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Chitala blanci (D'AUBENTON, 1965)

Royal Featherback

SynonymsTop ↑

Notopterus blanci d’Aubenton, 1965

Etymology

Chitala: a Bengali vernacular name for members of this genus.

blanci: in honour of “friend and colleague M. Blanc, in memory of an especially dangerous fish-collecting trip in 1959”.

Classification

Order: Osteoglossiformes Family: Notopteridae

Distribution

Endemic to the Mekong river drainage in Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, including the Mekong delta region and Tonlé Sap lake system.

Type locality is ‘Beng-Cha, upper Mekong River, northern Cambodia’.

Habitat

Mostly recorded from the Mekong main channel and lower parts of certain tributaries, where it displays a preference for rocky habitats such as deep pools and rapids, typically with moderate to fast-flowing water. Moves into areas of flooded forest to spawn.

It is thought to be threatened by dam construction and other anthropogenic habitat alterations.

Maximum Standard Length

800 – 1200 mm.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Suitable only for public installations or the very largest, highly-specialised private aquaria.

Maintenance

Prefers dim lighting and access to refuges in the form of driftwood, large rocks or lengths of plastic piping.

A large, mature filter system, rigorous maintenance regime comprising weekly water changes of 50-70% tank volume, and provision of highly-oxygenated water with a degree of movement should be considered mandatory.

Water Conditions

Temperature20 – 28 °C

pH6.0 – 8.0

Hardness36 – 268 ppm

Diet

An obligate, typically nocturnal, predator feeding on smaller fishes, crustaceans and other invertebrates in nature but in most cases adapting well to dead alternatives in captivity.

Young fish can be offered chironomid larvae (bloodworm), small earthworms, chopped prawn and suchlike while adults will accept strips of fish flesh, whole prawns/shrimp, mussels, live river shrimp, larger earthworms, etc., as well as dried pellets although the latter should not form the staple diet.

This species should not be fed mammalian or avian meat such as beef heart or chicken since some of the lipids contained in these cannot be properly metabolised by the fish and may cause excess fat deposits 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 the risk of parasite or disease introduction and at any rate tend not have a high nutritional value unless properly conditioned beforehand.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Relatively peaceful with fishes too large to be considered prey but can be territorial with conspecifics and other similarly-shaped species, especially if space is at a premium.

Sexual Dimorphism

Unreported.

Reproduction

Unreported in captivity but in nature male individuals contruct nests from branches and leaves and remains to guard the eggs and fry post-spawning, which takes place in areas of flooded forest during the wet season.

NotesTop ↑

This species is also referred to as ‘royal knifefish’ in the aquarium trade although it arguably has no place in the ornamental hobby given its adult size and specialised requirements.

It can be distinguished from congeners by presence of many small, dark spots on the anterior portion of the body which merge to form oblique, irregular stripes extending onto the anal and caudal fins posteriorly.

Notopterids are distributed in Africa and Southeast Asia and all possess an elongated anal-fin which is continuous with the caudal-fin, a ‘humped’ appearance, very small scales, plus the ability to breathe atmospheric air.

References

  1. D'Aubenton, F., 1865 - Bulletin du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (Série 2) 37(2): 261-264
    Notopterus blanci n. sp., nouvelle espèce de poisson Notopteridae de haut Mékong cambodgien.
  2. Kottelat, M., 2013 - The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 27: 1-663
    The fishes of the inland waters of southeast Asia: a catalogue and core bibliography of the fishes known to occur in freshwaters, mangroves and estuaries.
  3. Kottelat, M., 2001 - WHT Publications, Colombo: 1-198
    Fishes of Laos.
  4. Kottelat, M., 1998 - Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 9(1): 1-128
    Fishes of the Nam Theun and Xe Bangfai basins, Laos, with diagnoses of twenty-two new species (Teleostei: Cyprinidae, Balitoridae, Cobitidae, Coiidae and Odontobutidae).
  5. Rainboth, W. J., 1996 - FAO, Rome: 1-265
    FAO species identification field guide for fishery purposes. Fishes of the Cambodian Mekong.

One Response to “Chitala blanci – Royal Featherback (Notopterus blanci)”

  • MorayMaster

    The most attractive of knifefish species, with great personality. Can be very aggressive once sexually mature.


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