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Among the natural lakes and wetlands with documented lists of fish species are:

  1. Oguta Lake: In Imo State supplied with water by the River Njoba. The lake flows into the River Orashi, a tributary of the lower Niger. A total of about 40 species has been recorded in the lake (Table 4).

  2. Lake Ndakolowo: Located downstream of Jebba Reservoir this is a floodplain lake of the Niger River. The lake had a surface area of about 9 km2 which was reduced to about 3 km2 after the damming of the Niger at Kainji and Jebba. The surface area continued to shrink until the whole lake area was covered with marsh plants and with no visible open water. The National Institute for Freshwater Fisheries Research conducted a survey in 1978 to identify the inlet and outlet of the lake with a view to recharging the lake by excavating a channel at its natural inlet. The recommendations of this survey (Ita and Mohammed 1979) were implemented in 1988 by the Institute and the lake was refilled to give open water extending over 3 km2. The species diversity recovered from about 9 to 25 species after refilling.

  3. Lake Chad: This is one of the most intensively studied natural lakes in Nigeria. A total of about 80 species of fish were recorded in the lake and the inflowing rivers by Hopson as reported in Reed et. al. (1967). Since then, the lake has been seriously affected by the Sahelian drought of the early seventies and eighties leading to a drastic decline in fish species diversity. The Yobe River, which used to be the main source of water for flooding the lake along the Nigerian sector, is now broken up into extensive wetland marshes.

    A survey conducted in 1985 revealed a total of 19 species (Bukar and Gubio, 1985). This was regarded as an improvement over the previous years when the lake was virtually reduced to a mass of highly vegetated wetland swamps with the number of species recorded reduced to about ten.

  4. Hadejia/Nguru Wetlands: This, the most extensive wetland area in the northern part of the country, has recently gained international recognition on account of the regular presence of migrant birds. It is estimated to have once covered about 2,000 to 3,000 km2. Between 1964 and 1971 over 2,000 km2 of flooding occurred. However, from 1983 less than 900 km2 has been flooded and even less than 300 km2 were flooded in the drought year of 1984 (Adams and Hollis, 1987). In addition to drought it is estimated that the damming of the Kano River at Tiga has caused a reduction of about 350 km2 in the surface area of the wetland. This decreased flooding has resulted in a consequent decrease in fish species diversity within the wetland. Although no pre-drought/pre-Tiga investigations were carried out, the diversity figure (46 species) supplied in Tobor (1973) for the lower Yobe River is regarded as the most likely situation prior to the drought and completion of the Tiga dam.

Matthes (1990) records over 40 species (Table 4) for these wetlands, excluding about 30 unidentified species. This shows that, in spite of the intensive exploitation of the wetland fisheries, a comparatively high diversity has been sustained. The majority of the species identified are of little or no economic importance on account of their small sizes, e.g. some small mormyrids and cyprinids which are not usually trapped by fishermen's gear.

A drastic decline has been observed among the larger species such as Lates, Gymnarchus, Heterotis, and Heterobranchus although not to the point of extinction. The wetlands appear to be the last hope for the conservation of river fishes. The Hadejia Nguru wetland is unique in this regard and therefore requires special attention in view of the deplorable impact of drought on Lake Chad.

Table 4. Fish species diversity in natural lakes, wetlands and their inflowing rivers.

Family/SpeciesOguta L.Tatabu L.L.Chad
Hopson (1967)
Hadejia Nguru
Yobe pre-Tiga
Hadejia Nguru
Matthes (1990)
2.1. Ctenopoma kingsleyae x  x 
2.2. C. petherici  x  x
4.1. Bagrus bayad  xxxx
4.3. B. filamentosus     x
4.4. Chrysichthys auratus  x  x
4.5. C. nigrodigitatusx    x
4.7. Auchenoglanis biscutatus  x xx
4.8. A. occidentalis xx xx
4.10. Clarotes macrocephalus  x  x
5.1. Trachinotus goreensisx     
6.1. Lates niloticusx xxxx
7.1. Ophiocephalus obscurusxxx xx
8.1. Hydrocynus brevis   xx 
8.3. H. lineatusx     
8.4. H. forskalii xx xx
8.5. Alestes nursex xxx 
8.6. A. leuciscus     x
8.8. A. macrolepidotus  x  x
8.9. A. brevisx    x
8.10. A. dentex  x x 
8.11. A. baremozexxx xx
8.14. Micralestes acutidens  x  x
8.16. Alestes dageti*  x   
8.17. Petersius brevidorsalis*  x   
9.1. Hemichrom is bimaculatus xx  x
9.2. H. faciatusxxx xx
9.12. Tilapia zilliixxxxxx
9.13. Sarotherodon (T.) galilaeusxxxxxx
9.14. Oreochromis (T.) niloticusxxxxx 
9.16. Tilapia mariaex x   
9.17. T. melanopleurax     
9.18. T. monodix x x 
9.21. Haplochromis wingati*x x   
9.22. Tylochromis sp.x    x
10.1. Nannaethiops unitaeniatus  x   
10.2. Paradistichodus dimidiatus      
10.6. Citharinus citharusxxx xx
10.7. C. latusx x xx
10.8. C. distichodoidesx x xx
10.9. Citharidium ansorgii     x
11.1. Clarias lazeraxxxxxx
11.2. C. anguillaris xx x 
11.7. Heterobranchus bidorsalis  x xx
15.4. Labeo coubie  x   
15.5. L. pseudocoubie  x   
15.6. L. senegalensisxxxxxx
15.7. L. brachypomax     
15.11. Barbus occidentalis x    
15.15. B. callipterus  x   
15.19. Barilius niloticus  x   
15.20. B. senegalensis  x   
15.21. B. loati  x   
15.23. Barbus pleuropholis*  x   
15.24. B. anema*  x   
15.25. B. lawrae*  x   
15.26. B. warmeri*  x   
15.27. B. leonensis*  x   
15.28. B. stigmatopygus*  x   
16.2. Epiplatys senegalensis  x   
16.3. E. bifasciatus  x   
16.4. Aplocheilichthys gambiensis  x  x
16.16. A. kingi*  x  x
17.1. Distichodus rostratusx  xx 
17.2. D. engycephalusx     
17.3. D. brevipinnisx  xxx
19.1. Gymnarchus niloticusxxxxxx
20.1. Hepsetus odoex    x
21.1. Ichthyoborus besse  x x 
23.1. Protopterus annectens xxxxx
25.1. Malapterurus electricusx x xx
26.2. Mastacembelus loennbergii  x   
27.1. Synodontis batensoda  xxx 
27.2. S. membranaceus  x   
27.5. S. clariasxxx x 
27.6. S. resupinatusx     
27.9. S. eupterus  x x 
27.11. S. nigrita x    
27.14. S. ocelliferxxx   
27.15. S. schallx xxx 
27.16. S. gambiensis xx   
27.22. S. courteti x    
27.24. S. frontosus*  x   
27.25. Mochokus niloticus*  x x 
27.27. Synodontis budgetti*     x
28.1. Hyperopisus bebe  xxxx
28.3. Mormyrus rumex xxxx
28.6. Petrocephalus bane  x   
28.8. P. simus  x   
28.10. P. bovei  x   
28.11. Mormyrops deliciosus  x  x
28.17. Gnathonemus niger  x   
28.18. G. abadiix     
28.19. G. senegalensisx x   
28.20. G. cyprinoides  xxx 
28.31. Marcusenius isidori  x   
29.1. Mugil cephalusx     
31.1. Notopterus (Papyrocranus) aferx     
31.2. Xenomystus nigrixxx   
32.1. Heterotis niloticus xxxx 
36.1. Polypterus senegalus xx x 
36.2. P. endlicheri  x x 
36.3. P. bichir  x x 
36.7. P. annectens*  x   
38.2. Eutropius niloticus xx   
38.3. Schilbe mystusxxx   
38.4. Siluranodon auritus  x   
40.1. Tetraodon fahakax x x 
Total number of species 108402583194639
Diversity index0.

* Species not included in Table 2, i.e. not recorded from major rivers.

Reference List
1. Oguta Lake (Ita and Balogun, 1983)
2. Tatabu Lake (Daddy and Awojoodu, 1991)
3. Lake Chad Postdrought (Bukar and Gubio, 1985)
4. Hadejia, Nguru, Yobe Pre Tiga (Tobor, 1973)
5. Hadejia Nguru Post Tiga (Matthes, 1990)


The major reservoirs of Nigeria include:

  1. Kainji and Jebba reservoirs on the main Niger River

  2. Shiroro reservoir on the Kaduna River, a tributary of the upper Niger

  3. Goronyo and Bakolori reservoirs on the Rima and Sokoto rivers, respectively, both tributaries of the main Sokoto River which empties into the upper Niger beyond the confluence with the Kaduna River

  4. Tiga Reservoir is located on Kano River. It flows into the Hadejia River valley which joins up with the Jama'are River to form the Yobe River that empties into Lake Chad.

  5. Kiri and Dadin Kowa reservoirs are located on the Gongola River, a tributary of the River Benue. No authentic checklist has been found for Dadin Kowa reservoir, hence its exclusion from Table 5.

Kainji Lake tops the list with a total of 101 species followed by Jebba with 52 species. The high diversity index recorded for Kainji Lake is not unconnected with the intensity of investigations conducted in the lake since 1969. Jebba Lake, which extends from the outflow of Kainji Lake for about 100 km to the dam, is expected to harbour as many species as Kainji Lake if not more. However, on account of the paucity of investigations conducted on this reservoir, only about half the number of species in Kainji Lake have been documented for Jebba Lake.

Although Kainji Lake still retains some riverine features along its northern arm, a reduction in species diversity was recorded after impoundment from over 120 species to about 97 species. This was to be expected in view of the reduction in the flow rate that favoured the behaviour of most cyprinids and cyprinodonts. Some mormyrids disappeared soon after impoundment, but were later identified along some of the inflowing rivers.

The low species diversity in the other smaller reservoirs can be attributed partly to the fact that the dams are located nearer to the tributary river sources than to the confluences of the main rivers. Such areas are characterized by the rapids and rocky terrain preferred by a limited number of freshwater species. The checklist of the species recorded in these reservoirs is presented in Table 5.

Table 5. Fish species diversity in reservoirs in Nigeria (years refer to surveys)

SpeciesKainji Lake
Jebba Lake
Shiroro Lake
Kiri Resv.
Tiga Resv.
Bakolori Resv.
Asejire Resv.
2.1. Ctenopoma kingsleyaexx     xx
2.2. C. pethericix        
3.3. Arius gigasxx x     
4.1. Bagrus bayadxx xxx x 
4.2. B. docmacx x x   x
4.4. Chrysichthys auratusxx  x x  
4.5. C. nigrodigitatusxxx    x 
4.6. C. furcatusx        
4.7. Auchenoglanis biscutatusx xx     
4.8. A. occidentalisxxxxx    
4.9. Clarotes laticepsxx       
4.10. C. macrocephalusx        
6.1. Lates niloticusxxx    xx
7.1. Ophiocephalus obscurusxx      x
8.1. Hydrocynus brevisx        
8.3. H. lineatusx        
8.4. H. forskaliixx xx  x 
8.5. Alestes nursexx  xxxx 
8.6. A. leusiscusx    xxx 
8.7. A. imberi       x 
8.8. A. macrolepidotusxxx    x 
8.10. A. dentexxx  xxx  
8.11. A. baremozexx  xxx  
8.14. Micralestes acutidensxx       
9.1. Hemichromis bimaculatusx        
9.2. H. fasciatusxx    xx 
9.4. Pelmatochromis guentherixx     xx
9.12. Tilapia zilliix xxxxxxx
9.13. Sarotherodon (T.) galilaeusxxxxxxxxx
9.14. Oreochromis (T.) niloticusx xxxxxx 
9.17. T. melanopleura   x     
10.6. Citharinus citharusxx x     
10.7. C. latusxx       
10.8. C. distichodoidesx        
11.1. Clarias lazeraxx xxx  x
11.2. C. anguillarisxxxx xxxx
11.7. Heterobranchus bidorsalisxxx      
12.4. Microthrissa mirix        
15.2. Chelaethiops elongatusx        
15.4. Labeo coubiexxx  x   
15.5. L. pseudocoubiexx   xx  
15.6. L. senegalensisxxx xxx  
15.8. L. parvusx x   x  
15.11. Barbus occidentalisx x    x 
15.19. Barilius niloticusx x      
15.20. B. senegalensisxxx x    
16.4. Aplocheilichthys gambiensisx        
17.1. Distichodus rostratusxxx    x 
17.2. D. engycephalusx        
17.3. D. brevipinnisx      x 
19.1. Gymnarchus niloticusx        
20.1. Hepsetus odoex      xx
23.1. Protopterus annectensxx       
24.1. Lutjanus agennes         
25.1. Malapterurus electricusxx xxx   
26.2. Mastacembelus loennbergiix        
27.1. Synodontis batensodaxx       
27.2. Synodontis membranaceusxx x     
27.3. C. budgettix        
27.4. S. omiasx        
27.5. S. clariasxx     x 
27.6. S. resupinatusx        
27.8. S. sorexx      x 
27.9. S. eupterusx        
27.10. S. melanopterusx        
27.11. S. nigritaxxx    x 
27.12. S. filamentosusxx     x 
27.13. S. robbianusx        
27.14. S. ocelliferxx x x   
27.15. S. schallx  x     
27.16. S. gambiensisxxxx xxx 
27.17. S. violaceusxx       
27.28. S. vermiculatusx  x     
27.20. S. gobronix        
27.22. S. courtetix        
28.1. Hyperopisus bebexxx      
28.3. Mormyrus rumexxxx   x 
28.4. M. hasselquistix        
28.5. M. macropthalmusx        
28.6. Petrocephalus b. ansorgiixx   xxx 
28.8. P. simusx        
28.10. P. boveix        
28.11. Mormyrops deliciosusxxxxx xx 
28.13. M. oudotix        
28.15. Gnathonemus tamanduax x      
28.16. G. petersiixx       
28.17. G. nigerx        
28.18. G. abadiix      x 
28.19. G. senegalensisxx  x  x 
28.20. G. cyprinoidesx        
28.21. G. pictusx      x 
28.23. G. deboensisx        
28.25. Marcusenius psittacusx x    x 
28.30. M. harringtonix        
28.31. M. isidorix    x   
28.32. M. lhuysiixx       
31.2. Xenomystus nigri x       
32.1. Heterotis niloticusxx x x   
36.1. Polypterus senegalusxx       
36.2. P. endlicherix        
36.3. P. bichirx        
38.1. Physailia pellucidaxx   xx  
38.2. Eutropius niloticusx x    x 
38.3. Schilbe mystusx x xxxx 
38.4. Siluranodon auritusx      x 
40.1. Tetraodon fahakaxx       
Total species= 1061045027211822173612
Diversity Index*

Reference List
Kainji Lake 1978 and 1984, Ita (1978;1984b)
Jebba Lake 1983, Ita (1983)
Tiga 1979, Ita (1979)
Shiroro Reservoir 1990 Ita (1990)
Kiri Reservoir 1985, Ita (1986)
Bakolori Reservoir 1982, Ita and Balogun (1982)
Asejire Reservoir 1985, Akinyemi (1986)
Eleiyele Reservoir 1985, Akinyemi (1986)

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