Saturday 18 May
Arabian killifish (Aphanius dispar)
Arabian killifish fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Arabian killifish description
One of only three native fish species found in freshwater in the United Arab Emirates, the Arabian killifish (Aphanius dispar) is a small fish with marked variation between the male and female (3). The male is more elaborate in appearance with a greenish-brown to silver body with faint white stippling, which often forms a net-like or wavy-line pattern, and two to three dark vertical bands on the tail fin (3) (4) (5). Whilst breeding, the male’s lips and fins become vivid blue-white. The duller female is mottled golden-brown with numerous dark, vertical, zebra-like bands along the body (3). As is typical of many killifish species, the male Arabian killifish has a larger, more elevated dorsal fin than the female (6). The head of the Arabian killifish is also rather flattened and the tail fin is quite short (4).
- Also known as
- Arabian pupfish, Jordan mother-of-pearl killifish.
- Maximum length: 7 cm (2)
The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi:
- Simple plants that lack roots, stems and leaves but contain the green pigment chlorophyll. Most occur in marine and freshwater habitats.
- Litter formed from fragments of dead material.
- Dorsal fin
- The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish, or the raised structure on the back of most cetaceans.
- Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
- The production or depositing of large quantities of eggs in water.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
UNEP-WCMC (November, 2010)
FishBase – Arabian killifish (November, 2010)
- Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, London.
Marine Species Identification Portal – Arabian killifish (November, 2010)
- Baensch, H.A. and Riehl, R. (2004) Aquarium Atlas. Volume 4. Mergus Verlag, Melle, Germany.
- Randall, J.E. (1996) Coastal Fishes of Oman. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.
- Haas, R. (1982) Notes on the ecology of Aphanius dispar (Pisces, Cyprinodontidae) in the Sultanate of Oman. Freshwater Biology, 12: 89-95.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Arabian killifish biology
A highly adaptable and opportunistic species, the Arabian killifish is not only capable of inhabiting and breeding in both freshwater and saltwater, it will also eat practically anything it can find, including detritus, algae and live aquatic insects (3). It swims high in the water column and often hovers with the tail characteristically curved to one side whilst feeding (3).
Little else is known about the Arabian killifish’s biology, but it is thought to breed throughout the year with a slight peak between April and June (7). It spawns in areas with an abundance of floating vegetation after the male fish has attracted a female mate by fluttering its tail, which displays its vivid colouration (2) (3). Eggs are subsequently laid on the river or sea bed, and hatch around 12 to 14 days later (4) (5).Top
Arabian killifish range
The Arabian killifish is found in coastal areas around the Middle East and Northeast Africa, as well as in some freshwater pools and landlocked seas in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran. It may also occasionally travel from the Red Sea through the Suez Canal into the south-eastern Mediterranean (2) (4).Top
Arabian killifish habitat
Capable of surviving in both freshwater and high salinity environments, the Arabian killifish is most often found in estuaries, but also occupies coral reefs and oases (2) (4) (6). It has also been introduced into a number of artificial habitats, such as ponds and water tanks (3).Top
Arabian killifish status
The Arabian killifish has yet to be classified by the IUCN.Top
Arabian killifish threats
There are no known threats to the Arabian killifish. In the United Arab Emirates it has been introduced into a number of mountain streams, as well as various man-made water bodies as a control of mosquito larvae, and has successful bred in these habitats (3).Top
Arabian killifish conservation
The Arabian killifish has not been the target of any known conservation measures.Top
Find out more
To find out about conservation in the United Arab Emirates, see:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.