Red tailed black sharks rediscovered in the wild?


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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Four detained after fish poisoning


In a series of events that reads like a bad comedy, four men in the city of Yibin, in the Sichuan province of China, have been held after poisoning more than 50,000kg of fish, reports Nathan Hill.

Let that figure sink in. 50,000kg. That’s fifty tonnes of fish poisoned. Death on that level is somewhat more than an oversight.

Details are scant, but we know that the main protagonist was a man named Xie, who worked outside of the region but had returned home to his village of Gaoxian before a Spring festival.

For whatever reason (accurately translated accounts are not freely available), Xie and three friends purchased nine bottles of unspecified pesticides, and on February 20 they poured two of them into the uppermost reaches of a river in Chuandong village.

After waiting an hour with no response, the group suspected they’d been defrauded and sold fake pesticides, and dumped the remaining seven bottles into the same water. It transpired that they knew nothing about the amassed fish in ponds nestled in the lower reaches of the river.

Subsequently, the pesticides did what pesticides do and wiped out any poor beasts they came into contact with. Later, when the men found they’d inadvertently poisoned 50,000kg of fish they fled Sichuan. I should add that the figure involved could do with some citation, because my only sources are pretty inconsistent pages of Chinese news.

Xie apparently saw the error of his ways (or was perhaps mindful of repercussions, given China’s slightly shaky stance on capital punishment and human rights) and gave himself in along with one other man, while the other two men were promptly arrested when they returned to Yibin.

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PlanetXingu: You did it!


Julian Dignall of Planetcatfish.com has some fabulous news on the PlanetXingu fundraising project, which was set up to help research into the Rio Xingu in Brazil.

About this time a year ago, I began thinking about doing something tangible to support researchers at the Rio Xingu in Brazil. Much has been written about the plight of the river's endemic and migratory species that are immediately imperiled by the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam. However, it occurred to me at least, that there were many individual conservation projects going on and indeed fishkeepers and scientists were not joining forces in their respective efforts.

These thoughts condensed into a plan and by March, I had some inkling of what to do to both assist the researchers in the field and those keeping and breeding these animals in captivity. At the Catfish Study Group’s annual convention in Wigan, England, I announced the PlanetXingu initiative.

Soon after that, I launched social media and website based campaigns to raise awareness of the project, its timescales and goals, and how people could get involved. In short, the aim was to raise $11,000 to buy equipment for studying Brazil’s Rio Xingu before, during, and after the dam is built and operational. 

I set out to run this between April and December 2013. This took a bit of research in terms of reaching out more to the scientific community, researching an online crowd funding provider (crowd funding is essentially a collective effort of individuals, who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support a common goal), and organising explanatory documentation, so the project was officially launched in early June.

I am delighted to say that within the timescale set, the PlanetXingu project has raised the targeted $11,000 and with just minutes to spare before the deadline passed. Everyone involved in the project is delighted and it just goes to show the extraordinarily direct and positive effect aquarists can have on research that is being carried out on the other side of the world. I genuinely did not know if this was possible, and I only hoped it would be possible… but now we know it is possible!

Nearly 200 contributors donated over the 32 weeks in 2013 and by midnight at the end of January 1, 2014, $11,000 was reached. A few more donations have since arrived, meaning the total amount raised was $11,452. The entire list of contributors is listed on the fundrazr website and PlanetCatfish.com.

So many people got in touch and asked how they could help. One magazine ran a feature and provided magazine subscriptions for donations and Practical Fishkeeping magazine ran a large article on the project in lieu of a large donation.

The Facebook group Pleco Sales and Swaps UK collected donations from members at one of their real-world meetings at Rare Aquatics, Crewe. Soon after, the North Wales Aquarists Society asked me to explain the project to them at a society meeting and also collected money for the project from club members. Both organisations then were treated to video from researchers on the shore of the Rio Xingu, name checking and thanking them for their efforts. 

The organisers of the premier L-number catfish event globally, "L-Number Days" in Hanover, Germany also asked me to present a talk on the project, which resulted in a swathe of donations in euros, pounds, and even Brazilian reals.

There are a lot of donors to the project, many remained anonymous but I would like to mention those that have donated. The biggest single donation came from Irwin Phua in Singapore, who started the ball rolling with a whopping 10% of the total project goal.

I do not want to get into the sums donated, because it is relative to where people are in the world and their own circumstances, but that is worth mentioning! Nearly as large were the many donations made by delegates at the L-number event, including such luminaries as Hans-Georg Evers, Ingo Seidel, and many, many other European expert pleco breeders. Long-time PlanetCatfish contributor Andrew White, New Zealander Geoff Haglund, and Rob Graham (who created zebrapleco.com) are also amongst the top contributors. SwissTropicals also gave generously in addition to their other support to the project. The Catfish Study Group (based in the UK) donated at a similar level. Also in the UK, several aquarists pulled together the Midlands Charity (fish) auction and PlanetXingu was a major beneficiary from the proceeds, placing that donation in the top 10.

Andreas Tanke donated perhaps in favour of the less pretty plecs of the Xingu alongside fellow German expert Elko Kinlechner. Allen Repashy (Repashy Superfoods), Rachael O’Leary (msjinkzd.com), Wet Spot Tropical Fish, Ross Evans, Regina Spotti, Rajanta Sinardja Rahardja at Bellenz Fish Farm, Mats Peterson, Ian Fuller at corydorasworld.com, Tom Halvorsen at The Pet Outlet, Rupert Collins, Dimitris Lysikatos, who organised the members of Greek fish website Aquazone.gr into a great amalgamated donation, and Rich Hevesi at CanadaPleco.com just show how international the support was that this project gratefully enjoyed.

Of note in the fundraising activities were two donors. Jostein Kristoffersen donated $82 (among other donations from himself that made a big total) in honour of his beloved L082. I wish I had thought of asking people to donate a sum equal to the L-number of their favourite plec!

Also, Oliver Frank, OF Aquaristik, gave a donation every day there were other donations for quite some time and really helped keep the momentum up. Even researchers themselves and their family members donated, which was really supportive of the whole project. Let us not forget Texan Dave Rinaldo, who got us over the halfway point with his donation and was one of many donors, who found special ways or means to mark their contribution.

I cannot name check anonymous donors and there are many, many smaller but equally significant donations that without which we would not have got even close to this success. Thank you for every dollar. This has been a lot of work, a lot of fun, and, most of all, I am delighted that the global catfish community pulled together to support the research into the fishes of Brazil’s Rio Xingu.

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Inspirational aquariums: The reef of dreams


We came across this stunning reef tank while searching our photo libraries and declared that its stunning beauty deserves to be appreciated by everyone!

It includes some 70 large colonies of SPS corals, all lit by six metal halide lights, and inhabited by more than 25 fish, including an adult Emperor angelfish, Sohal tang and Achilles tang taking pride of place among them.

A tank such as this optimises what can be achieved with the knowledge, experience and finances that sadly may be beyond most of us — although we’re guessing it's pretty heavy on the maintenance.

Its owner must be bordering on the obsessive to be able keep it in such pristine condition while also providing for such demanding fish and corals, but that’s the magnetism of aquascaping for you!

Take a look at some of our other inspirational aquariums:
Discus the centrepiece
Modernist approach
Low maintenance island tank
Planted pico
Zebra plec breeding set-up

Calming moss tank

Rocky cichlid tank
Fun iwagumi
Classic nature aquarium
Medium sized reef tank
Posh nature aquarium

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