macracanthus Bleeker 1854
his I believe is the crème de la crème
of catfishes and little did I know of the mysteries to unfold before
I had started out on this months factsheet.
I had mistakenly believed that the black
lancer (the common name for this fish) was indeed Bagrichthys
hypselopterus and indeed most of the information on this species
in the publications past had stated thus. Although aquarists believed
that the fish imported as the 'black lancer' was Bagrichthys
hypselopterus, we now know that
the 'black lancer' is actually B. macracanthus. Sadly,
the even more beautiful B.hypselopterus has never been
imported. (unless you know of a time when it was imported, my
research has not turned up any)
To get to the bottom of this mystery, basically B. hypselopterus
grows larger than macracanthus at about 10" while
the latter grows to about 7ins. standard length ( measured
from the snout to the insertion of the caudal fin - caudal peduncle),
the dorsal is also higher at about 12ins., although the dorsal
fin length of macracanthus is still fairly impressive.
Another noticeable difference concerns the barbels of both species,
hypselopterus has Synodontis like projections whereas
the 'black lancer' has only simple short barbels. In common with
other members of the bagridae family and other Asian catfish,
they have four pair, one pair of maxillary, one pair mandibular,
one pair mental and one pair of nasal barbels which project from
the top of the head near the nostrils.
How do we keep the black lancer?,
well I can only speak from experience as I have been fortunate
enough to posses one of these majestic cats (female) for the last
3 to 4 years and is now around an impressive 6ins. It is housed
in a 4ft x 15" x 18" tank with one Synodontis
species and two smaller bagrids so it is certainly not cramped
for space. I find that it is the first out for food at feeding
time and this lets me have a look at the condition and its well
being as they have naked skin and can easily get scratched, which
can sometimes leave a scar to spoil the overall black sooty effect
of its colouration and could possibly lead to infection.
( Synodontis are prone to defending themselves with their
pectoral fins which can cause scratch marks when kept with other
naked skin 'cats'), but so far there has been no quarrels of any
kind between it and the 'black lancer', possibly because they
have their own territory staked out with plenty of pipework.
As stated, provide territories, be it pipework or slatework, as
you will be able to view them at feeding time as they will feel
more secure in their surroundings. Substrate can be a matter of
choice, I have rounded pea gravel but sand would also make a good
substitute with plants such as java fern, java moss and possibly tall
amazon swords or giant vallis for the corners of the aquarium.
Sexing of this species is relatively easy as the males barbels
are twice as long as the females and the males possess a genital
papilla, also the females tend to be heavier in body shape.
Acknowledgements : Asian catfish specialist Shane Linder
for his help in preparing this months factsheet.
Long dorsal fin spine with 18-19 serrae in
adults. Gill rakers 10-14. Pectoral fin rays 9.
Body dark brown to black with pale stripe
along lateral line, sometimes, with 2-3 irregular yellowish brown
The male 'black lancers' can be very territorial
and as such can be only be kept, one male to a tank with the rest
females. Although they posses a small mouth it is wide, but they
don't tend to be a threat to other fishes as such, although if you
keep very small fish with them they could be picked of at night
as the lancer enjoys its night-time forays.
Frozen foods (bloodworm), whiteworm, garden
worms,catfish tablets, trout pellets, algae tablets and wafers.
R. S; 1999. Unraveling the Mysteries
of the Black Lancer. FAMA November, 1999: 194-196.
From 'bagre', a South American name for a catfish, but is
only used for African and Asian species.
Kottelat, Maurice; Fishes of Laos. WHT
Publications (Pte) Ltd., p122
David Sands. From Catfishes of the World, Vol 5.
used with permision.
Bottom: Allan James