Panaque Suttoni





PH RANGE: 6.2 - 7.5

TEMPERATURE: 20.0-24.0°C (68-75.2°F)

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Panaque sutonorum is a species of freshwater fish from the South American catfish family Loricariidae. It is known from the Maracaibo river basin, Venezuela. In 2010, P. suttonorum was reevaluated and considered as a sister species with Panaque cochliodon, due to their similarities.

Caught in the crossfire of drugs and revolution, the Blue eye panaque is a rare Colombian export. Nathan Hill explains why it's worth celebrating when some make it to freedomâ.

If you’ve been keeping fish for less than ten years it’s unlikely that you’ve ever seen a true Blue-eyed panaque in the flesh. The tragedy in that is that they’re beautiful. The young have simple yet outstanding colour schemes, while adults, though more bland, are like a quality whisky – you admire and respect them more with every sampling. Two ‘possible’ species are described as a Blue eyed panaque. The first, and possibly original recognised variety, is Panaque suttonorum, also known as the Lake Maracaibo Blue eye from Venezuela.

The other, Panaque cochliodon, or the Rio Magdalena Blue eye, is considered Colombian — although they are also found to cross over into the same habitat as P. suttonorum.If trying to remember when we’d have last seen these fish, then likely they’d have gone under Panaque suttoni — now a defunct moniker. In the mid to late 1980s, P. suttonorum were regular sights in home and retail tanks — one even appearing in the film ‘A Fish Called Wanda’. Through the 1990s they commanded increasing prices and became scarcer. Then seemingly overnight, close to the millenium, they practically disappeared off the radar.

P. cochliodon wasn’t affected as much, although wasn’t overly abundant in the first place. This species asks a much lower price than P. suttonorum, although unscrupulous retailers will sometimes try to palm one off as the original and more expensive Blue eye. So where did they all go? There are a few schools of thought. Retailers and importers all seem to have their own pet theories and some have ossified into perpetual myths.

PFK contributor Heiko Bleher offers a fascinating insight into what could have happened to the imports of P. suttonorum, as part of a tale of nefarious deeds undertaken by an infuriated parent. The story goes that a billionaire businessman and his daughter were in the region where P. suttonorum inhabit when she was stung by a ray while in the waters.

The man was so enraged that he flew back to the US where he paid for the development of a poison to kill the fish that harmed his child. Returning to Venezuela, he administered it to the Magdalena river. Unfortunately for the suttonorum, it was at the spot where they were endemic and caused ecological murder on an unprecedented scale. No attempt had been made to stop the poisoner! Heiko has subsequently returned to P. suttonorum’s native ranges and has yet to find a single species in this original habitat. He found some at the mouth of the Rio Cauca, but of a variation and not true to the original Blue eye.

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