Ecological Research

, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 971–982 | Cite as

Fish communities in small subtropical reservoirs subject to extensive drawdowns, with focus on the biology of Enteromius paludinosus (Peters, 1852) and Clarias gariepinus (Burchell, 1822)

  • Tamuka Nhiwatiwa
  • Zolile Maseko
  • Tatenda DaluEmail author
Original Article


Small reservoirs are characterised by extreme fluctuations in water levels, but how this affects fish communities is not well understood. The aim of the study was to investigate fish communities in two small reservoirs which experience large water level fluctuations over two study years, wet and dry. Six fish species were caught in both reservoirs during the sampling period. The numerically dominant fish species was Enteromius paludinosus in both reservoirs, with Clarias gariepinus contributing the high overall fish biomass. The cyprinids Enteromius lineomaculatus and Enteromius trimaculatus occurred in small numbers, as well as the cichlids Oreochromis mossambicus and Tilapia sparrmanii. Using GLMM, the abundance of both C. gariepinus and E. paludinosus across the two reservoirs was found to be significantly associated with total nitrogen and inorganic nitrogen. C. gariepinus abundances were also associated with water transparency and reactive phosphorus whilst E. paludinosus abundances were associated with ammonia, alkalinity, total dissolved solutes and water depth. E. paludinosus bred mostly during the rainy year. Fish migrations and spawning events were largely triggered by rainfall. Differences between the fish populations in the two reservoirs were small based on fisheries metrics due to the biological attributes of the dominant species, E. paludinosus and C. gariepinus. The shallowness and frequent water level fluctuations in small reservoirs possibly do not allow for specialised habitats to develop, which could lead to high fish species diversity. Their suitability for small-scale fisheries has to be reconsidered as the demand for water for irrigation far outweighs that of the fishery.


Dynamic ecosystems Enteromius Fish populations Small reservoirs Water level fluctuations 



This research was funded by University of Zimbabwe-Flemish Universities Link Training of Fish Biologists’ Project. We thank Maxwell Barson and Tinashe Muteveri for their assistance with fieldwork. Special thank you is due to Mr David Stewart of Ingwerati Farm for allowing us to work on his property. Tatenda Dalu is supported by Claude Leon Post-Doctoral Fellowship.

Supplementary material

11284_2017_1504_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (196 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 195 kb)


  1. Allanson BR, Hart RC, O’Keefe JH, Robarts RD (1990) Inland waters of Southern Africa: an ecological perspective. Kluwer Academic Publishers, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  2. Bagenal TB, Braum E (1968) Eggs and early life history. In: Ricker WE (ed) Methods for assessment of fish production in freshwaters. IBP handbook 3. Blackwell Scientific Publications, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Baldock JW (1991) The geology of the Harare greenstone belt and surrounding granitic terrain. Zimbabwe Geological Survey Bulletin No. 94Google Scholar
  4. Baldwin DS, Wilson J, Gigney H, Boulding A (2010) Influence of extreme drawdown on water quality downstream of a large water storage reservoir. River Res Appl 26:194–206Google Scholar
  5. Bates D, Maechler M (2009) lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using S4 classesGoogle Scholar
  6. Bell-Cross G, Minshull JL (1988) The fishes of Zimbabwe. National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, HarareGoogle Scholar
  7. Benech V, Durand JR, Quesnsiere J (1983) Fish communities of Lake Chad and associated rivers and floodplains. In: Carmouze JP, Durand JR, Leveque C (eds) lake chad, ecology and productivity of a shallow tropical ecosystem, Monogr. Biol. No. 53. Dr W Junk Publishers, The HagueGoogle Scholar
  8. Benejam L, Benito J, Ordóñez J, Armengol J, García-Berthou E (2008) Short-term effects of a partial drawdown on fish condition in a eutrophic reservoir. Water Air Soil Pollut 190:3–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bhattacharya CG (1967) A simple method of resolution of a distribution into Gaussian components. Biometric 23:115–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brönmark C, Hansson LA (2005) The biology of lakes and ponds. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Bruton MN (1985) The effect of suspensoids on fish. Hydobiologia 125:221–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cambray JA, Bruton MN (1984) The reproductive strategy of a barb, Barbus anoplus (Pisces: Cyprinidae), colonizing a man-made lake in South Africa. J Zool 204:143–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clay D (1979) Sexual maturity and fecundity of the African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) with an observation on the spawning behaviour of the Nile catfish (Clarias lazera). Zool J Limn Soc 65:351–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Coops H, Beklioglu M, Crisman TL (2003) The role of water-level fluctuations in shallow lake ecosystems—workshop conclusions. Hydrobiologia 506–509:23–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dalu T, Clegg B, Nhiwatiwa T (2012a) The macroinvertebrate communities associated with littoral zone habitats and the influence of environmental factors in Malilangwe Reservoir, Zimbabwe. Knowl Manag Aquat Ecosyst 406:6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dalu T, Clegg B, Nhiwatiwa T (2012b) Aquatic macrophytes in a tropical African reservoir: diversity, communities and the impact of reservoir-level fluctuations. Trans R Soc S Afr 67:117–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dalu T, Clegg B, Nhiwatiwa T (2013a) Length-weight relationships and condition factors of six fish species caught using gillnets in a tropical African reservoir, Zimbabwe. Trans R Soc S Afr 68:75–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dalu T, Clegg B, Nhiwatiwa T (2013b) A study of the ichthyofauna of a small tropical reservoir in south-eastern lowveld, Zimbabwe. Afr J Aquat Sci 38:105–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dalu T, Wasserman RJ, Dalu MTB (2017) Agricultural intensification and drought frequency increases may have landscape level consequences for ephemeral ecosystems. Glob Change Biol 23:983–985CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. De Silva SS (1985) Observations on the abundance of the exotic cichlid Sarotherodon mossambicus (Peters) in relation to fluctuations in the water level in a man-made lake in Sri Lanka. Aquacult Fish Manag 16:265–272Google Scholar
  21. Ersal E (1994) Inventory of small water bodies in the SADC region. ALCOM News 15:12–16Google Scholar
  22. Evans RE (1982) The rehabilitation of the Savory Dam. Zim Agric J 79:47–56Google Scholar
  23. Fischer P, Öhl U (2005) Effects of water-level fluctuations on the littoral benthic fish community in lakes: a mesocosm experiment. Behav Ecol 16:741–746CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Froese R (2006) Cube law, condition factor and weight–length relationships: history, meta-analysis and recommendations. J Appl Ichthyol 22:241–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gibbs RJ (1967) The geochemistry of the amazon river system: Part I. The factors that control the salinity and the composition and concentration of the suspended solids. Geol Soc Am Bull 78:1203–1232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gratwicke B (2003) Aspects of the ecology of fishes and crabs in seasonal streams of the Upper Manyame catchment, Zimbabwe. MPhil thesis, University of ZimbabweGoogle Scholar
  27. Gratwicke B, Marshall BE (2001) The relationship between the exotic predators Micropterus salmoides and Serranochromis robustus and native stream fishes in Zimbabwe. J Fish Biol 58:68–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gratwicke B, Marshall BE, Nhiwatiwa T (2003) The distribution and relative abundance of stream fishes in the upper Manyame River, Zimbabwe, in relation to land use, pollution and exotic predators. Afr J Aquat Sci 28:25–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Haas EM, Bartholomé E, Combal B (2009) Time series analysis of optical remote sensing data for the mapping of temporary surface water bodies in sub-Saharan western Africa. J Hydrol 370:52–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. HACH (2007) DR 2800 Spectrophotometer: procedures manual. Catalog Number DOC022.53.00725, Second Edition. HACH, Colorado, USAGoogle Scholar
  31. Hofmann H, Lorke A, Peeters F (2008) Temporal scales of water-level fluctuations in lakes and their ecological implications. Hydrobiologia 613:85–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kahl U, Hülsmann S, Radke RJ, Benndorf J (2008) The impact of water level fluctuations on the year class strength of roach: implications for fish stock management. Limnologica 38:258–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kenmuir DHS (1976) Fish spawning under artificial flood conditions on the Mana flood-plain, Zambezi River. National Museums and Monuments of Rhodesia, Salisbury. Kariba Stud 6:86–97Google Scholar
  34. Kolding J, Tirasin EM, Karenge L (1992) Growth, mortality, maturity and length-weight parameters of fishes in Lake Kariba, Africa. Naga ICLARM Quarterly 15:39–41Google Scholar
  35. Kushlan JA (1976) Environmental stability and fish community diversity. Ecology 57:821–825CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Marshall B (2011) Fishes of Zimbabwe and their biology. Smithiana Monograph 3. The South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, GrahamstownGoogle Scholar
  37. Merron G, Bruton M, de Lalouviere PLH (1993) Changes in the fish communities of the Phongolo floodplain, Zululand (South Africa) before, during and after a severe drought. Regulated Rivers Res Manag 8:28–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nagrodski A, Raby GD, Hasler CT, Taylor MK, Cooke SJ (2012) Fish stranding in freshwater systems: sources, consequences, and mitigation. J Environ Manag 103:133–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Naselli-Flores L, Barone R (2005) Water-level fluctuations in Mediterranean reservoirs: setting a dewatering threshold as a management tool to improve water quality. Hydrobiologia 548:85–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nhiwatiwa T, Marshall BE (2006) Seasonal and diurnal stratification in two small Zimbabwean reservoirs. Afr J Aquat Sci 31:185–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nhiwatiwa T, Marshall BE (2007) Water quality and plankton dynamics in two small reservoirs. Afr J Aquat Sci 32:139–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pauly D (1980) On the interrelationships between natural mortality, growth parameters and mean environmental temperature in 175 fish stocks. ICES J Mar Sci 39:175–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pauly D, Munro JL (1984) Once more on growth comparison in fish and invertebrates. Fishbyte 2:21–25Google Scholar
  44. R Core Team (2015) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. URL
  45. Skelton PH (1993) A complete guide to the freshwater fishes of Southern Africa. Southern Book Publishers, Cape TownGoogle Scholar
  46. Skelton PH (1994) Diversity and distribution of freshwater fishes in East and Southern Africa. Ann Soc R Zool Belg 275:95–131Google Scholar
  47. Sparre P, Venema SC (1992) Introduction to tropical fish stock assessment. FAO/UN, Part I and IIGoogle Scholar
  48. SPSS Inc. (2007) SPSS Release 16.0.0 for Windows. Polar Engineering and Consulting. Chicago, SPSS IncGoogle Scholar
  49. Sutela T, Vehanen T (2008) Effects of water-level regulation on the nearshore fish community in boreal lakes. Hydrobiologia 613:13–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Whitlow JR (1985) Research on dambos in Zimbabwe. Zim Agricult J 82:59–63Google Scholar
  51. Yamamoto T, Kohmatsu Y, Yuma M (2006) Effects of summer drawdown on cyprinid fish larvae in Lake Biwa, Japan. Limnology 7:75–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zohary T, Ostrovsky I (2011) Ecological impacts of excessive water level fluctuations in stratified freshwater lakes. Inland Waters 1:47–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zuur AF, Ieno EN, Elphick CS (2010) A protocol for data exploration to avoid common statistical problems. Methods Ecol Evol 1:3–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of ZimbabweHarareZimbabwe
  2. 2.University Lake Kariba Research StationKaribaZimbabwe
  3. 3.Zoology and EntomologyRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  4. 4.South African Institute for Aquatic BiodiversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations