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T. palembangensis, is one of the species that has been the brunt of
years of misidentification. A perpetuated mistake, this species name was placed
with a photo of the Figure 8 (T. biocellatus), and years of confusion
followed. I have seen this puffer sold under the common name of "Dragon
Puffer" and "Black River Puffer". Upon seeing them available
at a local fish store, I purchased the first specimen above in 2001. He was
sickly, and did pass away.
When I was not able to find any photographic reference to identify the fish,
I made an appointment at the Steinhart Aquarium's collection room, and took
the preserved body with me. None of the available specimens there matched
my fish. My helpful and kind guide found a number of books in their library,
which we paged through. We finally found the accurate reference for this fish
in Maurice Kottelat's book Freshwater Fishes of Western Indonesia and
Sulawesi, with a perfect match on the photograph. He also provided me
with a number of journals from Dr. Tyson Roberts. Some of the specimens we
looked at were amazing, including some of the other fish from this puffer's
habitat. T. abei, very large T. leiurus, T. suvattii, and T. baileyi
were some we were able to view. The specimens of T. palembangensis
were out on loan, so we were very happy to have the library at our disposal!
in August of 2002, I had the opportunity to purchase another individual from
LFS that had him with about half a dozen T. suvatti. This is classic example
of checking every tank for an individual that does not look like the others!
They had no idea this puffer was a different species. Unfortunately, he had
a large bite wound to the head region, right above the eye, about an inch
square and to the bone. Part of the eye was also damaged, but he tracked my
finger with the injured eye, so I felt certain he had not lost sight. I convinced
the store to medicate the tank for a week with Kanacyn, so I could be sure
he would survive if I brought him home. With a $30 USD price tag, it was important
to me to not purchase a dying puffer. After a week, the mark had reduced to
about a centimeter square, and the eye had cleared with only a small incision
remaining. So he came home with me, and I named him Dave. One of his LFS tank
mates is also with me, you can see him on the T. suvattii page.
This individual was quite large, about 7-8" total length, with a sizable
girth, close to 3.5 inches across. He was fond of shrimp. The large mouth
extends quite a bit when he sucks food in. The teeth are very pointed much
like the T. suvattii. The large red eyes are expressive. Note the eye spots
on the tail region, typically 4 to 5 of them for this species, which do not
fade with maturity like the T. abei. The pattern extends over the whole under
belly, and a large range of colour morphing is possible. Dave was housed on
a rather light coloured substrate, so the lighter colours are predominately
shown. The first photo of the individual I obtained in 2001 shows some of
the darker colours possible.
He did not show interest in eating the large Ramshorn snails that were in
his tank. They were about the size of a US quarter. He ate strips of fish
we cleaned for dinner, as well as mussel meat and some squid. Shrimp was his
favourite. Unfortunately he succumbed to velvet. I have had nothing but trouble
with this species in captivity. Apparently they are quite prone to disease.