Page last updated at 18:58 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Zoo 'first' to breed dragon fish

Dragon fish
The fry are held in the adult male's mouth when they are young

An endangered species of fish, known as dragon fish, has been bred at Bristol Zoo Gardens, thought to be the first zoo in Europe to succeed.

Only eight individual dragon fish are thought to be housed in UK zoos - four at Bristol zoo and four at Chester Zoo.

Jonny Rudd, from Bristol Zoo, said: "According to Zoo records, no dragon fish have ever been bred in Europe. This could even be a world first."

The pair of dragon fish at Bristol Zoo have produced 15 fry (offspring).

Jonny Rudd, assistant curator of the aquarium at Bristol Zoo, said: "Dragon fish are notoriously difficult to breed - this is the first time any fry have survived in the 13 years the zoo has had these four dragon fish."

Adults re-homed

Mr Rudd said the successful breeding may have been helped by recent efforts to purify the water in the dragon fish tank, using reverse osmosis, as well as increasing the water temperature by a few degrees.

Bristol Zoo Gardens re-homed the four adult dragon fish in 1995 after they were confiscated by customs.

The species, scleropages formosus, is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's endangered list and as a result the trade of dragon fish is strictly monitored.

The fry are held in the adult male's mouth when they are young, which makes it difficult to know their exact age. But it is estimated they are about nine weeks old.

Dragon fish are native to South East Asia where their ownership is a sign of wealth and status.

The species is thought to be close to extinction in Thailand and is so rare it is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in an international agreement between governments that came into force in 1975.

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