The freshwater Barracudas or Gar Characin, are very common fish in aquariums. So if you want to enjoy them you must learn first their main characteristics.
These fish belong to the order of characins, like piranhas and tetra fish, although their anatomy differs a little from the latter. They are found in Central and South America in Panama, Colombia and Venezuela, from Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela to the Magdalena River in northern Colombia.
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The Freshwater Barracudas have an elongated, slim body and a forked tail. Their snout is long and their mouth has an upper jaw that is slightly longer than the lower. The snout has «fins» curved upwards that form modified lip membranes which fulfill supporting respiratory functions in low-oxygen water.
Moreover, they have a dark ocellus on both sides just at the base of the caudal pendulum. The adult specimens can reach up to 27 cm in length, even a little more. Their body color is predominantly yellowish silver and they have ctenoid scales. We invite you to read our article the anatomy of fish to learn more about this topic
The Gar Characin is a predator that feeds mainly on small fish and insects, but it adapts easily to dead species when it is in captivity. The Smaller specimens can eat small earthworms, chopped prawns and similar foods, while adults will accept fish meat strips, prawns or whole shrimp, mussels, live river shrimp, earthworms bigger among others. If you want to own these fish as pets, be careful not to over feed them as they can choke.
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Freshwater barracudas are pelagic fish that live in tropical freshwater at temperatures not lower than 22 ºC. They prefer slow waters with abundant aquatic vegetation. Young individuals interact in groups especially when they hunt, while adults do so alone.
The freshwater Barracudas are native to South America, and can be found in Colombia (Magdalena and Sinú rivers), and in waters in the northwest of Venezuela.
The three subspecies of this fish originate in Central and South America. The most common species, Hujeta Pike Characin (hujeta hujeta ), comes from Venezuela. It can reach lengths of up to 70 cm in wild, although it rarely exceeds 22 cm when it is in aquariums.
This species is mainly distributed in Panama and Colombia and reaches a length of up to 30 cm.
This species is mainly distributed in Colombian Rivers.
Gar Characins and Other Fish
The barracuda freshwater fish is characterized by a calm behavior (even shy and scary) and can coexist with other aquarium fish. However, be sure to offer them a relaxing aquarium with a lot of space to move comfortably. If they inhabit with other fish it is important that they are of a higher size given their predatory habits.
There is little information about these fish, although it is known that spawning usually occurs in groups. Courtship usually begins with the males chasing each other and then swimming in parallel. Then they extend their fins and turn in circles. Following, the males chase and court the females, swimming in a fairly fast way under the water.
Mating takes place on the surface of the water and both lift the rear third of their bodies, swinging their tails over and over again. Then, with a big portion of the female´s body out of the water and the male under her, the eggs and sperm are released. Spawning takes place every 3 to 4 minutes, lasts a maximum of 3 hours and more than 1000 eggs are laid.
A large female can lay between 2000 and 3000 eggs. The eggs are incubated in approximately 20 hours and the fry swim freely in 60 hours. They can be fed with rotifers, cyclopes or Artemia nauplii. They grow quickly and should be fed 3 times a day, since otherwise they will eat each other.
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Freshwater Barracudas in Aquariums
The Gar Characins are very adaptable to a variety of water qualities, but they require a large tank since they have a scary personality that can easily cause them an injury. Moreover, it´s difficult to feed them with commercially prepared foods, so they are a bad choice for beginners.
Aquarium and water treatment
The most suitable option for this species is a 300 liters aquarium with high oxygen content and a good filtration system. The use of plants is highly recommended although they shouldn´t cover the entire surface, as it is a fish that frequents the aquarium´s upper area. In addition, the tank should have a lid, since they are fish that jump easily and swim between the top and middle of the aquarium.
o Temperature: 23 to 27 ºC
o Acidity: pH 6 to 7.5
o Hardness: up to 17 ºdGH
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