Your Tetra Well Spring

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Spring is upon us! The birds celebrate her return with festive song, as this Wednesday marked the Spring Equinox for 2019. One of the only two days a year where the Sun’s center passes directly over Earth’s equator, the entire planet enjoyed an equal duration of daylight and nighttime hours. A symbol of hope and rebirth, in our line of work, spring is the best time to freshen aquaria with new fish. Exemplifying the vibrancy and excitement of the new season, South American Tetras liven up any community tank. A few of our current favorites include Hyphessobrycon pyrrhonotus, Protocheirodon pi, and Hyphessobrycon sp. “Acaciensis”.

As radiant as the sunlight fueling Earth’s life, H. pyrrhonotus is found in the Rio Negro system of Brazil. Known more commonly as “Flameback Bleeding Heart Tetras”, this South American Characid reaches nearly 2 inches, and exhibits beautiful pink coloration with a “bleeding heart” dot on red on their sides, red eyes, and a “flaming” red stripe down their back leading to an extended black dorsal fin tipped in white. Most often observed in the wild as groups swimming among woody areas of fallen branches, underneath overhanging riparian vegetation, these tetras do best in mature, well-furnished tanks. A natural arrangement would include soft, sandy substrate, leaf litter, driftwood branches and root tangles, and live vegetation including floating plants. Adapted to live in pristine environments, they are sensitive to the accumulation of waste, and do best with some robust filtration. Weekly 33% water changes are encouraged. Generally peaceful and ideal candidates for community aquaria, they can be housed with similarly-sized characids, peaceful catfish, algae eaters, and dwarf cichlids. Males can become territorial, which is mitigated by keeping larger conspecific groups of 8 to 10 individuals. Opportunistically omnivorous in the wild, their favorite food items include live and frozen offerings like bloodworm, brine, or Daphnia, and high-quality dried flakes or granules to round out the major food groups. Tank waters are best kept with temperatures between 68 and 80°F, pH on the more acidic end of 4.0 to 7.0, and hardness around 18 to 143 ppm.

A little late for pi day, but crystal clear as spring waters, P. pi is endemic to the Amazon basin in Peru. Reaching about 1.5 inches, these “Crystal Tetras” have shining, metallic, silver heads with glimmering translucent bodies, and a dark caudal blotch. Found in marginal regions of rivers and streams with sandy substrate and still waters, they do best in blackwater biotopes with furnishings demarcating territories (they really pop against planted backgrounds!). The only known member of their genus, little is known about their preferences, though they seem to be hardy and undemanding. Generally peaceful, and loosely schooling, they do best when kept in conspecific groups of 8 or more, and will find territories to gently defend against each other. Omnivorous by nature, their favored fare is small invertebrates, though they will accept a variety of high-quality dried foods without hesitation. Tank waters are best kept soft, under 30 ppm, with temperatures of 76 to 82°F, and pH between 6.0 and 7.0. 

Another rare South American Tetra, H. sp. “Acaciensis” hails from Rio Acacias, a tributary of Rio Meta in Colombia, and Venezuela. Known as the “Acaciensis Tetra”, these Characins reach just over an inch in length, and have silver bodies with a black lateral stripe down the back half of their sides, and lovely red fins tipped in white. In captivity they do best in planted tanks with sandy substrate, driftwood roots and branches, and dried leaf litter. Schooling by nature, they should be kept in large conspecific groups of 8 or more, and seem to do splendidly among similarly-sized characids, Loricariids, Corydoras, and Apistogramma. Feeding predominantly on zooplankton in the wild, they should be fed regular live and frozen meals alongside high-quality dried flake and granules. With an affinity for soft, acidic waters, conditions should be maintained with pH between 4.0 and 7.0, hardness of 18 to 143 ppm, and temperatures of 72 to 82°F.

There’s something about spring air that is ultimately cleansing. Whether this motivates you to declutter your homes or turn over your aquaria, after a tumultuous winter, we’ve earned this sunshine! How will you celebrate?