You may have to go to the Land of Oz to find the rare and beautiful rainbow
tetra (Nematobrycon lacortei) … or at least to its aquarium guide home in Western Columbia in
the San Juan River Basin. In the same Genus as the Emperor Tetra (Nematobrycon
palmeri), these two characins share many of the same traits while other
characteristics readily distinguish one species from the other.
Both species have club shaped bodies and a characteristic that is common to many
characins, a dark stripe that extends from the eye to the caudal fin. Both the
rainbow tetra and the Emperor are “trident-tailed” with a caudal fin whose
central rays extend to form a spike. Both also have long anal fins that extend
from the vent to the caudal fin.
The male Emperor tetra has a sickle shaped dorsal fin, while the rainbow
tetra’s, although extended, is shorter and more triangular in shape. Color of
the Emperor tetra is brownish-gold shot with either green or blue at the front
of its body. The rainbow tetra displays splashes of every color in the spectrum
as it darts in out and out of the plantings in the community aquarium. The
Emperor tetra has distinctive large blue eyes while the large-eyed rainbow
tetra’s eyes are banded with red.
Adult rainbow tetras should be kept in schools of six or more of their own kind.
Omnivorous, like many of the tetra species, the rainbow will eat a standard diet
of flake food, supplemented with feedings of freeze-dried foods and live brine
shrimp. Rainbow tetras also enjoy an occasional munch on aquarium plants.
Breeding the rainbow tetra is difficult, which may partly explain why it is less
common than many others of its species are. The female lays only one egg at a
time. Still, like many characins, rainbow tetras will cannibalize their eggs if
given the chance. Fry are very light sensitive and will seldom survive if
hatched in an aquarium that is not heavily planted.
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