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Fish, Shrimp & Corals


December 13, 2018 | By Eric Nadon

by Tom Sarac

Welcome to the second of a 4-part series of articles that seeks to describe each of the four main continental areas within which the majority of tropical fish have evolved. Understanding these tropical origins provides valuable insight into rationalizing the type of aquarium set-up needed for specific species based on the types of conditions that best mimic what time has contributed to the evolution of freshwater fish.

Central America is a fascinating area that is home to countries such as Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, Haiti, Trinidad and Honduras. The typical landscape is mountainous and rivers represent the main water source where fish are found. Due to the small land area within this geography, the length of these rivers is relatively limited.

The mountainous terrain also means that the species of fish have evolved in water that can have substantial current, especially during the rainy season. In addition, with the soil and rock being composed of water hardening minerals in some countries (example, Mexico), water hardness is often high.

Hardness values in excess of 30 degrees of hardness are encountered. The pH value often varies between neutral and alkaline, generally between 7 and 8.

Generally, rivers are exposed to different environmental conditions in various locations, and as such, different temperatures. In countries where water sources originate in high altitudes, tropical fish populations are scarce or not found. The lower stretches where more temperate conditions prevail are the areas where the fish are more plentiful.


The typical rivers and streams contain significant quantities of pebbles and rocks, giving a general overall rocky appearance. The rock structure includes areas that feature smooth pebbles to boulders, or regions where lava rock is predominant.

Central America is home to a number of countries that have volcanoes, the source of volcanic rock. Branch and root structures are also evident. Water conditions range from clear, fast flowing rivers to silty backwaters.

Aquatic habitats in this area are without a doubt home to some very interesting species of cichlids and livebearers that are key in the development of aquarium keeping and enjoyment. Providing these robust species of tropical fish with proper water conditions is not difficult as they adjust nicely to a variety of tap water conditions.

In regards to the cichlid communities, larger aquariums are often necessary to help deal with their aggressive and territorial natures. Livebearers, on the other hand, are for the most part very good community fish and make great additions to planted tanks. This part of the world certainly has brought us many easy to care for and very appreciated species of fish.


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