Microctenopoma fasciolatum

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Stefan van der Voort on the African anabantoid Microctenopoma fasciolatum.

Scientific name: Microctenopoma fasciolatum (Boulenger, 1899)

Common name: Banded ctenopoma, banded climbing perch

Synonyms: Anabas fasciolatus, A. fasciatus, Ctenopoma fasciolatum

Origin: Found in the Congo basin in Africa, and also from tropical West Africa.

Size: Not a very large species; males can reach 80 mm, females stay 10 mm smaller.

Diet: They eat everything, from live foods to frozen and dry foods.

Water: Fresh water is best for this species, with a slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.5-7.5) with a GH between 4 and 20 - obviously less important than the acidity. Both cooler and somewhat warmer temperatures are accepted; advisable is 24-26C.

Aquarium: The aquarium should at least be 80-90 cm long and around 40-50 cm wide and deep. Microctenopoma fasciolatum are peaceful and quiet fishes and are suitable for the community tank. Although it's important to provide enough hide-outs by using plants, wood and rocks, it is just as essential it is to make sure the fish also have enough open space to swim around. One needs to carry out weekly/bi-weekly water changes to keep this fish in good condition.

Breeding: Microctenopoma fasciolatum is a bubblenest building species: the male will build a large nest in which the eggs will be deposited. A female can produce a very large number of eggs; up to 700-800, which are guarded by the male until they hatch after one or two days depending on the temperature. Three days later the larvae will reach the free swimming stage and leave the nest. Both parent fish do not actively chase and devour the fruits of their spawn, though if they have the chance they probably might every once in a while. Older fry have been reported to eat their younger brothers and sisters. The fry can be fed with freshly hatched Artemia soon after they left the nest and soon enough they'll reach a length enabling them to take other foods as well. Raising at least part of the nest shouldn't be a problem.

Notes: These fishes have a great jumping capability so it's very important to make sure every inch of the tank is covered, otherwise they will end up on the floor in no time.

Adult colouration: The ground colour is a silver-whitish, a large part of the body may be brownish-black or instead of the latter have 9 broad vertical black bars starting at the opercle and continues to the caudal fin base, including the 8th bar running through the black caudal peduncle blotch. The head possesses a black head mask consisting of a preorbital, two postorbital and a suborbital stripe. The top of the head is dark, almost black. Dorsal, anal, caudal and pelvic fins are hyaline with a blackish semi-transparent glow with white flecks in the dorsal, anal and caudal fins. Pectoral fins are hyaline. Two colour forms exist, both probably from a different location; a brownish variant and a bluish one.

Availability: Fairly available in hobbyist circles worldwide, hardly ever seen in shops because of the low interest in the species of this genus compared to other fishes. Spotted for sale at Wharf Aquatics in Nottinghamshire (01773 861255).

Price: Expect to pay anywhere from 5-10 for one of these.

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