The False spanner barb, Puntius kuchingensis, comes from Borneo. Matt Clarke takes a look at this active species, which is easily confused with the Spanner barb.
Common name: False spanner barb, Saddle barb
Scientific name: Puntius kuchingensis Herre 1940
Origin: The type locality is about 18 miles east of Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, south east Asia.
Size: Not known. The type specimens are around 6-7cm/2". Observations suggest it may be a smaller species, but then again it could reach over 15cm/6" like the related P. lateristriga.
Diet: Typical large barb fare: pellets, flakes, frozen foods, peas.
Aquarium: A spacious aquarium of around 90cm/36" is the minimum for this active species. It's best kept in a group and can be safely mixed with other barbs and cyprinids from the region. Plants might be OK while the fish are small but adults could look upon soft-leaved varities as food. Easy to keep and tolerant of most types of water.
Notes: There's very little written about this species outside Albert Herre's original description from 1940. They are easily confused with the Spanner or T-barb, Puntius lateristriga, and there's some debate over how to tell the two fish apart and some dispute whether the two species are actually distinct at all. P. kuchingensis is valid at the moment, but P. lateristriga is very variable in its appearance across its distributional range. Tweedie (1961) described six regional forms of lateristriga with different patterns in Peninsular Malaysia alone.
Identification: According to Herre, kuchingensis should have: four dorsal spines and eight branched rays; three anal spines and five branched rays; one pectoral spine and 14 branched rays; one pelvic spine and seven branched rays, and 20-21 scales in the lateral line series. I haven't been able to find any morphometric data for lateristriga, so I can't confirm whether these are very different or not, I'm afraid. Kottelat and Lim (1995) merely say that there are distinct differences between the colour of the two species.
I can't see much difference between the two myself, particularly given that lateristriga has been shown to be so variable, and I wouldn't be particularly surprised if further work showed that the two species were actually all lateristriga. Manchester-based barb expert Bob Street has some kuchingensis and says that the fish tend to have a dotted lateral stripe, rather than the full one more common in lateristriga. Bob also says the fish are more placid than lateristriga, which he says tends to become a bully.
Availability: These are very rarely seen in the trade. BAS in Bolton imported them and has been offering them on its wholesale stock lists. These juvenile ones were photographed at Frisby Aquatics in Hull.
Price: Very cheap at just £2.20 each.
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