Native to Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and the Greater Sunda Islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
It is a pelagic species primarily occuring in rivers and larger streams with substrates of sand and boulders, often in forested areas. Adult specimens tend to be found in deeper habitats such as pools or slow-moving stretches but sometimes move into faster-flowing water to feed. In the exceptionally diverse Danau Sentarum lake system of the upper Kapuas River basin, Borneo, sympatric species include Scleropages formosus, Barbonymus gonionotus, B. schwanenfeldii, Crossocheilus nigriloba, Cyclocheilichthys apogon, C. janthochir, C. repasson, Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus, Labiobarbus ocellatus , Leptobarbus hoevenii, two further Luciosoma species plus various representatives of ‘Puntius‘, Rasbora, Osteochilus and many more.
Maximum Standard Length
A large specimen can measure 10″/25cm.
Aquarium SizeTop ↑
Very active and a tank measuring 6′ x 2′ x 2’/180cm x 60cm x 60cm/540 litres should be the minimum size considered.
Choice of decor is not as critical as water quality and the amount of open swimming-space provided; we’ve seen very healthy-looking specimens being maintained in completely bare set-ups for example. However should you possess the means to both provide and decorate a sufficiently-sized tank for long term care this species would look superb in a set-up designed to resemble a flowing river with a substrate of variably-sized rocks and gravel, some large water-worn boulders and perhaps a couple of driftwood branches. A giant rivertank manifold could even be constructed to provide naturalistic unidirectional flow although torrent-like conditions should be avoided.
Like many other species that hail from running waters it is quite intolerant to the accumulation of organic wastes and requires spotless water at all times in order to thrive. It also does best if there is a high level of dissolved oxygen and a decent level of water movement in the tank. Even if a rivertank manifold is installed an enormous external-style filter or two are going to be needed in order to provide the desired levels of oxygen, flow and surface area for bacterial colonisation. Be sure to fit the tank with a heavy, tightly-fitting cover as it can be quite skittish at times and has a powerful leap.
Temperature: 75 – 81°F/24 – 27°C
pH: 6.0 – 7.5
Hardness: 4 – 15°H
In nature this surface-dweller feeds mainly on invertebrates both aquatic and terrestrial, particularly insects, although smaller fish are taken as well. It has been observed leaping from the water to catch flying insects. In the aquarium it’s easily-fed but for it to develop its best colours and condition offer regular meals of live and frozen foods such as bloodworm, Daphnia and Artemia along with good quality dried flakes and granules. Larger specimens can be offered earthworms, chopped prawn, crickets, etc.
This species should not be fed large amounts of mammalian/avian meat such as beef heart or chicken. Some of the lipids contained in these meats cannot be properly metabolised by the fish and can cause excess deposits of fat and even organ degeneration. Similarly there is no benefit in the use of ‘feeder’ fish such as livebearers or small goldfish which carry with them associated risks such as the introduction of parasites or disease.
Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑
Usually peaceful with anything it can’t swallow but its speed of movement and vigorous feeding habits mean that slow-moving or shy tankmates will simply be outcompeted. Smaller specimens are easy to maintain alongside many other species but as they grow become increasingly powerful and domineering at meal times. This can lead to a situation where the other fish in the tank are unable to feed so companions must be chosen with care. Similarly-sized cyprinids such as Barilius, Barbonymus, Cyclocheilichthys, Osteochilus, Balantiocheilus and perhaps larger Botiine loaches are among the best choices.
Although it is gregarious by nature it is a shoaling rather than schooling species which develops a distinct pecking order and therefore should always be maintained in a group of five or more. If only two or three are purchased the subdominant fish may be bullied incessantly whereas solitary specimens tend to act somewhat nervously or may become aggressive towards similar-looking tankmates.
Sexually mature females are likely to be thicker-bodied than males.
As far as we know this species has not been bred in captivity.
There exist five species in the genus of which L. spilopleura is most commonly seen on sale in the aquarium trade. Given that it is readily available we find it surprising that it is so poorly-documented in aquarium literature. All members of the genus look superficially similar and occupy analogous ecological niches in nature. While the other species may never be imported in large numbers it is worth keeping an eye on shipments of wild fish from Indochina, Sumatra and Borneo as the more widely-distributed ones such as L. bleekeri and L. setigerum (the latter often being confused with L. spilopleura) may turn up on occasion.
Rainboth’s ‘Fishes of the Cambodian Mekong’ characterised members of the genus by the possession of an unbranched, non-spiny first dorsal fin ray and seven soft dorsal rays, six branched anal fin rays, a large mouth extending below the eye with four prominent barbels and the origin of the dorsal fin being in the posterior half of the body.
- Rainboth, W. J. 1996 - FAO, Rome, 265 p.
Fishes of the Cambodian Mekong. FAO Species Identification Field Guide for Fishery Purposes.