events would likely go undetected in gut content analyses because the consumed soft tissue is nondescript and digested rapidly (O’Connor and Rothermel, 2013). However, their study also concluded that, contrary to the effects of predatory fish introductions in other freshwater communities, they observed little evidence for a negative effect of exotic fish, including H. letourneuxi, on native organisms using a correlational approach (O’Connor and Rothermel, 2013).

It is possible that the ability of H. letourneuxi to readily co-habit and reproduce in high densities with conspecifics as well as larger, aggressive heterospecifics, may provide a competitive advantage in comparison to native fishes.

Risk and Impact Factors

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  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
Impact mechanisms
  • Predation
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately


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Economic Value

Species of Hemichromis are popular ornamental fish species maintained by hobbyists worldwide, although no data is available with regards to the value of H. letourneuxi.

Uses List

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  • Pet/aquarium trade
  • Research model

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Cichlids (Cichlidae) are superficially similar to North American native sunfishes and black basses (Lepomis and Micropterus; family Centrarchidae) and may be confused with members of Centrarchidae in this region. Cichlids can be distinguished from centrarchids by a single nostril opening on each side of the head (two openings in centrarchids) and the presence of a discontinuous or two-part lateral line (continuous line in centrarchids) (Page and Burr, 1991; USGS NAS, 2016). As an introduced species in Florida, USA, H. letourneuxi may be discriminated from the dozen or so other introduced cichlids by the black blotch on the mid-flank above the lateral line (Page and Burr, 1991). In the Florida region, H.letourneuxi may be distinguished from the marine Clown wrasse (Halichoeres maculipinna) by the dark spot on the dorsal fin of the latter species (Schofield et al., 2009b).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Detection and Inspection Methods

Environmental DNA (eDNA), has been recognized as an effective method for aquatic invasive species early detection and surveillance. Díaz-Ferguson et al. (2014) successfully developed specific and sensitive molecular markers for the detection of H. letourneuxi in and around Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida using eDNA. A further study by Moyer et al. (2014) used artificial ponds together with logistic regression models to assess the detection of H. letourneuxi eDNA at varying fish densities.


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Distribution References

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Loiselle PV, 1992. An annotated key to the genus Hemichromis Peters 1958. In: Buntbarsche Bulletin (Journal of the American Cichlid Association), 148 2-19.

Okeyo DO, 2003. Taxonomy, common names and distribution of fish in the eastern arm of the Rift Valley drainage, Kenya. 250-266. In: Fish biodiversity: local studies as basis for global inferences. ACP-EU Fisheries Research Report 14, [ed. by Palomares MLD, Samb B, Diouf T, Vakily JM, Pauly D]. 281 pp.

Seebens H, Blackburn T M, Dyer E E, Genovesi P, Hulme P E, Jeschke J M, Pagad S, Pyšek P, Winter M, Arianoutsou M, Bacher S, Blasius B, Brundu G, Capinha C, Celesti-Grapow L, Dawson W, Dullinger S, Fuentes N, Jäger H, Kartesz J, Kenis M, Kreft H, Kühn I, Lenzner B, Liebhold A, Mosena A (et al), 2017. No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide. Nature Communications. 8 (2), 14435.

USGS NAS, 2016. USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database., Gainesville, Florida, USA: USGS.


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06/05/2016 Original texy by:

Mark Maddern, Consultant, Perth Australia

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