What is a Zingel?

J.L. Drede

A zingel is a type of fish that is found in freshwater streams and rivers in Europe. It is a long and slender fish that can grow anywhere between 5 to 18 inches and length (12 to 45 centimeters), and are typically dark brown, green or gray in color. The zingel is part of the percidae family of fish, which features defining characteristics such as rough scales, armored heads and two narrow sets of close-set teeth on each side of their jaws.

Veterinarian with a puppy
Veterinarian with a puppy

There are three species of zingel — asper, streber and zingel zingel. All are completely harmless to humans and feed primarily on small animals and fish eggs that reside on the floor of fast-moving waters, usually at night. The zingel is a resilient cold-water fish, and is usually found in water with a temperature between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit (4 to 15 degrees Celsius).

During the months of March and April it will travel across rivers to spawn, typically resting in areas with more vegetation or heavy stones. Between its large size, relatively bland appearance when compared to other fish and an extremely limited habitat, zingels are not popular fish for aquarium enthusiasts. The only fish tank you'll probably find one in is at a zoo or public aquarium. It is also not fished for food, partially because it is so hard to find.

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While the zingel zingel and streber species are still plentiful in the wild, the asper is categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a critically endangered species, one step away from becoming completely extinct in the wild. Only four fragmented populations of the fish are known to still exist. The last population assessment by the organization was done in 2006, and the numbers were not promising with heavy decreases found when compared to previous population assessments.

A population of the fish outside of Drome, France, is down to just a few, and in the area of Durance it is believed that just 200 or so remain. Less than 100 were found in the Beaume area of France, and by the River Doubs in Switzerland less than 160 remain. The organization predicts that all three of those populations have the chance to become extinct, which will severely limited the chances for the species to continue much longer. River damns and continued pollution of the rivers where the fish thrives are blamed for the rapid decrease in population.

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