Dracula sheatfish, Belodontichthys truncatus

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Matt Clarke looks at the Dracula sheatfish, Belodontichthys truncatus, one of the most toothy catfish to arrive in the shops for a while.

Common name: Dracula sheatfish

Scientific name: Belodontichthys truncatus

Origin: Found in the massive rivers of the Mekong and Chao Phraya, which extend from Thailand to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Size: 60cm/24" or larger.

Diet: A fish-eater, said to feed mainly on cyprinids. It should be possible to get it to take frozen fish.

Aquarium: Seems fairly adaptable and simple to keep. This one was acclimatised to hard, alkaline water and was living peacefully alongside other fish. It will need a very large tank eventually, as it is a fairly active midwater swimmer. However, although it's not aggressive towards other fish, don't keep it with anything that might fit into that toothy mouth....

Habitat: Heok Hee Ng and Maurice Kottelat say that B. truncatus migrates upriver through the Khone Falls, a series of cataracts on the Mekong, during June and July. Presumably it's a powerful leaper and a very strong swimmer. Between the end of July and October, it spends its time living in the flooded forest, where it gorges itself on fish.

Notes: Only described in 1999 by Ng and Kottelat. Rarely available as an aquarium fish.

Identification: There are two species in this silurid genus: B. truncatus and B. dinema. The slightly smaller dinema has a grey lateral stripe, a longer head, snout and longer pectoral fins.

Breeding: This fish has been bred on fish farms for the food trade in Thailand. In dinema, males have strongly serrated pectoral spines, while females are plumper.

Availability: Imported by Tom Halvorsen Ltd (0797 7098127; www.tomhalvorsen. co.uk) and on sale at Fish Trek in Ashington, near Newcastle (01670 851165).

Price: Around 100 for a

fish this size.