The African Blind Barb Fish, which is also known as the Congo Blind Barb, the African Blind Barb or, in French, Poisson Cavernicole D'Afrique and Barbu Aveugle, is a species of ray-finned fish belonging to the Cyprinidae family. Believed to be the only member of the Caecobarbus genus, the Caecobarbus geertsi (or Caecobarbus geertsii), as it is scientifically known, this fish is a so-called benthopelagic species, which means it lives and feeds predominantly near the bottom, but also in mid-waters or occasionally near the surface.
Eye-less and almost completely colourless, the African Blind Barb Fish can reach a length of around 4.33 in (110 mm). It has an average life expectancy of between 9 and 14 years, although it may possible for an individual to live as long as 15 years or above.
Habitat and Biology
The African Blind Barb is only known to live in the Thysville fresh-water caves of Mbanza-Ngungu, located around 2,296 ft (700 m) above sea-level within the basin of the Lower Congo River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its main diet consists of the small crustaceans inhabiting these caves, although it will also feed on any other animals that are washed into the caves, as well as its own eggs.
The eggs of the African Blind Barb are expelled in a somewhat haphazard fashion. To prevent them from being eaten by other inhabitants of the caves - or by their parents - the adhesive eggs need to find pores and crevices to roll into.
Known to inhabit less than ten separate locations, the Caecobarbus geertsi, which is regarded as perfectly harmless to humans, is of no commercial use as such, but is sold world-wide as stock for aquariums. Fortunately, sales are widely restricted and subject to legislation.
Threats to this species, which is currently listed as vulnerable, consist of habitat destruction caused by the collapse of caves and toxicity caused by both agricultural and natural sedimentation. The flow of sedimentation into the caves is currently regarded as the main threat, especially as at least one of the caves the African Blind Barb inhabits is known to be regularly used as a quarry.
Sadly, as yet no conservation measures are in place to protect this strange, yet somehow beautiful creature. This is a shame, especially as still very little is known about this fish, with even the actual numbers of individuals among the few populations scientists are aware of being unknown. Could the African Blind Barb Fish become yet another animal mankind watches disappear before it has even been properly researched? Let's hope this will not happen.