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One of the most sought after and effective of all of the so-called “algae eaters” in the aquarium hobby, the Siamese Algae Eater (commonly abbreviated SAE) or Flying Fox is an active, medium-sized social fish that feeds on a variety of common nuisance algae species in the aquarium. They will graze on diatom algae films on glass and decor as well as the difficult to eradicate black hair or black beard algae. Best kept in groups of 6 or more, they are live plant safe and hardy additions to most medium to large community aquariums.
A spectacularly colored cichlid found in lakes and rivers in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, the Nicaraguan Cichlid or Nicaraguense has been popular in the hobby for years. Like most Central American Cichlids, they can be fiercely territorial and tankmates should be chosen carefully. In the wild, they are social fish and are often found in large aggregations. An extremely hardy fish, they prefer slightly alkaline water and will do best with a varied diet.
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.
An attractive, relatively peaceful medium-growing cichlid, the Peru Festivum or Flag Cichlid is found throughout the Nanay and Itaya rivers in the Peruvian Amazon. Like most of its relatives in the genus Mesonauta, they tend to be found close to the water’s surface in slower-moving areas with lots of overhanging vegetation and often live alongside Angels. In the wild, a large amount of their diet is made up of fruit and nuts that fall into the water from overhanging trees but will accept almost any prepared or frozen foods in the aquarium.
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.
A rare and once nearly impossible to find species of Corydoras, the Two Saddle or Weitzmani Cory is a medium-growing species found in the Madre de Dios region of Southern Peru. Like all Corys, it is a schooling species and is best kept in groups. In the wild, they use their sensitive barbels to sift for food particles in the sand and should be kept on fine substrate in the aquarium. This species is hardy and undemanding but does prefer slightly cooler temperatures than some other tropical fish (71-76F).
A unique ambush predator found in the Middle Mekong drainage in Thailand, Laos, and possibly Cambodia, the Hairy Puffer gets its name from the ring of small fleshy tassels that surrounds its head. In the wild, they tend to inhabit extremely fast-moving waters, including powerful rapids, but spend most of their time partially buried in substrate where they wait for prey to swim above them. In the aquarium, they are best kept in a species tank as they are likely to attach most tankmates. This species has been successfully kept in pairs and bred in an aquarium setting.