ARK - Arizona Rivulin Keepers

The Firethroat Killie

By Allan Semeit. This article was originally published in the March 1995 edition of "Tropical News," the monthly magazine of the Sacramento Aquarium Society.

Why is it that a particular fish captivates you? The reasons can be many: colors, color pattern, body shape, finnage, feeding habits, disposition, behavior and rarity are some of those that come to mind. It seems to be a characteristic of tropical fish hobbyists that whatever attracts to a fish doesn't long endure. We continually find new favorites and let old favorites disappear from our tanks. Yet some species buck this trend. For me, that fish has been the Firethroat Killie, Epiplatys dageti (pronounced roughly "da-jay-eye").

Epiplatys dageti first entered the aquarium hobby in 1908 when some were imported from Liberia into Germany. The species proved to be popular and relatively easy to maintain. In fact, that strain successfully survived two World Wars and is still available today.

When I first was introduced to Epiplatys dageti in the early 1970's, there had been a long and lingering confusion over the name. Apparently when the species was originally imported, some were sent to the famous ichthyologist Pierre Boulanger for identification. Boulanger decided that they were the same as a previously Epilpatys chaperi. They were then distributed into the hobby as Epiplatys chaperi. A few years later, Boulanger published his famous catalogue of fishes and included a picture of an Epiplatys dageti male labeled as Epiplatys chaperi. This confirmed and continued the misnaming.

In 1952, a slightly different fish was collected near Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. There were enough differences between the two strains that Poll decided that this was an unnamed species and he described the fish as Epiplatys dageti in 1953.

During collections by Daget and Arnoult in 1964, the true Epiplatys chaperi was rediscovered and identified. It was a larger fish reaching about four inches and was also attractively colored. The true Epiplatys chaperi appears to be widespread, ranging from Guinea to Togo.

It became obvious that the same-named aquarium fish was not Epiplatys chaperi. At about the same time, in 1962 and 1965, Clausen found fish in Ghana and near Monrovia, Liberia, which resembled the aquarium strain. Clausen sent some of these to Scheel who crossed them with the 1952 Ivory Coast Epiplatys dageti to produce fully fertile and viable offspring. It turns out that the fish we now call Epiplatys dageti has two subspecies: dageti (DAG) and monroviae (MON). DAG displays six vertical, dark crossbars with males showing white, gray, or pinkish throat colors. MON displays only five crossbars (missing one above the ventral fin) and males have an orange-red throat.

Epiplatys dageti is an attractive fish that grows to about two inches. Like most killifish, the female is rather plain. She has an olive drab colored, cylindrical, body with five or six "tiger" stripes. The male's body is a shinier gold-green color with the dark vertical "tiger" stripes. The male also has an unusual tail. About two-thirds of the way down, the fin rays begin extending further as they approach the bottom to form a small "swordtail."

A quick glance will tell you that this fish is a surface feeder. The head is relatively flat of top and the shape of the mouth resembles the ramp of a Naval landing boat. From the side, the head looks somewhat like a saber blade. These features help Epiplatys dageti prey upon terrestrial insects (like ants) blown unto the water as well as aquatic life such as mosquito larvae.

Epiplatys dageti is a slow-moving, generally peaceful species. Males will display to one another to show how big and tough they are, but seldom progress beyond this. I prefer to keep them in a colony of several males with two or three females per male. For breeding, my best results have come when I separate one male and female in a two gallon tank with a spawning mop.

Compared to most killifish, the eggs of Epiplatys dageti are small. They are about one third to one quarter the size of a typical Aphyosemion egg. When the fry hatch out after about two weeks, they are quite small also. If you do not have microworms or an infusoria culture as a first food, set up a rearing container (large Cool Whip tub or plastic shoe box) about a week ahead of hatching time with some Java moss or hair algae, and (most important) two or three Ramshorn snails. This combination will produce the tiny food the fry need for their first week or so. After a few days, most of the fry will be able to consume small baby brine shrimp.

Why do I like this fish? I really do not know, but I do.