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Flagtail Prochilodus (Ѕemaprochilodus Sp.)

flagtail prochilodus

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#1 Jaraqui

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Posted 09 January 2010 - 02:13 PM

Semaprochilodus Sp.

Common names: Flagtail Prochilodus, Silver Prochilodus, Fei Feng, Red Phoenix, Nachtsalmler.

Native names: Jaraqui, Bocachico (Portuguese)


Members of the Prochilodontidae family are benthopelagic and can be easily distinguished by their large, muscular rasping lips lined with several rows of small falciform teeth. The lips form a suction cup which allows them to graze to the extent of excoriating various surfaces in search for food. The majority of their food consists of plant matter, however this method of feeding also allows them to consume other supplementary organic matter, such as decaying fish. Reports have indicated large quantities of mud present in their stomachs to aid in digestion. Many species of the Prochilodontidae family are a table fish in their native countries. The two most commonly sold members in the aquarium trade are the Semaprochilodus insignis and taeniurus.


Semaprochilodus insignis.


Semaprochilodus taeniurus.


Semaprochilodus taeniurus yellow morph. Notice the absence of orange and red from the caudal fin, anal fin and pelvic fins. Overall the fish retains a more silver appearance.


The very rarely seen Semaprochilodus Kneri. Shares similiar colouring as above, however black scales stretch from the caudal fin in a line.

Distribution and Habitat:

Carribean rivers of northwestern Colombia, Pacific rivers of northwestern and southwestern Ecuador, and many coastal rivers/basins throughout Brazil. They inhabit a wide variety of areas from still, low oxygenated lakes through to fast flowing major rivers and basins. Jaraqui are capable of jumping several meters in order to avoid predators or bypass obstacles.

Having such a wide range or habitats, Jaraqui are naturally very hardy and are tolerant of varied water conditions. A pH range of 5.5 – 7.5 and temperature between 22°C - 28°C is acceptable. Keep in mind however that temperatures in both ends of the extreme will result in higher levels of stress. Slight temperature fluctuations during day and night are acceptable as this replicates their natural environmental conditions.


  • Jaraqui have developed a comprehensive accessory respiratory organ, the so-called labyrinth, which lies within the gill chamber. This allows them to breath from the surface of the water in oxygen deficient waters. Within the aquarium, Jaraqui may be witnessed “drinking” from the surface of the water periodically.
  • While the Jaraqui is, as mentioned before, a very hardy fish, it is highly susceptible to stress as a direct result of poor water quality. Nitrates optimally should be kept below 25 ppm.
  • Jaraqui will often consume sand within the aquarium to aid in digestion. This is a normal process and owners should not be alarmed to see sand being defecated.


My Jaraqui have been kept at a consistant 24°C throughout the year. As an experiment, I have attempted to replicate seasonal temperature changes to induce different behaviour, however the fish remained faineant.

Biotope setup:

Typical Amazonian setup. Provide a fine sand substrate, abundance of driftwood, large-leafed plants (such as Echinodorus amazonicus), rocks and a very large open swimming space preferably in the center to accommodate the fishes natural athleticism. Optionally adding various small plant/leaf/wood litter among river rocks will further provide a level of authenticity.


Above is a picture of the Rio Salobra in West Brazil. Many older specimens of the genus Prochilodus and Semaprochilodus reside in these waters.


  • Jaraqui will not display appealing colours if housed in a bare aquarium. Please allow them to feel sheltered by adding natural ornaments.
  • Adding driftwood will allow the Jaraqui to scrape the surface and sharpen their teeth. This "sharpening" is also observed during conspecific fighting.

Tank size:

Being a moderately large fish, both species are capable of reaching the 30 cm mark in a relatively short amount of time. The insignis grows considerably larger; with some specimens reaching 45cm. It is therefore essential to provide a large tank (182 cm (6ft) by 60 cm (2ft) by 60cm should be the absolute minimum) or upgrading as the fish grows. A tank which isn't adequately sized will result in injury to the fish.


  • If fed adequately, a juvenile Jaraqui around 3-5 cm will double its size within 2 months.
  • Jaraqui have an exceptional ability to recognise their aquarium boundaries and not collide into them when startled. Stressed fish will however attempt to flee regardless of boundaries.
  • When Jaraqui are housed in small tanks (insufficient in size), the fish become easily stressed and will often run into the tanks glass. This causes a large open wound and a rather unsightly scar. Repeated abuse will lead to a deformed skull.

Feeding behavior:

Jaraqui are an extremely effective algae eater. When a fresh juvenile is introduced to a tank, it will almost immediately start sampling its environment. During this time, a Jaraqui can rid a tank free from many species of algae within a few days. Initially when foods are offered, they are ignored. However due to the Jaraqui's voracious appetite, food will be inevitably sampled.

Jaraqui will accept a wide variety of foods from Bloodworms, Brine Shrimp and Daphnia to dry foods including various pellets and flakes. Despite being an omnivore, Jaraqui prefer a herbivorous diet. This can easily be accomplished by either using a small pellet high in vegetable content or algae wafers. Alternatively, fresh vegetables such as cucumber can be offered.

Jaraqui feeding in an aquarium. Take note of the higher conspecific aggression during this time.


  • Jaraqui are messy eaters - ample filtration is essential!
  • Once acclimated, larger specimens are easily hand-trained and will often be seen swimming against the front glass of the fish tank when approached; in anticipation.
  • Jaraqui get attached to their routine foods, making it very difficult to wean them onto others. Start off with high quality pellets as a base.
  • While the Jaraqui is omnivorous, they can get constipated from a carnivorous diet.
  • Jaraqui can hold a surprisingly large amount of food in their mouths (frequently more than they can chew, causing them to spit it back out).
  • There is a common misconception that Jaraqui consume the slime coating of other fish. This originates from people mixing Stingrays together with Jaraqui. The Jaraqui will spot a flat, colourful surface and inadvertently try to sample it, causing injury to the Stingray.
  • Many soft-leaved plants may be rasped upon and as a result become crinkled, but are rarely, if ever, consumed.

I now use my own food recipe for my Jaraqui. This allows me greater flexibility and control in the ingredients to provide optimal nutrition. While the recipe changes from time to time due to availability, it predominantly consists of finely blended Spinach, Cucumber, Sushi Seaweed, Capsicum (Bell pepper), Romaine lettuce (cos), and Garlic. During blending I also sparingly add into the mix Sardines, cocktail Prawns, Mussels and powdered Spirulina. For a binder I simply use eggs. I place the finished amalgam in the microwave, cut it into cubes and store in the fridge for later use.

Aquarium behavior and compatibility:

Despite swimming vast distances in it's natural habitat, in the aquarium mature Jaraqui become quite tame and are seldom skittish when housed within the right conditions (water quality plays a major role). Tank mates are predominately ignored making the Jaraqui a very peaceful community fish. Many smaller fish such as Neon Tetras can be housed in the same tank with ease. Aggressive fish and many South American Cichlids should be avoided in smaller aquaria as the Jaraqui will not defend itself. However, if an exceptionally large tank is supplied with ample swimming space, Jaraqui under threat will dart away at an extreme burst of speed, turning sideways using their large caudal fin as a brake. This darting behaviour can also be observed when singular Jaraqui are startled.

Whether kept in small or large groups, Jaraqui show little serious conspecific aggression. During feeding time, multiple specimens may chase each other when grazing upon a small area. Fighting can also be observed when two Jaraqui of equal size enter within close proximity. Both will display, compare lip sizes and take turns jousting at each other. This behaviour usually concludes with no injuries and a clear victor. At times, the larger Jaraqui within the shoal can be seen breaking up these fights by chasing off the individuals involved. The rare yellow colour morph shows much higher conspecific aggression as a means of securing dominance. Many larger colour morph specimens will bully other Jaraqui on sight; secluding them and preventing them from eating.

When alarmed or afraid, smaller Jaraqui will form tight schools around larger specimens and will remain together until they feel secure. A loose school is also formed during the night with many hiding among tank décor.

Two Jaraqui of almost equal size fight. These fights can last for hours if not disturbed.


  • Fighting among Jaraqui is a natural way to secure dominance and their place in the shoal. Think of them as a colony of Tropheus.
  • When Jaraqui chase each other, some aggression may be "leached" onto other fish. Singular Jaraqui may also occasionally quickly give chase to other larger tank mates.


Due to the potamodromous nature of the Prochilodontidae family, breeding is not possible. Mass migrations occur twice a year during the start of the wet season and half way through. Some specimens may even travel more than 1500 km between their mark and recapture. Post spawning, fertilised eggs carried by the current drift down into the floodplains. Older specimens do not partake in the annual migration.

Edited by Jaraqui, 15 June 2017 - 10:58 AM.

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