P sumatranus 'TCE 2018' photo by David Jones1Parosphromenus suma­tranus

Klause­witz 1955

First descrip­tion: See– und Süßwasser­fis­che von Suma­tra und Java. Senck­en­ber­giana Bio­log­ica, 36: 309323

Char­ac­ter­is­tics: one of the most enig­matic Parosphromenus species, because it seems to occur in two struc­turally dif­fer­ent vari­ants, a form with a rather high back (nor­mal type of licorice gourami) and a sig­nif­i­cantly leaner form with a rel­a­tively lower back (type lean licorice gourami, like ornaticauda/​parvulus). It is unclear if these types rep­re­sent the end­point of a con­tin­uum or sep­a­rate forms or varieties.

Total length max. 3.5 cm. Fin for­mula: Dor­sal: XI-​XII, 67, total 1719, anal fin: X-​XII, 810, total 2022. The male shows in both fins, light red colour bands and in the rear part of the dor­sal fin a species-​typical round black dot, which can some­times be found in the females as well, but here it appears to be less dis­tinct. A nar­row dark band, which runs along the bor­der between body and anal fin is also typ­i­cal for this species. This band is not present in other licorice gouramis, in this form. The cau­dal fin is mono­chrome pale red to black-​red. The male also shows some­times a very short (usu­ally only 1 mm), sin­gle cau­dal fil­a­ment – this occurs occa­sion­ally although less dis­tinctly in females, too.

Sim­i­lar species: Until its recog­ni­tion as a sep­a­rate species by Kot­te­lat in 2005, suma­tranus was regarded as a sup­species of the wide­spread P. deiss­neri. This species was sub­se­quently mis-​labelled repeat­edly. In fact there is no risk of con­fu­sion, espe­cially if the behav­iour is con­sid­ered. Head-​up courtship appears apart from this species, only in P.ornaticauda and P.parvulus. P.sumatranus can not be con­fused with these two species, due to its fin and body coloura­tion, which con­forms to the main licorice gourami type. But even in pure phe­no­typic con­sid­er­a­tion, the risk of con­fu­sion is low, because the species shows char­ac­ter­is­tic par­tic­u­lar­i­ties in its coloura­tion (see above).

Occur­rence /​Dis­tri­b­u­tion: endemic on Suma­tra, Jambi dis­trict, e.g. near Lei­bong Sep­baju and in the river basins of Sun­gai Ayer Merah, Sun­gai Pijoan, Sun­gai Siak Kecil and Sun­gai Sentang.

Threat: Not known in detail, but surely given due to their endemic occur­rence. Destruc­tion of the licorice gourami habi­tats is a major threat also in Suma­tra and thus suma­tranus has to be regarded as endan­gered, too — like the other licorice gouramis.

Discovery/​First import: the first describer, the ichthy­ol­o­gist Wolf­gang Klause­witz from Frank­furt, described the species as a sup­posed sub­species of “deiss­neri”, based on fish that he found in an import.

Trade: both vari­ants, with high and low back, occa­sion­ally have appeared in inter­na­tional trade, in recent years. Often they are not recog­nised as such, but receive partly mis­lead­ing trade names for mar­ket­ing rea­sons (“deiss­neri”, “red line”, fire red”, etc.).

Care /​Breed­ing: just like other licorice gouramis. The species is very shy and needs hid­ing places. The tank set up has to con­sider this need. In suit­able larger tanks simul­ta­ne­ous courtship and breed­ing of sev­eral cou­ples can take place – this indi­cates a syn­chro­ni­sa­tion in cohab­it­ing groups. K. Koomans reported that 5 breed­ing pairs had courtship at the same time.

Behav­iour /​Par­tic­u­lar­i­ties:Head-​up courtship. Even a “tipped over” posi­tion is pos­si­ble. This is the most strik­ing fea­ture of this species, together with the remark­able shy­ness, which is reported by many experts. The phe­nom­e­non of the pres­ence two struc­turally dif­fer­ent types (see above) is still com­pletely unclear. Peter Finke has linked a par­tic­u­lar hypoth­e­sis to this species con­cern­ing the evo­lu­tion of the genus. It is the only Parosphromenus species, which com­bines fea­tures of the two large struc­ture and behav­iour types of licorice gouramis (“com­mon type” vs. “ornaticauda/​parvulus group”): from the first type the gen­eral body coloura­tion (hor­i­zon­tal bands), as well as (prin­cip­i­ally) the coloura­tion of dor­sal and anal fin with bands, but from the lat­ter it shows the slen­der body shape and the char­ac­ter­is­tic head-​up courtship. This could be inter­preted in a way that the two main groups have emerged from a sumatranus-​like species, from which one group took the first named fea­tures, whereas the sec­ond devel­oped the sec­ond group of char­ac­ter­is­tics. In some plant and ani­mal groups sev­eral exam­ples for such a evo­lu­tion­ary split have been recog­nised. If the same is the case for suma­tranus, then this is indeed a par­tic­u­larly inter­est­ing species: the descen­dant of a pri­mal licorice gourami.


W. Klause­witz 1955: Parosphromenus deiss­neri – zum ersten Mal in Deutsch­land. DATZ 10: 257 f.




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