Keeping Your Vampire Tetra   

Aqualand info on Hydrolycus scomberoides 

 
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Vampire Tetra Factoids

Origin

Northern South America

Size

Four foot max.  forty pounds.

Temperature

75 to 80 

Attitude

Lurking predator

Security

Little ones like a place to hide

Foods

Live fish preferred

pH

Not sure

Biggest threat

Insufficient food or wrong food


LA Pic
Running at about two inches, these "vampire tetras" love rosy reds.

Origin.  Baby vampire tetras get shipped to the U.S. from Peru.  The peruvians eat the adults.  In Peru they hold fishing safaris and call these guys chambira.  They grow to 40 pounds in heft and four feet in length.

Other Names.  Our last batch came in as saber-tooth barracudas.  They’re also called Dracula fish, saber-tooth dogfish, water wolf, tiger characin, and payara.

Schoolers.  They’re tetras (characins) and run in schools in the wild.  If you’ve ever seen a stringer (made of wood because these fish are so heavy), you know that vampire tetras run in schools.  Singles like to hide at first.  Groups tend to cruise.

LA Pic
Looks harmless doesn't he?  And he does have the tetra top fins.

LA Pic
Another 2" characin (today) -- called a vampire tetra.  Excellent dentures.

Size.  In the river, vampire tetras grow large enough to eat.  Peruvian anglers bait their hooks with piranhas.  You will not grow yours this large.  Not enough room.  Not enough piranhas to feed them.  They don’t seem to grow quite as large on rosy reds.

LA Pic
As you may suspect, he's a predator.

LA Pic
When he grows larger, we'll get a picture of his teeth.

 

Impressive Teeth.  Unlike Count Dracula, the long teeth of the vampire tetra come up from the bottom.  And they don’t suck blood or take dirt naps.  They don’t even watch Buffy on TV.  But they do sport some wicked choppers.

LA Pic
Can't see the teeth on this guy either.

Mixers?  When we mixed a vampire tetra with freshwater barracudas, he ate their tails off way beyond their warranty.  You could probably mix them with speedy barbs.  But they like to chew on other slow lurkers -- even those of equal size.

LA Pic
Teeth still not visible

Growth Rate.  As you might expect, a fish that grows this large grows quite fast.  You will be surprised.  And the more room you give him, the faster and larger your vampire tetra will grow.

LA Pic
At three inches, he still easily fits into a 10-gallon tanf

LA Pic
Put plants at the ends of your tank to avoid "calluses" on his upper lip.

LA Pic
Some cover in the tank makes your vampire tetra feel more comfortable.

LA Pic
In real life you can see his teeth, but ...

LA Pic
Yowsa.  We finally got a decent shot of his dental work.



LA Pic
... in death, you can see them even better.

Last Words.  I don’t believe I’d keep one of these in a house with kids in it.  Kids have no sense about teasing fish.  LA.
 

Tyler Muller, June 13, 2010
Hi, I noticed on your vampire tetra page that there is some incorrect information.  First, the scientific name you used is Hydrolycus scomberoides.  The only Hydrolycus scomberoides that I see are the one pictured under growth rate.  The rest are Rhaphiodon vulpinus.  Rhaphiodons are longer and sleeker than Scomberoides, and they don't swim at the same angle that Scomberoides swim at.  Rhaphiodons have been discovered as large as 18", but not larger.  Scomberoides only grow to a foot usually.  The largest Scomberoides are at the Shedd Aquarium.  I believe that they are between 12-16".  The tank busters that you are thinking of are Hydrolycus armatus.  Armatus grow very large.  They are the game fish you see pictures of in South America.  Armatus are also very expensive compared to Rhaphiodon vulpinus and Hydrolycus scomberoides.
If you wanted, I would appreciate if you could post my in-depth article on vampire tetras on your website.
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5422982/the_vampire_tetra_
sabertooth_barracuda.html?cat=53

A:  Thanks for the info.  I'll add your article early this week.  LA

The Vampire Tetra (Sabertooth Barracuda)

 
 
More:BarracudaShedd AquariumTetraTats

Hydrolycus and Rhaphiodon Species

The vampire tetra is an uncommon fish to see in your local fish store, but chances are larger LFS (local fish stores) will get them in at times. If you tried to do some research on the vampire tetra you will not get very accurate information. Four different species of fish are all put under the same name.

The first vampire tetra, and perhaps the most common is the Hydrolycus scomberoides (scomb). The Hydrolycus scomberoides you will notice likes to sit at a weird angle with its head down and the back of the fish will be up, sort of like a headstander. The scomb also has a dull grey sort of color. The tail on the scomb tends to be brown or black and it fades to clear towards the back. Scombs are notorious for short lives. The largest scomb in captivity is a little over a foot at the Shedd Aquarium. There are no reports of a scomb living for more than two years in an aquarium, arguments include anything from bad feeding habits (living off of goldfish and rosy reds), to a different style of care needed at a foot, to just being a short lived fish. Even in the wild, scombs are not caught bigger than a foot. Hydrolycus scomberoides may very well be one of the tamest vampire tetras with tank mates. The scomb sells for about 20 to rarely 50 dollars online and at local fish stores, usually on the cheaper side though.

The next vampire tetra, almost as common as the scomb is the Rhaphiodon vulpinus (raph). Raphs, are more common in the wild but less common at fish stores. Raphiodon vulpinus is probably one of the most distinguishable vampire tetras. Raphs are much more thin than Hydrolycus species vampire tetras and they have a much longer body. Their body color is a much more metallic silver than Hydrolycus scomberoides. When catching food, raphs also move very dramatically sometimes resulting in a backflip after they catch their prey. In the wild and in captivity raphs tend to grow to about 18". Males will grow to about 15" when some females will grow as large as 20", but usually top out at 18". Raphs are also pretty calm fish, but occasionally they will become aggressive. Normally they are not quite as peaceful as scombs.

Hydrolycus and Rhaphiodon Species

The third vampire tetra, and the most rare is the Hydrolycus tataua (tat). Tats are identified by their red/orange fins and large black eyes. Tats tend to be the most home aqaurium friendly only requiring a tank as wide as two feet when full grown and growing to only a foot. Also, Hydrolycus tatauia is much more long lived than the Hydrolycus scomberoides. It is also said, that tats are much more friendly to tank mates than any of the other vampire tetra species. The only down side to the tatauia is the lack of availability and possible high price.

Many LFS very rarely get the Hydrolycus tatauia and due to the higher demand can charge a very hefty price if necessary. If you can find a tat, it is not something that should be passed up.
 
The fourth vampire tetra, and possibly the most popular is the Hydrolycus armatus. The Hydrolycus armatus is the most aggressive vampire tetra occasionally attacking its tank mates. It can be identified by swimming at nearly a level angle, larger fangs and wider body. These are the "payara" you see in the fishing photos online. They will grow to a massive size if given the right room and diet. In aquariums, they tend to grow to about two feet. Armatus are very rarely available at LFS and you will usually have to find somebody selling theirs online and buy it from them. They can sell for anywhere between one hundred and one thousand dollars making them very expensive.
 
Many vampire tetras need small schools, usually of around six and benefit from South American whitewater conditions (powerheads, well oxygenated water and temperatures in the low 80s). Scombs and raphs tend to be the most skittish and claustrophobic requiring very large tanks and at least three times their length turning room. If enough room isn't provided they tend to try to jump out of the tank or swim into the glass frantically. It is also important to know, unless you have a Hydrolycus armatus that vampire tetras are not as aggressive as they look and they should only be housed with peaceful or semi-aggressive fish that are large enough not to be eaten in one bite. 
TM

 

LA
Same guy.

LA
Lunch time.

LA
And that's why they call them "vampire" tetras.

LA

LA

LA

LA

LA

LA

 

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