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One of the smallest species of catfish known, the Pygmy Talking Catfish is a unique and uncommonly imported Doradid found throughout the middle Amazon and Essequibo basins. In the wild, they are a cryptic species which inhabits leaf litter and driftwood piles in warm, extremely shallow water. In the aquarium, they are a hardy and unusual addition to a nano or small fish community aquarium. A scavenger and opportunistic feeder, they will accept most sinking frozen and prepared foods for very small fish.
A unique, larger growing characin found throughout much of the Amazon basin, the Marbled or Abramites Headstander is an active schooling fish that makes for an impressive display in a medium to large aquarium. These relatives to the more common Spotted Headstanders are a fast swimming fish that are usually found in areas of fast to moderate current with lots of cover in the form of driftwood or overhanging vegetation. In the aquarium, they will do best in groups of 5 or more (smaller groups will be prone to nipping at each other) and when kept with other similarly sized, fast moving fish. They make an ideal dither fish for medium to large South American Cichlids and have the added benefit of grazing on nuisance hair algae on rocks or decor.
The Spotted Gar is a rare species of true gar. It is native to the temperate and subtropical waters of North America. Like all gar, they are predators, feeding on fish, frogs, and vertebrates. In the wild, the fish can reach 5 feet or more in length, and should be considered only suitable for the largest custom aquariums or large ponds.
An uncommon and attractively marked species of Leporinus, the Dot Dash Leporinus is found throughout the Orinoco Basin in Colombia and Venezuela. It is found in a variety of habitat types, from fast flowing waters to shallow blackwater swamps. Like most of their close relatives, they are best kept in groups of 3-5 or more as they are a social fish. While they can be prone to nipping fins on slow moving tankmates, they make excellent dither fish for medium to large South American Cichlids or other fast moving larger fish.
A large growing and unique knifefish, the Elephant Nose Knifefish is, as the name implies, distinguished by its elongated trunk which it uses to root in substrate to find food. They feed on insect larvae and crustaceans in the wild but in the aquarium will generally accept small frozen foods like bloodworms or brine. Like most knifefish, they are shy and should be provided with plenty of cover in the form of driftwood and leaf litter in the aquarium.
A unique member of a rarely seen genus of duckbill catfish, the Green Stripe Duckbill Cat is found in the Nanay river, a tributary of the Peruvian Amazon. Unlike some of the related duckbill catfish of the genus Ageneiosus, these fish are not large growing, with a maximum size of around 5-6″. They are often misidentified and this striped variant is one of several found in the region that are yet to be described. In the aquarium they are hardy and adaptable, but will do best with plenty of plants or driftwood for cover. They are often found in groups in the wild and will loosely school in some cases.
One of the Amazon’s largest and most widespread giant catfish, the Jau or Gilded Catfish ranges from the headwaters of the river in the East to its mouth and most major tributaries. Throughout its range it is considered an important food fish. With wild specimens reported to reach well over 50″ in length, these fish are powerful, huge growing fish suitable only for public aquariums or very large tropical ponds or custom aquariums. In the wild, they are an active predator and scavenger, found in the fast-moving main river channels and preying on smaller fish, invertebrates, and carrion.
A rare, selectively bred color form of the Black Bar Silver Dollar (M. schomburgkii), the Blackberry or Blueberry Silver Dollar originated with breeders in Asia and remains hard to find in the US. With a distinct blueish-black blotch that covers most of the body and deep red fins, these fish are a colorful and showy addition to any larger community aquarium. Care and behavior is the same as with the more well-known Black Bar or Blue Hook Silver Dollars.
A strange elongated knifefish found through much of the middle Amazon, the Thermometer Knife is a sand dweller, spending much of its time buried in fine sand with just its head visible above the surface. They use their long, sensitive snouts and sensitivity to electrical impulses to find small prey items like worms, insect larvae, and crustaceans buried in the substrate. In the aquarium, they are hardy fish but can easily be outcompeted for food by faster or more aggressive tankmates so are best kept in a species tank or with other peaceful, slow moving species. Like all knifefish, they are primarily active at night but will occasionally emerge during the day to forage and explore. Although two species in the genus Gymnorhamphichthys are often referred to as “thermometer knife”, G. hypostomus is the more commonly seen species in the trade.
A unique South American eel species, the Spotted Swamp Eel is found in shallow waters throughout much of the Amazon basin. A slow moving and peaceful fish despite their large size, they are adapted to stagnant, oxygen poor water and can use atmospheric air by taking breaths directly from the water’s surface. In the aquarium they are easy to keep, but should be kept tightly covered at all times as they are notorious escape artists. The heavily spotted form is uncommon and more sought after than the olive or mottled form more commonly known as the Marbled Swamp Eel.
A gentle giant found throughout much of the Amazon basin, the Ripsaw or Niger Catfish is among the largest South American catfish. With distinctive saw-like scales running down their sides and dark black coloration, they are an impressive show fish but due to their enormous adult size are best suited for large custom aquariums or indoor ponds. In the wild, they use their sensitive barbels to scour sandy or muddy river bottoms for food, which primarily consists of insect larvae, worms, and crustaceans. In the aquarium they will readily accept almost any sinking prepared or frozen foods.