Shane's World Right Arrow GeographyRight Arrow The Venezuelan Diary Series, Part 6 • Rio Zuata and Giant Chaetostoma

Article © Shane Linder, uploaded January 01, 2002.

On the way home from the Rio Guarico on 19 November 2000, I stopped at the Rio Zuata at San Casimiro which has become one of my favorite collecting locales. In about 45 minutes of collecting I was able to catch three species of Chaetostoma in the strongest riffles. The water level was lower and warmer than normal and clear. The temperature was about 78°F in the shallows and a few degrees cooler in the rapids.

The big surprise was a new (to me) species of giant Chaetostoma! Two specimens about 5 inches long (12 cm) each were captured, A male and a female. This is also the first Chaetostoma that I have been able to ID to exact species. The fish is Chaetostoma milesi and matches the scientific description perfectly (a rare occurrence). This is a very attractive, very large, Chaetostoma. Both male and female are about 5 inches SL and the head of the male is 2.5 inches wide. The body is brown and covered by fairly large black dots, the caudal fin is slightly concave in profile, and the upper and lower most tips of the caudal are white.

I have also learned that both of the previous Chaetostoma that I captured at this location will eat cucumber. The species with white dots prefers bloodworms, but will snack at cucumber while the plain-colored species relishes cucumber. With all three species inhabiting the same river, I would expect each to be somewhat specialized in their diet.

Species at the Rio Zuata:

  • Chaetostoma sp. "Zuata" white spots
  • C. sp. "Zuata" plain with yellow tail
  • C. milesi
  • Pike Cichlids (possibly two species)
  • Guppies (in the slowest parts of the river)
  • Tetras (small fast water tetras with minnow-shaped bodies)

The Biotope: To recreate a Chaetostoma biotope in the Rio Zuata I would use a long style of tank. Place two powerheads at the same end of the tank (one in the front and one in the back corners). Cover the entire substrate with fist-sized rounded and flat boulders. A few pieces of driftwood should be mixed in with the rocks. The boulders should slope from one end of the tank to the other and be stacked highest on the end with the powerheads.

Example: If the powerheads are on the left side of the tank, stack the boulders on the left end to just a few inches below the powerhead nozzles. These should then slope to the right until at the right end of the tank there is only a single layer of stones. The effect is a portion of a mountain rapid running down a hill. Some fine sand can then be sprinkled in a very light layer between the stones. Better yet, I would paint the bottom of the tank black or gray and use no substrate. Open the venturi devices on the powerheads to shoot air into the current. Green vegetables should always be available in a sheltered corner. The Chaetostoma will have to hunt about the rocks to find bloodworms, food discs, and brineshrimp after the powerheads blow these foods all over, but searching the rocks for food is what they do in the wild. The tank should be unheated if located in a place that stays at "normal" room temperatures. Water chemistry should be neutral and soft.

This is certainly not a beautiful display set up, but is a fair reproduction of the natural habitat for the purist or the potential breeder.

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