Renewed hope for Red tailed black sharks has been spurred by the discovery of a wild roaming specimen, writes Nathan Hill.
For decades, the decline of Epalzeorhynchos bicolor — the Red tailed black shark — was something that hobbyists were oblivious to. If you own these fish, it is certain that they will be farmed versions. Due to environmental degradation, damming and agriculture and residential expansion, their native range across Thailand has become increasingly devastated. By 1996, after some 50 years of searching, it was declared extinct in the wild, right through until 2011, when a tiny population was discovered in the Chao Praya Basin, on a strictly localised basis.
However, a paper printed recently in the Biodiversity Journal draws reference to a lone individual found in February 2013 by researcher Sitthi Kulabtong, who was investigating the Lower Maeklong Basin of Thailand. The fish was found in a rocky dam, among high flows and in water of 1m depth.
Most fascinating of all, the discovery has also provided our first concrete indication of sympatric species found alongside wild Red tails. These include knifefish of the genus Notopterus; Dermogenys halfbeaks; Barbonymus and Rasbora cyprinids; Homaloptera and Nemacheilus loaches; Mastacembelus eels and Parambassis glassfish.
Though only a sole specimen was found, it cannot be ascertained whether this was a relic from an old population, or whether it could be derived from reintroduction programs, or even accidental release by an aquarist.
What we do know is that the fish remains at a critically endangered level, and that there are certainly more gracing aquaria around the world than there are in native rivers. In that sense, aquarists everywhere provide a valuable gene-pool of the species.
And if that's not a fine reason to put together the best biotope you possible can, then I don't know what is.
For more information, see the paper: Rediscovery of the critically endangered cyprinid fish Epalzeorhynchos bicolor (Smith, 1931) from West Thailand (Cyprini- formes Cyprinidae).
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