Matt Clarke looks at the Deccan mahseer, Tor khudree, a giant barb that can reach a metre in length and weigh as much as a small person.
Common name: Deccan mahseer
Scientific name: Tor khudree (Sykes, 1839)
Origin: Found in large, fast-flowing rocky rivers and mountainous lakes across India, mainly in the south.
Size: A sport fish reaching around 1m/39" and up to 45kg/ in weight.
Water: Although FishBase cites a temperature range of 20-30C for this species, other studies have quoted a range of 6-35C, as it is sometimes found in mountainous rivers at high altitude. Most Tor species are adaptable to any water.
Diet: An omnivore that feeds on plants, shrimps, insects and snails. Tor are easy to feed in the aquarium and readily take pelleted foods.
Aquarium: Given the very large size of this species, it's clearly a specialist fish for the expert in large barbs, or better still, for public aquaria. It needs a very large tank 10' x 4' x 4' being a minimum, really. Furnish the tank with large water-worn rocks and install some hefty external filtration and additional water pumps to increase the flow rate. In short, best avoided unless you have a bottomless supply of cash to spend on an enormous aquarium...
Identification: Thanks to Andrew Arunava Rao for identifying this one for me. Tor khudree is one of 19 species in the genus, and sits somewhere in the middle in terms of size. The enormous Golden mahseer, Tor putitora at up to 2.75m/9' is the biggest. The 20cm/10" Tor kulkarnii is one of the smallest. The rarity of these fish in the trade means that they're hard to ID. T. khudree has dorsal and ventral profiles that are evenly arched, 2.5 rows of scales between the lateral line and the base of the pelvic fins
Notes: This species is not listed on the IUCN Redlist, but some reports claim that it is becoming more scarce due to deforestation, particularly in Maharashtra. Fry survival rates are said to be poor due to siltation. It has recently been produced commercially and is being restocked in parts of India.
Availability: This species was added to the Schedule II list of DOF 8T, which means that Cefas classes it as coldwater and it can't be legally imported on a tropical fish import licence anymore. This means it's essentially going to vanish from the trade - not a huge loss given the size it gets to and the very limited market for such fish. We spotted this one on sale in Somerset months before the legislation changed. It's still legal to keep this species without a licence but it might be added to the Import of Live Fish Act (ILFA) list at a later date.
Price: This species is hardly ever seen for sale. Expect to pay around 10-20 for a small one.