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Related FAQs: Leaffishes

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Leaffishes, Families Nandidae, Badidae & Polycentridae

By Bob Fenner

Monocirrhus polyacanthus

Leaffishes are an anomalous small group of fishes, at times linked, placed with the similar-appearing Labyrinth Fishes (Anabantoids), though having little taxonomic affinity with that group. Both have large heads, with matching mouths that are protractile (more so in the Leafs)... Both resemble leaves in water at rest.


Nandids comprise ten species in seven genera... principally freshwater (some tending to brackish), northeastern South America, western Africa, southern Asia. Badids make up two genera with fifteen species in the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Mahanadi basins, in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh; and, Irrawaddy in Myanmar and China. Polycentrids are two monotypic genera of South American fishes. 


Most a few inches in length, one to some eight inches (Pristolepis fasciata).

Captive Husbandry:

Hardy fishes if received in good condition (rare) and provided with dedicated quarters (voracious predators that like a peaceful setting...). Commonly lost from handling, shipping trauma, secondary infection.

Family Badidae

Badis assamensis Ahl 1937. To 6.7 cm. Native of India.
Badis badis (Hamilton 1822), Badis or Chameleon Fish. Asia; Pakistan, India over to Myanmar and Bhutan. Feeds on crustaceans, worms, insects in the wild; needs meaty foods in captivity. To a bit over three inches overall length. Able to change color rapidly. Monotypic. Cond.s: pH 6-8, dH 5-19, temp. 23-26 C. Aquarium photo.

Family Polycentridae

Monocirrhus polyacanthus Heckel 1840, the Amazon Leaffish. South America; Guyana to Brazil and the Peruvian Amazon. to about three inches in length. Feeder on live fishes. Cond.s: pH 5-6, dH 5-8, temp. 22-25 C. A beauty that perishes all too frequently from too hard, alkaline water conditions, starvation and being placed with too active tankmates. Aquarium photos.

Bigger PIX: The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Polycentrus schomburgkii Muller & Troschel 1848, the Guyana Leaffish. Central and South America; Trinidad to the Guianas and Amazonas Basins. Feeds on live foods (worms, insects, fishes) in the wild and captivity. To four inches total length. Freshwater to brackish. Cond.s: pH 6-7, dH 18-20, temp. 22-26 C. Aquarium photo.


Bibliography/Further Reading:

Anon. 1973. Care and Breeding. The other Leaf Fish (Polycentrus). A.D.I. 2(2):73.

Armbrust, Walter. 1977.Like a brown leaf, the Leaf Fish, perfect camouflage (Monocirrhus polyacanthus). Aquarium Digest Int'l. #17, 3, 1977.

Howe, Jeffrey C. 1998. Original Descriptions (column). Nandus oxycephalus Ng, et al. 1996. FAMA 10/98.

Quinn, John R. 1988. Lord love a Leaffish. TFH 1/88.

Taylor, Edward C. 1980. Leaffish... More or less. The Family Nandidae and subfamily Polycentrinae. FAMA 2,3,5/80.

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