Protopterus aethiopicus, Marbled lungfish : fisheries

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Protopterus aethiopicus Heckel, 1851

Marbled lungfish
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Protopterus aethiopicus
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Classification / Names Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes (gen., sp.) | ITIS | CoL | WoRMS | Cloffa

Dipneusti (lungfishes) > Ceratodontiformes (Australian lungfishes) > Protopteridae (African lungfishes)
Etymology: Protopterus: Greek, pro = first, in front of + Greek, pteron = wing, fin (Ref. 45335);  aethiopicus: Named after Is. Mesmaekers, commander in Boma (Ref. 40587).  More on author: Heckel.

Environment: milieu / climate zone / depth range / distribution range Ecology

Freshwater; demersal; depth range 0 - 60 m (Ref. 34291), usually 0 - 20 m (Ref. 34291).   Tropical; 25°C - 30°C (Ref. 2059)

Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Point map | Introductions | Faunafri

Africa: Congo basin (Protopterus aethiopicus congicus and P. a. mesmaekersi), Nile basin and Lakes Albert, Edward, Victoria, Nabugabo, Tanganyika, Kyoga, No (Ref. 3498) and Turkana (Ref. 52331) (P. a. aethiopicus).

Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age

Maturity: Lm ?, range 70 - 76 cm
Max length : 200 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 34290); common length : 130 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 34290); max. published weight: 17.0 kg (Ref. 13302)

Short description Morphology | Morphometrics

Smooth, slimy, cylindrical body with deeply embedded scales (Ref. 28714). Tail pointed and confluent with the long dorsal and anal fins; dorsal fin originating at an equal distance from the eye and the vent, or nearer to the latter; pectoral and pelvic fins slender and filamentous (Ref. 34290). 55-70 scales in a longitudinal series from immediately behind the head to above the vent; 40-50 scales around body (Ref. 4903, Ref. 45485). Ribs: 37-40 pairs (Ref. 4903). The dentition consisting of upper and lower tooth-plates in the form of sharp cutting ridges (Ref. 34290). Young fishes with true external gills, but usually absent in specimens greater than 15 cm TL (Ref. 34290). Dark slate-grey above, yellowish-grey or pinkish below; often with numerous dark spots or flecks on the fins and body (some specimens bright yellow ventrally); sensory canals on head and body are outlined in black (Ref. 34290).

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

Adults inhabit river and lake fringes, swamps and floodplains (Ref. 28714). In Lake Victoria, they are found in open lakes and marginal swamps, in Lake Tanganyika basin, they occur only near rivers and deltas (Ref. 4967). Juveniles are found in the matted roots of papyrus (Ref. 34291). Adults are able to live in streams and swamps which are completely dry for long periods of the year (Ref. 45484). They withstand desiccation on floodplains by aestivating in cocoons until the next rains, breathing air by a small passage leading to the outside (Ref. 45484). Mature individuals breed during flood season (Ref. 28714). One or several females spawn in burrows which are dug and cleaned by the male, who later guards the eggs and the young. The principal diet of adults and sub-adults consists of mollusks, but small fishes and insects are also eaten in small quantities; young individuals less than 35 cm TL feed almost wholly on insects (Ref. 34291). Under laboratory conditions it is an obligatory air breather (Ref. 34291), but under certain conditions lungfish in the wild may not be obligate air breathers and the use of aerial respiration may be a function of ecological as well as physiological factors (Ref. 58531).

Life cycle and mating behavior Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae

The male parent prepares a pit or hole nest. More than one female may spawn in a nest. Once the eggs are laid, the female leaves the nest and does not return. The male then guards the eggs and young for nearly eight weeks. Not only does the male attack any would-be intruders but he constantly aerates the water in the nest (Ref. 4903).

Main reference Upload your references | References | Coordinator | Collaborators

Gosse, J.-P., 1984. Protopteridae. p. 8-17. In J. Daget, J.-P. Gosse and D.F.E. Thys van den Audenaerde (eds.) Check-list of the freshwater fishes of Africa (CLOFFA). Volume I. ORSTOM, Paris and MRAC, Tervuren. 410 p. (Ref. 3498)

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 123251)

  Least Concern (LC) ; Date assessed: 02 March 2018

CITES (Ref. 123416)

Not Evaluated

CMS (Ref. 116361)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans


Human uses

Fisheries: minor commercial
FAO(Publication : search) | FishSource |

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Common names
Spawning aggregation
Egg development
Larval dynamics
Aquaculture profile
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Estimates based on models

Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805):  PD50 = 0.6602   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00380 (0.00152 - 0.00950), b=3.10 (2.88 - 3.32), in cm total length, based on LWR estimates for this (Sub)family-body shape (Ref. 93245).
Trophic level (Ref. 69278):  4.4   ±0.2 se; based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 120179):  Low, minimum population doubling time 4.5 - 14 years (Assuming tmax > 30; Fec = 468).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153):  High to very high vulnerability (71 of 100) .
Price category (Ref. 80766):   Unknown.
Nutrients (Ref. 124155):  Calcium = 44 [7, 130] mg/100g ; Iron = 0.72 [0.24, 1.60] mg/100g ; Protein = 3.87 [0.48, 7.56] % ; Omega3 = 0.218 [0.084, 0.569] g/100g ; Selenium = 73.6 [11.3, 243.2] μg/100g ; VitaminA = 22.9 [9.1, 56.4] μg/100g ; Zinc = 0.945 [0.483, 2.040] mg/100g (wet weight);