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March 22, 2012

Panama (officially the Republic of Panama) is best known for the great Panama Canal that was finished by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. The 51-mile canal began construction in 1880 and is now composed of a series of locks that allow vessels to shortcut their way through the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Over the years, ownership has changed a few times and now it is finally under Panamanian control. Nearly 500 rivers weave their way around a country that is no bigger than the state of South Carolina. So what does this have to do with fish you may be asking yourself?

When most of us think of Geophagus cichlids we automatically think of the Amazon River. These earth-eating fishes can be found grazing in the substrate along the shorelines from the Rio Tapajós all the way to the Rio Orinoco. I’m sure there is a fair share of you who are familiar with the “Red Hump Cichlid” known as Geophagus steindachneri, but what you probably didn’t know is the fish is from the north. Geophagus crassilabris does indeed exist in the eastern waterways of Panama where the water can be both alkaline and acidic. This makes G. crassilabris relatively easy to keep and breed in an aquarium. I have found this to be true right here in our tanks as we just got our first brood from our recently imported colony. The male is actually rather peaceful to the females and does not seem to chase them around as much. The blue lips of the males will certainly draw your eye into the aquarium. Remember to add a sandy substrate for them to dig through!

Geophagus crassilabris

Speaking of a sandy substrate, I’ve always liked to have some sort of bottom feeder for all of my “South American” theme tanks, and Corydoras axelrodi have always caught my eye. The fish is originally found in the Rio Meta in Colombia so keeping it around a neutral pH will be more than fine with the Geo’s and the Bleeding Hearts. Plus, with this bottom dwelling catfish it will help keep any leftover food from collecting on the sand. However, they too need to be fed food other than what does not get eaten. Be sure to drop in some sinking wafers for the corys to enjoy

With a big red dot right in the middle of its body, it's easy to see where the Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma "Bleeding Heart Tetra" got the name. The fish has been in the aquarium trade for many years now and was first described by Fowler in 1943. While it can get up to 3" in the wild, in an aquarium the standard size seems to be 2.5". They can live as long as 5 years. This fish is a very un-fussy eater and accepts regular flake foods. In my experience, feeding frozen bloodworms will help bring out the true colors of the Bleeding Heart. Their body is a beautiful light red that gets darker with age. They have a dark red line that runs from the middle of their body down to the tail. Males grow long extensions to their dorsal fins that are black with a white tip. The anal fin also grows an extension that is white in color. Females typically have smaller fins and do not grow quite as big as the males. The Bleeding Heart is a very peaceful fish, which is why it has become so popular and is my choice for a Tetra in this tank!

Hyphessobrycon reythrostigma

If you have not kept any of these fish before than I suggest checking out the fish list link above to find them. If there is a fish or product you’ve been looking for please be sure to ask. I would like to encourage all of you try fish that you normally wouldn’t keep. You never know what kind of experience you’ll have with them!

Anthony Perry
Sales Manager