We import the beautiful fire eel, Mastacembelus erythrotaenia, on a regular basis from Indonesia, usually large specimens, 30-60 cm long. These fish are about as thick as a forearm. Most recently we obtained again four specimens, 50-60 cm long. However, two of them looked totally different. They lack completely the red stripes and spots which are so characteristic for M. erythrotaenia.
We asked Ralf Britz, researcher at the Natural History Museum, London, and one of the leading specialists for that group of fish, for his opinion. He answered that most probably our new imports are Mastacembelus unicolor or – at least – what currently is thought to be M. unicolor. Our sincere thanks once more to London!
The species Mastacembelus unicolor has been described scientifically back in 1831 by Cuvier. This description based on unpublished data and specimens collected by the naturalists Kuhl and van Hasselt, who died at an early age in 1821 and 1823 in Java. They left an important collection of fishes and accurate drawings of fish. Such a drawing also exists of Mastacembelus unicolor. One can clearly recognize the unusual stripe over the pectoral fin and the white seam running along the whole of the dorsal, caudal, and ventral fins. So our new imports – obviously a pair – look at least very, very similar to M. unicolor.
Our pair currently has a light murky skin, but we are sure this will vanish after the fish have settled. Hopefully we are able to import more of these beautiful animals!
For our customers: the fish have code 426726 on our stocklist. Please note that we exclusively supply the wholesale trade.
Text & photios: Frank Schäfer