Scientific Name: Schistura pridii (Vidthayanon, 2003)
Common Name: Mini Dragon Loach
Distribution: Endemic to a vulnerable micro-habitat near the apex of the highest limestone mountain in Thailand.
Sexual Dimorphism: Unknown. Mature females likely to be fuller bodied.
Maximum Size: 5cm (2”)
Similar To: None
Important information - please read:
Schistura pridii, whilst unarguably a strikingly beautiful loach, is a species best left in nature. This is because of the reported sparse population density (rumoured to be in the thousands only) coupled with their delicate nature and requirement of a very specialised set of conditions.
They live in only 4 small fast-flowing streams at high elevation atop a huge limestone mountain. The water in this remote location is cool (18-24 deg C) and of a hard, alkaline composition. Flowing rapidly over pebbles and rocks, this shallow water is highly oxygenated.
The vast majority of S. pridii’s micro-habitat lies within the boundaries of a designated wildlife sanctuary. The area is protected, not only for the rare fish, but primarily to safeguard the many rare sub-alpine plants which are found nowhere else on planet Earth. The harvesting of flora and fauna from this area is quite understandably strictly prohibited, but it would appear that quite a number of S. pridii have been taken and exported (spring 2007). It is not clear whether these were taken from the protected area, where most of the population are found, or the tiny area outside the protected wildlife sanctuary, where only a handful of specimens have ever been observed. Given that a maximum of 2 (yes, 2) of these tiny fish are typically found per 100 sq metres, it would seem that fishing the ‘outside’ area would not likely be very fruitful. Therefore, there is a huge possibility that these latest exports were poached from within the boundaries of the protected land. It is known that at least 100 specimens were exported to the UK alone this spring. This equates to a massive percentage of the wild population, covering a large expanse of their natural range. Further trade in this vulnerable species must be discouraged.
The extremely streamlined nature of these loaches and their diminutive size means that traditional fishing methods are unlikely to prove effective. It is quite probable that they have been captured using electric fishing devices (illegal in Thailand) which not only threaten the lives of the S. pridii, but also that of the other fishes living in the same streams. This is a terrible thought in itself, but given the remote location, the continued preservation of the endemic sub-alpine plants must also surely be in much danger if the fishing of these waters (and associated foot traffic in the area) continue. An endemic species of butterfly has already been wiped out, never to be seen again.
We urge all fish suppliers not to request this species from their fishermen. Supply creates demand, and from there it could so easily spiral out of control – irreparably.
The fact that these wonderful little loaches have been exported this year cannot be changed. A rescue mission was launched by a number of experienced long-term Loaches Online members in order to prevent as many of these rare loaches from being kept in inappropriate conditions (or plainly mis-sold just to make a profit) as was feasibly possible. The extortionate price tag commanded by these fish would not necessarily deter novice fishkeepers, but instead the stores may be tempted to sell single specimens. It has been mentioned that S. pridii are sparsely distributed in their natural habitat, but selling the fish singly or in low numbers would surely put a stop to any potential captive breeding activity.
The captive spawning of this species is at the forefront of the minds of the loachkeepers who have this species in their care. Only a couple of Schistura species have, to date, been bred in captivity, so it is hoped that one day soon, this species will be added to that list. The ultimate goal would be to distribute the offspring among other serious loach enthusiasts, with the intention of further breeding programmes.
A mature river tank/brook tank type of set up is an absolute MUST for the captive care of these delicate loaches – please see: Hillstream Loaches - Life in the Fast Lane for more detailed information.
The water must be cool, of a hard, alkaline composition, very low in nitrate, and rich in oxygen. Piles of smooth rocks and cobbles should be built up over a soft sand substrate, which will create a labyrinth of small sized hidey holes. Numerous powerheads should be utilised to create forceful currents and high oxygen saturation.
Groups of 8 or more specimens would have to be recommended to increase the chances of captive breeding occurring.
Foods must be appropriately sized. A firm favourite has to be Interpet Liquifry No. 3, a fine and highly nutritious yellow powder traditionally used for growing on small fry. This should be alternated with fine (defrosted) frozen foods such as baby brineshrimp, cyclops, and daphnia. Tetra Prima Mini Granules and other micropellets are taken, but not as enthusiastically as the Interpet fry food or the frozen foods. Most other foods are too large for these loaches to manage.
dH: 15-25 degrees
Elevated nitrate levels will not be tolerated.
Temperature: 18-24 deg C (68-75 deg F). High oxygen levels essential.
Breeding: Has not been bred in aquaria.
Notes: Schistura pridii is a very atypical small member of the Schistura genus. It is notable for its eye-catching crisp black and white colouration, its flexibility and its agility amongst swiftly moving waters.
If serious breeding attempts are to be made, these loaches should be kept in a specially designated species-only set up, where potential fry predators are not present.
Fishkeepers and suppliers – please think before you buy.
To the fishermen – please leave these fish where they belong. Undisturbed in nature.