This beautiful and – by Pao standards – peaceful freshwater pufferfish originates from the Mekong River basin in Laos (type locality: the Xe Bangfai River near Ban Geng Sahwang); it is considered endemic (= only occurring there) in the Xe Bangfai. In contrast to Pao turgidus, which occurs in the same river, P. abei has a large eye spot (ocellus) below the dorsal fin. In P. turgidus, all spots on the body are the same size. Unfortunately P. abei can only be identified without any doubt if it shows a mood dependent coloration. This coloration occurs during courtship and when the fish is very excited. If the fish is not in this mood, it cannot be distinguished from the “common” Pao cochinchinensis, which also occurs in the Xe Bangfai. That is why there are always doubts about which of the two species one is looking at.
However, this is not only of academic interest, but also has quite practical significance. While Pao cochinchinensis is a rather aggressive species, which can often only be kept singly in the long run, a permanent group keeping of P. abei is quite possible.
The external unique point of P. abei is therefore only one of several possible mood-related colorations, which consists of yellow or orange dots on a dark background. Otherwise, we can only rely on our supplier to send us puffer fishes under this name. Fortunately one of the two specimens of our current import in the photo tank did us the favor to show itself in typical abei coloration for some time!
Pao abei grows to about 10 cm in length. They are substrate spawners, the clutch is guarded by the male until the larvae hatch. The breeding of P. abei has been successful more often. Regarding water chemistry the animals are undemanding, any tap water is suitable, pH should be between 6 and 8, water temperature around 24°C.
For our customers: P. abei has code 461245 on our stocklist. Please note that we supply exclusively to wholesalers.
The cockade pufferfishes are a very complex group of freshwater pufferfishes. Formerly they were called the “Tetraodon-leiurus group”, but since 2013 they are in the genus Pao. The genus name Tetraodon is now only applied to the freshwater puffers of Africa.
Throughout Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia), Pao freshwater puffers can be found. They are predatory fish, usually very incompatible with each other, and are quite variable in color. Many have a prominent eyespot or ocellus below the dorsal fin that looks like a cockade – hence the popular name. Exactly how many species of cockaded puffers there are is disputed. Before about 1990, all cockaded puffers were called Tetraodon leiurus or T. leiurus brevirostris. Several species were synonymized, which are now seen as valid again. A very distinctively marked cockaded puffer was described as Tetraodon barbatus from the Mekong River in 1996. Special recognition feature of this species are the dark spots on the lips (barbatus = the bearded one). Already a short time later this species was declared as synonym to the species Tetraodon cambodgiensis, also originating from the Mekong. Only in 2013 a re-description of the species T. barbatus, the transfer into the newly created genus Pao and the validation of P. barbatus took place.
We have now received very nice cockaded puffers from Thailand, but not from the Mekong, but from the Chao Phraya. Therefore our exporter called them Pao sp. Chao Phraya. But apart from the “wrong” distribution they fit perfectly to P. barbatus, both concerning the coloration – including the “beard” – and concerning the anatomical detail that the caudal peduncle has no spines. This is the most important difference between Pao barbatus and P. cambodgiensis.
Pao sp. Chao Phraya has one peculiarity: the “cockade spot” is extraordinarily large. At least for a short time Pao sp. Chao Phraya get along well with each other, a pleasant difference to many other cockaded puffers, which are often downright biting among themselves. The maximum size of P. barbatus is given with about 12 cm, it can be assumed that also Pao sp. Chao Phraya reaches about this size. The photographed animals are between 8 and 10 cm long.
For our customers: the fish have code 462613 on our stocklist. Please note that we only supply wholesale.
In Southeast Asia a group of freshwater puffers exists that is extremely difficult to tell apart on a specific level. They are called the Eyespot-Puffers or the Pao-leiurus-complex. These puffers live in streams and rivers, some also in ponds and lakes, always in pure freshwater.
Among the most enigmatic species is Pao abei, which has been described scientifically in 1998 from the Mekong river in Laos. Preserved specimens are very dark, almost black, with tiny yellow or orange spots. This was exactly how the freshly collected fish looked on the photos that were sent to us by our supplier from Thailand! But the very same fish he sent look very different when kept in aquaria. This is the tricky thing with freshwater puffers: they can change their coloration very fast and very drasticallly. Additionally every individual has a slightly different pattern. There are only very few constant anatomical features that allow a determination, most of them overlap in the different species. So, do the fish we could recently import – they have a size of 7-10 cm – really belong to the species Pao abei? Who knows… Anyway, they are beautiful and interesting fish!
For our customers: the fish have code 461245 on our stocklist. Please note that we exclusively supply the wholesale trade.
This freshwater pufferfish originates from the rivers of Thailand. Here it imitates stones and lurks for clueless feeder fish. In the aquarium it can be easily fed by large pieces of frozen food given by a forceps. The fish becomes around 12-15 cm long and looks very much alike the African cousin Tetraodon miurus. However, the always visible V on the back makes Pao (formerly placed in Tetraodon) suvattii unmistakable.
For our customers: the fish have code 461554 on our stocklist. Please note that we exclusively supply the wholesale trade.
Text & photos: Frank Schäfer