On Saturday 30 December, I headed down to the Rio Zuata near the town of San Casimiro to get in the last collecting of the year 2000. Since it is now the high dry season the river was lower than ever and in some places was only 15 feet wide and six inches deep. The water was also quite warm at about 76 - 78°F and the algae growth on the fist-sized rocks that form the riverbed was amazingly thick. So thick in fact, that when we got home we literally had to pull chunks of algae out of our shoes.
The non catfish catch was typical and consisted of pike cichlids, guppies, and tetras. The surprise catch of the day was a huge Hoplias (guavina) tetra. I watched a six inch pike cichlid dart under the bank and decided to snatch him up for the photo tank. I spread the net out to about five feet and cut off the bank. Something huge darted from the bank and I actually felt it smack the net. I quickly pulled the net up to find a 24 inch (SL) Hoplias squirming in the net! This may have been an angling record for this species since most reports I have seen on record them as reaching a length of 20 inches or less. However, unlike most anglers, I actually had a camera and my wife snapped some good photos. The pike cichlid was not in the net which makes me think that he was gulped up by the guavina. Tetra eats cichlid - how is that for a change?
It was also the most productive Loricariid collecting day I have had at this location. The total take for less than two hours was one Chaetostoma "white spot" (3"), one Chaetostoma milesi (5"), and six Loricariids very similar to L106 / L122 (2 - 4"). All Loricariids were captured in the fastest riffle sections of the river. One small, less than one inch, Chaetostoma was also taken, but it was too small to identify.
L106 / L122: I am not sure if the dwarf Panaque / Peckoltia species I have taken in the Rio Zuata and the Rio Tarma are L106 / L122, a regional variation, or a very closely related species. I was very surprised to find that this same species is found in both the Rio Tarma (Tuy system) and the Rio Zuata (Orinoco system). It may turn out to be a very widely distributed species, but I can find no published description that fits it. This fish is a true rapids dweller despite the fact that the body is not very flattened. In fact, in the strongest set of riffles that we sampled we found only this fish and no Chaetostoma. In captivity they will eat frozen meaty foods as well as cucumber and other vegetables. For the first few weeks after capture they will stay directly in the strongest current in the aquarium. Eventually they seem to "adapt" and will wonder all about the tank.
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