field guide to the freshwater fishes of singapore

Index of fishes
General parts of a fish
Kelvin K P Lim and Peter K L Ng
  Family Mastacembelidae
Africa, Asia. These are eel-like fishes with compressed tail, sometimes confluent with the long dorsal and anal fins. They possess a row of short spines along the back (hence their common name), lack pelvic fins and their snout is modified into a long, fleshy proboscis with tube-like nostrils at the sides (used to probe in the substrate for worms and other animals). They do possess tiny scales despite their naked appearance. Despite their shape and name, they are not related to the true eels (Anguillidae).

Genus Macrognathus
photo of whole fish, top view
Photo: Tan Bee Hong
Buff-backed Spiny Eel
Macrognathus maculatus
Ikan Tilan, name in chinese characters

Primarily freshwater fish; 9 cm; oviparous; carnivorous (eating small benthic invertebrates); solitary; benthic. Indigenous, endangered. Forest streams.

The only spiny eel known for certain to be in Singapore is nocturnal and prefers to hide in thick clumps of vegetation,
or under leaf litter in the day. It is usually dark brown with a light buff back. But the colours are subject to change depending on the fish's mood.

Another species very closely related to the Buff-Backed Spiny Eel, M. perakensis, was originally described from Perak and Singapore in 1937, but has not been seen since. It is probably identical to M. maculatus.
close-up photo of head showing snout
Snout of Spiny Eel is
used for probing for food
Photo: Tan Bee Hong
Freshwater habitats
Fishes in Singapore
Amazing Fishy Facts
About the guidebook
From A Guide to Common Freshwater Fishes of Singapore by Kelvin K P Lim and Peter K L Ng
Published by the Singapore Science Centre and sponsored by BP

@Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and Singapore Science Centre