Flora and fauna
The geology of the rocks around the lake has led to the water being unusually hard (between 7° and 11° dH), alkaline (average 8.4 pH) and rich in minerals for a freshwater lake. It is not an ideal environment for normal aquatic plants, and so these are generally found near the entry of rivers into the lake but not elsewhere. Various species of algae have adapted to fill this ecological niche, and extensive 'lawns' of grass-like algae cover many of the lake's submerged rocks.
The water's excellent clarity, the lack of cover and the rocky shores do not encourage either hippo or crocodiles, though both become more common around the relatively undisturbed shores of Sumbu. They are also seen regularly near the mouths of rivers, and must always be remembered before you swim. The lake is a reliable source of water for the game, which often come to drink during the dry season.
The birdlife on the shoreline is generally good, and the species found here also tend to represent many more of the typical East African birds than can be found elsewhere in Zambia. The area's more unusual residents include purple-throated cuckoo-shrikes, white-headed saw-wings, stout cisticolas, and Oustalet's white-bellied sunbird.
Lake Tanganyika and the other lakes in the rift valley continue to fascinate both zoologists and aquarists as they have evolved their own endemic species of fish. So far, around 450 have been identified in Tanganyika, mostly from the Cichlidae
family – cichlids (pronounced sick-lids) as they are known. Many of these are small, colourful fish that live close to the surface and the shoreline. Here they inhabit crevices in the rocks and other natural cavities, avoiding the attention of larger, predatory fishes that patrol the deeper, more open, waters.
These are generally easy to keep in home aquaria, being small, colourful, and fairly undemanding; several operations have sprung up in recent years to catch specimens for the pet trade, and fly them out to Europe and America. One of the lake's lodges makes most of its living out of this, and tourism is really just an emerging side-line for them.
For anglers, who will find most of the cichlids too small to be of interest, the lake is the furthest south that the goliath tigerfish or Nile perch can be found, and an excellent place for the nkupi
, which are the largest cichlids in the world. All are eagerly sought by fishermen, with the best time for fishing being between November and March. This is taken very seriously as Nile perch can reach an impressive 80kg in weight.