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March 28, 2014

Hello, friends! We have some real delights for you this week: Three unusual Loricariid catfish, a beautiful pike, and one tiny and rare schooling fish.

Let’s begin with one of the stranger Loricariids out there, Hemiodontichthys acipenserinus “Pinocchio Whiptail Cat”. These odd-looking cats, as viewed from above, are shaped something like an elongated kite – the front of their faces tapers inward at about a 30 degree angle and is capped by a knobby protrusion at the end of their ‘nose’. From their widest point at the rear of their gill plates, their bodies and tails taper away, nearly four times as long as their greatest width. Observing from the side of the fish, we can see an incredibly dished face with very large lips and mouthparts (the males have more substantial mouthparts than females at maturity) and a very compressed body. The fish’s caudal fins have a long, filamentous extension from the uppermost ray, lending the ‘whiptail’ moniker to the species. The overall color pattern of the fish is sandy brown – useful for H. acipenserinus’ camouflage technique of partly burying itself in sandy substrates. This shy and quiet five inch fish is rather peaceful with any tankmates, including their own species, though their sedate mannerisms mean they may be outcompeted for food – be sure these fish get their fair share of omnivorous foods. Warm water in the upper 70s Fahrenheit with neutral or slightly acidic pH values will suit the Pinocchio Whiptail Cat perfectly.

 Hemiodontichthys acipenserinus

If you are a fan of cichlids, monster fish, or both, Crenicichla cincta is a perfect specimen. When full grown, these pikes reach up to 18 inches, and are renowned for their aggression. The adult color seems to vary based on their collection location and the fish may show marked red, green or blue coloration. Typical patterns seem to be brilliant red cheeks below an inky black horizontal line (this runs from the rear of the eye to just behind the pectoral fins and may extend further in stress coloration), vertical black barring and a pale belly. Females show distinct rosy coloration over their belly region as well. The caudal peduncle of the fish is marked with one black eyespot ringed in gold – a good mirror of their eyes. White spangling over the caudal fin is common, as is a general blue color to the fish’s unpaired fins. Our specimens of C. cichla are barely over an inch and look remarkably different from the adults – they are currently pale little pikes with a bold black lateral line and a noticeable black eye spot just behind the gill plate. The caudal peduncle ocellata is quite visible and a bit of blue coloration can be seen in the fins.   These lovely pikes are excellent for specimen set-ups as any potential tankmates must be chosen with great care due to their aggression. Neutral pH values and a temperature in the high 70s Fahrenheit are ideal for this Crenicichla species.

Crenicichla cincta

The common Otocinclus is a popular fish for smaller aquaria – it is a very efficient consumer of brown algae with a small size. A little group is perfect for a 10-20 gallon aquarium where even an Ancistrus is too large. It is really refreshing to see different types of Oto available in the hobby, giving us all a choice of what type of tiny Loricariid we want in our small tanks. At about the same size and care requirements as the common Oto, Nannoptopoma sp. “Vampire Oto” is a wonderful alternative if one wants something different for their aquatic habitat. Adult size for these fish is a mere inch and a quarter. Warm, high 70s Fahrenheit temperatures, will keep them comfortable. However, unlike the common Oto, the Vampire Oto features a wider head and a dished facial profile – their little upturned noses are quite cute. Their bodies are heavily armored and dark grey in tone. Each specimen appears to have a V-shaped light grey to white marking running from their nose to the center of their forehead and other light markings over the body seem to vary between individuals, though they seem to follow scale edges. For best results, take your time acclimating any Otocinclus type species and supplement their diet with algae wafers or blanched vegetables – while these fish are fantastic at eating brown algae and awfwuchs, their rough-textured lips are not typically strong enough to remove hard or hairy green algae from surfaces and they seem to have a distaste for black beard algae.

Nannoptopoma sp. Vampire

With care similar to the above Vampire Oto, the tiny Parotocinclus sp. “Peru Bumblebee Oto” is about half its size and suitable for even smaller aquaria. A five gallon nano setup could easily house a group of these striking little catfish. These fish appear black and white with pale spangles visible on the dark regions. Some specimens have a brown tint to their dark regions while others appear nearly blue-black. Notable markings include a dark band around the midsection at the dorsal fin and black face markings over the cheeks and behind the eye – when viewed from above, this creates something of an arrow pattern, pointing from snout to tail, over the fish’s head. Common Otos enjoy bubble bars and currents to frolic in – I would not be surprised if both the Bumblebee and Vampire otos enjoy the same.

Parotocinclus sp. "Peru"

Finally, an unusual and tiny fish from Nigeria that would be perfect displayed with your Peru Bumblebee Otos (if, of course, you are not concerned about origin) – Neolebias powelli “Domino Neolebias”. Unlike its cousin, N. ansorgii, this is a tiny fish with a maximum length of barely over half an inch. This Characin is not imported very often and thus there is little information available on it, but I feel comfortable saying this is one amazing little fish. Its pale body has a rosy cast and is marked by three dark spots – one just behind the pectoral fins, another below their square dorsal fin, and a final, larger black spot at the caudal peduncle. Each of these appears blue at most angles thanks to a wonderful iridescent sheen over their bodies. A bit of red coloration is visible behind the caudal peduncle’s spot as well as the upper edge of the eye. Keep these beautiful fish in sizeable groups to provide them a sense of security. Neutral pH values and warm, upper 70s temperatures seem to work well for the Domino Neolebias.

Neolebias powelli

That’s all for now and I look forward to writing for you again next week. In the meantime, be sure to check out our Facebook page and Pinterest for pictures and information!

Jessica Supalla