Aquarium Fish Profiles
Taxonomy provides the most informative and efficient way of researching tropical fish species. This is because different species in the same family often have similar environmental requirements, behavior, and diets. By researching each family first, it prepares you for looking more closely at each species. The links below will take you to a page for each family where you can then access individual species. This section is currently being developed, so please be patient.
- Other African Cichlids
- Tanganyikan Cichlids
- Malawi Cichlids
- New World Cichlids
The family Alestiidae was a subfamily of the Characidae until they were given family status in 1998. This family includes all of the African tetras. Like the Characins, Alestiids range in size from 1.5cm (less than 1 inch) to 150cm (5 feet). There is also considerable diversity in the lifestyles of these fishes. The giant of the family Hydrocynus goliath is a voracious predator with impressive dentition. Except for the genus Hydrocynus, most Alestiid species are peaceful, schooling fish that can be kept in a community tank with fish having similar behaviors. Alestiids are omnivorous and will eat most foods including insect larvae, crustaceans, worms, flakes and pelleted foods. Several species have been bred, nearly all in soft water, but breeding is usually difficult. Hydrocynus species are not aquarium fish!
The Loricariids are often called upon to do "double duty" as aquarium specimens: to both look nice and clean up the tank, removing algae and other waste. The latter role too often doesn't work out as planned, since these fish produce much more waste than they consume.
There are some principal misunderstandings regarding the loricariids as basic as which species are which, what water quality they enjoy/will tolerate, providing them adequate to appropriate foods. Many species are currently in taxonomic limbo and numerous (at least two to three hundred) are yet to be scientifically described. Some are huge, attaining more than two feet in length, and quite aggressive/territorial; fighting back their own or other tankmates. Others, like the genera Otocinclus and Peckoltia are small (a few inches maximum) and retiring.
Platys, Mollies, Swordtails, & Killifishes
Synodontis & Upside-down Catfishes
Barbs, Danios, Rasboras, & Minnows
Gouramis & Bettas
The cichlid family is extremely large, comprising over 1000 species spread across Africa and the Americas. The members of this family are diverse in size, morphology and diet. Cichlids are some of the most celebrated freshwater aquarium fish in the hobby today. Important aquarium species include the Discus, Angelfish, Oscar, and the myriad African rift lake Cichlids. Of the latter group, those species from Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika in central Africa are the most popular. Cichlids are valued aquarium specimens because they are hardy, beautiful, and exhibit interesting behaviors. They are also commonly bred in aquariums. Some species, like the Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus) have a reputation for being intelligent and often form strong attachments to their keepers. Click on the links below to read more about some commonly available cichlid species.
The family Characidae is large, with 776 species in 152 genera. They are distributed from southwestern Texas through Mexico and Central America to South America. In addition to being a large family, it is also very diverse with several morphological differences between various species, and sizes ranging from 1.3cm to 60.0cm. The deadly Amazon piranhas (Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus) belong to this group as do the South American tetras, and Astyanax mexicanus, a blind cave fish from Mexico. African tetras are in a separate family, Alestiidae. These fish are some of the most loved aquarium fish because they are generally small (~3cm), peaceful community fish. A large tank housing a dense shoal of cardinal tetras or other bright, small fish can be spectacular. The colorful tetras in particular are great for color and movement in a community tank. Click on the links below to read more about some characid species.
The armored catfishes of the family Callichthyidae are at once distinctive and utilitarian, in service for decades as "janitors" for all sorts of freshwater aquarium systems. The family comprises some eight genera of about 171 species (with many more to come if humans can resist destroying their South and Central American...). Modern taxonomy divides Callichthyids into two subfamilies (the Corydoradinae with their snout areas compressed or rounded, the genera Brochis and Corydoras; and the Callichthyinae whose members' snouts are depressed).
eir body armor consists of two rows of overlapping plates on either side. Internally, their swim bladders (though they live on the bottom) are encased in bone. They have small, ventral mouths with one, two or three pairs of well-developed barbels. A very important, practical characteristic is the presence of a stout spine in the dorsal, pectoral and adipose fins - WATCH OUT. A prime cause of painful pokes of aquarists' hands and a real motivation of new aquarium net purchases).
These are social animals, that do best kept with members of their own kind. Most losses are due to injury, insults accumulated in collection, holding, shipping.... and due to suboptimal conditions in the captive homes.