Gagata melanopterus


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Matt Clarke looks at a rarely seen catfish from south east Asia, Gagata melanopterus.


Scientific name: Gagata gagata (Hamilton, 1822)

Origin: Asia: Predominanly recorded from India, but also known from Myanmar, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Size: Largish for a Gagata at up to 30cm/12".

Diet: Not known, but probably a detritivore like other Gagata. Best fed on frozen bloodworms, Artemia or Daphnia if dried foods aren't accepted. Gagata are known to be tricky to feed.

Water: Like G. cenia, this species is found in a range of conditions from soft, acidic water to brackish conditions, so it should be adaptable to most types of water. G. cenia prefers cool well-oxygenated water of around 20-24C/68-75F and the same almost certainly applies to G. gagata. Like other sisorids, Gagata don't tolerate pollution well, so plenty of frequent water changes are essential.

Aquarium: Gagata, like most sisorids, can be sensitive during and after importation. Always make sure that fish you're purchasing have been quarantined and fattened up before you buy them. These are delicate fishes, and I personally wouldn't recommend them to anyone who is inexperienced with such species. They're rheophilic, so I'd suggest keeping these in a large tank furnished with lots of smooth, water-worn rocks and some hefty filtration to keep flow rates and oxygen levels high. Given the adult size, a minimum aquarium size of 150cm would be recommended to provide adequate swimming space. It should be possible to keep a group together, if sufficient hiding places are provided.

Related species: The genus includes about six species: G. cenia, G. sexualis, G. dolichonema, G. itchkeea and G. melanopterus.

Identification: G. gatata turns predominantly silver-white when mature - these specimens had some faint markings on them as well as black edges to the fins. G. gagata has one dorsal spine and six branched rays and 5-6 simple anal rays, 11 branched anal rays.

Availability: This one is much rarer than Gagata cenia - it's the first time I've seen it on sale in the UK. These were imported by Wildwoods in Middlesex.

Price: Expect to pay around 10-30.

This article was first published in the Christmas 2006 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It was initially incorrectly identified as G. gagata. Dr Heok Hee Ng kindly confirmed its true identity as G. melanopterus.

G. gagata does not have black fins.