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Dedicate Yourself to Dartfish

Dartfish dart" into burrows in the substrate, flick fins and otherwise provide interest to an aquarium.

By Scott W. Michael

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Aquarium Fish 

InternationalThe dartfishes are fascinating little fishes that are well-suited to life in the home aquarium. Some exhibit striking colors, and all engage in interesting behaviors. Certain species (namely the firefishes, Nemateleotris spp.) have become an aquarium staple over the last four decades. But while most readily acclimate to captive living, there are dartfishes that have special care requirements.

When it comes to dartfish classification, confusion has reigned until recently. For a long time, they were placed in the goby family (Gobiidae). Then the dartfishes (subfamily Ptereleotrinae), along with the wormfishes (subfamily Microdesminae), were elevated to their own family: the Microdesmidae. This is all well and good then, right? Nope. Recently the dartfishes were split off from the wormfishes and placed in their own clan: the Ptereleotridae family.

So what makes a dartfish a dartfish? The ptereleotrids are elongate (but not as “wormy” as the wormfish) and have an oblique (slanted) mouth with a projecting lower jaw. They have no lateral line and instead have small scales that are embedded in the skin. They also differ from their wormfish kin in that the head is naked (there are no scales), and the dorsal fin is split into two sections in all but one species (the monofin dartfish, Ptereleotris monoptera). In all the wormfishes, there is one continuous dorsal fin.

Want to read the full story? Pick up the August 2012 issue of Aquarium Fish International today.

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