Fynbos Fishes – Unique and highly threatened

The freshwater fishes of the Cape Floristic Region, mainly found in the Western Cape, are an ancient group of fishes, most of which are found nowhere else in the world. CapeNature is mandated to ensure good freshwater fish management within the province.

Of the 21 currently recognised species, 13 are threatened with extinction, including nine that are endangered.  The prime threat to these fishes is predation and competition by invasive alien fishes.

There are four families of fynbos fishes, namely the Cyprinidae (which has 17 species), the Austroglanididae (2 species), the Galaxidae (1 species) and the Anabantidae (1 species).

The cyprinids include beautiful small species such as the redfin minnows but also the well-known Clanwilliam yellowfish.

Ongoing taxonomic and genetic work on the Galaxias fishes suggest that there are many more species than the one currently recognised.

Fynbos fishes require ecologically healthy rivers for their survival.  These rivers should have unpolluted water, minimal rates of dry season water abstraction, undisturbed river banks with indigenous plants and no alien fishes if the indigenous fishes are to thrive.

CapeNature is busy with several projects to better conserve our indigenous fishes. These include awareness and education projects, river rehabilitation projects and fish monitoring projects.

One of the best ways of getting to know our fynbos fishes is to snorkel in a river in summer with them when the river flows are low and the water is warm.  The Rondegat River (above) at our Algeria campsite in the Cederberg and the small river next to the campsite at Tweede Tol in Bainskloof are really good places to enjoy this spectacle.

Website readers wanting to know more about our fynbos and Western Cape fishes are encouraged to read the following books and book chapters:
Paul Skelton: Freshwater fishes of southern Africa; Craig Garrow and Sean Marr:  Swimming on the edge of extinction. The perilous state of the indigenous freshwater fishes of the Western Cape; Jordaan M, Impson D. and van der Walt R. 2012.  Chapter on Freshwater fishes. Western Cape State of Biodiversity 2012. CapeNature