Il-Magħluq’s fish fauna – The killifish and seabass

In our first installment about the Magħluq’s fish fauna, we had talked about the common eel. In this second episode, we will be talking about 2 fish. One is the killifish; probably the fish that is most commonly associated with the Magħluq area.

The other is the seabass; another fish that habitates the area.

The information is again brought to our portal by Mr. Rio Sammut, who we thank for his valuable input.

Aphanius fasciatus: Killifish (Bużaqq in Maltese)

Aphanius fasciatus Saline de Cervia 2003
Photo from www.killi.co.uk

Max. length: 6.5cm Max. weight: 10g

Characteristics:

Rounded body covered in big scales: large eyes; short mouth deflected upwards; single dorsal fin set at mid-point of the back; anal fin bigger than pectorals; fan tail, truncated and slightly convex; the male is smaller and yellow or greyish-green with blue areas and about twelve dark vertical bands across the sides; the female is 10% larger and more greyish, with alternating narrower and shorter black stripes.

Habits:

The Maltese Killifish is an endemic sub-species. It used to be extremely abundant in brackish water, occasionally penetrating into the seawater inside bays, especially following torrential rainfall and consequent flooding. It feeds on small organic scraps, mosquito larvae, and minute crustaceans and copepods. Being a carnivorous predator it must not be kept in a community aquarium, but only with others of its own kind. Its numbers have declined alarmingly in the last two decades and it is now an endangered species. If any specimens are collected for a period of study in a suitable fish tank, they should be released exactly where they had been found within the week.

Dicentrarchus labrax : Seabass (Spnotta in Maltese)

Photo from renotonna.yolasite.com

The sea-basses belong to a small family of elongated grey fishes that superficially resemble grey mullets. They are heavily built powerful predators that live near the coastline and often associate themselves with schools of grey mullets. When young they are gregarious and visit bays and harbours in shoals, looking for small fishes that they attack and devour mercilessly. They have two distinct dorsal fins, the first spiny and fan-shaped, and the second with one spine followed by a number of soft rays. There are three spines leading the anal fin and the tail fin is somewhat forked. The head, eyes and mouth are all moderately sized.

Max. length: 1m

Max. weight: 9kg

Characteristics:

A powerful stocky body, circular in cross section; conspicuous eyes; well developed strong jaws lined with fine teeth on the inside, the lower jaw protruding a little; the first gill cover has some spines on the lower edge and the second has no ridges; well attached, big cycloid scales cover the skin; the fins are short-based and well balanced, the tail fin is forked with a thick peduncle; dark brownish-grey on the back, with silvery-grey sides and almost white metallic belly.

Habits:

The European species inhabits the western Atlantic coasts, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. This handsome fish travels during daytime from coast to coast, penetrating inshore waters to prey on small or young fishes, sand-eels, squids and crustaceans. Actually it attempts to swallow anything that moves, in fact the author has personally found a bird chick, a number of large flying ants, pieces of dead sea grass, and a bite of pizza, inside Seabass stomachs!

The young frequent bays and inlets and consume more invertebrates than adult fish do. The Seabass is a hardy fish found at all sorts of seabeds and even in brackish waters. When the sea is rough the adults are to be found at the surf zone, close to the shoreline, attacking the confused smaller fishes. This habit makes the Bass a favourite sporting fish, well known for the tenderness of its scrumptious white flesh.

This bass is bred and farmed extensively since it is a fast growing fish and very hardy. It is exquisite to eat, especially when it gets away from the fish farms and feeds on a natural diet for a week or more.

This fish may be found inside the Maghluq (fish ponds) of Marsaskala (Malta) It belongs there naturally, but is a threat to the killifish, being a predator. Together with the killifish, eels, and hundreds of other vertebrates and invertebrates, its numbers are always diminishing, mainly due to toxic chemicals leaching into the ponds from the Sant Antnin Recycling Plant as well as fertiliser farming and firework fallout.