Paddlefish on sale at Holland Koi Show


 Mississippi paddlefish on sale alongside Sterlet and Sturgeon. Photo by Jeremy Gay. Mississippi paddlefish on sale alongside Sterlet and Sturgeon. Photo by Jeremy Gay.
Mississippi paddlefish on sale alongside Sterlet and Sturgeon. Photo by Jeremy Gay.

Visitors to the world’s biggest Koi show in August this year had something decidedly different to consider adding to their ponds, reports Jeremy Gay.

Mississippi paddlefish, Polyodon spathula, were being offered for sale at the Holland Koi Show — bizarre, filter feeding, cartilaginous living relics from the Cretaceous Period, 70 million years ago.

The fish pictured above were 18in long and on sale for 80 euros apiece, under their German name of 'Loffelstor'.

American paddlefish are most closely related to Sturgeon and Sterlet, in the Order Acipenceriformes.

Like Sturgeon, they are harvested for their caviar and are at risk from habitat destruction, overfishing, pollution, damming and the introduction of invasive species.

Only one other paddlefish exists worldwide, the Chinese paddlefish, an IUCN Critically Endangered species, endemic to the lower Yangtze River Basin.

The Chinese paddlefish is rumoured to reach lengths of 7m, averaging at least 3m long when adult, yet not a single one has been seen or caught in recent years and fears are that the species is already extinct.

The American or Mississippi paddlefish is a smaller fish, adult at a mere 1.5m, including that spoonbill, and is exclusively freshwater.

The individuals on sale in Holland were almost certainly captive bred, and were being offered by a Sterlet and Sturgeon supplier, who said they were fed exclusively on Sterlet pellets. 

Can I buy them in the UK?

Some 30 years ago now, juvenile Mississippi paddlefish were offered for sale fairly frequently in the UK, although legislation has prevented any more recent sales and the species does not feature on the positive list of freshwater species which are allowed to be kept in the UK. It would be illegal to purchase them in Holland and bring them here to the UK.

An obvious novelty species, and native to the one of the world’s largest river systems, paddlefish would not make good ornamental pond fish either due to their size, filter feeding method and constantly active, almost pelagic, migratory swimming tendencies.

Being cartilaginous they would also be sensitive to some medications, and would be likely to get caught up in plants and blanketweed.

But if you live in Holland or Germany and have an enclosed, faux river section in your back field, fill your boots! They are really are some of the strangest freshwater fish on the planet.