There’s always something special about an aquarium. Yet if you’re looking for something different from the standard goldfish, why not bring a touch of the exotic into your home? A tropical fish is not only fascinating, with the array of bright colours available, they can add a splash of colour to your home.

Characins, also called Characidae, are freshwater subtropical and tropical fish and the most widely available of tropical fish worldwide. That’s partly because they are a huge group of fish, with thousands of different types. The characin family includes the very popular tetras, the silver dollars, wolf fish and even Piranhas (yes, those big toothed fish). Characins originated in Central and South America, and in Africa, yet are now found throughout the world including Australia.

Characins are ray-finned fish that somewhat resemble minnows. They differ in that they have an extra fin: a small fleshy fin that sits between the dorsal fin and the tail. Many characins also have teeth within their mouths (though not in every variety). Characins are not likely to have barbels but will be covered in well-defined scales. As there are so many varieties, there are no standard measurements or weights, but their minimum size would be around 13mm. Characins are colourful and hardy fish, and apart from the predatory species such as the Piranhas, are peaceful fish and quite popular as pets. Interestingly, characins are generally carnivores, although there are herbivorous Characins, which are known as Limnivores or mud-eaters.

Tetras are probably the most widely available of the characins, and indeed of any tropical fish, with the Neon Tetras variety being one of, if not the, most common fish found in aquariums around the globe. Tetras like company. They are schooling fish and require at least six other companions before they will behave normally and show off their regular colours. Tetras can mingle easily with other peaceful fish such as catfish or dwarf cichlids, but large fish are not recommended aquarium companions. They not only dominate the tank, but are prone to eating the much smaller tetras.

Varieties of characin include (but are not limited to):

Red Piranha
Common Hatchetfish
Marbled Hatchetfish
African Tiger Fish
Black Pacu
Black-Banded Leporinus
Long-nosed Distichodus
Red Tail Barracuda
Sabertooth Characin
Silver Dollar Fish
Red Arc Pencilfish
Black Neon Tetra
Blackskirt Tetra
Blackskirt Hifin Tetra
Bleeding Heart Tetra
Bloodfin Tetra
Buenos Aires Tetra
Cardinal Tetra
Coloured Skirt Tetra
Congo Tetra
Diamond Tetra
Flame Tetra
Glowlight Tetra
Golden Tetra
Lemon Tetra
Neon Tetra
Ornate Tetra
Phantom Tetra
Red-eyed Tetra
Rosy Tetra
Rummy-nose Tetra
Serpae Tetra
White Tetra
x-Ray Fish

There’s a whole world of characin to discover. And certainly plenty that would make a welcome addition to a home aquarium.