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Title Flagtail Characin (Semaprochilodus taeniurus)

Sara Waller

Last Updated



A brief description of the flagtail characin.

The flagtail characin is a large fish native to the central Amazon basin in Brazil.  This fish migrates and spawns in the river channels but feeds mostly in the floodplains.  It can also be found in floodplain lakes and forest streams.  The flagtail characin grows to an adult size of 12 inches long.  It is difficult to sex, although mature females are believed to be rounder bellied than males.

The flagtail characin migrates twice a year.  The first event of the year is a spawning migration at the start of the wet season, when the fish move from nutrient-poor black and clear water tributaries and streams into the more turbulent white waters near the heads of rivers for spawning.  The fish may travel several hundred kilometers and can even be seen leaping through rapids in a fashion similar to salmon.  Post-spawning, the fertilized eggs drift downstream and into the nutrient rich floodplains.  The floodplains act as the perfect “nurseries” for the fry to feed and grow.  Meanwhile, the adults return to exactly the same flooded forest tributary from where they came to feed for the next 3 to 4 months.  They migrate again in the middle of the wet season, moving once more from the tributaries upstream into the nutrient-rich rivers, where they may enter many different tributaries.  They continue this activity until the water levels drop.  When the water levels rise once more, the fish spawn again in the mouth of the tributary they are currently in.

The flagtail characin should be maintained in an aquarium of 120 gallons or larger. Decor is unimportant for this species, but if you want to keep it in more natural surroundings, a biotope setup would be very simple to arrange.   Use a substrate of sand (CS6631) and add a few driftwood pieces (ZM2002) and twisted roots.   Algae growth should not be discouraged as these fish will graze on it.  The flagtail characin is not a good choice for a planted tank, as it will quickly eat any soft leaved vegetation and pick at tougher leaved species as well.  

The flagtail characin prefers a temperature of 73°F to 84°F, a pH of 5.5 to 7.5, and a hardness of 1 to 20°H.  

The flagtail characin is aggressive to its own kind.  Unless the aquarium is large enough to house 6 or more individuals, it is best kept as a single specimen in a community of medium to large fish.  Good tank mates include other large characins, Loricariids (plecostomus type catfish), Doradids (raphael catfish), peaceful cichlids, knifefish, arowana and freshwater stingrays.

The flagtail characin though omnivorous, is primarily a herbivore.  Offer plenty of vegetable matter in the form of blanched spinach, lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, and algae wafers. It will also accept most good quality dried foods and small frozen foods such as bloodworm (SF4792).  For maximum color, growth, and health these fish will look their best when given probiotics (AL169) in addition to a balanced diet.

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