Characidae Characins

The majority of characidae commonly known as Characins (over 1,000 species in all) live in South America, especially in the Amazon basin, but not all are aquarium fish. You can usually identify them by a small adipose fin situated between the dorsal and caudal fins; however, this is not always present, and is also found in certain catfish species. Their solid teeth indicate that they are carnivores: their diet consists, among other things, of insects and insect larvae.

Characins live in groups or shoals in running water and pools where there is plentiful shade and vegetation, factors which guarantee the protection of their eggs. Gregarious and peaceful, they can be kept in community tanks of no great size, provided the water is soft and acidic; this requirement applies particularly to the black water Amazonian species, such as neon tetra, cardinal tetra, glowlight tetra. and black tetra.

There must be abundant plant life in the tank in order to diffuse the light. The Characins will accept manufactured food, but they are voraciously fond of small, live prey. Getting them to spawn, once considered a problem, is within the scope of the hobbyist with some experience: most species reproduce indeed in the same manner. The aquarium should be small - 50 liters or less - and you need to use marbles, peat, or fine-leafed plants to protect the eggs. The water must be soft and acidic, and the light levels low: the aquarium can even be placed in total darkness. Remove the breeding pair (or all adults if you have used two males to one female) after mating, or they will devour their own eggs. The fiy -which grow rapidly - will take small, live prey just a few days after hatching; you can then restore the normal lighting.

Aphyocharax anisitsi

The bloodfin is a free swimmer living in shoals and requiring uncrowded conditions. It will eat dried food, but prefers small, live prey. Size: 4-5 cm. •

Anoptichthysjordani

As a result of geological upheavals, the blind cave tetra found itself trapped in a number of subterranean rivers in Mexico. Over the course of time it lost the use of its eyes, but it can still find its food on the riverbed, thanks to its sense of smell. The sensory organs of its lateral line allow it to avoid obstacles, even unanticipated ones, such as the human hand. Size: 8-10 cm.

Aphyocharax anisitsi

The bloodfin is a free swimmer living in shoals and requiring uncrowded conditions. It will eat dried food, but prefers small, live prey. Size: 4-5 cm. •

THE EXCEPTION

Phenacogrammus interruptus (the Congo or Zaire tetra) does not share the same origins as other Characins. It lives in shoals in soft, mildly acidic conditions, and needs plenty of swimming space. The male is recognizable by the tubercle on the middle of the anal fin. Size: 10-13 cm.

Cheirodonaxelrodi

The cardinal tetra needs peat-filtered, acidic water to bring out the best in its coloration. For breeding, water hardness must be practically zero; pH can be as low as 6. The development of the eggs (300-500 approximately) must take place in darkness. Size: 4-5 cm.

Gymnocorymbusternetzi

The black tetra or black widow breeds best in low light levels and can lay up to 1,000 eggs in soft, acidic conditions. A veil variety, with noticeably larger fins, has been evolved through artificial selection. Size: 5-6 cm.

Red Nose Tetra Hemigrammus Bleheri

• Hemigrammus bleheri

The rummy-nose tetra prefers brown water. Often confused with related species H. rhodostomus (red-nose tetra) and Petitella georgiae (false rummy-nose), but distinguished from them by the extension of the red coloration to the beginning of the lateral line. Size: 5 cm.

Hemigrammus caudovittatus

Somewhat shy at first, the Buenos Aires tetra nonetheless acclimatizes easily, especially within a shoal of ten or so individuals. The female can lay up to 1,000 eggs. Size: 8-10 cm.

• Hemigrammus pulcher

Thegarnettetradelightsin small, live prey. Breeding is considered problematic:pH6.5,hardness0-1.12%GH 10-20 ppm), low lighting. Size: 4-5 cm.

Hemigrammuserythrozonus

The glowlight tetra will spawn under dim lighting, in soft, acidic water (pH: 6.5). Use peat filtration. A shoal of ten or so of these very tranquil fish produces a stunning effect in a South American-type tank. Size: 4-5 cm.

Hemigrammus hyanuary The January tetra is still fairly rare in commercial outlets. It thrives on regular water changes and moderate light levels. Size: 4-5 cm.

Silver Tipped Tetra Nibbled

Hasemania nana

The silver-tipped tetra can be distinguished from other Characins by the absence of an adipose fin. It lives in shoals in acidic, densely planted conditions. Size: 4-5 cm.

Aquarium Peat Filtration

• Hyphessobrycon callistus

The callistus or jewel tetra is frequently confused with H. serpae (serpae tetra) and H. bentosi (rosy tetra). It likes clear, wellplanted water. Spawns prolifically under moderate lighting in soft, acidic conditions. Size: 4-5 cm.

• Hyphessobrycon peruvianus The Loreto tetra, little commercialized, remains relatively unknown. It thrives and breeds best in shady, peat-filtered water. Size: 4-5 cm.

CHARACINS FOR THE BEGINNER

Breeding from this family is not always something for the beginner, though day-to-day care is not particularly difficult. We suggest the novice try two species:

Hemigrammusocellifer

The head- and tail-light fish is one of the commonest characins, and also one of the least fussy about water quality for breeding. In general, males have a small, elongated white spot on the anal fin. Size: 4-5 cm.

Hyphessobrycon pul-chripinnis

The lemon tetra lives in a shoal among vegetation. The eggs are laid in the foliage of particular plants. Size: 4-5 cm.

Rosy Tetra

Hyphessobrycon bentosi

The absence of a black spot behind the head distinguishes the rosy tetra from H. callistus: the callistus or jewel tetra The male's dorsal fin is taller than the female's. After spawning, the eggs sink to the bottom, and the parent fish must be prevented from eating them. Size: 4-5 cm.

Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi

The black neon tetra likes clear, acidic water, and sometimes seeks out shaded areas. It will breed at 26°C in very soft water; the eggs need very dim light to hatch. Size: 4-5 cm.

Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma

The dorsal fin of the bleeding heart tetra is more elongated than the female's. Breeding is difficult and requires peat filtration, with fine-leafed plants for a "spawning substrate." Incubation must take place in darkness. Size: 4-5 cm. •

Tetra Shoals

Nematobrycon palmeri

The emperor tetra swims in small shoals, sometimes hiding in the vegetation. The males, more brightly colored than the females, can be mutually aggressive. This is not a prolific species, and breeding is awkward. Size: 5-6 cm.

• Prionobrama filigera The glass bloodfin is a topfeeder which hangs around the filter outlet. It can also leap out of the water. Does not require suchsoftoracidicconditionsas other Characins. Size: 5-6 cm.

Aquarium Peat Filtration

•Paracheirodon innesi

The coloration of the neon tetra, set off to perfection by dark water, has earned it both its name and tremendous popularity. Breeding requires good water quality with peat filtration: pH close to 6, hardness level approaching 0. Size: 4-5 cm.

Moenkhausiasanctaefilomenae•

The yellow-banded Moenkhausia prefers still water, swimming in shoals among the vegetation. Breeding is awkward, and demands diffused light and very soft water. Size: 5 cm.

Megalamphodus megalopterus

The black phantom tetra lives in shoals, in acidic, clear water, and needs plenty of swimming space. Breeding is difficult: use diffused lighting, and peat filtration giving a pH of 6. Under these conditions, the female, recognized by her shorter dorsal fin, can lay up to 300 eggs. Size: 4-5 cm. •

Aquarium Peat FiltrationMegalamphodus Megalopterus Female

Pristellamaxillaris

The X-ray fish is robust, quite tolerant of water quality, but hard to breed. Size: 7 cm.

Thayeriaboehlkei

Boehlke's penguin swims obliquely, head uppermost. It prefers dark water and diffused light. Breeding is uncomplicated; the female lays around 1,000 eggs. Size: 4-5 cm.

Pristellamaxillaris

The X-ray fish is robust, quite tolerant of water quality, but hard to breed. Size: 7 cm.

Thayeriaboehlkei

Boehlke's penguin swims obliquely, head uppermost. It prefers dark water and diffused light. Breeding is uncomplicated; the female lays around 1,000 eggs. Size: 4-5 cm.

Anostomidae

FAMILIES RELATED TO THE CHARACIDAE Lebiasinidae - Gasteropelecidae - Serrasalmidae - Anostomidae

A few fish with certain anatomical resemblances to Characidae are found in hobbyists' tanks. In the wild they are native to South America, living in soft, acidic waters. The Lebiasinidae (pencilfish) are top-dwellers and can leap out of the water. The high position of the mouth indicates that they catch small prey near the surface.

The Gasteropelecidae (hatchetfish) owe their name to the shape of their bodies. Their rectilinear backs and slightly upturned mouths denote that they too are surface-feeders; they also share the pencilfish's acrobatic ability. They flourish in calm, shady conditions.

The family Serrasalmidae includes piranhas, whose behavior and aggressiveness are well known, but also exaggerated; they are only dangerous in the presence of blood, the scent of which drives them into a frenzy. They are voracious carnivores favoring a meat-based diet. Metynnis belong to the same family as the piranhas and resemble them. However, they are inoffensive, and their diet is predominantly herbivorous.

Anostomidae are somewhat aggressive. In their natural habitat, their streamlined bodies and transverse or longitudinal stripes serves a camouflage, blending them in with the vegetation.

Leporinusstriatus (Anostomidae)

The striped leporinus is an omnivorous species, but requires extra vegetable material. Its size and aggressiveness require it to be kept in a large, covered tank, as it is capable of leaping out of the water. Size: 20-25 cm. •

Leporinusstriatus (Anostomidae)

The striped leporinus is an omnivorous species, but requires extra vegetable material. Its size and aggressiveness require it to be kept in a large, covered tank, as it is capable of leaping out of the water. Size: 20-25 cm. •

Marbled Hatchetfish

CHARACIDAE: RELATED SPECIES

Characins Species

Metynnis argenteus (Serrasalmidae)

The silver dollar closely resembles the piranha, but it is herbivorous, needing large supplements of vegetable material; without these, it will nibble away the vegetation. Size: 10-15 cm.

Marbled Hatchetfish

• Carnegiella strigata (Gasteropelecidae)

The marbled hatchetfish lives in small shoals and is a surface-feeder. It shows a preference for live prey, but will not refuse commercial foods. Size: 5 cm.

Marbled Hatchetfish

Nannostomus trifasciatus (Lebiasinidae)

The three-lined pencilfish requires shady vegetation but also swimming space. Though the female lays prolifically (around 1,000 eggs), hatching and rearing are traditionally considered difficult. Size: 5-6 cm. •

• Serrasalmus nattereri (Serrasalmidae)

This is the red-bellied piranha. In captivity, piranhas must be isolated from other species in a spacious, well-planted tank. They are by preference carnivorous: feed meat, mussels, or small, live fish. Reproduction is difficult in captivity. Size: 20-30 cm.

Gasteropelecussternicla (Gasteropelecidae)

The silver hatchetfish is somewhat larger and more timid than C. strigata, but shares its reluctance to breed in captivity. Size: 5-6 cm. •

Nannobrycon eques (Lebiasinidae)

The hockey-stick pencilfish or brown-tailed pencilfish swims at an angle of 45°, head upwards. Fairly timid, it lives in shoals, and is often somewhat awkward to breed Size: 5 cm.

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Responses

  • zahra
    Which aquarium species live in shoals?
    6 years ago
  • tesfalem
    Are characidae surface feeders?
    6 years ago
  • Taneli
    When will rosy tetras breeding season spawn?
    5 years ago

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