Flatail characins, also called kissing prochilodus, have silver bodies and colorful fins. They live in the Amazonia River system.

Physical Description

They have a flattened silver body with occasional black spots along their sides and toward their back fin. The fin on the stomach is a bright reddish orange, while anal and caudal fins are marked with bold alternating black and orange stripes. The dorsal fin is darker, standing tall with some orange markings.


Flagtail characins grow to 13.8 inches (35 centimeters) in length.

Native Habitat

Flagtail characin can be found in central and western Amazonian tributary rivers, as well as the Amazon River basin. They prefer freshwater and most commonly occupy the bottom layer of the body of water they live in. They take part in the seasonal migration of the Rio Madeira basin, which corresponds with annual flooding. As the surrounding forests become flooded, characins enter the previously dry area to find food. Flagtail characins prefer water temperatures between 71.6 and 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 26 degrees Celsius). This species is considered potamodromous, meaning that they migrate only within freshwater rivers and streams.

Food/Eating Habits

Flagtail characins are a microphagous species, one whose diet consists primarily of detritus and other fine material rich in microorganisms which are found in the substrate. At the Zoo, they eat a gel diet.

Conservation Efforts

Flagtail characins have not yet been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Their status in the wild is unknown. However, they are considered an important part of commercial fisheries in their native region.

Animal News

Aspen and Juniper: A Beaver Love Story

February 09, 2024

Public Can Help Name Cotton-Top Tamarins at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

February 05, 2024

White-Naped Crane Dies at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

January 31, 2024