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,
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, B. 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
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.
Asian catfish specialist Shane Linder for his help
in preparing this months factsheet.
Sumatra. Type locality: Moara kompeh,
in fluviis, Sumatra.
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 vertical bands.
Care & Compatibility
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