Food and feeding habits of Oreochromis mossambicus (Peters) in hypertrophic Hartbeespoort Dam, South Africa

  • F.C. de Moor
  • R.C. Wilkinson
  • Helene M. Herbst


The diet of 745 Oreochromis mossambicus (Peters) of less than 0,5 up to 2000 g wet mass, in Hartbeespoort Dam, was determined from stomach content analysis. Samples of fish were selected to cover a whole annual cycle. Small fish fed initially on zoobenthos and zooplankton, but fish with a mass of over 4 g fed increasingly on Microcystis aeruginosa Kützing and detritus until these food items formed the dominant food source in O. mossambicus over 8 g. Some cannibalism was encountered in fish up to 64 g in the summer months. The ratio of intestinal length to total length of fish ranged from 0,58 in the smaller fish to 11,02 in larger fish and this indicated that there was an ontogenetic adaptation from a carnivorous to a phytoplanktivorous /detritivorous diet. Feeding in juvenile fish studied over 24 h was found to be most intense in the early morning and late afternoon but remained high throughout daylight hours decreasing considerably at night. The daily ingestion rate of food in O. mossambicus in Hartbeespoort Dam was estimated at 453 mg/g of fish. This comprised 45% M. aeruginosa and 55% detritus. It was apparent that of this matter ingested only a small percentage would be assimilated. Oreochromis mossambicus shows feeding and breeding preadaptations which enable it to successfully exploit a lacustrine environment. These adaptations enable it to maintain a large population in Hartbeespoort Dam despite frequent winter mortalities caused by water temperatures below their tolerance limits.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-073X
print ISSN: 1562-7020