Fast facts on Amblydoras hancockii
by Francesco Zezza
Common name: Marbled Talking Catfish, Marbled Raphael
Synonyms: Amblyodoras affinis, Doras affinis, D. costatus, D. hancockii
Biotope: Occurs in large parts of South America, its distribution spreads from Guyana and Brazil, up to Bolivia and Peru. My fishes were collected in the Rio Orosa drainage (Iquitos area, Peru) where this species is fairly common. It is said it will attain a final adult size of 15 cm TL. This may be true in the wild since mine is smaller by, roughly, one third.
Tank: The main request is a really dark spot to hide in (you should provide one for each fish). This been provided this fish won’t damage your plants and will mind its own business, which means that it is an excellent addition for the community tank. It is better to "shield" the heater(s) to avoid the risk of severe burns if the fish decides to hide behind it.
Water chemistry: pH can range from 5.8 to 7.6 (it is definitely not a fussy species) while the ideal temperature range is between 23 and 28 °C. Mine is kept close to 26° C while the water is alkaline (close to the upper limit of acceptable pH values).
Spawning: No direct info on this issue. To the best of my knowledge, this fish has never been spawned in captivity. There are reports that in the wild the fish creates a bubble nest amongst plants while the eggs are guarded by the male.
Food: This species is almost exclusively a nocturnal scavenger; never forget it! It is probably the most shy fish I have ever dealt with! Best suggestion is to offer sinking food, preferably once the lights go off. They are reported to be gluttonous feeders but I’ve never seen my fish – actually – feeding. Actually, I barely see it at all... feeding or not.
Tank Mates: All dorarids get along well with conspecifics. Other candidates range from (characins) to middle sized cichlids. My three year experience confirms both suggestions.
Odd facts 1: When handling the fish you will often hear some squeaking sounds - especially if the fish is removed from the water. This can be quite alarming at first but it is just part of their natural behavior since they use those sounds as a protection against their predators.
Odd facts 2: Extreme caution should be taken when dealing (aka moving/handling) this fish: a jar is the perfect way to net" it. All kind of nets will possibly result in a hopelessly entangled fish. In this case NEVER forget the risk of nasty wounds. The fish has much "nerve" and will try to defend itself. If not "caught" from the head your, beloved, "finned friend" will attempt to cut your fingers by bending around, thus trapping your finger between their serrated lateral scouts and one pectoral fin ray. This sort of wound can be remarkably painful. That’s why the suggestion to use a jar and … extreme caution!
And here come – as usual - a few pics:
Didn’t I tell you it’s a shy fellow?!?!? Here it comes – almost buried in its den – looking at whatever is going on …
Since everything seem to be in order, the time is perfect for a quick walk in the tank .
Both (upper) pics were taken about six months after the return of me and the fish from the jungle. Lights are normally lighting the tank at that moment. Since the fish had already been in the tank for a long time, what you see is a concentrate of the extract of soaked oak leaves which is used in this tank. In one of my future updates I will let you know how to prepare this extract … it will significantly reduce the cost of chemicals you’re going to buy at the LFS - trust me!!!
In contrast, this picture was taken in November 2003. Despite most of catfishes seem to get used to "light" and tend – then - to be less secretive as time passes by, this is not the case with A. hancockii. Finding it in the open - even hiding under an Anubia leaf - is the exception rather than the rule. Luckily, my camera was at hand and its batteries were chargeed …
FYI: this given picture was then edited to gain some "light", thus better showing the shape/colour of fish. I hope you will appreciate my effort.