Ng & Kottelat, 2013
UPDATED 2013: This
species was thought to be K.minor which has been exported
extensively over the past 30 years but is only found in Borneo.
Due to the work carried out by Ng & Kottelat this year (2013)
this species (K.minor) has now been renamed as K. vitreolus.
his catfish certainly proves the diversity
of the 2,000 or more species scattered around the globe, and as
such this pelagic (open water) species has a diurnal (active during
the day) lifestyle.
The first trait we notice about Kryptopterus
vitreolus is of course its transparency hence the common
name of 'glass' or 'ghost' catfish. The body is virtually transparent
with scattered patches of pigment on the head and underbelly. We
can see the swim bladder inside the body cavity adjacent to the
pectoral fins and other internal structures, such as the vertabral
column, can be seen.
In its native waters you would think that such a soft bodied fish
would stand out and prove an easy meal for predators, but to the
contrary the glass cat can prove itself to do a disappearing act
in the more murky waters of its habitat. On the body, the number
of melanophores (black colour cells) is significantly reduced, and
the muscles and body are clear. The body wall contains flat platelets
of guanine in a silvery layer that acts as a mirror, this reflects
the general light and colour of the habitat, making the fish effectively
There is a few so called 'glass catfishes' that are sold as such
in your local pet shop, fish such as the Asian glass cat, Ompok,
but they can be told apart, when young, from Kryptopterus
by its larger dorsal fin spines (4), or the African glass cats belonging
to the genus Parailia, which are in the Schilbeidae
family and have an extra pair of nasal barbels, and also possesses
an adipose fin. The main confusion with Kryptopterus is that
Tyson Roberts described K. minor ( now Kryptopterus
vitreolus) which inhabits the same environment as K. bicirrhis
(Borneo) and is also transparent. While there are several morphological
differences between the two species, the average aquarist would
still find it difficult to tell them apart, apart from the size
difference of 6.5 for K. vitreolus and double the
size of this for K. bicirrhis. The 'glass catfish' does
posses a dorsal as such but it consists of only one spine and often
than not it lies it down out of view. It sports one pair of maxillary
barbels and a very long anal fin consisting of between 53 to 70
rays. It of course does not own an adipose fin which it has in common
with other 'glass cats' of the family Siluridae.
So how do we keep the 'glass cat' happy,
by giving it more of its own kind, in other words buy at least
6 for a shoal, or preferably more, as they are not an expensive
fish by today's standards. If you keep them alone or less than
6 they will sulk and eventually will wither away and die. They
will shoal quite happily together head up and will stay shimmying
like this for a considerable amount of time, when now and again,
one will change its position in the group.
Rudimentry dorsal;one ray, maxillary barbels
reaching to anal, 55-68 anal rays. Ventral rays 6. Dorsal profile
arched with a nuchal concavity.
The body is virtually transparent with scattered
patches of pigment on the head and underbelly. Two thin lateral
body stripes stretching from head to caudal peduncle.
Keep them in a reasonably large tank, well
planted at the back and sides, and with a good flowing current from
your filter to imitate its habitat. It is a good community fish
and will not eat or harass other fish unless they are small enough
to be eaten, i.e.fry.
The only breeding report that I could unearth
was from a 1980 article in "The Aquarist and Pondkeeper",
on Kryptopterus bicirrhis which may have been Kryptopterus
vitreolus from a D. C. Powell who went on to say and I quote: "We
do not whether the species is an egglayer or livebearer. Two young
fish which suddenly appeared in our tank were raised on infusoria
and then Daphnia. A little salt was added to the water" You
can be sure that it is an egglayer, it may even be an egg scatterer.
Will except flakefood but does relish small
livefood such as Daphnia and brineshrimp. This catfish is not too
good at collecting food from the aquarium floor, so feed as you
would for Characins & Barbs etc.
Sellick, Ian. Catfish
Form and Function, "The Aquarist and Pondkeeper",
April 1986: 6-7.
= hidden; pterus
= fin, (a reference to the almost invisible
one-rayed dorsal fin).
vitreolus: means 'of glass’, in reference
to the transparent appearance of this species.
- in relation to the mandible or lower jaw.
Maxillary - in relation to the maxilla, the bone
of the upper jaw.
Baench., Aquarium Atlas No1, 1989.
Rainboth, Walter J; Fishes of the Cambodian Mekong FAO.
Kottelat, Maurice; Fishes of Laos.
Roberts, T.R. 1989 The freshwater fishes of Western
Borneo (Kalimantan Barat, Indonesia). Mem. Calif. Acad. Sci. 14:210
Ng, H-H. and M. Kottelat, 2013 - Zootaxa 3630:
308-316 After eighty years of misidentification, a name for the
glass catfish (Teleostei: Siluridae).
Paul E. Turley
Bottom Picture: Nathan Sudell
|Ghost Catfish, Asian Glass
only from a series of coastal river basins of Peninsular Thailand
draining into the Gulf of Thailand south of the Isthmus of Kra,
plus a handful of rivers draining the Cardamom (Khao Banthat)
Mountains in southeastern Thailand. Type locality:
Thailand: Trat Province, Amphoe Khao Saming.
| 6.0 - 8.0
|uo to 18°dGH
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