Red Tails and a Summer State of Mind

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Like many Oregonian naturalists, we’ll seize just about every opportunity for a pre-rainy season nature hike. Last weekend, in this author’s usual head down crouch along the Columbia river bank where many of her favorite elusive creatures reside, she couldn’t help but crane her neck upwards to take in the majestic swooping of one of the few birds she is still able to identify as a vestige of a lone undergraduate ornithology class: the red-tailed hawk. Often regarded as divine messengers by Native American tribes due to their abundance throughout all North American habitats (including urban areas of our modern age), red-tailed hawks are one of the most successful birds of prey to ever exist. Inspired by the gorgeous red-feathered-tails these prolific raptors are named for, this week, we’ll discuss some our favorite aquatic ruby-reared creatures including Carinotetraodon irrubesco, Nematobrycon lacortei, and Curimatopsis evelynae.

Found swooping through the Samba River of Sumatra, C. irrubesco shares more similarities to this week’s muse than their red tails, as they pick up and dismantle shelled invertebrates in their beak-like jaws. Known more commonly as “Red-tailed Red Eye Puffers”, they reach nearly 2 inches in length, and exhibit light golden bodies with dark patterning, a red spot on their dorsal fin, and, of course, red tails and red eyes. Preferring riparian habitats with murky brown waters and plentiful submerged vegetation, they should be kept in densely planted tanks with driftwood roots and branches, dried leaf litter, and dim lighting. With a preference for minimal water flow, filtration systems should not be extensive, though they are sensitive to deteriorating water conditions, so, regular small water changes should be performed. Less aggressive than other puffers, in rare occasions, they can be kept with large, schooling cyprinids, though they are best kept alone. Feeding predominantly on meaty foods in the wild, they require diets of chopped shellfish, earthworms, bloodworm, and other high-quality live or frozen offerings. Tank waters are best maintained with temperatures between 68 and 80°F, pH of 6.0 to 7.5, and hardness between 36 and 215 ppm.

Restricted to forest pools of the Rio Calima of Colombia, N. lacortei is certainly smaller, and less widespread than our hawk friends, but they are no less magical to observe. Reaching a maximum of 1.5 inches in length, these “Rainbow Tetras” are vibrantly beautiful with their silvery bodies, dark lateral stripe that starts as red at the tip of the nose and ends as black edged with shimmering blue and red striped scales at the base of the caudal fin. Males are smaller in body, but show gleaming red eyes, and more impressive coloration with red filamentous dorsal and caudal fins. Females are fuller bodied and exhibit blue-green eyes. Best coloration is observed when tanks are well furnished including soft, sandy substrate, wood roots and branches, and lots of live plants. Preferring tannin-stained waters, the addition of dried leaf litter is ideal, which also provides a microbial food source for fry. Peaceful and gregarious by nature, they are ideal for community tanks in groups of 8 or more, alongside similarly-sized characins, non-predatory catfishes, and small cichlids. Most likely opportunistic omnivores in the wild, they should be fed balanced diets consisting of high-quality dried flakes and granules, and regular small, live and frozen foods like bloodworm or daphnia. These tetras do best when tank waters are kept with temperatures of 68 to 82°F, pH between 5.0 and 7.0, and hardness of 18 to 179 ppm.

Recently discovered in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins, C. evelynaejoined the ranks of toothless characins known as curimatas in 2017. Referred to us as “Spot Tail Curimatas” in the aquarium hobby, these diminutive swimmers reach a maximum of 1.5 inches with silver bodies striped with gold fading to red at the tail, with a dark spot at the base of the caudal fin. Not much is known about natural habitat preferences of fish in this family, though we know they thrive in South American river setups including filtration units providing at least some flow, sandy or gravel substrate, water-worm rocks, driftwood, and live vegetation. Sensitive to water quality they require biweekly 20% water changes. Great for community setups, they should be kept in groups of 8 or more and can be mixed with other similarly-sized characins, small to medium-sized, peaceful cichlids, and non-predatory catfishes. Another opportunistic omnivore, they should be fed similarly to our Rainbow Tetra friends, and show best coloration with regular live and frozen offerings. Waters should be maintained with temperatures around 76 to 84°F, slightly acidic pH between 6.0 and 7.0, and hardness of 50 to 75 ppm.

As kids are being sent back to school and the summer winds down, it’s important to soak in as much wildlife inspiration as possible. Memories of flourishing outdoor zones can do wonders for keeping you warm in the dead of winter- especially if you funnel that inspiration into crafting tanks that will stick indoors with you through the cold months. Give us a call, or swing by the store to put together your very own summer 2018 time capsule tanks!

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