ast week, I had to move a rather large,
massively armoured and slightly irritable Lithodoras dorsalis
from its quarantine tank, and transfer it to its permanent quarters,
and I was reminded of an incident that took place many years ago.....
Several decades previously, before I knew any better, I had to
move some of my favourite Doradidae catfish to another aquarium.
I was using my hand to gently encourage a large and very "placid”
??? Megalodoras irwinii (now uranoscopus) into
a drainpipe so that I could lift it out of its tank and move it
to its new home. It was a method I had used quite often before,
because it doesn’t stress the fish as much as chasing it
around the tank with a net, and besides, it’s foolhardy
to use a net as it normally gets hooked up on the spines and scutes,
from which it is impossible to dis-entangle it, and you only finish
up having to sacrifice the net and cut it off.
Anyway, I guess I was perhaps just
a little blasé about it, and a split-second lapse in concentration
on my part was all it took. Without warning, the fish (affectionally
known as Irwin, for obvious reasons) clamped and locked its pectoral
fins to its sides and my fingers were trapped between its pectoral
spines and its lateral scutes.
KNOW what you’re all saying - my fingers
should never have been in that position in the first place but,
like I said, I was ‘Miss Clever Clogs’ who had done
it all so often before that she could almost do it blindfolded -
For those readers who might not have had
the pleasure of such an up-close and personal encounter with a
16” long, armour-plated, razor-edged little sweetie who
has to be the fishy equivalent of a Sherman Tank, take my word
for it that the scutes along the sides of a Megalodoras are
like rigid strips of hooked, backward-pointing scalpels.
Megalodoras uranoscopus showing
My fingers were sliced open as cleanly as
if by a carving knife, and within seconds I was bleeding profusely,
and the whole tank appeared full of bloody water that was reminiscent
of a famous film about a certain Great White Shark.
The arrogance of youth is now long gone - I learned that particular
lesson the same way that I always learn lessons - the hard way,
the only way - by experience. I hope I shall never be that stupid
again, although now I’ve reached the age where it’s
almost EXPECTED of me to do silly things occasionally –
leastways, that’s my excuse!
Anyway, now I treat my fish (and my fingers)
with the respect they deserve!
Lithodoras dorsalis: Robin Warne