BAP TUTORIAL: Correct Species Names on Submission Forms

Discussion in 'BAP question and answer' started by tjudy, Jan 22, 2017.

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  1. tjudy

    tjudy Advisory Board Staff Member

    One of the biggest challenges to the BAP program is keeping up with the changes in fish nomenclature. This is very important, because the BAP program rewards participants for seeking new species that have not been spawned in the club before. Who is responsible to verifying the validity of a species? You are!!! And so is the BAP committee... but the first step in the process is for you to research the fish and get the name right when the spawn is submitted. Then the BAP committee follows up by checking the validity. This tutorial is intended to teach you how to verify the validity of a species name.

    This tutorial will be presented in a series of posts on this closed thread, each post teaching a lesson in how to verify nomenclature. If you have questions, please start a new thread. You will not be able to post in this thread.

    The lessons in this tutorial will be:
    1. CA Academy of Sciences (the Eschmeyer Database) (CAAS)
    3. and Undescribed Species
    4. Other relatively reliable web sites
    5. Ornamental and hybrid varieties
    6. Nothing Special... No Strain, Variety, Location or Color Form
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2017
    Mike F, Dave, Chuck and 1 other person like this.
  2. tjudy

    tjudy Advisory Board Staff Member

    Lesson One: CA Academy of Sciences (the Eschmeyer Database) (CAAS)

    CA Academy of Sciences (the Eschmeyer Database) (CAAS) - this is the PRIMARY resource for nomenclature, and we use it as the DEFAULT resource. When there is a difference of opinion, CAAS will win... every time. We have to choose a database to be the default and stick with it, and CAAS is the most accurate for SPECIES NAMES THAT ARE MOST COMMON IN THE AQUARIUM HOBBY. Here is how to use it:

    A Basic Search for a Valid Species (Genus & Species)
    1. Open the link to get to the Catalog of Fishes
    2. Select the SPECIES database
    3. DO NOT choose to include unavailable names
    4. Type in the genus and species name of the fish that you have... spelling counts!!!
    5. If the name you entered is in the database, an entry for the fish will appear that will list the original name the species was given. At the end of the entry you will see the words 'Current Status' in bold print. The name that appears after that is the most correct nomenclature for the species, and the name you should use on your BAP submission.
    Try This...
    • Do a search for the name 'Pelmatochromis humilis'. This species has undergone a few species names. Note that the first name that appears on the entry is 'Pelmatochromis humilis', which is the original description for the species, but the Current Status is different (Wallaceochromis humilis). What you just did was enter a very old invalid name and find the correct current name.
    • Do another search for 'Pelvicachromis humilis'. The exact same result will appear, because Pelvicachromis humilis is also an invalid name for Wallaceochromis humilis. If you have recently purchased this species, you most likely got them as Pelvicachromis humilis, because the most recent name change occurred late in 2016, and it usually takes a few years (yes... years) for the hobby to catch up with science.
    Correct Spelling

    If you do a search and get the message 'no matches found', then the most common cause is that the name is misspelled. Use other resources or web searches to verify spelling or find alternative spelling.

    Try This...
    • Do a search in CAAS for Nimbochromis livingstoni. This is a very commonly misspelled name. You will get the 'no matches found' message.
    • Go out onto the web and see if you can find the mistake. (Hint: try the cichlid catalog at When you find the correct spelling (the mistake is in the species name), enter that into the CAAS search and see what happens.
    The reason this fish is so commonly misspelled is because the common name is the 'Livingstoni cichlid', and many people assume that the 'livingstoni' is the correct spelling of the species name.

    Species-only Search

    A common error is to have the species name correct but the genus name wrong, and so badly wrong that the species has never been a part of that genus.

    Try this...
    • Do a basic genus and species search for Corydoras barbatus. You will get a result, but the valid name is not in the genus Corydoras. What it is?
    • Do a basic genus and species search for Corydoras reisi. What happened? The reason this happens (you have to try it to see the result...) is that the species 'reisi' is so new that it has never been in the genus Corydoras, but the fish looks like it should have (could have) been in that genus.
    • Do a basic genus and species search for Scleromystax reisi. Is this the current status valid name?
    If you are positive you have the correct species, but are not sure of the genus, you can search for the species name to see the possible genus the fish could be in.
    1. Open the link to get to the Catalog of Fishes
    2. Select the SPECIES database
    3. DO NOT choose to include unavailable names
    4. Type in the species name of the fish that you have... spelling counts!!!
    5. If the name you entered is in the database, a list of all the entries with that species name will appear. Read through the list to find the genus that is correct.
    WARNING!!! This type of search requires that you have some idea of what the genus SHOULD be. Many species names are common in several genera.

    Example... You have a killifish that you bought as Rivulus bivittatum and need to verify that name.

    Try this...
    • Do a basic genus and species search for Rivulus bivittatum. You will get 'no matches found'.
    • You are POSITIVE that the name bivittatum is correct, so do a species-only search for that name.
    • Look at the results, all of them are the same current status valid species 'Aphyosemion bivittatum' (one is not). That is most likely the fish you have. You can go look for pictures of that species to see if it matches for fish.
    Genus-only Search

    You can verify the validity of a genus name like this:
    1. Open the link to get to the Catalog of Fishes
    2. Select the GENUS database
    3. DO NOT choose to include unavailable names
    4. Type in the genus name of the fish that you have... spelling counts!!!
    5. If the name you entered is in the database, a list will appear that includes all the genera that were ever a part of that genus. But only one of them will show current status as that genus.
    Try this:
    • Do a genus-only search for Pelvicachromis. Two genera will appear. The other one has fish that used to be in the genus Pelvicachromis.
    • Do a genus-only search for that other genus. What happens? Why does only one genus appear?
    All the Species in a Genus Search

    If you know the genus but are unsure of the species, you can find a list of all the species in the genus like this:
    1. Open the link to get to the Catalog of Fishes
    2. Select the SPECIES database
    3. DO NOT choose to include unavailable names
    4. Type in the GENUS name of the fish that you have... spelling counts!!!
    5. If the name you entered is in the database, a list of all the species that are and were ever in that genus will appear.
    BE CAREFUL!!! Make sure you are looking at the 'current status' names in that list. Many species have jumped around different genera over time.

    Try this...
    • Do an 'all the species is a genus' search for the genus Pelvicachromis. 13 species appear... how many are valid in the genus 'Pelvicachromis'?
    BE CAREFUL!!! Look for synonyms, which are more than one entry that have the current status of being the same species. Look at the list you just generated for 'Pelvicachromis'. How many of those 13 results are current status Pelvicachromis taeniatus?

    In Summary
    The CAAS database is the most complete and accurate resource, but it does require that you know a bit about nomenclature to use it well. You will get better at using CAAS with practice. it may be easier to start a verification process in another database that is more hobby-centric (which this tutorial series will describe), but you should always check the genus and species name you come up with in the CAAS database to make sure that name is correct. Remember... CAAS is the database that the MAAH BAP program will use as the default.
    Chuck likes this.
  3. tjudy

    tjudy Advisory Board Staff Member

    Lesson Two: (FB)

    The second most important database for verifying nomenclature is . This resource has a LOT of useful information that goes way beyond what other sources provide, such as species listed by the countries they are found in, species in different ecosystems and/or river systems, and a database of photographs. The reason FB is not the MAAH default database is that FB is not as accurate as CAAS on the nomenclature that is generally accepted in the aquarium hobby. For example, FB does not accept the Greenwood nomenclature for the Lake Victoria cichlids that the hobby uses. The cichlid species Pundamilia nyererei is current status valid on CAAS, but is valid as Haplochromis nyererei on FB. Changes in nomenclature take longer to be reflected in FB than they do in the CAAS database. And the FB website is often slow and frequently glitchy.

    The advantage of FB is that the search results are better formatted and easier to read. The species pages also provide a lot more information than CAAS (which does not have any information other than the nomenclature data).

    A Basic Search for a Valid Species Using a Scientific Name
    1. Open the link to to get to the search page.
    2. Use the Scientific Name search option.
    3. Type the genus name in the Genus field (spelling counts).
    4. Type the species name in the Species field (spelling counts).
    5. Click the search button.
    If there is only one fish with that combination of genus and species, that fish's information page will appear. The name at the top of the page is the valid name ACCORDING TO FB. You should check this name in CAAS.

    Try this...
    • Do a basic search for Pelvicachromis pulcher. The species page for that species will appear, and it is the valid name.
    • Look through the page to see all the information that is provided. Image links are at the top.
    • Do a basic search for Pelmatochromis pulcher. The same page for Pelvicachromis pulcher appears, because that is the valid name. If you search for an old, invalid name of a species that is in the database, the correct species should appear.
    • Do a basic search for Pelvicachromis peanutbutteri. A page listing alternative species will appear, because 'peanutbutteri' is not a name in the database at all. This is a very useful page, because if your name is simply misspelled you may find the correct spelling in the list.
    BE CAREFUL... FB is much slower at updating names than CAAS is, so it is very possible that if you use a valid name that is very new it will not appear. That is one reason the final word for nomenclature is CAAS.

    Finding All the Species in a Genus

    If you are sure that the genus name is correct, but your results for the species are questionable, you can find all the valid species in that genus.
    1. Open the link to to get to the search page.
    2. Use the Scientific Name search option.
    3. Type the genus name in the Genus field (spelling counts).
    4. Click the search button.
    A list of species that are attributed to that genus will appear, but they may not all be valid names. There is a link at the top of the table 'See Only Valid Names' and the other names will disappear from the chart.

    Finding a List of Genera With a Species Name

    If you are sure the species is correct, but the genus is questionable, you can get a list of all the valid genera that have a fish with that species name.
    1. Open the link to to get to the search page.
    2. Use the Scientific Name search option.
    3. Type the species name in the Species field (spelling counts).
    4. Click the search button.
    A list will appear, but not all of the names will be valid. The same 'See Only Valid Names' link is at the top of the page, and clicking it will remove the invalid names.

    Summary is an extremely valuable tool and could easily be considered the default system in the club. The reasons it is not are described above. There is a link in the FB search page that takes to to an explanation of why the two databases are different (FB vs CAAS... interesting reading). You may find that FB is a lot easier for you to use and understand, which is perfectly fine. But after you have reached the end point of your search on FB, please verify your result on CAAS.
  4. tjudy

    tjudy Advisory Board Staff Member

    Lesson Three: (CI) and Undescribed Species (CI)
    One of the best resources on the Internet for cichlid information that is accurate and up to date is . This web site is an excellent bridge between scientific literature and the hobby of keeping cichlids. It is a membership site, but you can search the species database to get the correct name of a fish without being a member. Membership is $25 if you buy it from the website directly, or you can join the American Cichlid Association for $35, and a membership to the website is included.

    CI only has cichlids, but it provides a lot more information about the species written in an easy to understand way than the larger databases do. The species lists for each genus include a photo (if the site has one), and most species pages have several pictures. One of the most important features for MAAH is that the site lists undescribed species that the other databases do not.

    To access and navigate the CI database:
    1. Open the homepage link at .
    2. Click on the Cichlids - All Cichlid Species link at the top of the left menu column
    3. The database is organized by continent... find the genus you are looking for in the correct list, and click on it.
    4. The genus page will come up. If you have a membership there will be a lot of information on the page. The valid species list is the left-side menu. Scroll through those to find the one you are looking for. There are also undescribed fish in the list.
    5. Open the species you are looking for. If you have a membership you will see a lot of information. If you are not, you will still be able to see the valid species name.
    A membership to CI opens a lot of excellent resources, including an easy to follow history of the names that a species has been described as in the past. This can be very helpful if you are searching for an older name that is no longer valid. The species pages also include bibliographies of the papers and articles that refer the the species. The website also has a collection of articles you can access, and databases of articles about cichlids that appear in other major magazines and journals. You can even buy digital copies of some of Ad Konings books on CI. A membership is worth the cost.

    BE CAREFUL... CI is a website build by hobbyists... very knowledgable hobbyists, but not scientists. And some of the species designations are opinion, especially the undescribed species. In general, scientists are not worried about undescribed species (unless they are working to describe them). And sometimes species names are not updated quickly or consistently. Start here to find out cool stuff, but always verify with CAAS.

    Undescribed Species
    Species that do not have a valid name (not yet described) are very common in the hobby. Typically, they are written using one of a few forms of open nomenclature. You can think of 'open nomenclature' as 'open to interpretation'. These names have no real validity, but may provide some clues as to what the fish is related to. It should be noted that the hobby abuses open nomenclature, and scientists usually ignore the hobbyist names. That is why you will rarely find any reference to open nomenclature in either the FB or CAAS databases. You will see it a lot in the hobby databases (like

    Here is a list of the types of open nomenclature and where you might see them (most of this is copied from Wikipedia):

    • Sp. aff. or aff. (short for "species affinis") indicates a potentially new and undescribed species has an affinity to, but is not identical to, the named species.
    Example: Pelvicachromis silviae (valid name) was listed as Pelvicachromis sp. aff. subocellatus before it was described, because it is similar to P. subocellatus (another valid species).
    • Sp. (pl. spp.; short for "species") indicates potentially new species without remarking on its possible affinity. This suggests either that identification has not yet been completed or that currently available evidence and material are insufficient to allocate the specimens to relevant known taxa, or alternatively, that as yet the specimen cannot be assigned to a new taxon of its own with sufficient confidence.
    Example: Pseudotropheus sp. elongatus 'Mphanga' was written this way because the fish was thought to likely be a member of the genus Pseudotropheus. But when it was described, it was put into the new genus Chindongo.
    • Cf. (short for the Latin: confer, "compare with") or a question mark (?) signify varying degrees or types of uncertainty and may be used differently depending on the author. In more recent usage, "cf." indicates greater uncertainty than a question mark.
    Hobbyists often think the 'cf' means 'color form', but it does not. It means, roughly, 'this species is likely in this genus, compare it to this species. For example, Apistogramma cf. cacatuoides is an undescribed fish that is similar in many ways to the valid species Apistogramma cacatuoides, but it is not.

    The way that we handle undescribed species in the MAAH BAP program is to submit them using the designation that is commonly accepted in the hobby. That is very vague, but it is the best that we can do. When you have a species that is undescribed, your task is to try to verify that it is actually unidentified. If your fish is a cichlid, then CI is a useful tool. There are other hobbyist websites for other types of fish that are helpful too. This will be described in another lesson.

    If you do have a species to submit that is undescribed, submit it using the whatever designation you have narrowed it down to. The BAP committee will have to do some research to verify your work. This is just checks and balances, but if you do it first then we have a place to start from.

    Someday that species will be described. What will happen is that its name will be changed in the BAP records, and on your personal BAP records. For example, if you submitted Pseudotropheus sp. 'elongatus Mphanga' then your record will be changed to Chindongo elongatus 'Mphanga'. No points will change, but you would not be able to resubmit the species as a new spawn just because the name changed.

    CI is a great resource for cichlids, and it is singled out in this lesson because cichlids are so popular and have a lot of changing names that CI can help you with. But it is not a perfect source, and all species need to be verified on CAAS before submitting. Undescribed species will not appear in FB or CAAS, so when you submit them use the name that is most commonly used in the aquarium hobby.
    SteveS likes this.
  5. tjudy

    tjudy Advisory Board Staff Member

    Lesson 4: Other Relatively Reliable Websites

    There is a website out there for just about any group of fish that you want to keep, but very few of those sites are kept up to date consistently. The rule is always to take what you find on the Internet and verify it with CAAS. If the name you find on any of the sites described below is NOT current status valid on CAAS, then that name is not correct in the eyes of MAAH BAP. If you have a website that has a decent database of species that you like to use, let me know (tjudy on the forum) and I will add it to this list.

    Seriously Fish
    • very limited, but accurate
    • excellent information on each species that is listed
    • free hobbyist website that has the most up do date lists of catfish on the web
    • somewhat complete lists of C and CW numbers (undescribed species of Corydoras and similar genera) and L-numbers (undescribed species of loricariid catfish)
    • excellent source of information for species details
    Killifish of West Africa
    • free hobbyists site associated with the AKA
    • no where near complete, but better than most
    Goodeid Working Group
    • free hobbyists site
    • goodeid livebearers only
    • probably very accurate, since there is little change in this group of fish
    Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center
    • University site with lists of current swordtail, platy and other Xiphophorus types
    • probably very accurate
    • has some pictures
    Loaches Online
    • free hobbyist website
    • best loach list on the web
    • accurate and consistently up to date
    SteveS likes this.
  6. tjudy

    tjudy Advisory Board Staff Member

    Lesson 5: Ornamentals and Hybrids

    There are some fish in the hobby that no accurate scientific name can be applied to. These are the ornamental fish that are the result of artificial selection to the point where they cannot be recognized as wild-type fish, and the hybrids that are the cross between species (and sometimes genera). The MAAH BAP permits the submission of these fish, but there are some rules that limit what you can do. Please read the species rules here: BAP Rules

    The most important thing in the rules is this... MAAH BAP does not accept mutts from random crosses that result in fish that are not established strains in the hobby, because crossing pure-breeding strains breaks the genetic integrity of both strains, and the offspring will not breed true. This includes crossing an ornamental strain to a wild type, because the resulting offspring are not either wild type or that established ornamental strain. Selective breeding may eventually reproduce the phenotype of that ornamental strain, but it may take generations to do. Should you experiment with crossing strains to get new colors... yes, if that is the type of breeding program you want to engage in. Should you submit the offspring of those experiments to BAP... NO!!!!

    Another clarification... there are a very few examples of ornamental strains that require the crossing of different phenotypes to maintain the genetic health of the strain. In those cases it is possible that there are two different color forms in the offspring. The MAAH BAP rules will permit the submission of those different, established, color forms, but you cannot submit them both from one spawn. Here are a couple examples:
    • The black/gold gene in Pterophyllum scalare angelfish... the black gene is dominant over the gold gene, but a black fish with two black genes (homozygous) is not as healthy as a black fish with one of each gene (heterozygous). The common practice is to breed a heterozygous black fish to a homozygous recessive gold fish. Both black and gold offspring will be produced. This is an established and recognized genetic form of this species that breeds true. You can submit black offspring from one spawn, and then gold offspring from a different spawn from the same pair.
    • The albino wild type / albino gene in Pelvicachromis pulcher (common krib cichlid)... the albino gene is dominant over the wild type gene. The common practice is to spawn a heterozygous albino fish to a homozygous recessive wild type fish. Both color forms will appear in the offspring. This is a true-breeding genetic situation that is accepted in the hobby.
    If the genetic result of a cross between different phenotypes is predictable and consistent every time fish of those genotypes are spawned together, then the strain is pure-breeding even if the phenotypes are different. These fish are acceptable. If the results are not predictable, and the phenotypes are a mish-mash of traits and not pure, then the offspring are not acceptable.

    Naming Ornamentals and Hybrids on BAP Submission Forms
    The names that we use on the BAP submission forms for ornamental and hybrid fish should follow these guidelines.

    Established Ornamental Strain, Variety or Color Form of a Known Species
    The this fish's species in known, then that name is used in the species line on the form followed by the strain, variety or color form descriptor in quotes. You can also enter the descriptor in the common name field. Pattern: Genus + species + 'descriptor'

    gold marble angelfish = Pterophyllum scalare 'gold marble'
    albino aeneus cory cat = Corydoras aeneus 'albino'
    electric blue ram cichlid = Mikrogeophagus ramirezi 'electric blue'
    German blue ram cichlid = Mikrogeophagus ramirezi 'German blue'
    Moscow blue guppy = Peocilia reticulata 'Moscow blue'
    red wag platy = Xiphophorus maculatus 'red wag'
    red tiger oscar = Astronotus ocellatus 'red tiger'
    blue half moon betta = Betta splendens 'blue half moon'

    Established Ornamental Strain, Variety or Color Form When the Species is Not Known

    There are a few fish in the hobby that are very well established that we have no clue what the species is, and they are most likely the result of many hybridizations (many unintentional) over a long period of time by many people. There are a few of these that may be the result of crossing fish from different genera, but the back crossing to perfect the strain leads back to the fish looking like one genus more than the other. The best example of this situation is the OB peacock cichlid. The name to use is the genus name followed by the 'sp.' designation and a descriptor. Pattern: Genus + 'sp.' + 'descriptor'

    common brown bristlenose pleco = Ancistrus sp. 'brown'
    longfin albino bristlenose pleco = Ancistrus sp. 'longfin albino'
    German red peacock cichlid = Aulonocara sp. 'German red'
    red dragon peacock cichlid = Aulonocara sp. 'red dragon'
    steel blue apisto cichlid = Apistogramma sp. 'steel blue'
    OB peacock cichlid = Aulonocara sp. 'OB'

    Established Species-Hybrid Strains, Variety or Color Form
    There are several ornamental fish that are the result of crossing species together and then using artificial selection to create pure-breeding strains that are established in the hobby. The key here is that the species involved are known and established. The name is the genus followed by both species names and the descriptor. Pattern: Genus + species x species + 'descriptor'

    red velvet swordtail = Xiphophorus helleri x maculatus 'red velvet'
    green tiger Endler's livebearer = Poecilia wingei x reticulatus 'green tiger'

    Established Hybrid Strains That Involve Multiple Genera and/or Species
    There are a few established fish in the hobby that breed true enough to accept as an ornamental strain that are the result of crossing several species of more than one genus over time. The name for this type of hybrid will be the family name followed by 'ornamental' and the descriptor. Pattern: Family + ornamental + 'descriptor'

    red Texas cichlid hybrid = Cichlidae ornamental 'red Texas'
    flowerhorn cichlid = Cichlidae ornamental 'flower horn'

    Submitting ornamental fish to MAAH BAP can be the most difficult type of spawn to verify, especially with fish that are very new and not yet established. We want to encourage fish breeding, but we do not want to have a program that is full of fish that are not pure-breeding strains. So if you have a fish that you want to submit, and its ornamental designation is not easy and obvious to you, the best way to determine if you can submit the fish is to look around and see how commonly available the fish is. If they are available from multiple sellers (stores, online sellers and private breeders) in consistent form, color and name... then it is an established fish in the hobby. If the fish is not something that the BAP committee can find in other places, we will need to have a discussion about whether we will accept it into the program or not.
    SteveS likes this.
  7. tjudy

    tjudy Advisory Board Staff Member

    Lesson 6: Wild Type... No Strain, Variety, Location or Color Form

    This tutorial has covered a lot of examples where the species has a descriptor of strain, variety, location or color form, but there are going to me many situations when the fish does not have one of those. Entering the name on the submission form is simply the genus name followed by the species name. Pattern: Genus + species

    Any fish that you breed that does not have a descriptor will use this pattern. These fish are typically tank strain fish in wild type color forms, and are often the fish that you can find in retail stores because they are produced in huge numbers on fish farms around the world.

    jack dempsey cichlid = Rocio octofasciata
    plain (feeder) guppy = Poecilia reticulata
    black neon tetra = Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi

    The terms 'wild' or 'wild type' are not descriptors that you would use as a strain, variety, location or color form. 'Wild type' means that the color form is consistent with what a wild fish should look like, and it does not have a phenotype that is a mutation from the wild form. You should never submit a name like Poecilia caucana 'wild type'. Fish that come in from the wild are common in the hobby, but unless the exact collecting location is well documented they are just fish with the wild type color pattern. A location is a very specific place (town, stream, lake, etc...) where the fish were collected. A country or a large river is not a useful location. You would not use a name like Corydoras metae 'Colombia', because there are many location in Colombia where this fish is found.
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