Lepidocephalichthys annandalei

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Matt Clarke on the rarely seen loach Lepidocephalichthys annandalei.

Common name: Annandale's loach

Scientific name: Lepidocephalichthys annandalei Chaudhuri, 1912

Origin: Museum records show that this loach has been collected in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. In India it's known from the Teesta river system in North Bengal and the Garo Hills in Meghalaya.

Size: Small at just under 5cm/2".

Diet: Probably feeds on insect larvae, detritus and small crustaceans. Mine readily accept frozen bloodworms and dried foods.

Water: Neutral or slightly acidic water is preferable, but they adapt well to harder water.

Aquarium: I have a small group of these in a 1m/39" aquarium containing various unusual danionins and loaches. Mine are rather shy and are rarely seen outside feeding time, possibly because there are so many hiding places for them. They are peaceful and do not bother the other fishes or conspecifics, making them a good choice for the smaller community tank.

Notes: This is one of the most rarely seen Lepidocephalichthys species and is a member of the Cobitinae subfamily of loaches. The genus includes around 16 other species, including: L. arunachalensis; L. berdmorei; L. birmanicus; L. furcatus; L. goalparensis; L. guntea; L. hasselti; L. irrorata; L. jonklaasi; L. lorentzi; L. manipurensis; L. menoni; L. micropogon; L. sandakanensis and L. tomaculum.

Identification: The colour pattern on these can be quite variable, but the dark spots on the caudal fin are quite distinctive. A dark, white-ringed spot is seen on some other Lepidocephalichthys, such as jonklaasi, but in annandalei the spot or spots are in the centre of the caudal, rather than on the peduncle. L. annandalei should also have a truncate or rounded tail, 7-8 pectoral rays, 20-30 scales between the the dorsal surface and anal fin, and a suborbital spine which lacks hooks.

Availability: These fish were on sale at Wildwoods Water Gardens in Middlesex during July.

Price: Expect to pay between 3-5.

This article was first published in the December 2006 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine.