The Great Gouzon

I have been studying a fish so common in Seychelles that most Seychellois would ask why study them. The fish is an endemic fish the Seychelles Killifish or Gouzon in Kreol.

Known also as Playfairs Panchax, the Jeweled Panchax and the Sawback Killifish, the Gouzon is shown in most fish books as also occurring in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. It is not native to those parts but was introduced there. It naturally occurs only in Seychelles.

Here it is common, being found in streams and ponds on many granite islands. It was introduced on islands where perhaps it did not occur previously because people thought it could combat the mosquito scourge by eating the larvae.  On some small islands where the wetlands have vanished or been damaged, the fish has disappeared.

It feeds on worms, tiny native shrimp, insects and small fish including its own young. It grows to about   8 centimeters length. Males are more colorful than females. The back is brownish-gold and the belly is yellowish.  The sides are yellowish with a greenish-yellow iridescence. The sides also have red spots with the same pattern continuing on the fins of the males. Females are dull brown in color.
I have seen that the fish lay its eggs exclusively on plants. These can be rooted or floating plants. The eggs hatch after 2 weeks. The young can take up to a month to grow to full adult size. Gouzon has a strange trait; the scales on its back sometimes stick out giving it the name "Saw Back
Gouzon belong to the large family of Killifish. In general, Killifish are known to be opportunists. They have spread to  most  continents inhabiting freshwater and brackish waters. The origin of the Killifishes is from the dim past of Gondwanaland. They evolved in that part of Gondwanaland which is now Madagascar and Seychelles, then spread as the continents drifted apart.
More than 700 species of this ancient group are known, and according to American scientists new ones are being discovered all the time.  But the Seychelles Killifish is as close as we can come to having an ancestral type of killifish. The species can therefore be regarded as a kind of living fossil perhaps like the famous Coelacanth.  

The Seychelles Killifish or Gouzon is a species that has extreme antiquity and a high degree of endemism. It is a fish from an ancient and vanished time and is important in dating the spread of freshwater fish. It is worth elevating to become our national fish.


By Nirmal Jivan Shah, Nature Seychelles' CEO

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