Breeder produces Clown loach hybrids

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A professional fish breeder from Russia claims to have produced artificial hybrids of the Clown and Yo-Yo loach.

Oleg Mihajlov from Ivanovo in Russia made the news in March 2008 when he became the first person to document the artificial reproduction and rearing of the Clown loach, Chromobotia macracanthus. (See Fishkeeper successfully breeds Clown loach, News, 27 March 2008).

Now Mihajlov has used the same pituitary hormone injection technique to artificially produce hybrids of the Clown loach and the Yo-yo loach, Botia almorhae (formerly known as Botia lohachata).

Hormone injectionsLike Mihajlov's previous spawnings of the Clown loach, female Clown loach brood stock were injected with pituitary extract from the Bream, Abramis brama, to trigger ovulation.

The females were then "stripped" of their developed eggs by hand.

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Sperm from male Botia almorhae was mixed with the Clown loach eggs and hybrids of the two species are now being raised.

Mihajlov told Practical Fishkeeping that he crossed the Clown loach with other species to enable him to produce "new colour variations", which he believes have commercial potential in the aquarium trade.

Mihajlov also confirmed that he is also producing artificial hybrids of other species, including Synodontis catfishes based on Synodontis brichardi.

Deliberate hybridisationThe production and sale of hybrid fish is unpopular with enthusiasts as the fish are frequently passed off as new species, often under a new name.

Loach enthusiasts at the popular website Loaches Online were quick to condemn the artifical spawning.

A spokesman for Loaches Online told Practical Fishkeeping: "Whilst we wholeheartedly encourage the largescale breeding of loach species in captivity to reduce pressure on wild stocks, we cannot condone the deliberate hybridisation of different species.

"We urge all shops ordering loaches to think very carefully before purchasing from Eastern European suppliers.

"Any shops that do decide to place orders with these suppliers, should, at the very least, list their source at point of sale, which then gives the aquarist the choice of whether to purchase or not, knowing that the fish may not be 100% pure.

"As for creating new colours and patterns, if they must do this, they should stick to selective breeding from the same species. Mother nature has created so many beautiful living wonders, and she throws up enough incredible variations from time to time as it is.

"We have it on good authority that a farm in Eastern Europe is currently desperately searching for ways of creating C. macracanthus without black stripes."

Hybrid loaches already on saleLoaches Online said that botiid loaches with possible hybrid origins are already being sold in the aquarium trade, both in the UK and elsewhere.

It said that one experienced Canadian fishkeeper obtained loaches believed to be a hybrid of Botia histrionica and Chromobotia macracanthus, which differed in behaviour, body shape, proportion and markings to pure Botia histrionica. These fish were said to have been imported from the Czech Republic.

Loaches Online said: "A UK shop received a batch of Botia almorhae, ordered by mistake from a Czech supplier, and once again, it was instantly apparent that these were not genetically 100% Botia almorhae; indeed, they looked to be part Botia striata.

"The worrying thing here was that these fish were not listed on the supplier's stock lists as anything different to 'standard Botia histrionica' or 'standard Botia almorhae'.

"So as this practice becomes more commonplace, it may become very difficult to know if the species is 100% pure, particularly to those people who are new to loach-keeping."