Characiformes – Characins & allies

Several species are valued in the aquarium trade for their vibrant colors and interesting behaviors

Within this group of fishes, distinct physical characteristics set them apart. Many feature fatty fins and possess flat bodies, allowing them to maneuver gracefully through their aquatic habitats. Strong teeth are another common trait tailored to their diverse diets, which range from insects and crustaceans to smaller fish and even plant matter. Their striking and vibrant colors and patterns make many species within this group highly sought after in the aquarium trade, captivating enthusiasts worldwide.

These fish have found their niche in freshwater environments across almost every continent, with a particularly rich diversity found in the river systems of South America. Their adaptability is remarkable, allowing them to thrive in many habitats. From the swiftly flowing waters of rivers and streams to the tranquil expanses of lakes and the submerged forests of flooded areas, these fish have successfully made these diverse ecosystems their home.

One fascinating aspect of some species within this group is their cooperative hunting behaviors. Here, groups of fish work together, coordinating their efforts to capture prey or evade predators. The infamous piranhas, known for their sharp teeth and swift attacks, are a prime example of this behavior. They collaborate effectively to subdue prey or fend off potential threats, displaying a level of social organization that adds to their intrigue.

Beyond their unique characteristics and cooperative behaviors, these fish play vital roles in the ecosystems they inhabit. They help regulate prey populations, keeping them in check and contributing to the balance of their habitats. Moreover, they prey for larger predators, forming essential links in the food chain. The cultural significance of some species, like the piranha, adds to their value, as they are celebrated and sometimes even feared in local traditions and folklore.