This family of fish, with almost 1,200 species, contains many popular fish including the ever popular tetras.

In the wild, characins are generally found in Africa and Central and South America. One of their main features is their sharp teeth, something for which the piranha is well known.  However not all characins are predatory or even meat eaters.  Another feature of many species of Characin is the presence of an extra fin known as the adipose, between the dorsal fin and the tail. Males also tend to display more intense colouration, slimmer bodies and larger fins.

Body size and shape is quite diverse.  Size varies from 2.5cm (1″) to 30cm (12″), while shapes can be anything from flat-backed and deep bodied, to long and thin.  There are also differences in mouth position, which affects general feeding habits.  Hatchetfish have upturned mouths, suited to catching insets in the wild, while other varieties have down-turned mouths for low level feeding.  Others still, including the tetras, have mouths suitable for mid-water feeding.

Most Characins spawn by means of egg scattering among plants. Males have tiny hooks on the anal fin to assist spawning.

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