Barbus (Barbus profundus)

Barbus profundus specimen
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Barbus fact file

Barbus description

GenusBarbus (1)

Barbus profundus is a little-known freshwater fish that is found only in Lake Victoria, East Africa. This enigmatic fish was once considered conspecific with the more widespread Barbus radiatus. However, it is now considered a separate species due to morphological differences, including a lack of barbels and a more deeply-forked tail fin (3).

Barbus radiatus.
Length: up to 5.9 cm (2)

Barbus biology

Barbus profundus is a little-studied species, and there is very little information available on its biology and behaviour. 

Cyprinidae species usually have quite a diverse diet, and Barbus profundus is likely to feed on a variety of insects, crustaceans, molluscs and some plant material. Members of the Cyprinidae family lack teeth in the jaws, but most have a pair of enlarged bones in the throat which possess structures known as ‘pharyngeal teeth’, used to process food (5).


Barbus range

Barbus profundus occurs only in Lake Victoria in East Africa (1) (2).


Barbus habitat

Barbus profundus is a benthopelagic species, meaning it is found in the water column just above the bottom (1) (2) (4).


Barbus status

Barbus profundus is classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Data Deficient


Barbus threats

Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake and the second largest freshwater lake in the world, has undergone major environmental changes over the last century. An increase in fishing pressure, the introduction of exotic species and an increasing human pollution have all contributed to the degradation of the lake’s unique habitats and biodiversity (1) (6)

Commercial fishing began to increase from the 1930s, and by the 1960s most stocks of native fish in Lake Victoria had been greatly depleted. This led to the introduction of numerous exotic fish species, including the Nile perch which now dominates the lake, to increase the number of species available to commercial fisheries. However, many of these introduced species preyed upon native fish, contributing to one of the greatest modern extinctions of vertebrate species, with some 200 endemic cichlid species becoming extinct (1) (6)

The increasing human population around the shores of Lake Victoria is also contributing to the degradation of the waters. Over the last 20 years in particular, agriculture and urbanisation has intensified, leading to an increase in pollution of the lake, as untreated sewage often pours directly into the water. Textile and leather tanning factories, as well as breweries and paper mills, have also recently been developed along the lake’s shoreline, putting further pressure on the delicate ecosystem. As a result of this pollution, the oxygen content of many lake habitats is so low that they are now deemed uninhabitable for wildlife. The increase in commercial fisheries has also caused an increase in deforestation along the shoreline, as trees are felled to provide wood to smoke the fish before being traded, eventually leading to sedimentation and eutrophication (1) (6).


Barbus conservation

Barbus profundus has not been the target of any known conservation measures. However, due to the prevalence of threats to the waters of Lake Victoria, there is increasing concern that habitat loss and degradation is negatively impacting the populations of this endemic fish. Therefore, there is a need for studies to determine the distribution, status and ecology of Barbus profundus, so that informed conservation measures may be implemented (1).


Find out more

Find out more about Barbus profundus:



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Fleshy projections near the mouth of some aquatic vertebrates.
Belonging to the same species.
Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton, characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, woodlice and barnacles.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
A process in which a water body is enriched with excessive nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) resulting in the excessive growth of aquatic plants and the depletion of oxygen, creating unfavourable conditions for other organisms, such as fish.
A diverse group of invertebrates, mainly marine, that have one or all of the following; a horny, toothed ribbon in the mouth (the radula), a shell covering the upper surface of the body, and a mantle or mantle cavity with a type of gill. Includes snails, slugs, shellfish, octopuses and squid.
Referring to the visible or measurable characteristics of an organism.
Animals with a backbone, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.


  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2011)
  2. FishBase - Barbus profundus (June, 2011)
  3. Stewart, D.J. (1977) Geographic variation of Barbus radiatus Peters, a widely distributed African cyprinid fish. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 1: 113-125.
  4. Tweddle, D. et al. (2006) Occurrence of Barbus profundus Greenwood 1970 (Telostei: Cyprinidae) in mid-water in Lake Victoria. African Journal of Aquatic Science, 31: 155-157.
  5. Campbell, A. and Dawes, J. (2004) Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Thieme, M.L. (2005) Freshwater ecoregions of Africa and Madagascar: a conservation assessment. WWF, Washington DC.

Image credit

Barbus profundus specimen  
Barbus profundus specimen

© Denis Tweddle / SAIAB

South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB)
Somerset Street
Private Bag 1015
Grahamstown 6140
South Africa
Tel: +27 (46) 6035800
Fax: +27 (46) 6222403


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