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Family: Lebiasinidae, Subfamily Pyrrhulininae

Common Name: Black-banded Pyrrhulina

Origin and Habitat: Upper Amazon basin, from near the mouth of the Rio ***** (Manaus, Brazil) up to the Rio Ucayali and Rio Maranon systems in Peru (Weitzman, 2003). Occurs in quiet (= slow-flowing) small forest clear or blackwater streams among aquatic plants or under overhanging vegetation among branches.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful; males are mildly territorial, and may be slightly aggressive when protecting eggs and fry. Suitable tankmates include other small peaceful characins (pencilfish, smaller tetra, hatchetfish), rasbora, dwarf cichlids from South America, peaceful substrate fish.

Blackbanded Pyrrhulina Diet

Omnivore, feeding upon insects, insect larvae and some plant matter. Usually accept prepared foods; live or frozen daphnia, bloodworms, brine shrimp. Given that this species is a surface feeder, wingless fruit flies and small ants would be good treats and conditioning for spawning.


Attains 6 cm (2.5 inches).

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length.

Water parameters for Blackbanded Pyrrhulina

Soft (< 8 dGH), acidic (pH < 7, preferably around 6), temperature 22-26C/71-79F.


This species is widely distributed throughout a large portion of the upper Amazon basin in Brazil and Peru. There is considerable similarity in the pattern of many of the species in this genus, and C. nigrofasciata is so closely related to C. nattereri that some authors suggest they may be the same species. According to Zarske & Gery (2006) these two species may be distinguished only by the red scale spots; C. nigrofasciata has five or six horizontal rows of red spots on the scales of the flanks, whereas C. nattereri has only three such rows [some sources mention only one row]. C. metae is also similar in appearance but does not possess the red spotting (Weitzman, 2003).

Adherance to the given water parameters is crucial as this fish will be wild caught. Very suited to a well-planted soft water aquarium with a substrate of sand or fine gravel with chunks of bogwood and/or branches, some dry leaves, and floating plants to dim the light. A minimal flow from the filter is advisable. A group of 8 or more is best.

This species does not possess an adipose fin. The upturned mouth indicates this is a surface feeder, and it remains in the upper half of the aquarium. The male is slightly smaller and more colourful than the female. In spawning, up to 300 eggs may be laid on the leaf of broad-leaf plants such as larger Echinodorus (sword) species. The male cares for the eggs and fry until they become free swimming; during this time, the female must have adequate cover in order to remain distant from the protective aggression of the male.

Initially described in 1952 as Pyrrhulina nigrofasciata by H. Meinken--the genus name is derived from the Greek and means "small bullfinch" and the species epithet is the Latin for black banded--it was reclassified into the genus Copella by Ortega & Vari (1986). The genus Copella was erected by Dr. George S. Meyers in 1956 for three of the 11 species then in the genus Copeina. All but two species were subsequently moved into the new genus (Gery, 1977). The Copella species all inhabit small slow-flowing forest streams over much of the northern half of South America. This genus includes the splashing tetra, Copella arnoldi, with its very unique method of spawning [described with a video in that profile].

The Subfamily Pyrrhulininae now contains two tribes, the Pyrrhulinini containing the Copeina (2 species), Copella (9 species) and Pyrrhulina (18 species), and the Nannostomini tribe of the closely-related pencilfishes all (currently) in the genus Nannostomus. The adipose fin is never present and the mouth is upturned in the Pyrrhulinini, whereas the mouth is terminal in the Nannostomini and the adipose fin is sometimes present. The Lebiasinidae family is monophyletic (Vari, 1995, cited by Weitzman, 2003), meaning that it includes all descendants of the one common ancestor. Although the family is within the order Characiformes, the relationship of the Lebiasinidae to the more common tetra of the family Characidae is not as close as was previously thought.


Gery, Jacques (1977) Characoids of the World, TFH Books.

Ortega, H. and R.P. Vari (1986), "Annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of Peru," Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, No. 437.

Weitzman, Stanley H. (2003), in Reis, R.E., S.O. Kullander & C.J. Ferraris Jr., Check list of the freshwater fishes of South and Central America.

Zarske, Axel and Jacques Gery (2006), "Zur Identitat von Copella nattereri (STEINDACHNER, 1876) einschliesslich der Beschreibung einer neuen Art (Teleostei: Characiformes: Lebiasinidae)," Zoologische Abhandlungen (Dresden) 56, pp. 15-46.

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: Byron


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