The Common Lyretail
Aphyosemion australe

Updated during November, 2023.

Warning! This article includes personal opinions and speculations!

The common lyretail, Aphyosemion australe (Rachow 1921), is also known as Cape Lopez, Cape Lopez lyretail, Cape Lopez killi, Cape Lopez killifish, Cap Lopez, Cap Lopez killi, Kap Lopez, Kap-Lopez killi, lyretail killi, lyretail killifish, lyretail Panchax, but also several other similar names.

The common lyretail grows to about six cm. (About 2,4 inches.) It is one of the most common species of killifish in the aquarium hobby and originates from West Africa. The males are more colorful and have more spectacular fins than the females. Any aquarist can keep and breed the common lyretail.

Several strains and color variants of the common lyretail are available. Some are natural strains and often named after the original collection locations in the wild. The strains in aquarium shops are often not the natural strains, but other domesticated breeds such as: Gold, orange, albino, or chocolate.

In captivity, in good conditions, the common lyretail may live for over three years, which is considered a long life for a killifish. This contributes to its popularity among ordinary fishkeepers, compared to annular killifish species that may look similarly beautiful, but have a shorter life span.

Killifishes (also called killi, killies, killis, killifish, or egglaying toothcarps) is a large group of fishes. In the wild, many of them live for only a few months during the rainy season, and pass away when the dry season comes. Because of this, they have evolved eggs that can wait for the next rain to fall, before the eggs hatch. For aquarist, this means that you can breed the killies, pick up the eggs and send those eggs through "the snailmail" in an envelope (or package) to an other aquarist. The other aquarist can then put the eggs in water, hatch them and get fry!

Killifish enthusiasts are recommended to join a killi society, for example:

There are also Facebook groups about killifishes:

A killi society provides a good connection between different killi breeders. Killi enthusiast stay in contact with eachother all over the world and may trade eggs trough the snailmail. Most killies are seldom found in aquarium stores, so these contacts are often the only way of getting rare species and rare variants. The import of killies in the general aquarium industry is quite small. However, the common lyretail and especially the "hjersseni" (gold/orange) domesticated breed is often available in aquarium stores, and/or the staff can easily order it from a wholesaler.

Some killi enthusiasts travel and catch killies in the wild. A few journeys are usually performed every year. Through these journeys, many previously unknown species have been discovered.

The aquarum to keep most types of small killies, like the common lyretail, can traditionally be any aquarium of about twelve Liters (about 2,6 US Gallons), or preferably larger. Make sure to have a lid, or other preventive measures, to prevent the killes from jumping out of the aquarium.

Killies can, usually, be kept in a normal community aquarium together with non aggressive fishes. If you keep the killies in a species aquarium, you can arrange it with some normal aquarium gravel on the bottom, one or two handfuls of peat above the gravel and a large bunch of java moss. The java moss should fill up about 80 percent of the water volume.

To breed the common lyretail you don't need much preparation. In an aquarium for breeding you can put some peat on the bottom and preferably a yarn mop. (A bunch of artificial wool.) You let the aquarium mature without fish for a few days and then you put in the breeder fish. It is appropriate to use one male and one female, or one male and two females. The fish will hopefully start to breed within a few hours.

The male swims close to the female and show his fins. If the female is willing to spawn, she follows the male until they find a place to spawn. Then the pair stand side by side and tremble with force. The milt and eggs are released.

When the breeding fish have been in the breeding aquarium for about one week, it is time to move them back to their ordinary aquarium. The eggs hatch after about two weeks, if you let the eggs stay in the breeding aquarium. The fry can eat nauplii of Artemia (baby brine shrimp, BBS) from the start. Raising the fry is easy. The new generation is ready to spawn at about three months of age.

You can also breed the common lyretail with the "natural method".

A species tank (which I have already described) can work as a permanent breeding aquarium, although choosing a large aquarium becomes even more preferable for permanent breeding, compared to temporary breeding. Some of the fry, usually, survive to adult age if they have enough hiding places.

Links in English about the common lyretail:

Scandinavian links about the common lyretail:

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E-mail Max Strandberg