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Another season, come and gone! Today marks the longest day of the year here in the Northern hemisphere, and I for one am ready for the ups and downs summer brings! I’m talking fruit and berry season, people! But we aren’t the only creatures who enjoy these sweet delights. Pick your berries, but keep ‘em out of reach, for a certain group of hymenopteran kitchen pests are gearing up to take over! In honor of the official start of summer 2019, take a look at a few South American Tetras named for summer staples: Hyphessobrycon sp. “Red Cherry”, Hyphessobrycon wadai, and Hyphessobrycon myrmex.

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As stunning as the plump, sweet, red tree fruits, H. sp. “Red Cherry” is collected from the Guapore River basin in Paraguay. Reaching about 2 inches in length, these Red Cherry Tetras exhibit the typical arrow-like characin body shape with light red coloration over their entire bodies and bright red fins and noses. Males tend to be slightly smaller in body with brighter coloration. These tetras are great for South American community aquaria, and should be kept in tanks with sandy substrate, lots of hardy aquatic vegetation like Anubias, Bolbitis, Java Fern, and Crypts, multiple hiding places like driftwood, rock piles, pots, or caves, and plenty of open swimming space in the center of the tank. Shoaling by nature, they should be kept in conspecific groups of at least 5 with a female dominant sex ratio, and are happily housed alongside other South American Characins, peaceful Catfish, and Dwarf Cichlids that tolerate similar water conditions. This species seems to be opportunistically omnivorous, and can be fed just about any high-quality tropical flake or granule with some vegetal component, and regular live and frozen invertebrate snacks. Tank waters should be maintained with temperatures between 78 and 84°F, a pH of 6.0 to 7.0, and a hardness of 215 ppm or less.

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Even more striking than the bush berries they’re named for, H. wadai is a Hyphessobrycon congener who calls the upper Rio Tapajos home. Known as “Blueberry Tetras” in the aquarium trade long before earning their scientific name, this characins reach just under 1.5 inches and exhibit beautiful dark, shiny, purple-blue bodies with bright red-purple fins. With a preference for clear, flowing streams, this species does best in aquaria with some degree of current from filtration systems or air pumps. Otherwise, tanks should be furnished with soft, sandy substrate, scattered, variably-sized, water-worn rocks, driftwood, and hardy plants. Opportunistic omnivores, wild specimens have been found to consume filamentous algae, organic detritus, and various terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates. In captivity they should be fed balanced diets of high-quality flake and granules, algae, spirulina, and frequent live and frozen invertebrates. Another schooling tetra, they should be kept in conspecific groups of at least 5, alongside other South American Characins, Dwarf Cichlids, and peaceful Catfish. Blueberry Tetras do best in waters with temperatures of 70 to 78°F, a pH between 5.5 and 7.5, and hardness under 215 ppm.

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Much more desirable in our homes than their namesakes, H. myrmex is a truly unique South American characin exhibiting “sexual dichromatism”. Described as of 2017, this tetra’s species epithet is derived from the Latin word for “ant”, due to their small size of about ¾ inch. Both males and females exhibit a dark lateral stripe down their sides and above their caudal fins, but adult males are bright orange-red where females are pale yellow. Hailing from the Rio Tapajos basin of Brazil, this “Ant Tetra” can be kept in a standard South American river biotope setup with sandy substrate, lots of cover, dense plantings, and leaf litter. This species may be kept in community aquaria, though due to their small size, they are easily spooked and should be kept alongside only other small, diminutive Characins. They should also be kept in large conspecific groups for both their comfort and overall appearance. Not much is known about their natural diets, but they seem to eat small dried foods, and small, live and frozen invertebrates just fine. Tank waters are best kept with temperatures around 72 to 80°F, a pH between 5.0 and 7.5, and hardness under 215 ppm.
While life can certainly get topsy-turvy year-round, we do our best to handle these “summer-salts” with grace. Thank goodness the fish are always there to nibble our ant-covered fruit scraps!