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Datnioides microlepis BLEEKER, 1854

Indonesian Tiger Perch


Datnioides: from the genus name Datnia and Ancient Greek εἶδος ‎(eîdos), meaning ‘form, likeness’.

microlepis: from the Ancient Greek μικρός ‎(mikrós), meaning ‘small’, and λεπίς ‎(lepís), meaning ‘scale’.


Order: Perciformes Family: Datnioididae


Apparently restricted to the Malay Peninsula and western Indonesia, where it is known from the Perak and Selangor river systems in Peninsular Malaysia, Batang Hari and Musi watersheds in Sumatra, and Kapuas basin in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). It is unclear whether its range extends into peninsular Thailand, while records from the Chao Phraya and Mekong river basins refer to the congener D. pulcher.

Type locality is ‘Kapuas River, Pontianak, Borneo, Indonesia’.


An exclusive inhabitant of large, deep, typically lowland freshwater rivers, and not thought to enter brackish environments. It has been collected from flooded forests during the annual wet season.

Maximum Standard Length

400 – 500 mm.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Suitable only for public installations or the very largest private aquaria.


Juveniles and subadults should be provided with a well-decorated, planted aquarium with driftwood roots and branches. Larger individuals are relatively unfussy, although some surface cover in the form of floating or overhanging vegetation or branches is appreciated. The addition of marine salt is not required at any life stage.

Datnioides spp. typically produce a lot of waste so the use of large external filters is essential. If possible buy units with built in heaters or at least fit a sturdy heater-guard since adults have been known to damage submerged equipment. Sump systems also work well, and the heater can be housed within.

They do not travel well and can be tricky to stabilise post-import, often refusing to feed and continuously exhibiting a colour pattern indicative of stress but also displayed at night. In D. microlepis the dark body bars fade, leaving only the margins or a series of spots distinctly visible, with the majority of the body greyish, brownish, or blackish.

Water Conditions

Temperature20 – 28 °C

pH5.5 – 7.5

Hardness36 – 268 ppm


An efficient, largely piscivorous, predator with highly protrusible mouthparts. In the aquarium, juveniles can be offered chironomid larvae (bloodworm), small earthworms, chopped prawn, and suchlike, while adults will accept strips of fish flesh, whole prawns, mussels, live river shrimp, larger earthworms, etc. Older individuals do not require feeding on a daily basis, with 2-3 times per week sufficient.

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 tend not have a high nutritional value unless properly conditioned beforehand.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Can be maintained alongside similarly-sized fishes if sufficient space is available, but might be intimidated by territorial or otherwise competitive species.

Although juveniles may form groups, adults are not gregarious and tend to respond aggressively to conspecifics and similarly-shaped fishes. They are best maintained singly or in a group of 5 or more individuals.

Sexual Dimorphism



Unrecorded in captivity. Observations by local fishermen in the Kapuas River suggest it to be non-migratory, spawning in April and May, with no parental care.

NotesTop ↑

In aquarium literature this species is also referred to as ‘fine scaled tiger fish’, ‘Indonesian tiger fish (or ‘IT’)’, ‘Sumatran tiger fish’, ‘Indo datnoid’, ‘Indo dat’, and ‘false Siamese tiger fish’. The common name of ‘tiger fish’ is also used in reference to the African alestid genus Hydrocynus, therefore the more appropriate ‘tiger perch’ was suggested by Roberts and Kottelat (1994).

D. microlepis is distinguished from all congeners by the following combination of characters: presence of 6-7 wide dark bars on the body, the first of which usually continues uninterrupted across the opercle, onto the thoracic region, and across the ventral surface of the body (vs. 4-5 wide bars in D. pulcher; 4-6 wide bars with diffuse margins in D. campbelli; up to 7 bars, sometimes with 1-4 smaller bars between in D. polota; 4 relatively thinner bars, first bar sometimes not continuous on operculum, not usually extending onto thoracic region or ventral surface of body, sometimes a single, additional partial bar in D. undecimradiatus); a distinct black marking immediately anterior to the pelvic-fin base (vs. no such marking in D. undecimradiatus); body scales small, with 70-100 in the lateral series (vs. large, 40-60 in the lateral series in D. polota and D. campbelli); predorsal profile almost straight (vs. distinctly concave in D. polota and D. campbelli).

There are additional differences in colour pattern and meristic characters, and in practice it is difficult to confuse D. microlepis with any species other than D. pulcher, these two having been considered conspecific prior to 1998. In principle they can be separated by the number of dark body bars, but this observation appears to be based solely on specimens from Borneo with the colour pattern of Sumatran and Malaysian populations undocumented. Adult individuals can usually be separated on the basis of base body colour, which tends towards orangey-brown in D. pulcher, dirty yellowish-grey in D. microlepis.

In the ornamental trade D. microlepis is the most widely available tiger perch and is sometimes sold as D. pulcher in order to raise prices, since the latter is considered critically endangered in the wild and may already be extirpated from Thailand. Both species are also fished for human consumption.

Following Kottelat (2001), the genus Datnioides is diagnosed by the following combination of characters: second spinous anal-fin ray longer than the first and third rays; presence of fine teeth and 2-3 blunt spines on the edge of the opercle; 50+ lateral line scales; barred colour pattern.

Members were included in the genus Coius during the 1990s, but Coius is now considered to be a synonym of the genus Anabas (Kottelat, 2000). The former family name Coiidae is thus a synonym of Anabantidae, and Datnioides species comprise the monotypic family Datnioididae. The genus has also been included in the marine tripletail family Lobotidae in the past, and preliminary phylogenetic analyses suggest a close relationship these two groups.


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    Zevende bijdrage tot de kennis der ichthyologische fauna van Borneo. Zoetwatervisschen van Sambas, Pontianak en Pangaron.
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  11. Tan, H. H. and M. Kottelat, 2009 - Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 20(1): 13-69
    The fishes of the Batang Hari drainage, Sumatra, with description of six new species.

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