Pasca, Paragoniates alburnus

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Matt Clarke looks at a very unusual characin from South America called Paragoniates alburnus.

Common name: Pasca

Scientific name: Paragoniates alburnus Steindachner 1876

Origin: This species is quite widespread through the Amazon basin. Museum records show that it's been collected from the middle and upper reaches of the Amazon, Rio Meta, Rio Negro and Orinoco through Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. It has also been collected in Orinoco lakes.

Size: Gery (1977) states a size of around 6cm/2", however, more recent studies by Rodriguez and Lewis (1997) have found fish of up to 12cm/5", making this a fairly chunky tetra.

Diet: Not known, but characins are rarely problematic to feed. Try offering Daphnia, bloodworms and Cyclops as well as flakes.

Water: According to Gery (1977) the fish lives in waters with a pH from 5.6-7.8; a GH of around 20° and a temperature ranging from 23-27°C/73-81°F.

Aquarium: Again, this fish hasn't been widely kept and there aren't any reports on keeping it an aquarium. Try keeping a small group of four or more in a spacious (1m/39"+) aquarium along with other medium sized fishes. These would probably be OK to mix with placid South American cichlids.

Notes: These are very rarely seen and not much has been written about them. Like many of the tetras within the family Characidae, this fish is incertae sedis, which means its true taxonomic position is unknown. The Blue tetra, Mimagoniates microlepis, a member of the Glandulocaudinae subfamily, was also placed in this genus in the past. Another species, P. muelleri, was also described by Steindachner in 1876, but it may not still be valid.

Availability: Despite being widespread, this species is very rarely imported. We spotted these on sale a few months ago at Knights Aquatics in Surrey (01883 742665).

Price: There were on sale at 8.85 each.

This article was first published in the November 2005 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine.