Characins, a member of the characidae family, are a family of fish that are well represented in the tropical fish-keeping hobby. Many of the fish you so often see in the Local Fish Store belong to this particular family.
Characins have one distinguishing key feature and this is the fin that is on the top of their body between the dorsal fin and tail. This family of fish originates from Africa, Central America, and South America. There are well over 1,000 individual species in this particular family of tropical fish.
This family of fish can be difficult to sex, but some ways to determine sex include comparing anal fins, fish color, and overall size. Males typically will have longer and more pointed anal fins. Males typically grow larger and will have better color. These fish are egg layers and generally lay their eggs in the rocks or vegetation and the eggs are then on their own to hatch and survive.
Most Characins prefer water that is soft, and water temperatures between 76-80°F. This particular family of fish is widely kept in the home tropical aquarium tank due to their peaceful temperament. Many fish-keepers love setting up an aquarium tank and house many different species in it.
Characins are typically schooling or shoaling fish. This simply means that they prefer to live in groups. When you purchase these fish, make sure you purchase 3-5 fish at a minimum. When schooling, these fish feel secure, safe, and will more than likely live longer for you in the aquarium tank. This family fish has a mixed life span, but on average live 3-10 years of age.
The diet of this common family of fish varies depending on the individual species. Some are herbivores (plant eaters), some are carnivores (meat eaters), and some are omnivores (plant and meat eaters). Most of these commonly kept fish will do well on a staple pellet or flake, but please research and see what each individual fish you keep eats in nature. A proper diet will ensure a long, healthy life for your tropical fish.
The tank and water conditions in which you keep your fish will vary based on what species you own. The average community tank will have a pH around 7.0-7.4, water temperatures between 76-80°F, and usually logs, driftwood, plants, and gravel or sand.
The largest and most popular species in this family is the Tetra family. Bleeding heart tetra, cardinal tetra, neon tetra, Congo tetra, and Serpae tetra are very common tetras found in most Fish shops.
Another common Characin kept in home aquariums is the Silver dollar. The silver dollar is an excellent community tank species. Closely related are the Pacu and the Piranha. I do not recommend the Pacu or the Piranha for the average tropical fish keeper. Each needs it’s own fish tank for reasons you can read about in their profile information.