Giant barb
Giant barb

Giant barb - Catlocarpio siamensis

giant barb
giant barb fry
giant barb juvenile
Giant Barb - Pictures by

Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cypriniformes
Family: Cyprinidae

The Giant barb or Siamese giant carp, Catlocarpio siamensis, is the largets carp species of the world. Like many other gigantic fish species it originates from the Mae Klong, Mekong and Chao Phraya river basins in South East Asia. This species, which is considered a delicacy in its native range, is critically endangered but not IUCN red listed (yet). Very few barbs survive to reach maturity. Scientists fear that the populations of Giant barbs in many waters may be near reaching or already have reached a point  where to few specimens survive to sexual maturity to sustain the species. The exact reason for why so few fish survive to maturity is unknown but human fishing and exploitation of the river basins are believed to play a big role. Overfishing is most likely the main reason for the decline of the species. Big fish are very rare and only 10 specimens were caught (and reported) in the Mekong river basin in the year 2000.

The Giant barb can grow to be over 3 m (10 ft) in length and weigh up to 300 kg (660 lb), but specimens above 100 kg (220 lb) have become exceptionally rare in recent years. Giant barbs mainly live in large pools along the rivers edge. They are however migratory fish that migrates depending on food supply and they can therefore also be found in canals, floodplains and in flooded forests. Smaller specimens are typically found in tributary swamps but can adapt to life in other areas as well. It is a slow moving species that mainly eats vegetable matter such as fruit and algae. They are almost exclusively vegetarian and almost never feed on live animals.

A piece of interesting trivia about the Giant barb is that it is a tetraploid species. This means that it unlike most other animals, the Giant barb have four of each chromosome. Most animals are diploid and have two of each chromosome.

The Giant barb has large mythological importance in its native range and is sometimes called the “king of fish”. A sign of the importance of the giant barb can be seen by visiting Ankor Vat in Cambodia where the fish is depicted in stone carvings on the ancient temple. The fish has also been declared national fish of Cambodia.

Research is being carried out in an effort to try to help and save the Giant barb, but much work is still to be done. Hopefully we will be able to farm the species for the local fish markets and help replenish the wild stock in a not to distant future. One thing that speaks in favour of farming this species is the fact that young specimens can be acclimatized to live in ponds. Government conservation projects are mainly focused on captive breeding of this species.

The Giant barb is, due to it size, not suitable for the regular home aquarium but can be kept in very large aquariums. It is a somewhat demanding species and keeping it should be left to experts with large enough aquariums.