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January 10, 2014

Good morning, friends! It’s always a pleasure to be able to write for you in Anthony’s stead, though I know you all miss his wonderful newsletters when I’m writing. With the holiday, we haven’t had a lot of new fish coming through, however, we just got a treat in for all you monster fish enthusiasts – Scleropages leichardti.

Scleropages leichardti

The older official common name for this fish as recognized by the Queensland Fisheries Service is the Spotted Barramundi; a term still used both in fishing and aquarium hobbies. The term ‘Barramundi’ is the Australian aboriginal term for “large scaled (river) fish” and is applied not only to the two Australian Arowanas, S. leichardtii and S. jardini, but additionally the Queensland Lungfish, Neoceratodus forsteri. Approximately 30 years ago, the Queensland Fisheries Service officially changed the name of S. leichardti from the Barramundi to the Southern Saratoga, thought to be derived from a mispronunciation and misapplication of the Lungfish’s common name, Ceratodus. Of course, aside from these official monikers, S. leichardtii has plenty of other common names such as Spotted Australian Arowana, Spotted Bonytongue, and Red Pearl Arowana.

Scleropages leichardti

So what sets the Southern Saratoga apart from its Northern counterpart, S. jardini? While very similar in body shape and habits, S. leichardti is said to grow slightly smaller than the Jardini arowana and, unlike the peachy red crescents of color at the trailing edge of the Jardini’s scales, the Leichardti features a single peachy red spot at the center of each scale. The silver-colored Jardini’s cheeks carry a bit of patterning and coloration, while those of the bronze-toned Leichardti are quite plain.

Scleropages leichardtii

In the wild, the Southern Saratoga is endemic to the Fitzroy River system near the Eastern coast of Australia. These fish have been introduced to other waterways of Queensland as a sport fish -- I personally don’t fish, however, it is apparently quite a delight to catch and release these fish. They are renowned for their acrobatics and leaping when hooked – of course, they can also jump quite well in an aquarium, so a well-fitting and heavy lid is required on their home. Said lid must be heavy enough to prevent a full grown Saratoga at a potential three feet (though just under two feet is more common in an aquarium) of pure muscle from knocking it off the tank when startled.

With such a large potential adult size and active nature, a large aquarium is also required for these beautiful fish. A single specimen should be provided with an aquarium footprint of at least six foot by two foot with a depth of about two feet. Unless kept in a group of six to ten specimens to disperse territorial aggression, the Southern Saratoga is best kept singly – given the immense housing requirements for a group of fish this large, keeping a shoal of these fish in a single home aquarium is absolutely not advised. It is often said that S. leichardti can be calm enough to be kept in a well-selected community aquarium with other large fish such as catfish, sizeable characins and cyprinids, knifefish, and some cichlids such as the larger Geophaginae of South and Central America. Of course, as temperaments can vary between individual fish, this should be attempted only on a case by case basis with the Spotted Barramundi the last fish added and a high amount of attention paid to the dynamics of the group as the arowana grows.

These wonderful fish do their best growing while under twelve inches in length – they will grow quite quickly with several feedings a day of varied foods such as earthworms, mealworms, frozen or dried prawn, mussels, and pellets. After twelve inches of length has been attained, the Southern Saratoga’s growth rate decreases greatly and feedings should be restricted to once per day. While some owners enjoy providing feeder goldfish to their Barramundi, these fish often carry internal or external parasites (especially ich) and greatly increase the probability of disease introduction.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this uncommon and gorgeous monster fish; we’ve quite a few specimens in but they’re sure to sell fast. Be sure to check us out on Facebook, Pinterest and Google+!

Jessica Supalla