We spent 8-10 September collecting on Hato Chinea Arriba just south of Calabozo, Guarico State. Since it is now the middle of the rainy season, the great plains of the llanos are completely flooded and the rivers are all very high with lots of sediment. We went down to the Rio Orituco to give it a try, but the river was 100 feet wide and really moving. One look at the river and we decided to limit our collecting to the flooded plains and a few lagunas (pools).
Despite days of intensive collecting, the only siluriformes we caught were hundreds of one inch Hoplosternum. I had expected Corydoras and maybe even a few loricariids, but no luck. I am sure that most loricariids stick to the rivers, but I do not know where the Corydoras were hiding out. Here are some notes on the three main environments:
Site 1) A section of the flooded plains: The water was 6-12 inches deep and the immersed vegetation was very thick. The water was soft and neutral and stained slightly red in colour. The palm trees leeching tannins into the surrounding waters cause the red colour. The water temperature was about 85F. Species: Many, many tetras including Pyrrhulina cf. brevis, juvenile Hoplosternum, and two species of electric fish. Perhaps the coolest catch was a gravid female electric fish (probably Eigenmannia virescens). She was very gravid and the eggs, since the fish is somewhat transparent, appeared pinkish. I had never seen a gravid electric fish, so it was a great catch.
Site 2) A laguna: This site was an aquarium plant lover's dream! The pools were crystal clear (water about 82F) and thick with aquatic plants. We collected bags of many beautiful plants. The fishing was not so good, but turned up many tetras and a handful of rams (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi). Imagine collecting in one of Amano's tanks and think about how hard it would be to catch fish in one that was 100 by 200 feet in size. The vegetation made collecting very tough and tiresome because the net had to be pulled through Egeria, hairgrass, stargrass, Sagitteria, Telanthera, and a dozen other species of plants.
Site 3) A channel draining from Site 2: The water was very warm (85F) and the water was slightly turbid due to the clay substrate. Very few aquatic plants, but stands of lilies and immersed vegetation. The channel was about 10 feet wide and 3-24 inches deep. This site was the cichlid lover's dream. Lots of small Cichla ocellaris (2-3 inches), two spp. of Acara, lots of rams (near the vegetation in very shallow water), pike cichlids, and C. krausii. There were also a number of interesting tetras. My guess is that all of these predators were eating fishes washed out of the pool above.
We returned on the 10th with plans to fly down to Amazonas the following day and collect the upper Orinoco for four days. As the tragic events of 11 September began to unfold, we cancelled our trip and I hurried into work at the Embassy.
I just wanted to take a second and let my fellow Americans know that the support and sympathy for the U.S. has been amazing in Venezuela since the cowardly attack against our country last week. The Embassy entrance sign is surrounded by 15 feet on all sides with flowers, cards, and messages of friendship. Every Venezuelan I know called to share their condolences and random people on the street have stopped me to share their feelings and to tell me that they are praying for the victims and their families. Just tonight thousands of Venezuelans marched in support of the U.S. through Caracas. The Defence Attaché told me that they are getting 10-20 calls a day from Venezuelans that want to join OUR military.
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