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Pethia pookodensis (MERCY & JACOB, 2007)

Pookode Lake Barb

SynonymsTop ↑

Puntius pookodensis Mercy & Jacob, 2007


Pethia: the generic vernacular name for small cyprinids in the Sinhala language.

pookodensis: named for its type locality, Pookode Lake.


Order: Cypriniformes Family: Cyprinidae


Described from Pookode Lake in Wayanad district, Kerala state, southern India and possibly endemic there although some unconfirmed records exist from within the surrounding Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.


Pookode is a small freshwater lake surrounded by forest with a surface area of around 2 km² and is the source of the Panamaram River, a tributary within the much larger Kabani system.

Its maximum depth is around 6.5 metres and in marginal areas dense patches of water lilies can be found.

It’s a well-known tourist destination with boating a popular pastime and has suffered some degradation as a result, and the IUCN currently classify P. pookodensis as ‘Critically Endangered’ on their Red List of threatened species.

Maximum Standard Length

The largest specimen in the type series measured 42 mm.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Base dimensions of at least 75 ∗ 30 cm or equivalent are required.


Choice of décor is not especially critical though it tends to show better colouration in a heavily-planted set-up with a dark substrate.

The addition of some floating plants, driftwood roots or branches, while leaf litter also seems to be appreciated and adds a more natural feel.

Filtration does not need to be particularly strong though it does seem to appreciate a degree of water movement and should also do well in a hill stream-type set-up.

Water Conditions

Temperature20 – 25 °C

pH5.5 – 7.5

Hardness36 – 268 ppm


Wild fish are probably foragers feeding on diatomsalgaeorganic detritus, small insects, worms, crustaceans, and other zooplankton.

In the aquarium it’s easily-fed but the best condition and colours offer regular meals of small live and frozen foods such as bloodwormDaphnia, and Artemia, alongside good quality dried flakes and granules, at least some of which should include additional plant or algal content.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Generally very peaceful making it an ideal resident of the well-researched community aquarium.

As it places no special demands in terms of water chemistry it can be combined with many of the most popular fish in the hobby including other small cyprinids as well as tetras, livebearers, rainbowfishes, anabantoids, catfishes, and loaches.

It’s a schooling species by nature, and at least 6-10 specimens should be purchased.

Maintaining it in such numbers will not only make the fish less skittish but result in a more effective, natural looking display, and males will develop better colours in the presence of conspecific rivals.

Sexual Dimorphism

Adult males are noticeably smaller, slimmer, and more colourful than females, especially during the spawning season when the posterior portion of the body becomes flushed with orange pigmentation in nuptial individuals



NotesTop ↑

This species is not well known in the aquarium hobby and only available outside India on occasion although efforts are being made to produce it on a commercial basis for ornamental purposes.

It was formerly included in the Puntius conchonius ‘group’ of closely-related species alongside P. aterP. bandulaP. conchonius, P. cumingiiP. didiP. erythromycterP. geliusP. khugaeP. macrogramma, P. manipurensisP. meingangbiiP. nankyweensisP. nigripinnisP. nigrofasciatusP. padamyaP. phutunioP. punctatusP. revalP. shalyniusP. stoliczkanusP. thelysP. tiantian, and P. ticto, but all of these were moved to the new genus Pethia by Pethiyagoda et al. (2012), as were P. melanomaculataP. pookodensis, P. muvattupuzhaensis, P. ornatus, and P. yuensis.

Puntiusnarayani was not moved to the new genus and is currently of uncertain generic placement since it uniquely possesses 9 branched dorsal-fin rays and 6 branched anal-fin rays.

Pethia species are defined by the following combination of characters:  rostral barbels absent; maxillary barbels minute or absent; possession of a stiff, serrated last unbranched dorsal-fin ray; presence of a black blotch on the caudal peduncle, and frequently, black blotches, spots or bars on the side of the body; infraorbital 3 deep and partially overlapping the preoperculum.

Within this assemblage P. pookodensis is most similar to P. ticto and P. punctata but it can be told apart from the former by possession of less circumferential scales (18 vs. 22 in P. ticto) and from the latter by its incomplete lateral line (vs. complete in P. punctatus) plus the fact that the anterior body marking is located on the lateral line and the posterior marking is located in the anterior half of the caudal peduncle (vs. anterior marking located one scale below the pored lateral line scales and posterior marking larger and in centre of caudal peduncle in P. punctatus).

It’s further distinguished from all congeners by the following combination of characters: barbels absent; one osseous and 7 soft dorsal-fin rays; lateral line incomplete with 6-8 pored scales; 22-23 lateral scale rows with 3½-4½ lateral transverse scales; 18 circumferential scales; two dark flank markings, one in anterior portion of body and another on the caudal peduncle.

The genus Puntius was viewed as a polyphyletic catch-all containing over 100 species of small to mid-sized cyprinid for a number of years until Pethiyagoda et al. (2012) published a partial review covering South Asian members.

The majority of sub-Himalayan Puntius species were reclassified and new genera Dawkinsia, Dravidia, and Pethia erected to accomodate some of them, with the remainder either retained in Puntius or moved to the existing Systomus assemblage, though the definition of the latter was altered meaning some Southeast Asian species formerly placed there are no longer members.

It subsequently became clear that the name Dravidia was preoccupied by a genus of flesh fly, therefore the replacement name Haludaria was made available by Pethiyagoda (2013).

No species from Indochina, China, or Indonesia were included in the study meaning a significant number of former Puntius are currently classed as incertae sedis, i.e., of uncertain taxonomic placement, and this also applies to a number of South Asian species of unresolved status.

They’re perhaps best referred to as ‘Puntius‘ for the time being whereby the genus name is surrounded by quotation marks to denote its questionable usage, and that is the convention used here on SF at the moment.


  1. Mercy, T. V. A. and E. Jacob, 2007 - Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 104(1): 76-78
    A new species of Teleostei: Puntius pookodensis (Cyprinidae) from Wayanad, Kerala, India.
  2. Knight, J. D. M., K. Rema Devi, T. J. Indra and M. Arunachalam, 2012 - Journal of Threatened Taxa 4(3): 2409-2416
    A new species of barb Puntius nigripinnis (Teleostei: Cyprinidae) from southern Western Ghats, India.
  3. Kullander, S. O. and F. Fang, 2005 - Copeia 2005(2): 290-302
    Two new species of Puntius from northern Myanmar (Teleostei: Cyprinidae).
  4. Kullander, S. O. and R. Britz, 2008 - Electronic Journal of Ichthyology, Bulletin of the European Ichthyology Society 2: 56-66
    Puntius padamya, a new species of cyprinid fish from Myanmar (Teleostei: Cyprinidae).
  5. Menon, A. G. K., K. Rema Devi, and W. Vishwanath, 2000 - Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 97(2): 263-268
    A new species of Puntius (Cyprinidae: Cyprininae) from Manipur, India.
  6. Pethiyagoda, R., 2013 - Zootaxa 3646(2): 199
    Haludaria, a replacement generic name for Dravidia (Teleostei: Cyprinidae).
  7. Pethiyagoda, R., M. Meegaskumbura, and K. Maduwage, 2012 - Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 23(1): 69-95
    A synopsis of the South Asian fishes referred to Puntius (Pisces: Cyprinidae).
  8. Seena Augustine, P. A., T. M. Jose, T. V. Anna Mercy, E. Jacob, and J. R. Nair¡ , 2012 - Indian Journal of Fisheries 59(2): 49-55
    Reproductive biology of the endemic ornamental barb, Puntius pookodensis Anna Mercy and Eapen Jacob 2007, from the Western Ghats of India.

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