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Darter Characin

Scientific Name: Characidium fasciatum
Family: Crenuchidae, Sub-Family Characidiinae

About the Darter Characin

Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Category: Characins

Care Level: Moderate. May tolerate only a narrow range of water parameters, have specific dietary requirements including frozen or even live foods, may have behaviors that severely limit potential tankmates or may require a specialized aquarium setup.

Origin: Sao Francisco and upper Rio Parana drainages, Brazil. Related species are found throughout South America. Occurs in lentic (slow-moving) waters.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful, can be kept singly but best in a small group; the fish frequently interact if maintained in a spacious well-planted aquarium offering hiding spots. Any non-aggressive fish are suitable tankmates.


One of the interesting and very fascinating bottom dwelling characins, easily mistaken for an Asian loach. It is an inquisitive fish, and one that often comes to recognize its owner. It swims with fairly jerky motions, almost hopping around the tank, hovering or stopping to rest on its pectoral fins on plant leaves, wood, rock, or the substrate.

There is some variation in patterning, and colouration varies a bit with location, for example taking on a slightly greenish hue in fish from heavily-vegetated waters or a darker shade over a dark substrate. Females are rounder, with a clear dorsal fin, and males have spots around the dorsal. Easy to spawn in soft, acidic water.

There are believed to be some 50 species throughout South America, but the most commonly exported for aquaria is C. fasciatum, first described by Reinhardt in 1867. There is a near-identical fish among the African characins in the genus Nannocharax which has about 25 described species that are much rarer in the hobby.

This Sub-Family (Characidiinae) along with Crenuchinae were moved out of the Family Characidiidae and placed in the family Crenuchidae by Paulo A. Backup in 1998. Dr. Backup previously (1993) revised all genera except Characidium.

Darter Characin Diet

Sinking foods such as those for other bottom fish like catfish and plecostomus. Relishes frozen bloodworms and small live worms, since the fish's mouth is small.


Attains 2.5 inches, close to 3 inches according to some authors.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length, larger if more than one or two are kept..

Ideal water parameters for Darter Characin

Soft to moderately hard (hardness up to 25 dGH but preferably below 10 dGH), acidic to slightly basic (pH up to 7.5 but below 7.0 is ideal) water, temperature often given as within the range 18-24C/64-74F but successfully maintained for years by the writer at 25-26C/77-79F.

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