SAIAB is the custodian of the National Fish Collection of South Africa. The size of the collection consists of approximately 122 466 lots of fish specimens (containing at least 1 012 552 individual fish specimens) which includes 2 444 types, 436 families, 2 250 genera, 5 987 species, and over 60 000 associated tissue samples from southern Africa and its surrounding oceans, and elsewhere in the world.

Specimens held in our collection are indicative of SAIAB’s aquatic research spanning over 50 years. It is the world’s largest collection of southern African fishes and there are small growing collections of amphibians, tunicates (sea squirts) and cephalopods (squids and octopuses). SAIAB is also home to the National Diatom Collection held at the North West University in Potchefstroom.

SAIAB has an open access policy towards data and loans. Data is accessible through the GBIF link below:

SAIAB Collections data - Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Data Search

For loans, please contact the Collections Manager, Mr Nkosinathi Mazungula ( using the Material Transfer Agreement.

Platform User Form:

Material Transfer Agreement: Download the MTA form here

Socio-economic implications
  • SAIAB’s data and scientists contribute to the southern African IUCN Red Data assessments every ten years.
  • Sustainable development tools such as environmental impact assessments, water use licenses and biodiversity management require data based on natural history collections.
  • Biosecurity and invasive species management.
  • Extensive use by global taxonomic community.
  • Universities, non-government organisations and private consultants.
Development of CT scanning capabilities.
  • Globally recognised repository for sub-Saharan freshwater and marine taxa with particular emphasis on fishes, diatoms, cephalopods, tunicates and amphibians.
  • State-of-the-art curatorial infrastructure.
  • Fully databased collections management system (Specify).
  • Visitors and loans facilities available.
Transformation & Capacity Development
  • Postgraduate research.
  • Development of next generation collections staff and scientists.
  • Graduate Internships from Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), Groen-Sebenza, World Wide Fund (WWF-SA).
  • Department of Science and Innovation (DSI)
  • National Research Foundation (NRF)
    National Science Collections Facility (NSCF)
    • Biodiversity Biobanks South Africa (BBSA)

The Team