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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
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Bigspot or Malayan Clown Barb

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4







Order : Cypriniformes
Species : Barbodes dunckeri
Maximum Length : at least 8.1 cm

Barbodes dunckeri (Bigspot Barb or Malayan Clown Barb) is an easily recognisable barb found in a number of freshwater swamp forest sites in Johor, Peninsular Malaysia, including Kota Tinggi (Gunung Panti Forest Reserve), Mersing (Gunung Arong Forest Reserve), and at the foot of Gunung Belumut near Kahang.

The most recent IUCN assessment (Ahmad, 2019) categorised this species as Endangered due to continued loss of habitat to urban sprawl and conversion to palm oil plantations, as well as illegal capture for the aquarium trade.

As with other Barbodes species this strikingly patterned fish is benthopelagic in habits; by day it explores deeper pools for food prey - probably small invertebrates - or it simply faces upstream waiting for edible food items to drift by.

The examples shown here (Figs 1 to 3) clearly show the size and position of 5 dark spots or patches. Images in Tan & Husana (2021) show an additional small dark spot close to the front edge of the anal fin; this is not visible in images taken from a dorso-lateral perspective. However, the dark lateral stripe is clearly visible in these images, and the fins are orange, which is a diagnostic feature.

The type locality of Barbodes dunckeri is Bukit Timah, Singapore, however the species has not been seen anywhere in the republic since 1940 (Lim, K. K. P. pers. comm.), and is thus considered to be locally extinct.

Figs 1 and 2 : Examples from a shallow forest stream passing through freshwater swamp forest in Johor, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 3 : Another example viewed directly from above. The other 2 fishes are a Rasbora sp., and at the bottom of the image a Saddle Barb (Barbodes sellifer).

Fig 4 : Acidic swamp forest stream, with high tannin content, at the foot of Gunung Arong. Johor, Peninsular Malaysia.  

References :

Ahmad, A.B. 2019. Barbodes dunckeri. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019.

Tan Heok Hui & Daniel Edison M. Husana.  (2021). Barbodes pyrpholeos, new species, the first cave-dwelling cyprinid fish in the Philippines, with redescription of B. montanoi (Teleostei: Cyprinidae). Raffles Bulletin Of Zoology, 69: 309-323.