Are you sitting comfortably? Then Ill begin. Not so long ago, an ordinary Scotsman and his intrepid wife made the trip to meet, for the first time, old friends in far away Venezuela. Fish collecting - specifically catfish hunting - was top of the agenda. For all involved this was an historic summit; all have seemingly no end of tales to tell from the handful of days we spent together. There stands out, for this hobbyist anyway, one story in particular.
I should set the scene. It was to be our last day in the field for that trip. Setting out from our base in the highlands we descend in a roomy 4x4 onto the flat plains. Travelling along an irregular dirt track (more used to the touch of hooves than tyres) and nearing our main destination we (with some good natured difficulty) cross a bridge the top of which is comprised of large irregular stones cum boulders. A sturdy bridge but one no saloon car could safely cross. Even in our 4x4 it was a bumpy passage. Maybe 10 to 12 feet down was the remnants of the river that had once flowed here. Now, at the end of the blistering dry season, all that remained were isolated pools; promising territory for prospecting aquarists with high expectations of rich pickings.
We jostled and slid our way across the bridge to collect in a flowing river a few miles on. Here we collected many catfish. Royal and clown plecos were found in numbers. Other, more sparse finds included Lamontichthys, Aphanotorulus and some nicely coloured Loricaria types. On the tree leaves that dipped into deeper water we discovered Farlowella, Hypoptopoma and L92, the last in large numbers. In shallow (1 or 2 inch deep) fast flowing areas we collected many Otocinclus, presumably feeding from the smooth, algae covered pebbles exposed to the sun.
In mid afternoon we returned to the isolated pools we had passed earlier by the rocky bridge. It was hot but tolerable, as some clouds obscured the worst of the sun's efforts to burn us to a crisp.
Most of the team were exhausted by earlier exertions on the river proper and were content to observe us from the lofty position atop the bridge vantage point. Down below, two of us entered the water again, expecting to find Corydoras septentrionalis in the pools. Personally, Im of the view that each cast, trawl or dip of the net in such muddy waters is akin to a rolling dice. Like Forrest Gumps box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.
One bank of the pool was muddy; in the shade of the trees and bushes higher up the river bank this area had not dried up yet. By the bridge, the pool was strewn with rocks similar to those found on top and presumably surplus to those used in its construction. Nothing but a dip net could collect from the water between the rocks there.
Thus the two of us elected to trawl the length of the pool with a seine net of 6 or 7 meters long. The first few hauls brought us some lovely coloured Aequidens and "Cichlasoma", a few different types of Characins; guppies and shrimps we collected by the hatful. Yet no Corydoras. On the next haul we observed that when leaving the water and running the net up the riverbank we could see swift, darting catfish escaping underneath the net! On the next pull we, very slowly and carefully inch by inch, pulled the lower edge of the seine out of the water. Our reward for painstaking work was two C. septentrionalis. Their colouration in the sun - now emerged from the clouds and silently cooking us - was delightful; emerald green shone from the flanks of the prone catfish.
While collecting we noticed another, smaller and shallower-looking pool further up the dry section of the riverbed. Perhaps because it offered welcome shade, or perhaps the promise of more Corys for less effort drew us to collect in this pool next.
I should explain here that the hand nets are made of 1" tubing frames, about 2ft by 18 and no handle. You simply hold the apparatus by each side (gold prospector style) and push it through the water. A few pulls of our nets produced little, so I decided to try blindly trawling underneath one of the larger logs half submerged in the pool. I felt something big fighting in the net. Perhaps it was a stranded large pleco? I pulled up and in the instant that the net broke out of the water I found myself eyeball to eyeball with a caiman.
Both caiman and aquarist recognised this was not a good situation. While it thrashed its tail in an attempt to free itself from the net, my response was to loudly yelp, throw the caiman (and net) away from me into the water and splash chaotically back to dry land. Now, returned to their preferred elements, the surprised caiman and gibbering aquarist had time to reflect. A long few minutes later I gingerly recovered the net and decided that there probably werent any Corydoras in that particular pool and returned to the larger one.
I never saw the caiman but for that brief instant in the net. Though we caught many more C. septentrionalis that day, through all that toil I felt an ancient pair of reptilian eyes study my every move.
|Open river habitat with sandy banks, here the Corys are harder to catch.||Isolated pools in drying river bed, these are full of fish.||The idea is to drive the fish toward the shore.|
|Push seines allow you to move faster, and avoid driftwood snags, but require more skill.||Carefully pulling the large seine into the shore, if it lifts off the bottom, Corys escape.||Yours truly sampling the smaller pool, unknown to me at the time, the caiman is behind me under that log.|
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|Cat-eLog Data Sheet|
|Scientific Name||Corydoras septentrionalis Gosline, 1940|
|Common Name(s)||Northern Longnose Cory
|Type Locality||Río Piña, 6 km north of Maturín, 9°45'N, 63°10'W, R. Guarapiché system, Monagas, Venezuela.|
|Pronunciation||Kory DOOR ass - Sep TEN tree on al iss|
|Etymology||Cory = helmet, doras = skin. In this case it was incorrectly used to mean armour (cuirasse) instead of skin in allusion to the dual rows of plates that run along the flanks of this genus. From the Latin septentrionalis meaning northern, alluding to the fact that this fish comes from northern South America.|
|Size||60mm (2.4") SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.|
|Identification||Corydoras are identified by their twin rows of armour plates along the flanks and by having fewer than 10 dorsal fin rays. They are most commonly confused with the other genera in the sub-family, namely Brochis, Scleromystax and Aspidoras.
A long-snouted species. The caudal fin rays are banded in brown and white, forming six or seven transverse rows.
|Sexing||As with all Corydoras, the females are ultimately larger and noticeably wider when viewed from above.|
|Distribution||A common Corydoras in the piedmont and northern Llanos tributaries of the Orinoco system of Venezuela. Its range may also extend into Colombia.
Orinoco (click on these areas to find other species found there) (Click the map-icon to show/hide map of species distribution)
|pH||6.0 - 7.5|
|Temperature||22.0-26.0°C or 71.6-78.8°F (Show others within this range)|
|Other Parameters||A very adaptable Corydoras that requires no special water conditions.|
|Feeding||Dry, frozen, and live foods.|
|Furniture||A dry season tank should have a leaf litter substrate with some pieces of driftwood. The water can be medium hard with a neutral pH and up to 82F. A rainy season biotope should have a sand and gravel substrate with driftwood pieces and a few larger stones that form caves. The water should be soft and cool at about 75F. In Cano Santo Domingo, Cojedes State, Venezuela the authors collected these Corydoras alongside C. aeneus ''black'', C. habrosus, Otocinclus vittatus, Hypoptopoma, Hypostomus plecostomus, Ochmacanthus, and Bunocephalus amaurus. Further south, this species appears alongside C. osteocarus.|
|Compatibility||These fish get along with anything not large enough to eat them.|
|Suggested Tankmates||Small to medium-sized tetras (such as the Diamond Tetra), dwarf cichlids and hatchet fish are good additions. Generally the fish will mix well with most community tank citizens. Keep in groups of at least six.|
|References||Stanford Ichthyol. Bull.v. 2 (no. 1) - pp16|
|Registered Keepers||(1) Yan, (2) JoseAngelBarro, (3) fulvioander (k: 2), (4) anitabritt (k: 6), who also notes: "6 wc adults.Bought as "Olga" ", (5) Keithj (k: 4), who also notes: "Mine have spawned several times in medium-hard water (KH 3, GH 10), at a temperature of 25C & pH of 6.5. I did nothing to trigger the spawnings beyond feeding frozen bloodworm and live white-worms regularly in addition to quality flake food. A very shy species that will hide at the first sign of movement.", (6) Troender (k: 4), (7) Kampfer, (8) gem400, (9) joemc, (10) corybreed, (11) swing (p: 2), (12) gem997 (k: 3), (13) catfishrock! (p: 2), (14) MHS, (15) mace, (16) miku (k: 5), (17) Vess, (18) KillieOrCory, (19) Ironhead (k: 28), (20) crazyjock (k: 8), (21) Lee Meadows, (22) bbdean.
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|Last Update||2005 Feb 12 00:00 (species record created: 2001 Apr 21 00:00)|
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