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Common names:
Ningu (General around Lake Victoria)

Taxonomic tree
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish)
Order: Cypriniformes (Carps)
Family: Cyprinidae (Carps)
Genus: Labeo
Species: Labeo victorianus (Boulenger, 1901)
Number of Occurrancies: 108

Etymology(based onSharpf & Lazara, 2019)

  • Labeo: one with large lips, referring to “remarkably thick, fleshy lips” (translation) of L. fimbriatus and L. niloticus (=vulgaris)

  • victorianus: –anus, belonging to: Lake Victoria drainage, where it is native

Synonyms: click here to view synonyms

Type locality: Lake Victoria, East Africa. Lectotype at British Museum of Natural History (BMNH) 

General idenfication features for cyprinids: A naked head (=without scales); jaws completely devoid of teeth; one or two pairs of circum-oral barbel, which are, however, absent in some species; no adipose fin; and presence of a sickle-shaped paired pharyngeal bones, each bearing 1-3 series of teeth.

Distinguishing characters for the genus

  • Origin of the dorsal fin well in advance of pelvic fin insertions (vs. Labeobarbus and Enteromius: origin of dorsal fin is above pelvic fin base, or slightly in advance of, or behind this point).

  • Rounded snout with a flap of skin immediately in front of upper lip (vs. Garra: no flap of skin in front of upper lip, but with a well developed, almost circular disc on the chin which confluent with lower lip). 

  • Lateral line running along middle of the flank and the caudal peduncle (vs. Rastrineobola, Engraulicypris, and Leptocypris: lateral line is situated below the middle of flank and caudal peduncal, and the cheek below the eye is covered by thin sub-orbital bones).

Distinguishing characters for species

  • Snout rounded and neither fleshy nor swollen as compared to Labeo forskahlii and Labeo coubie (distinction from L. coubie).

  • Depth of body equal to or slightly greater than length of the head, which is contained 4-5 times in standard length.

  • Eye equally visible from above and below, its diameter contained 5-7 times in head length (relatively larger in smaller fishes) (distinction from L. forskahlii).

  • Mouth large, inferior and protractile; lips are well developed with transverse folds on the inner surface (distinction from L. horie); immediately in front of upper lip there is a flap of skin dependent from the snout

  • Barbels minute and hidden.

  • Dorsal fin with III, 9-10 rays, its upper margin concave, and its origin well in advance of pelvic insertions

  • Lateral line with 37-39 scales.

  • Caudal peduncal 1.5 times longer than deep.

  • Colour is olivaceous above, lighter or creamy-white below. Dorsal, anal and pelvic fins often tipped with orange 

Distribution in Uganda: Lakes Victoria and Kyoga; the Victoria Nile, and major rivers flowing into Lake Victoria

Occurence: Native

Habitat: Benthopelagic; in lakes, common in shallow inshore, vegetated waters, but also occurs in running waters in rivers; Potamodromous .

Feeding: Detritivore, feeding on mud and plant debris

Biology: The fish can grow up to 41 cm, but the common average adult size is 20-30 cm. Previously the species used to spend most of the time in the lake, migrating in large shoals upstream during rainy season to spawn. However, there are indications that after the species virtually collapsed due to overfished, the remnant populations are sedentary in inflowing rivers without distinct migrations (Ojwang et al. 2007).

Economic importance/End use: The species formed a flourishing fishery before 1970s but collapsed commercially due to overfishing. Remnant riverine populations are harvetsed for food in riparian communities. 

IUCN conservation status: click here to view IUCN status

Threats: Fishing, Damming of rivers, predation from introduced Nile perch

Main references

  • Greenwood PH. 1966. The fishes of Uganda. The Uganda Society, Kampala. 131 pages.

  • Sharpf C, Lazara J.K. 2019. Fish Name Etymology Database v5.

  • Ojwang W, Kaufman L, Soule E, Asila A.A, 2007. Evidence of stenotopy and anthropogenic influence on carbon source for two major riverine fishes of the Lake Victoria watershed. Journal of Fish Biology 70: 1430-1446.


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Natugonza, V. & Musinguzi, L. (editors) 2021. Freshwater Biodiversity Portal for Uganda., version (01/2021).


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