Madagascar, a large island situated in the Indian Ocean off the south-eastern coast of the African continent, is home to an astonishing array of flora and fauna. Madagascar, then part of the supercontinent Gondwana, split from Africa about 160 million years ago and became an island through the split from the Indian subcontinent 80-100 million years ago.

Madagascar is now the 4th largest island in the world and its long isolation from neighbouring continents has resulted in an astonishingly high degree of endemic species; species that can be found nowhere else on the planet. Madagascar is home to about 5% of the world’s plant and animal species, of which more than 80% are endemic to island. You can for instance encounter Appert’s Tetraka bird (Xanthomixis apperti), the carnivorious Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) and over 30 different species of lemur on Madagascar. Of the 10,000 plants native to Madagascar, 90% are endemic.

The diverse flora and fauna of Madagascar is not limited to land and air; you can find an amazing array of creatures in the water as well – including a rich profusion of endemic fish species. Unfortunately, the environment on Madagascar is changing rapidly and the fish – just like most of the other creatures – risk becoming extinct in the near future.

The fishes of Madagascar currently have to deal with four major threats:

  • Deforestation
  • Habitat Loss
  • Overfishing
  • Invasive species

In a response to this, and to educe people around the world about the fish of Madagascar, aquarist Aleksei Saunders have created the website Madagascar’s Endangered Fishes on which he shares his knowledge of Madagascan fish species and the perils they’re facing, but also highlights all the things we can do to improve the situation.

The site focuses on freshwater fish conservation and captive breeding, since collection of wild fish to bring endangered species into captivity for managed reproductive efforts plays a large part of the conservation effort in Madagascar.

In addition to the website, Alex is also gives power-point presentations on husbandry and conservation breeding of Madagascar’s endemic fish fauna, since more and more aquarists around the world are taking a large interest in doing their part to help endangered fish species.

Alex has worked with fish since 1990 and it was through his work as an aquarist at Denver Zoo he became enthralled with the ichthyofauna of Madagascar. During the early 1990s Denver Zoo started a conservation program with the endemic freshwater fishes of Madagascar and in 1998 Alex got the chance to pay his first, but certainly not last, visit to the island. Today, his trips primarily focus on educating the Malagasy on their wonderful natural heritage and ways of conserving it, assessing the condition of native freshwater habitats and the fish population therein, and collecting wild fish for managed captive breeding. Alex now manages on of the most diverse collections of Madagascan endemic fishes in North America, including 5 species of rainbowfish, 4 species of cichlid, and 3 killifish species.

With this site I hope to educate, motivate, and stimulate people into action to help save Madagascar’s endangered fishes. Please look around the site. There are sections for fish hobbyists, adventure travellers, conservation biologists, and just those curious about the world in which we live.


Aleksei Saunders