Australian lungfish oldest aquarium fish in the world

This is a

Video about a proposed dam on the Mary River in Queensland, Australia that threatens the oldest fish on the planet – the Queensland Lungfish.

From the Daily Herald in Chicago, USA:

The oldest aquarium fish in the world celebrates 75 years at the Shedd

By Laura Stewart | Daily Herald Staff

We’ve been peeking through the glass at him since the year Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president.

That makes Granddad, an Australian lungfish who has lived at Chicago’s John G. Shedd Aquarium for 75 years, the longest-living fish in any aquarium in the world.

“He was here when Model Ts were pulling up to the Shedd,” said Roger Germann, Shedd’s director of public relations. “Granddad bridges so many generation gaps.”

At 4 feet long and 25 pounds, Granddad is the color of a faded brown blanket, with charcoal age spots dotting his back.

He was named by a Shedd volunteer years ago, and has gone on to become one of the aquarium’s most popular residents.

“Hey! See the one with the spots — he’s been here since 1933!” a Shedd visitor shouts to a companion, while dumping half of his popcorn bag on the floor in excitement.

“I love Granddad — he’s so cool,” coos a teenaged girl, pressing her nose to the tank.

Lounging at the bottom of the 6,000-gallon tank he shares with four other much-younger Australian lungfish, a few turtles and some smaller fish, Granddad is the picture of tranquility.

Playful turtles dart around him. One stops to nibble his tail.

Granddad’s cloudy eyes occasionally turn to gaze out at the endless parade of humans on the other side of the glass — just as he’s been doing for three-quarters of a century.

Granddad made his journey, via steamship and train, from Sydney, Australia, to Chicago for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

At the time, scientists estimated that he was at least 5 years old and was fully mature.

George Parsons, director of fishes at the Shedd Aquarium, says that would make Granddad 80 now — perhaps even 85. Scientists have no idea how long a lungfish can live, he said.

“Granddad is very comfortable,” Germann said. “He gets the best care possible — the water temperature is just right, the food is just right.”

Granddad is fed three to four times a week with a variety of seafood, including smelt, small frozen fish and shrimp, Parsons said. He also likes to tear into heads of romaine lettuce that caretakers occasionally plunk into his tank.

But the old lungfish’s favorite treat by far are sweet potatoes — served raw and chopped.

“He eats really well, and looks like he is enjoying life,” Parsons said.

It is not Granddad’s age that makes him so sedentary, Parsons said.

Australian lungfish are not known to be active at any age. They lie in wait, camouflaging themselves and hoping to snap up anything that might be swimming nearby, Parsons said.

“They look like a big log,” he chuckled.

Mary river in Australia: here.

The biggest [fossil] lungfish on record has been uncovered in an unexpected place – a drawer in the Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln: here.

7 thoughts on “Australian lungfish oldest aquarium fish in the world

  1. Prized fish for the super-rich
    Sebastien Blanc
    Wed, 19 Mar 2008

    Gingerly removing a black cloth from his aquarium, Erfin Hongdoyo beams as he unveils one of his most treasured possessions — a large red, and very rare, arowana fish.

    The ethnic Chinese Indonesian is the proud owner of a 45-centimetre “scleropages formosus,” a freshwater fish native to the wilds of Indonesian Borneo which is nearing extinction.

    While the so-called “super red” arowana is disappearing in nature, demand for the undulating fish is booming among Asia’s rich.

    And although breeding is only permitted in three countries — Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore — the arowana’s growing popularity as a symbol of new-found wealth could be what saves it from extinction.

    “I think it looks like a dragon,” says Hongdoyo, adding he would not part with the fish for less than 30-40 million rupiah ($3300 to $4400).

    That’s nowhere near the top of the price scale as speculation has seen some arowanas change hands for as much as $55 000.

    A recent fair dedicated to arowanas in Indonesia’s capital ended with sales equivalent to $20 000 for one fish and $22 100 for another, said Stephen Suryaatmadja, founder and chairperson of the Indonesian Arowana Club.

    The fair had a special room with around 50 “super red” contestants, kept under 24-hour guard and with a total estimated value of more than $1-million.

    Rising popularity

    Breeders say demand for arowanas, which appear on the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) red list of threatened species, is on the rise in China, Japan, Taiwan and India.

    Its popularity is all about looks as the Chinese believe it resembles a dragon and symbolises good health, luck, prosperity, family harmony and protection against evil.

    Others believe the arowana has supernatural powers, or that it is a symbol of wealth and refinement, much like a work of art.

    It’s not just Chinese who are shelling out huge sums for the fish.

    The arowana’s appeal has led to the establishment of specialised fish farms, some of which are publicly listed and run by powerful businessmen.

    “There is more and more competition,” says Jap Khiat Bun, director of Jakarta’s CV Maju Aquarium, adding that there are now more than 200 breeders in Pontianak, on Borneo island, alone.

    Rampant smuggling

    Arowana are difficult to breed and breeders must register with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

    Each captive-bred fish must be sold with an accompanying certificate showing it to be at least a second generation captive fish. Each is also implanted with a microchip so it can be identified all times.

    Despite these precautions, the fever for arowanas is generating a “very high level of smuggling,” says Chris Shepherd, a regional programme officer with TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, a group which monitors the wildlife trade.

    “The profit margins are really high and therefore there are a lot of illegal captures to sustain the illegal trade,” he says. “The populations are rapidly declining. It’s a very urgent situation and I don’t see any sign of the trade getting smaller.”

    Laurent Pouyaud, a Jakarta-based genetic expert from the French Institute of Research for Development, agrees the red arowana is nearly extinct in Indonesia, and says it has probably already been wiped out in Thailand.

    “There are almost no more (in the wild),” says Pouyaud, adding that the remaining habitat in Borneo covers less than 100 hectares.

    Arowanas, which are insect-eaters, are able to jump to a height of 1.5 metres and can be easily captured, explains Pouyaud. “Their eyes glow not far from the surface and they can be caught with a net.”


    Which is best?

    According to one of the five international judges at the fair, Hendri Leong, discerning which arowana is best is a subtle process.

    Colour and body shape each account for 30 percent of the final mark, while the remaining 40 percent is worked out on the tail, fins and mouth.

    A prime arowana’s eyes must naturally look upwards, because it is supposed to be on the lookout for insects. The two barbels — whiskery protrusions from the front of the jaw — must run parallel to each other and the fins must be well-shaped and intact.

    An arowana that has a single row of scales along the crest of its back, rather than splitting in two at the gills, is declared “I Thiaw Long,” or “dragon in the dark,” and its value immediately doubles.


    According to arowana club chairperson Suryaatmadja, famous fish are starting to generate reputations similar to racehorses.

    The “grand champion Singapore 2007” was named Oscar de la Hoya, after the famous American boxer. Its owner was offered the price of a new Mercedes-Benz for the fish but turned it down.

    The craze for arowanas means rarity is sought out in all its forms. A Siamese-twin arowana fry, its two bodies joined on one side which prevents it from swimming, is kept alive by an owner who hand feeds it.

    Some albino or “platinum” arowanas have also gone at times for higher prices than the “super red” variety, as they are much rarer.

    Arowana-mania has also been a boon for fraudsters, with some feeding non-red arowanas with hormone-injected grasshoppers to give the fish the valuable hue.

    The fish is also associated with power. Suryaatmadja said that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had just bought a “super red”.

    The late former dictator Suharto was also reputed to own one which he called “the thinking arowana”. The fish, according to legend, was a silent consultant for the strongman when it came time to make difficult decisions.

    See also here.


  2. Lungfish survives in Coomera River

    Posted Wed Apr 9, 2008 9:00am AEST

    A Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries’ scientist says the Queensland lungfish is still living in the Coomera River on the Gold Coast.

    Dr Peter Kind, the department’s principal freshwater scientist, says the fish was introduced into the river in the late 1800s and there was not any credible evidence it had survived until recently.

    The Mary and Burnett rivers are believed to be the only natural habitats where the lungfish can breed.

    Dr Kind says he has found three lungfish in the Coomera River.

    “I always expected to find more and certainly the local residents who rang in during the later part of last year said they’d seen numerous fish at times swimming around in the lower sections of the river,” he said.


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