Red-tailed Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus)
Zoo collection includes: One
Found in the wild: South America - Amazon and Orinoco River basins
See Them at the Central Park Zoo: In the only tank in the Tropical Rain Forest's first floor.
Description: They can grow to up to 7 feet and can weigh 100 pounds. CPZ's catfish is at least four feet long. It is an elongated catfish with a rounded snout. Three pairs of barbels are located around the mouth. The base body color is light black and little dark spots can be seen on the head. A wide, white band extends from the caudal penuncle to the tip of the snout. The belly is black, as are the fins. The caudal fin is a stunning red color. The upper tip of the dorsal fin may be orange to red.
What do they eat: Red-tailed Catfish are omnivorous but prefer meaty foods. As juveniles, they will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake foods.
Life span: 20 years.
Threats: Over fishing.
Fun Facts: In Venezuela it is known as cajaro and in Brazil it is known as pirarara. It is said that the natives do not eat the meat of the Redtail catfish because it is black in coloration. In theory catfish are unable to use visual clues to track prey in their dark habitats so they follow recent chemical trails left behind by smaller fish like for instance guppies. The catfish use electrical field sensors to find the prey. These are called chemoreceptors. The chemoreceptors abound across the catfish's skin and act like big tongues as the catfish swim in the water.
Pacu (Piaractus brachypomus)
Zoo collection includes: Several
Found in the wild: Amazon and Orinoco rivers of South America.
See Them at the Central Park Zoo: In the Tisch Children's Zoo tank.
Description: These fish may grow up to 30 inches long. They are either grey or silvery fish with red bellies and the pacu has red lower body fins as well.
What do they eat: Fruits, seeds, and invertebrates. They eat some insects in the wild but really love vegetation, especially that which is in a state of decay. The teeth are well-developed but blunter than those of their relation: the piranha.
Life span: Up to 28 years.
Threats: Over fishing
Fun Facts: If you have a Pacu that's eating its tankmates - or goldfish, you've accidentally purchased a mis-labeled Piranha. If your fish has a "bulldog-style" underbite to its lower jaw, then it's a Piranha. If its lower jaw is in line with the upper jaw, then it's a Pacu.