Bleeding-heart tetra Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma
and 6 other genera
Astyanax - Astynaxes
Subfamily - Incertae Sedis
(i.e., taxonomic placement at this level uncertain)
The Characidae or Characins are a family of freshwater subtropical and tropical fish, belonging to the order Characiformes. They originate in the Americas from southwestern Texas and Mexico through Central and South America. They vary in length with the smallest growing to a maximum length of 0.5 in (13 mm).
To some extent the family has served as a junk-basket category in the past. More recent revision has moved many former members of the family into their own related but distinct families - the Pencilfishes of the genus Nannostomus are a typical example, having now been moved into the Lebiasinidae, the assorted predatory characins belonging to Hoplias and Hoplerythrinus have now been moved into the Erythrinidae, and the Sabre-Toothed Fishes of the genus Hydrolycus have been moved into the Cynodontidae. There is still much revision needed, but progress in this area is being maintained at a steady pace.
Among those fishes that remain in the Characidae for the time being are the tetras, comprising the very similar genera Hemigrammus and Hyphessobrycon, as well as a few related forms. These include the cave and neon tetras.
The larger piranhas were originally classified as belonging to the Characidae, but various revisions place them in their own related family, the Serrasalmidae. This reassignment has yet to enjoy universal acceptance, but is gaining in popularity among taxonomists working with these fishes. Given the current state of flux of the Characidae, a number of other changes will doubtless take place, reassigning once-familiar species to other families. Indeed, the entire phylogeny of the Ostariophysans (fishes possessing a Weberian apparatus) has yet to be conclusively settled, and until that phylogeny is settled, the opportunity for yet more upheavals within the taxonomy of the Characoid fishes is considerable.
The fishes whose families and genera are listed below are a diverse selection of fishes that were formerly classified as members of the Characidae, but which were moved into separate families of their own during recent taxonomic revisions (post-1994).
Family Acestrorhynchidae - South American Pike Characins
- Acestrorhynchus - Pike Characins or Freshwater Barracudas
Family Alestiidae - African tetras
- Alestes (or Brycinus)
Hydrocynus - African Tigerfishes
- and 13 other genera
Family Anostomidae - Headstanders
Family Chilodontidae - Headstanders
- Belonophago - African Pike Characins
Paraphago - African Pike Characins
Phago - African Pike Characins
Family Ctenoluciidae - Pike Characoids & Gar Characins
Ctenolucius - Gar Characins
Family Cynodontidae - Dogtooth Characins
Hydrolycus - Sabre Tooth Fishes
Family Erythrinidae - Pirate Fishes, Trahiras
Hoplias - Trahiras or Destroyers
Family Gasteropelecidae - Hatchet Fishes
- Carnegiella - Dwarf Hatchet Fishes
Gasteropelecus - Hatchet Fishes
Family Hepsetidae - Kafue Pike (monotypic)
- Hepsetus - sole species H. odoe, Kafue Pike
Family Lebiasinidae - Pencil Fishes and allies
Copella - Splashing Tetras
Nannostomus - Pencil Fishes
- "Characidae." ITIS Standard Report. (Integrated Taxonomic Information System: National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C., 2004-10-13). URL: ITIS 162848
- "Family Characidae - Characins." FishBase. ed. Froese, R. and D. Pauly (08/2004), URL: Characidae
- Géry, Jacques, Characoids of the World, ISBN 0-87666-458-3