Biotope Video: Sinharaja National Park, Sri Lanka

22 Jun, 2015

During my travels in Sri Lanka last autumn, I was fortunate enough to spend two days in the incomparably beautiful Sinharaja Forest Reserve in the Southwestern corner of the island. This protected tract of rainforest is so rich in biodiversity that it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and in my opinion, it is one of the great and truly wild places on this planet. Although most of the wildlife I encountered in Sinharaja was terrestrial in nature, the park abounded with clear, cool mountain streams teeming with a number of endemic fish.

Sinharaja is home to pristine freshwater ecosystems teeming with native fish

Sinharaja is home to pristine freshwater ecosystems teeming with native fish

Although I make no claims to be a videographer, I managed to capture some footage of some spectacular freshwater biotopes throughout the park. Most of these were characterized by fast-moving, clear water with rocky or slightly muddy bottoms, and many were fully shaded by the dense canopy overhead. By far the most common species was the cyprinid Systomus (formerly Puntius) pleurotaenia, which could be found in dense shoals in nearly every stream and little creek. Coming in close second in terms of abundance was the extraordinarily pretty combtail gourami, Belontia signata, which live in large aggregations close to shore, especially where there is overhanging or submerged vegetation. These colorful labyrinth fish would make attractive (if slightly bellicose) aquarium residents which would fare well with many commonly available barbs. Another aquarium-suitable endemic I encountered in these streams was the Ceylon sucker, Garra ceylonensis. This small, bold, algae- and detritus-feeder occurred in small groups in rocky areas. Several times I found multiple Garra had attached themselves to my feet while I was filming.

Fast-moving, clear water streams like this one are abundant throughout the forest

Fast-moving, clear water streams like this one are abundant throughout the forest

Although Sri Lanka tends not to be considered a hotbed of freshwater fish species, there is still an abundance of beautiful endemics and equally impressive aquatic habitats to be found on the island. I hope you enjoy the short video I compiled from my time in this remarkable protected forest.

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About the author

Mike Tuccinardi
Mike Tuccinardi

With a background spanning retail, wholesale, and aquarium fish import, Mike Tuccinardi began working at a local fish store in his early teens and has been following the fish ever since. After a stint in Florida working for a major importer and tropical fish farm, Mike has traveled through Asia and South America visiting aquarium fish exporters, collectors, and fishing communities. He currently serves on the advisory board of Project Piaba as well as the steering committee for the IUCN’s Home Aquarium Fish Sub-Group (HAFSG). When not traveling, Mike resides in Boulder, CO with his wife and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Science. He is a Senior Editor of AMAZONAS and CORAL Magazines.

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