In 1935 Ahl obtained fish from a commercial shipment identified as "Calabar" - the capital city of Cross River State, in Southern Nigeria, near the Cameroon border. "Kalabari", however, also refers to a specific tribe in the region. The Kalabari people are Ijaw speaking settlers that were originally fishermen before the coming of the Portuguese to the West African coastline. The Kalabari, like most Nigerian coastline tribes, traded with Europeans; there are some Ijaw who consider the Kalabari as a different ethnic group and vice versa. Historically Kalabari settlements have always been close to a river, because they believed their powers came from deities in the water.
In 1935, the ichthyologist Ernst Ahl described under the name of “Aphyosemion calabaricus” fishes he had obtained in the commercial circuit and which had been presented as coming from "Calabar" in the area of the Niger delta. This fish was then reproduced and distributed to aquarists under the name of Aphyosemion calabaricum, and much later Roloffia calabarica. (the breeding of killifish did not start in the 70’s as is often thought…).
In 1965, the ichthyologist Stenholt Clausen collected in Liberia, about twenty miles from the capital city Monrovia, one male and three females of a fish which, according to his observations and those of Jorgen Scheel, presented all the characteristics of the "calabaricus". The real origin of the "calabaricus" was therefore becoming clearer. Jorgen Scheel considered that this fish was Aphyosemion liberiensis and the "calabaricus" then became among aquarists the "liberiensis old Aquarium Strain" (old AS).
Little by little, after the many discoveries of new species of killifish, fewer and fewer aquarists kept this "liberiensis old Aquarium Strain" and it was considered to have disappeared from aquariums in the 80’s.
But, in the early 2000’s, it was realized that american aquarists in the San Francisco area, Than Nguyen and Bill Gallagher, were still maintaining "old Aquarium Strain liberiensis". Their fish were definitively identified as being of the old strain of "calabaricus" by Robert Ellermann, an experienced american killifish breeder who had raised it himself in the early 1970’s. After research, it turned out that this fish had been brought to San Francisco by Erhard Roloff in 1969 under the name "Roloffia calabarica" but that this name had been changed to "liberiensis" after Jorgen Scheel's conclusions about its real identity. (thanks to Robert Ellermann for all these informations)
After this “rediscovery”, particular efforts of reproduction and diffusion of this old stock were made in the United States, and this fish returned to the aquariums of the whole world. In memory of this story, it is released today as Scriptaphyosemion “liberiensis calabaricus”, or “calabaricus”. (the name of "calabarica", feminine declination of calabaricus was used for a time when this fish had been attached to the feminine genus Roloffia, now invalidated). (Scriptaphyosemion genus was created in 1987).
Another proof that killifish strains can be maintained for a long time in aquariums. In this case since 1935, almost a century….
Scriptaphyosemion, as Aphyosemion, is a Latin neutral gender so it should be calabaricum and not calabaricus, as it is the case for example with Aphyosemion congicum. - Adapted from an article by Ken Lazara, the EtyFish project