If you know anything about me- you know I love Characins...
Not just love, I like, ADORE them! They have been in the hobby virtually since the beginning, come in a seemingly endless array of colors, shapes, and sizes, from the tiniest little Tetra on up to the uber-fierce Piranha...and everything in between.
Of course, if I simply had to round it off to five reasons why I love these fish, these would be my picks:
1) For the most part, they are small fish. You can keep a nice number of them in a modest sized aquarium. That's a huge plus for hobbyists with small aquariums, or with large aquarium who want to lend an expansive sense of scale to their display.
2) They are remarkably tolerant of water conditions. Think about the Cardinal Tetra. I mean, this fish comes from some of the most acidic waters in the Amazon region...yet they are able to adapt nicely to all sorts of water conditions in captivity. Many characins seem to be ablate make this transition; indeed many have been captive bred for decades and aren't even available from the wild in quantities anymore!
3) If you DO decide to give them soft, acid, tannin-tinted waters (for those species which naturally come from them), you'll see an amazing display of color. This is a significant "feature", if you will- because you can bring out a lot of natural characteristics of these fishes by doing just this.
4) Most of them are reasonably easy to breed, with some extremely challenging...In other words, they're a real "one stop shop" for fish geeks. You "can get your hands wet," so to speak, with the easy ones, like Flame Tetras, and then really stretch your breeding skills with characins like Pencilfish.
5) Many of them are shoaling fishes. And as such, they lend themselves very well to displays in the aquarium. This is a very interesting behavior, and is ideal for those hobbyists who like to present their fishes in as natural a setting as possible.
At the end of the day, I'd have to say hands down that these are my favorite aquarium fishes. Yeah, they may not have the endearing personalities of cichlid, or the majestic bearing of fancy Bettas, but they bring something else to the table...something that's sometimes hard to put a finger on..a charm- a grace, a presence in our aquariums that says to the world, "this is a tropical fish aquarium.."
Something like that.
So next time you are looking for some small fishes to fill a niche or help create a cool display, don't hate on the little guys...
Stay open minded to the many possibilities for aquatic enjoyment that they offer!
And stay wet!