I’ll be honest. I never used to be one for freshwater tropical fish. After all, saltwater tropical fish always seemed so much more colourful, so much more captivating. Just walk by the coral reef exhibit in the Tropic Zone and you’ll see what I’m talking about. But in the years since starting work at the Aquarium, I’ve learned more about the fishes that inhabit the warm fresh waters of places like the Amazon and Asia, and have realized there’s so much diversity and yes, colour, in these species.
That’s the reason why I nominated the Denison barb (Sahyadria denisonii) for May’s Staff Pick of the Month. Just look at that red stripe down its body – it’s colourful too! I also chose it because it comes from the place in the world I want to visit most: India. More specifically, it lives in particular rivers and streams in the Western Ghats, the mountain range that runs parallel to the west coast of the country.
The Denison barb is named for Sir William Thomas Denison who was the governor of Madras, India in the late 1800s. It is also called “bleeding eyes” and the “red-line torpedo fish.” Its beauty hasn’t gone unnoticed by private aquarium collectors who love this fish a little too much. In fact, The IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species says, “Collection for the international aquarium pet trade is the single major threat” to this type of fish. The Denison barb is now considered endangered.
When I gaze into this exhibit and feel the warmth of the tropical gallery, I am transported to another place for a moment. While I only need to turn around to realize I’m in the hustle and bustle of the Aquarium and not in the tranquil foothills of India, a girl can dream, can’t she?
Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.