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alpha loach morphology??

Posted By: rob <surreal_boy@yahoo.com>
Date: Monday, 9 October 2000, at 11:45 p.m.

ok, having had my herd of clowns for about 4 months now, i've been observing their little social pecking order thing. figuring out who the alpha fish is is a very simple procedure: he's the guy who is a good 50% larger than all of his buddies, and closer to twice the size of the smallest peon. (i classify my clowns as the alpha, the gluttons, and the peons). they were all the same size when i got them; round 1" or so. the strange part is, the giant alpha clown doesnt eat nearly as much some of the more enthsiastic gluttons. all of the fish are doing well, putting on size, gotta healthy build, etc. i just dont know how he keeps his rotund figure when some of his boys seem to eat so much more food. i'm sure it must be hormonal; either something he releases into the water to keep the other guys in check(ive heard of this before, but i remain skeptical. seems like it wouldnt work in nature, where the stuff is diluted in millions of gallons of water), or perhaps it's something internal. like, hormones released within his own body that say "hey, im the tuffest loach here. my growth is gonna get kicked into OVERdrive!=)"

which leads me to the more puzzling (and more interesting) part: size notwithstanding, the alpha loach is built totally different than his conspecifics within the tank. he has a very high body, which i would expect in a loach as he gets older, but it is arched more than any of the other laoches, even the ones close to his size. also, this shape difference has been present since he was smaller than most of the other guys are now. most interesting is his head: his head is way bigger than any of the other fish; also, his snout is ridiculously long. and (this part may be my imagination, or do simply to his larger size), the larger of his eyeball spines seems more prominent. the larger gluttons are getting pretty high bodied, but not a one shows the different facial(do loaches really have faces?) features i have described above. i've consideed the possibilty that this is just normal variation of an individual fish, but the customers who i do maintenace for that keep clowns (one guy has 2, another customer has 3) all have their alpha fish looking kinda bigheaded and long-nosed. hrm.

question: if i were to remove the alpha fish, would the next in line develope these characteristics? has anyone ever lost/removed their alpha fish and noticed such a transformation? i dont want to mess up the school dynamic of my loaches, but it is tempting b/c this is really kinda interesting. another odd thing to note is that none of the other 8 loaches seem to wanna assert real dominance. they all wrestle amongst themselves over food, and jostle, but nary a loach in the tank will step to the mighty alpha fish. is this a case of a hyperdominant loach, or are the rest of my loaches just wimpy? very odd stuff indeed, and food for thought.

a final question regarding dominance in botia: i know that these critters are virtually impossible to sex, but does anyone have a theory as to the typical gender of alpha botias? i think that would be cool, if it were invariably a male or female fish that took charge of his herd. (my loaches dont school, they herd. they dont fight, they wrestle. they dont rest, they lounge.) any thoughts at all? i'd love to hear from ya...


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