The Taiwan bitterling is a brilliantly colored, 3-inch temperate-water cyprinid. It hails from the
highlands of Taiwan. As a child on summer vacation, I was
enchanted to watch these bitterlings flit along the shoreline
of Sun Moon Lake.
Bitterlings are beloved by hobbyists for the males’ brilliant
nuptial coloration, as well as their interesting breeding
habits. These fish deposit eggs into mussels that are found
in their natural habitat. The females possess a retractable
ovipositor that can be extended during spawning; this
tube can be longer than the total body
length of the specimen. The ovipositor
is inserted into the intake siphon of
the host mussel, and she lays her eggs
inside it. The male releases sperm
that are drawn in by the filter-feeding
mollusk, and the eggs are fertilized.
The eggs and fry develop inside the
mussel, and after several weeks the
fry are expelled from their host. It is
rumored that P. himantegus will only
breed in one species of mussel.
Typical of bitterlings, these are active
and durable fish that do well in hard-water-filled, room-temperature aquaria.
My good friend Steve Ehrlich of the
famed Shedd Aquarium is currently
erecting a display of these wonderful
fish to thrill the masses. This 400-
gallon exhibit will be featured in the
aquarium’s River Gallery. D
Taiwan BitterlingParacheilognathus himantegus