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Hampala sabana INGER & CHIN, 1962

SynonymsTop ↑

Hampala macrolepidota sabana Inger & Chin, 1962


Hampala: from a Javanese vernacular name for this genus.

sabana: named for the Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo, to which this species is endemic.


Order: Cypriniformes Family: Cyprinidae


Endemic to the Malaysian state of Sabah, northern Borneo.

Type locality is ‘Tributary of Kinabatangan River near Deramakot, Malaysia, Borneo’.


Predominantly a riverine fish preferring clear, well-oxygenated, running waters with substrates of sand, gravel, rock or mud, and apparently displays a preference for deeper, slower-moving stretches.

In Sabah such habitats typically flow through tropical forest, although in recent years freshwater habitats throughout much of the state have been extensively modified by human activity such as conversion to palm or rubber plantations.

Sympatric fish species in the Segama river system include Luciosoma pellegriniNematabramis everetti, Garra borneensis, Gastromyzon lepidogaster, Mystus sabanus, and Pangasius tubbi.

Maximum Standard Length

350 – 410 mm.

NotesTop ↑

This species is poorly known in the ornamental trade and its adult size more-or-less precludes its suitability as an aquarium fish.

The genus Hampala currently contains seven species of which H. macrolepidota and, to a lesser extent, H. dispar are the only ones seen with any regularity in the aquarium trade. As well as being the more widely-distributed in nature, H. macrolepidota is also the largest of the group. All representatives can appear superficially similar at first glance, the exception being H. lopezi which is endemic to a single island in The Philippines and displays a unique lateral band-like marking on the flanks.

H. macrolepidota is easy to identify by colour pattern, which comprises a dark vertical band originating anterior to the dorsal-fin and extending below the lateral line, plus the presence of black marginal stripes in both lobes of the caudal-fin. H. dispar possesses only a single dark blotch-like marking on the body and has less well-defined marginal stripes on the caudal lobes.

Juveniles of the two species can appear very similar as the body blotch is extended vertically in young H. dispar, plus both display a broadish dark band across the caudal peduncle, a second, thinner band across the base of the caudal-fin, and a small blotch above the anal-fin. All of these markings are less intense in H. dispar while in H. macrolepidota there is additional dark patterning above and below the eye and running downwards from the nape to the pelvic fins.

H. sabana also has a single body marking but a higher count of circumpeduncular scales (30-32) and relatively few lateral line scales (12-15) compared to its congeners. H. ampalong, H. bimaculata and H. salweenensis can be trickier to separate since they all have two body blotches. H. ampalong possesses more lateral line scales than H. salweenensis (28-31 vs. 26-27) whereas in H. bimaculata the body markings are saddle-shaped and the anterior blotch is positioned underneath the posterior half of the dorsal-fin (below the dorsal-fin origin in the other two).

It is worth noting that the body markings tend to fade in very large specimens of all Hampala spp., and it’s possible that additional species will be described in the future as a phylogenetic study published in 2006 concluded that the form of H. bimaculata from central and southern parts of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, Borneo ought to be considered distinct, for example.


  1. Inger, R. F. and P. K. Chin, 1962 - Fieldiana Zoology v. 45: 1-268
    The fresh-water fishes of North Borneo.
  2. J. R. Ryan and Y. B. Esa, 2006 - Zoological Science 23(10): 893-901
    Phylogenetic Analysis of Hampala Fishes (Subfamily Cyprininae) in Malaysia Inferred from Partial Mitochondrial Cytochrome b DNA Sequences.
  3. Kottelat, M., 2013 - Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 27: 1-663
    The fishes of the inland waters of southeast Asia: a catalogue and core bibiography of the fishes known to occur in freshwaters, mangroves and estuaries.
  4. Martin-Smith, K. M. and H. H. Tan, 1998 - Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 46(2): 573-604
    Diversity of freshwater fishes from eastern Sabah: annotated checklist for Danum Valley and a consideration of inter- and intra-catchment variability.
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