The Banded Leporinus (Leporinus fasciatus) is about the only species of Leporinus a Filipino fishkeeper will most likely be familiar with. This of course is for good reason because the Banded Leporinus is such a beautiful fish. It is a torpedo-shaped fish with a base body color of yellow and contrasting solid black vertical bars. It is an actively swimming fish, conquering the middle and bottom parts of the tank. They are also reasonably priced, so many fish-keepers can easily afford them.

However, the 3-inch cutie we regularly get from fish stores will eventually grow to over 12 inches and develop a much more aggressive demeanor. As adults, they may be striatusquite aggressive, and are known to be relentless in harassing their tankmates.

For some reason, the Banded Leporinus is the only species of Leporinus regularly imported to the country. This is surprising because the genus Leporinus is quite a big group. A popular website, fishbase.org, has 91 species listed under the genus Leporinus. Yet only the Banded Leporinus finds its way into our tanks.

NEW TO THE COUNTRY – So it was quite a surprise when I saw two specimens of Leporinus striatus in my supplier’s store. Known under the common name “Striped Leporinus,” L. striatus is a welcome addition to the South American Biotope tank.

L. striatus was first described by Austrian zoologist and ichthyologist Rudolf Kner in 1858. It is native to the countries Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, where it is generally found in undisturbed areas of the Orissanga, Paraná, and Paraguay River basins and reportedly from the Uruguay River in Brazil.

The body of L. striatus is torpedo-shaped. Its base color is beige to light brown with horizontal black stripes. In juveniles, there are 4 horizontal stripes but as it matures, the top two stripes disappear and only two stripes are visible: the thick, dark stripe in the middle of the body and a lesser horizontal stripe below it.

Its fins—dorsal, pectoral, ventral, anal, adipose, and caudal (tail)—are generally clear. But in some specimens, some redness may be observed. This may be an indication of readiness to breed or of sexual dimorphism. However, in all my research regarding the L. striatus, none revealed the differences between the sexes. My experience tells me however, that in most Tetras, the females are bigger and rounder than the sleek males.

CARE TIPS – Since the L. striatus grows to about 10 inches, it is best to keep them in medium to large tanks. 50 to 75 gallon tanks should be fine and anything bigger should be better. They are quite active swimmers and inhabit the middle and bottom portions of your aquarium.

Since they are rather skittish, they are best placed in a decorated tank rather than a bare one. You can observe that in a bare tank, they normally just “park” themselves in one corner and dart quickly at any sign of danger. But if your tank has gravel and driftwood, they are  more relaxed and oftentimes find refuge around the driftwood. Putting in plants may not be a good idea since they are known to eat plants, which are a welcome part of their diet.

As for their diet, they are omnivores and will eat both plant and meaty food. They may be offered bits of shrimp, fish, insects, worms, etc. They also take commercialized fish food quite easily. They are not picky eaters and they easily adjust to whatever you feed them.

Being a fish from the Amazon, they are best kept in water that is slightly acidic to neutral with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.0 and a water hardness of soft to medium or a range of dH 4 to 12. Tropical temperatures of 22°C – 28°C is also recommended. These figures are not absolute values that your tank must have to successfully keep L. striatus alive but rather, the best values for keeping them. If your water parameters are outside these values, so long as they are not way off, these will be tolerated by L. striatus as they are very hardy fishes.

L. striatus is a better community fish compared to its more popular cousin, the L. fasciatus. It has a better demeanor and generally does not mind tankmates. I never experience any fin nipping or relentless bullying associated with the L. fasciatus. I consider L. striatus good citizens of the community aquarium, just minding their own business and never quarreling with their neighbors.

Since they are hardy, they may be kept with other large tetras, medium sized catfish, and medium to large cichlids without any fear of being bullied. They are fast swimmers and normally stay out of trouble by just swimming away. They are perfect addition to a South American biotope tank with Tetras like Silver Dollars, Red Hooks, Emperor Blue Hooks, Headstanders, Anostomus, and Flagtails; Catfish like Irwini, Pictus, Brochis, and Lima Shovelnose; South American Cichlids like Severums and Temporalis; and medium-sized Pike Cichlids, Oscars, Geophagus, Uarus, and so on.

The L. striatus is a nice, peaceful fish that I wish to see more often in the Philippine fishkeeping scene. While not as striking as the more popular L. fasciatus, L. striatus is worthwhile to keep because of its more peaceful character, easy keeping, and the modest size it can achieve. Surely any fish with those qualities will be well liked by the fishkeeper who has a fascination with South American fish.

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s June 2016 issue.