Cyprinodontiformes vivíparos e ovovivíparos

Livebearer Cyprinodontiformes

Espécies > Ficha da espécie > Characodon lateralis

Species > Species profile > Characodon lateralis

















Characodon lateralis  Günther, 1866

Characodon garmani
  Meek, 1904 ( synonym )

Characodon Arco-Íris [ Português ]

Mexalpique Arcoíris [ Español ]

Rainbow Characodon [ English ]

Mezquital Goodeid [ English ]

Geographical distribution :

Mexico - Upper hydrographical basin of Mezquital River ( Guadiana valley ), Durango State, in springs, creeks and ponds.

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I - Morphology Synopsis ( some meristic characters )

Total absolute lenght

Adult male : 31.9 a 41.6 mm

Adult female : 36 a 65.8 mm

Dorsal fin rays : / 9 ( 12 ) generaly 9-11 females, 11-12 males

Caudal fin rays : / 17 ( 21 )

Scales on lateral line : 30 ( 34 )

Head lenght body lenght ratio ( male ) : 0,28

Head lenght body lenght ratio ( female ) : 0,21

You can find more pictures about these species availabe at the photo gallery.

II - Habitat and Geographical distribution

All known locations for this species geographical distribution are now placed inside Durango State in México.

This territory engages about 6,3% of the whole country surface, turning it in to the 5th largest Mexican State. The capital city is located only about 80 kilometres North of Cancer Tropic, with Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains at West and the Mexican plateau at East.

Neighbour States are Chihuahua at North border, Coahuila and Zacatecas at East border, Nayarit at South border and Sinaloa at West border.

A part of this land is a mountainous ground, including about 160 kilometres of Sierra Madre Occidental from Northeast to Southwest.

General climate is temperate but semi-dry.

As elevation raises medium raining values increase more and more, while temperature declines. At high altitude climate becomes semi-cold ( semi-borial ).

The geographical variety of Durango State provide at least four main climate typologies; semi-raining subtropical at Pacific Ocean side, semi-dry temperate or raining cold ( borial ) at high altitude, semi-dry subtropical to temperate at some valleys and dry at pre-desert areas.

Specifically under the geographical distribution areas of this species, we can find a temperate climate where mean annual temperature is about 16ºC ( 60.8ºF )and rain values range between 500 mm and 600 mm.

The raining season takes place between May and October.

There is some freezing incidence between September and April.

During winter months temperature can fall as far as some negative degrees, in the coldest nights as well as it can surpass 35ºC ( 95.0ºF ) during summer hottest days.

Hydrological panorama is made by some hydrographical basins to the Pacific Ocean side as well a less significant number running to the Atlantic Ocean at Gulf of Mexico.

Some of these rivers can end in lakes, especially those at arid highlands.

The Mezquital River flows across the Guadiana valley. It is credible than somewhere in the long gone past this river could have been an affluent of Rio Bravo del Norte or Rio Grande ( Mexico / U.S.A. border ).

Also at this region there are many thermal springs and brooks, some of them with mineral waters.

First ever European Characodon lateralis group have result from Ivan Dible importation from U.S.A. by 1980’s, resulting from contacts with A.L.A. members.

These fishes were the base colony from which the widely held actual aquarium European populations derive. They are commonly identified by the suffix “ Los Berros “.

Nowadays, it is still possible to find disperse by different biotopes an interesting number of fragmented wild populations besides this one.

Typically they can be found living in clear waters from creeks, rivulets, springs, brooks and lakes feed from near by water flows. Even so in some rare situations these fishes also live in turbid environments with muddy bottoms, some times due to human activities.

What most of these aquatic environments have in common are slow flowing waters, usually excellent substrate for exuberant under water flora as well as roughly dense algae coverage.

According with some of the consulted information sources most common ( if not the only ) aquatic plants genera are Ceratophyllum sp, Lemna sp, Potamogeton sp and Nymphaea sp.

On average most of these isolated water bodies or at least only in contact with other during the raining season remain as only a few ten or roughly hundred square meters in area.

At the present time all the wild environments except Ojo de Agua de San Juan are fragile water bodies, most of them only about 30 cm or so deep as well as running waters with no more than 1 m wide.

Despite the fact climate changes are world wide, local water abundance and purity is fast decreasing while human residents are growing in numbers. Survival of this species on these critical last refuges is not very expectable, at least out of isolated regions.

In almost all the locations where wild populations can still be found, it seams that Rainbow Charcodon is not an abundant species anymore if it was before anyway.

There are reports from one of the creeks with no more than 20 cm deep, home of a particular population, where water quality is reduced, apparently polluted by untreated domestic sewage.

From several described locations about this species geographical distribution there are the below list ( the most complete as possible from the attainable sources ) :

Rio Mezquital near Durango City

Spring of San Juan near the town of Berros

Reservoir 25 km E Durango City

Hot springs 9 km E Durango City

Rio de La Sauceda 13 km NE Durango City

Reservoir in Rio Tunal ca. 31 km E Durango City

Rio Tunal ( the name given to the Mezquital river above the El Salto falls ), 9 km SE Durango City

Ojo de Agua de San Juan spring near the town of Berros

Below dam at Presa Penion del Aguila 7 km N Morcillo

Rio Mezquital and ponds 14 km NE Durango City

Spring at Nombre de Dios

Spring near 27 de Noviembre, NE Durango City

Spring 8 km SE Guadalupe Aguilera 60 km north of Durango city near Laguna Seca ( Dry pond )

Creek in the very upper reaches of Rio Canatlán, at the town of Los Pinos. 16 km N Canatlan

Headwaters of Rio Canatlán, above Peñon del Aguila dam

Spring of San Vicente Chupaderos - west side of the town of Cerro Gordo 15 km S Guadalupe Aguilera; ( that spring is dry nowadays )

Spring and tiny creek that crosses the little town of Amado Nervo, eventually flowing into Rio Mezquital.  ( probably a new different species )

Spring at Abraham Gonzalez

El Toboso - small spring El Baño de Las Mujeres empties into Laguna del Toboso ( an ephemeral lake that just receives water from the spring during the rainy season, and it has been dry on several occasions ). ( Characodon audax ? )

III - Physical-chemistry parameters

Ideal temperature range : 18ºC ( 64.4ºF ) - 24ºC
( 75.4ºF )

Tolerated limits : 13ºC ( 55.4ºF ) and 29ºC ( 84.2ºF )

Survival limits : 10ºC ( 50.0ºF ) and 33ºC ( 91.4ºF )

Ideal pH : 6 - 8

Ideal dH : 9º - 19º

Maximum salinity : ?

Temperature annual maintenance for this species in captivity ( suggestion ) :

Thermal regime (1)

Thermal regime (2)

15ºC ( 59.0ºF )

16ºC ( 60.8ºF )

16ºC ( 60.8ºF )

17ºC ( 62.6ºF )

18ºC ( 64.4ºF )

20ºC ( 68.0ºF )

19ºC ( 66.2ºF )

21ºC ( 69.8ºF )

21ºC ( 69.8ºF )

23ºC ( 73.4ºF )

22ºC ( 71.6ºF )

24ºC ( 75.2ºF )

23ºC ( 73.4ºF )

25ºC ( 77.0ºF )

24ºC ( 75.2ºF )

27ºC ( 80.6ºF )

23ºC ( 73.4ºF )

25ºC ( 77.0ºF )

21ºC ( 69.8ºF )

23ºC ( 73.4ºF )

19ºC ( 66.2ºF )

21ºC ( 69.8ºF )

17ºC ( 62.6ºF )

19ºC ( 66.2ºF )

Each one of this table lines report a different monthly period.

The temperature values are provided only as a reference for captivity maintenance.

Performing on this way your action can be considered reasonable, according with the species known thermal exigencies.

It is sometimes difficult, if not even impossible, to recreate in aquarium the natural conditions, most favourable for the fish biology. The most ideal situation was, if you could be able to provide your fish a daily as well as a weekly temperature variation, like in the wild.

For better understanding about perfect environment or to simulate water temperature annual evolution according to natural habitat for this species, please be so kind and have a look to Guadalajara, and San Luis Potosí graphics at Wild water's temperatures ( all year round ) issue, but remember that these fish habitat are volcanic hot water springs.


IV - Biology and ecology synopsis

Taking mainly in consideration images about this species accessible by Internet, the distinction in terms of body colouration between populations becomes apparent and above all manifest in males.

The general body shape is rather unusual at Goodeinae sub-family as well as dorsal, tail and anal fins rear location. This perceptible quality is one of the most obvious links with their relatives from the oviparous Goodeidae family from sub-family Empetrichthys, in particularly Crenichthys baileyi.

Scientists believe that in bygone and far epochs Characodon and Crenichthys had belong to the same species, specifically when the Mezquital River hidrographic basin was part of Rio Bravo del Norte ( Rio Grande ), correctly home of the egg layers from sub-family Empetrichthys.

The Characodon genus is even regarded as the most primordial of the Goodeinae sub-family.

While in captivity, in the presence of other species, Rainbow Characodon reveals to be a timid fish. This behaviour can overlap soon and expose a completely different animal in a mono species tank.

Male disputes over territory and females become than common daily events, and arises a confident intra-species belligerently performance amongst adults from both sexes.

According to some details about wild populations testimonies, probably this belligerency between males bring them more often to open waters, while the majority, if not all, females stay out of sight at dense vegetation refuge; taking advantage from closely perfect camouflage.

Nevertheless, the entire group remains secure near vegetation to look for refuge from potential threats as those expectable from predators, who knows if this is related with the majority of the wild populations be found in clear as crystal waters.

As European aquarium Characodon have derived from spring pure waters ancestrals, we can be aware of a comprehensible dependence to weekly water changes of at least 25% of tank capacity. The ideal is however to reach about 35% to 40%, ( it will be rely on the full capacity volume and filtration efficiency ).

To keep the fishes away and free from the very well identified and most common secondary effects from domestic treated water supply, this practice can be repeated every 4 days with only 20% to 25% of renewed volume each time.

No one can scientifically prove it, but many of those who keep this species consider that the inconsistent duality of opinions about these fish vulnerability otherwise impressive resistance to maladies can be highly related to these water renewals, or their absence.

There are so many controversial opinions that become difficult to understand the real extend of the fish health vigorous and self defence against more common physical hassles or illness.

Temperature can be another limitation factor on the species health.

Almost all available sources point to a range between 20ºC ( 68.0ºF ) and 24ºC ( 75.2ºF ) average at water temperature in nature by the time of capture or visit. Some references in several different times of the year indicate roughly the same.

By own experience in aquarium, hobbyists recognize already that Rainbow Characodon get more benefit from temperatures below 26ºC ( 78.8ºF ).

Another universal conclusion is that a relatively short seasonal period between 18ºC ( 64.4ºF ) and 16ºC ( 60.8ºF ) profit enormously the general condition and health of the fishes.

It becomes also evident that these lower temperatures can delay development in younger’s growing, as well as breeding gets a pause.

Cooling resistance is quite good, and even sudden drops of some degrees are very much better received than many other species of enhanced cold performance. The difficulties start with long periods under the lower limits, as they can’t be so well supported as by other similar temperate regions fishes.

Despite the fact that, back in the wild, negative air temperatures can take place during some winter nights. On the other hand, lower deepness could indicate more relation between air and water thermal regime, but from all data we could contact by now, there is no allusion to lower than 15ºC ( 59.0ºF ). One of the prospects to explain this water temperature values, within the winter negative drops, can relay on the fact that many of the natural habitats are thermal springs in a volcanic region with plenty running water.

This can also explain, ( at least in theory ), why Characodon lateralis could never survive to southern Portugal winter, where it is possible to find a regional climate with same mean annual temperature as well as about the same weather, ( except for the different raining season between October and May ).

Reports about the wild populations suggest an algae basis considerable diet component, but teeth configuration can also lead us jump in to conclusion of more omnivorous feeding habits, including eventual prey on water insects and other small invertebrates. Anyway, taking in consideration a long intestine, maybe a natural vegetarian incidence can overcome the potential animal diet.

The vegetarian tendency is quite obvious in captivity, even taking in consideration a positive diet first choice progress to animal meet with age.

Slight boiled spinach, peas or other vegetal supplement as well as industrial flake food to vegetarian species must not be forgotten to a good quality diet.

Nonetheless, you should also alternate very often vegetal matter and flakes food with live ( or frozen ) prey, usually brine shrimps and insect small larvae.

Besides firm reluctance regarding a few flake foods, Rainbow Characodon will accept to be nourishing under the general feeding suggestions at aquaristics section. This includes several vegetal alternatives, brine shrimps, mosquito larvae, small aquatic invertebrates and other usual live or frozen options. With long term aquarium populations, there are also a few other opportunities like milled raw fish and molluscs and spirulina flakes.

They also accept very well domestic cattle and hunt minced raw meat, but some individuals have a predisposition to suffer from digestive complications and internal diseases due to terrestrial animal protein ingestion.

In particular when diet meets all basic needs concerning quality as well as quantity, newborn are not molested or endangered by the adults.

There are some confirmed reports from breeders who claim that, even under the best conditions as possible; cannibalism on fry is a reality. We believe that a possible justification to these unusual events can relay on unsuspected beyond reach conditions or nourish require. Another easy explanation to cannibalism is usually the population itself. In some places the species evolutes in a way that demographic explosions can only be under control by self sustain mechanisms.

Above all when such prevalence is a menace to the continuity of the group reproduction is advisable to separate expectant females to a single tank ranging at least 15 to 20 litres of capacity.

Besides a high quality diet pregnant females shall live in impeccable water excellence. Natural physic-chemical parameters need to be full respected.

Recent mother who reveal a cannibalistic tendency must be transferred to a recovery thank for about two weeks before return to colony tank. At this revitalization period several females and event some youngsters of proper size can be all together.

Maternity tank born fry can stand there to grow, but they must return to colony thank to meet others from the same species before sexual maturity. This will avoid unwanted mates between direct brothers and sisters.

Sexual maturity is attainable at about 4 months in usual conditions, even if females get pregnant a little bit older than respective male brothers start to copulate.

Goodeid females can’t preserve sperm like those of Poeciliinae family. This means that fro each brood there must be a copula.

Each female can deliver about 9 to 12 fry each time. Little young females during can only release 2 or 3 but extraordinary larger ones can reach as far as 30 or more babies in a single deliverance.

New born ones are relatively big ( 7 to 10 mm ).

A regular gestation take place from 55 to 65 days long, depending on water temperatures and quality, diet and feeding, as well as other unpredicted reasons.

Beneath unfavourable conditions pregnancy can stand for months. It’s also possible to find some breeders information confirming a reproduction discontinues in older females, although they keep still healthy and subsist during a quite longer apparently normal existence.

Newborn do not present any feeding problem as they are relatively large and become independent quite soon.

The rudimental umbilical cord ( trophotaeniae ) can subsist for almost a week before complete absorption.

In the presence of an algae flora the tiny fishes start right the way to foraging only a few ours after birth.

Also with appropriate algae existence on the tank, it is imperative to feed the young with brine shrimp nauplii, as well as daphnia of convenient dimensions, besides any of the usual industrial substitutes.

V - Complementary notes

According to scientific studies, there are at least 3 species that we can unquestionably classify at Characodon genus. One of these is already extinct.

Besides this 3 classified species, reservations can still be raised about 2 wild populations, ( “ Abraham Gonzalez “ e “ Amado Nervo “ ).

Characodon lateralis and Characodon audax are in fact morphologically very similar.

In addition to evident body silhouette and pigmentation distinction, there are actually a few other small morphometric differences that aren’t even difficult to find over a superficial glance.

Only as single illustrative example and ignoring other obvious distinguish, we can detect a disparity about the pelvic fins location relatively to the anus. In fact, the Characodon lateralis, pelvic fins can cover the anal orifice while in rest position close to the body ( in all populations except that at “ Nombre de Dios “ ), whereas in Characodon audax, those same fins always fail to reach the anus.

In relation to Characodon garmani, a little can be said about this in view of the fact that the species is described based only in one preserved female ever since 1895.

Genetic examination can show how close but individual the two remaining species are. This closeness is however enough to allow fertile hybrids to occur.

Due to this easy potential cross is highly advisable to never maintain both in the same tank.

Dr. Dietmar Kunath reports a notorious but unpremeditated hybridising experience between Characodon species, back in 1990. We can find the details at the “ Godeiden “ website fallowing this link -

As it is expressed by this source, we need to distinguish between forced and voluntary crossing by human manipulation. In this particular situation, the cross has result either by accidental or neglected socialization of members belonging to both species with unsuspected hybridizing potential.

When compulsory, the most acceptable success for this kind of practice can be the possibility to get an empirical tool while tracking down certain taxonomic relations between species. However this routine is totally unadvisable due to the implications it has on biodiversity.

This idea is more accurate concerning the Characodon species, as both are under threat the wild.

Due to these fishes situation in nature they are worthy of our best efforts, as it’s doubtful that there will be any odds to see them currently available at shops one day.

Although there are many references of success while keep them on relatively small tanks population sustainability lies upon a larger number of individuals as possible.

With a little exercise it’s easy to conclude that larger space is important even though this is a small species.

Taking in consideration general behaviour a 100 litre aquarium is a good choice, although we are not talking about a pugnacious animal has in many examples of Cichlidade family territorial and aggressive species. Dominant males usually do not kill opponents in result of fights by territorial or female competing. Weak individuals can eventually die in starvation if there is not enough space for them to reach food while chase by others.

Mono species set up is not essential, while is still the best first choice for beginners. There are some compatible tank mates of Goodeidae, Poeciliidae e even Characidae or Cyprinidae families; all these accomplish right temperament and size as well as physic-chemical well-matched needs. Common Corydoras are also selectable and quite important.

Back in the wild usually subsist in the environment a group of species that unfortunately may never be obtainable in the retail. For biotope lovers please search Astyanax mexicanus, Catostomus plebeius, Codoma ornate, Cyprinodon meeki, Chirostoma mezquital, Dionda episcopa, Etheostoma pottsi, Gila conspersa, Ictalurus barbouri  and Notropis aulidion.

Some of these can in fact be natural predators or compete with fry as well as adult Rainbow Characodon, but this is a close idea of original fish fauna in the wild biotopes before exotic introductions.

VI - Threats, protection and present status

Wild populations of Characodon are under dramatic decline since first describing by science.

One of the main causes can be associated to the fact that all the present small habitats are confined to arid or semi-arid regions, under strong pressure from human demographic expansion and agriculture activities.

Under the same circumstances one of this genus species is already vanish today.

Characodon garmani was only one of several relic fauna species from very confine places in Parras valley. Somewhere 1900 and 1953 they all have face extinction.

Together with this Goodeid the world lost other equally rare species from other represented families like the Stypodon signifer or the Cyprinodon latifasciatus.

Around mid XX century several springs dried out, contributing in a great deal to the disappearance of these fishes.

In another specific place, the remaining water body had been reprised. Inside the single remaining reservoir, anticipated to irrigate a cotton field, there was a culture of common carp ( Cyprinus carpio ).

Nowadays Parras Valley water bodies are subjugated by introduced species.

Only one or two of the original ones, most of all endemic species can still survive in isolated habitats.

Main rivers near Durango City like the Tunal are polluted by domestic waste waters and industrial sewage. Live on these areas is mostly represented barely by resistant lower life forms.

All fish endemisms are vanish.

In some very impressive places like at “ El Salto “ waterfalls, a black and smelling water is the result of local cellulose industry use of the river.

Characodon lateralis population’s extent and geographical distribution had seriously decline for the period of last 40 years.

There are still registries testifying the species presence at Tunal River basin where it disappears completely after 1975.

This fact can be related with the introduction of exotics by 1968. the most common introduced species were Cyprinus carpio, Carassius auratus, Lepomis marcrochirus e Micropterus salmoides.

Characodon genus fish decline and refuge in very remote areas can be due to environment destruction and severe alteration, deforestation, water contamination by domestic and industrial sewage, over exploration of water resources and certain human activities like agriculture.

Undoubtedly one of the most important, if not the most significant impact on these fishes decline in the wild was exotic species introduction. According to several information resources we can list the fallowing ones - Carassius auratus, Chirostoma spp, Cyprinus carpio, Gambusia senilis, Goodea atripinnis, Lepomis macrochirus, Micropterus salmoides, Oreochromis aureus and Oreochromis mossambicus.

Characodon lateralis is in danger according with the IUCN Red List of Threatned Species.

memorandum about the Characodon genus : Regarding the 3 species placed on it, 1 ( Characodon garmani ) is classified as extinct,  1 ( Characodon lateralis ) is classified as endangered and 1 ( Characodon audax ) is classified as vulnerable.

For further knowledge or information about this please check Livebearer Cyprinodontiformes in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Other topics available about this species :

Sugested links :

Comisión nacional para el concocimiento y uso de la biodiversidad ( CONABIO )

We should be extremely gratified and thank you in advance if some one could provide new data about this topic, or even eventually any correction to be made on this document. For this purpose please be so kind and write us.

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