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Luciocephalus pulcher

Luciocephalus pulcher
Crocodile Pikehead
With a reputation as a difficult species to maintain in captivity, Luciocephalus pulcher is recommended only to those enthusiasts able to provide the specialist diet and care it requires for its long-term health. It seems to travel very poorly, and is often seen on sale in a weakened, emaciated state. It is also particularly susceptible to bacterial infections when initially imported. Observe the fish carefully when buying and avoid any that are showing red patches around the mouthparts or fins, or that appear especially listless. Once settled, feeding and provided with conditions it is actually quite a hardy and very unusual Anabantoid. 
Despite their predatory nature Luciocephalus are closely related to many of the commonly available gouramis. They are grouped within the Osphronemid subfamily Luciocephalinae along with Colisa, Trichogaster, Sphaerichthys, Parasphaerichthys and Ctenops species. The latter trio share an egg structure with Luciocephalus that is unique among teleosts, consisting of a series of spiralling ridges on the outer surface. This has given rise to the (as yet unproven) theory that the four genera form a monophyletic group ie. they share a common genetic ancestor. In Luciocephalus and Sphaerichthys the eggs are also distinctively pear-shaped, suggesting that these two share even closer genetic similarities. 
Luciocephalus pulcher was the sole representative of the genus for many years, until Tan and Ng described the beautiful L. aura in 2005. L. aura is a little smaller than Luciocephalus pulcher and can be easily distinguished by the peppering of iridescent spots along its flanks. This patternng also gave rise to its common name of peppermint pikehead. Both species lack functioning swim bladders. 
Like others in the suborder Anabantoidei, Luciocephalus possess an accessory breathing apparatus known as the labyrinth organ. So-called due to its maze-like structure, this organ allows the fish to breathe atmospheric air to a certain extent. It is formed by a modification of the first gill arch, and consists of many highly vascularised, folded flaps of skin. The structure of the organ varies in complexity between species, tending to be more well-developed in those inhabiting particularly oxygen-deprived conditions.