Ceylonese combtail (Belontia signata)

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The Ceylonese combtail (Belontia signata) is a tropical freshwater fish belongs to the family of gouramis, Osphronemidae, in the order Perciformes (Perch-like) and in the class Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes).

Ceylonese combtail overview

Scientific Name: Belontia signata
Species author: (Günther, 1861)
Synonyms: Polyacanthus signatus Günther, 1861; Macropodus signatus (Günther, 1861)
Family: Osphronemidae › Perciformes › Actinopterygii › Chordata › Animalia
Common Name: Ceylonese combtail;
Other languages: German: Ceylon-Makropode, Ceylon-Stachelflosser; Swedish: Ceylonmakropod; Chinese: 梳尾格斗鱼, 梳尾格鬥魚; Sinhalese: Thalkossa
Other names: combtail, combtail gourami
Distribution: endemic to Sri Lanka
Diet and feeding habits: omnivore, aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, detritus; accepts aquarium feeds
IUCN status listing: Conservation Dependent (LR/cd)
CITES listing: Not Evaluated
Human use: aquarium trade

Appearance, physical description and identification

The Ceylonese combtail is a freshwater fish growing up a total length (TL) of 18 cm (7.1″). Fish of total length around 10 cm are common. Males are more vibrantly colored with slightly longer fin frills than the females. A healthy Ceylonese combtail will have glossy orange-gold-yellow coloration. The margin of the caudal fin and the base of pectoral fin are pale green. The dorsal and anal fins have orange-red tinge.

Origin, geographical range and distribution

These combtail species are endemic to Sri Lanka. They are common in Mahaweli River basin. The Ceylonese combtail are also found in Kelani and Kalu River basins in Sri Lanka.

Habitat and ecosystem

These combtail species inhabit shallow areas in the slow flowing stream with clear water. The substratum is usually pebbles and sand. The Ceylonese combtail are tropical fish living in shallow water (0 – 1 m) with 24°C – 28°C temperature.

Ceylonese combtail behavior and adaptations

These species are highly aggressive and territorial. They are usually solitary and the juveniles form groups of 3 to 5 individuals. These combtail fish are air-breathing fish. They have a labyrinth organ, which enables them to taking air directly from the surface of the waterbody.

Diet and feeding habits

The diet of the combtail is algal matter, detritus, aquatic insects and terrestrial insects. It is often seen grazing on aquatic plants and algae. In aquarium, they may be fed with live worms, frozen worms, pellets and flake feed.

Reproduction and development in Ceylonese combtail

There is parental care in the Ceylonese combtail fish. The male builds a bubble nest under leaves, aquatic vegetations or submerged overhanging rock. About 500 eggs are spawned and lodged in the bubble nest.

It is a batch spawner, releasing eggs over a period of time. The eggs are demersal, light pink in color and are less than 1 mm in diameter. The male Ceylonese combtail guards the nest and the fry. The female fish tends the nest. The eggs hatch in about 2-3 days.

Conservation status and concerns

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorised these combtail species as “Conservation Dependent” (“LR/cd”). Continued species-specific and/or habitat-specific conservation programme is required to prevent Ceylonese combtail from becoming threatened with extinction.

The “Conservation Dependent” category is now re-classed as “Near threatened”, but those species that have not been re-evaluated remain with the “Conservation Dependent” category.

Ceylonese combtail aquarium

Rearing these fish species is of moderate difficulty. They are very sensitive to water quality. A planted aquarium with water circulation and filtration may be prepared and cycled well before introduction of the Ceylonese combtail.

Ceylonese combtail - Belontia signata
Ceylonese combtail – Belontia signata

A 100 liter tank is preferred. The pH may be maintained between 7.0 to 7.5. The preferred water temperature is 24°C – 28°C. Soft sandy or pebble substrate is preferred. The aquarium should have hiding places in the form of bog wood and rocks.

Taxonomy and biological classification of aquarium fish Ceylonese combtail
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Suborder: Anabantoidei
Family: Osphronemidae
Genus: Belontia
Species: Belontia signata
Binomial name: Belontia signata
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References on Ceylonese combtail:
Image author: J Bukkems | License: CC BY-NC 3.0
Image source: http://www.fishbase.org/tools/uploadphoto/uploads/1358263899_217.19.29.93.jpg
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