Wolf herring, Macrochirichthys macrochirus

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The Wolf herring, Macrochirichthys macrochirus, has recently turned up in the shops - Matt Clarke explains its needs.

Common name: Wolf herring, Long-pectoral fin minnow

Scientific name: Macrochirichthys macrochirus (Valenciennes, 1844)

Origin: Recorded from Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Size: Up to a ridiculous 1m/39" in length.

Water: No precise details known, but they seem adaptable to hard, alkaline water.

Diet: Juvenile Macrochirus are surface-dwelling predators and feed mainly on terrestrial insects. As they mature, the diet shifts to fish. Some specimens may refuse to accept anything other than live fish, making them poorly suited to aquarium life.

Aquarium: This is a large, active species best left to public aquaria, and unless you have a truly vast aquarium it should be avoided. These juveniles were living happily in a shoal in a spacious aquarium, but it's not known whether the fish can be kept with other members of its own kind when mature. They do look incredible when shoaling together, but I would certainly not recommend buying any unless you have a tank of lake-like proportions to house them in. As ever with the large fish covered in Interesting Imports, we're warning you of how large this species grows not recommending that you keep it.

Notes: Despite the common name and its appearance, this bizarre fish is actually a member of the carp family Cyprinidae. It's currently the sole member of the Macrochirichthys genus - the other species previously described are now believed to be one and the same fish.

Identification: Among cyprinids, it's hard to mistake this fish for anything else. The upwardly pointing mouth (and head with age), plus those toothy jaws, tiny scales and keeled belly are a bit of a giveaway. The species is a popular food fish in south east Asia and is believed to be suffering due to gill-netting. It's the only member of the Macrochirichthys genus.

Availability: Very rarely seen for sale (which is quite a good thing, given the potential size). These specimens were on sale at Wildwoods Water Gardens in Middlesex during July 2006.

Price: Expect to pay around 20 for one of these.

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