Older & Wiser ???

by Daphne Layley

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.



Lithodoras dorsalis

Lithodoras dorsalis


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.

I 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 - Yeah...! Yeah...!


Megalodoras uranoscopus

Megalodoras uranoscopus


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 bony scutes

Megalodoras uranoscopus showing bony scutes


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!

Photo Credits:
Lithodoras dorsalis: Robin Warne
Megalodoras uranoscopus: Danny Blundell




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