Pikeheads Luciocephalus aura and L.pulcher
The pikeheads are rarities best attempted by advanced aquarists only. These sensitive fish can be found in blackwater swamps
and slow-moving streams. I have collected them in tannin-stained
streams in Western Malaysia where the dominant pikeheads live
in the deeper channels, preferring areas with caves and other
forms of shelter.
Luciocephalus aura originates from Indonesia and L. pulcher
comes from Malaysia. Pikeheads inhabit the darkest of peat
swamps as well as clear-running, lushly vegetated forest streams.
Their main diet within the peat swamps are small fishes such as
Parosphromenus species and Rasbora pauciperforata. These unique
fish swim slowly, evoking images of small sticks floating in water.
In clear water streams, these labyrinth fish share their habitat
with other anabantoids such as combtails Belontia hasselti,
climbing perch Anabas testudineus, and leaffish Pristolepis
species. Their highly protrusible jaws extend instantaneously
into a translucent funnel.
In the home aquarium, these mouthbrooders prefer a tranquil
species tank. Provide soft, acidic water and plenty of cover. The
maximum size is around 5 inches for peppermints L. aura, and 8
inches for giants L. pulcher.
Ihave collected these silver, red, and yellow beauties in Burma (Myanmar) from the Irrawaddy River. This large and turbid
watercourse is where Mystacoleucus argenteus roam in schools
over an open substrate of sand and mud. Being that their habitat
has little in the way of plants or submerged rocks and trees, the
congregations of this fish are easily captured with a clean sweep
of a seine net.
These attractive, lemon-finned barbs are rarely imported.
This is unfortunate, as M. argenteus make desirable aquarium
subjects—they are active, colorful, and hardy fishes. They are
similar to tinfoil barbs, but unlike them M. argenteus top out at
a manageable 6 inches in length. The only drawback to these
cyprinids is that they can be rather nervous and flighty in the
confines of an aquarium.
photographs by the author
Stan Sung has collected fish
worldwide, non-stop since 1988. His
love of tropical fish, photography, and
exploration has brought him from
the oases of Morocco to the jungles of
Malaysia. He’s particularly interested
in wild fish from South America
and Asia, and keeps a finger on the
pulse of the aquarium-fish industry
through relationships with Southern
California suppliers like Poseidon
Aquatics and Southland Aquatics,
as well as collectors and exporters
in South America, Australia,
Central America, and Asia.
Here is a beautiful little barb whose identity is surrounded in mystery. Like
many barbs, the drape-fins take their time to
develop into beautiful fishes. Once mature,
the neon drape-fins actively display to one
another with their sail-like fins erect. When
excited, the body of this species is flushed with
red coloration. The usually dark spot on their
caudal peduncle flashes metallic blue.
These barbs will bluster and display all
day long, sometimes even locking jaws for
prolonged periods of time. At this time, not
much is known about the ecology of this
species. They make exceptional aquarium
subjects due to their beautiful coloration and
finnage, as well as their interesting behaviors.
Drape-fin Barb Oreichthys sp.