Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ornamental fish of the Peruvian Amazon

The Amazon is, not surprisingly, home to the greatest richness of fish species in the world. They range from tiny parasitic fishes to gigantic catfish built like sharks. Many are dark or dull in coloration, but just as many are brilliantly patterned. Here, we celebrate Amazon fish diversity by offering just a few of the ornamental fishes we encounter during our ecotours.
All photographs by D. Fenolio for GreenTracks, Inc.

Suckermouth Catfish (Pseudancistrus sp.). There are many new species of odd, armored catfish in the Amazon, but few are as imposing as this one.

Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare). Another famous ornamental fish, the angelfish exists in a number of colors and patterns. The one pictured here is a typical one from the Amazon.

Ringed Catfish (Merodontotus tigrinus). This uncommon and strikingly patterned fish is known locally as “María zúngaro.” It can reach about three feet in length and so is both consumed as well as collected for the ornamental fish trade. The habitat is in rivers.

Severim Cichlid (Heros efasciatus). This imposing cichlid is known locally by the name of “Corbata rojo” (red tie) in reference to the male’s spectacular breeding colors. They reach around ten inches in length and inhabit oxbow lakes.

Pencilfish (Nannostomus mortenthaleri). The “lapicero” is a classic aquarium fish which gets its name because of its habit of orienting itself at a downward tilt.

Red pencilfish (Nannostomus marginatus). Stripes and red color, while arresting in an aquarium, actually serve to protect the fish in the wild as they become difficult to see.

Leaf Fish (Monocirrhus polyacanthus). The “pez hoja” has a clever feeding strategy: it relies on its amazing resemblance to a leaf and drifts with the current until it is close enough to capture unwary fish! That same appearance makes this a very difficult species to observe in the wild.

Amazon Cichlid (Apistogramma sp.). This is a small cichlid of immense popularity among aquarists owing to the brilliant colors displayed by males during breeding season. Although they are only about 3 inches long, these little fish are pugnacious. They inhabit small streams and quiet backwaters.

Flame blue tetra (Boehlkea fredcochui). Tetras generally are tiny and brilliantly colored. They occupy quiet waters in oxbow lakes and lagoons.

Neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi). Neon tetras are a mainstay of the aquarium industry and countless numbers are bred in artificial ponds in Florida. But it wasn’t always that way; the first tetra brought into the USA fetched a hefty price back in the 1950s.

Discus (Symphysodon aequifasciatus). Long a favorite in aquariums, the elegant dish-shaped discus has a number of distinct populations that vary according to color. They are among the most sought after aquarium fishes. They occupy deep, quiet water around fallen trees.