In my last blog, I discussed the frustration new hobbyists can feel when they cannot get a definitive answer to what seems to be a simple question. There are usually many ways to accomplish the desired goal and help maintain the aquarium. This can make things a bit confusing to the novice. Then, we complicate the whole issue even more with the “common” names given to the fish for sale.
While any confusion about fish could be solved by only using the scientific name of the fish, most of us did not have (enough) Latin in school to be able to pronounce most of the names. Even then, there can be confusion about the correct scientific name to use. Just ask any long-time African Cichlid keeper about the scientific names of some of the more common Cichlids and whole families of fish that have been changed over the last few years. Even so, most African Cichlids are known by their scientific names, and most marine fish are listed by the species name in addition to the common name.
For the rest of the fish, the inconsistency of common names in different sections of the country and by different vendors/wholesalers can be quite a challenge. Some fish go by a multitude of common names, i.e. Silver Tip Shark, Black Fin Shark, Columbian Shark, and can still be found under multiple scientific names, Sciades seemanni, Arius jordani, Hexanematichtys seemanni. This is enough to even give the fish a headache. For others, a multitude of fish are all sold under a generic common name. Silver Dollars are an example of this, and depending on the actual species, it can run from 2″ in size to over 8″ in size. Fortunately, they all pretty much have the same temperament and require the same water conditions, so not knowing the actual species is not as critical as it could be. But, all of them will treat any live plants in the aquarium like a salad bar. I have seen several species of fish sold as the Freshwater Barracuda, Acestrorhynchus isalinae. Ctenolucius hujeta and Acestrorhychus falcatus are offered under this generic name and are very distinctive is appearance. Sometimes the confusion can be caused by the variety of a particular fish, like the Discus. A brief glance at our listings for Discus will show 12 different types of patterns and colors. I have seen specialty Discus breeders who list 50+ varieties of Discus, and I have always wanted to get one of each type, place them in aquariums, and see how many they can name correctly. I am convinced that most Discus breeders are frustrated marketing managers and have to keep coming up with “NEW!! IMPROVED!!!!“ varieties.
As in most things, I do not want to discourage you from learning the proper names of the types of fish you keep or plan to keep. The Internet makes this process so much easier than thumbing through one of the older Fish Encyclopedias to learn about the habitat and dietary needs of a certain fish. Just do not let this information overwhelm you.