Free to a Good Home: Carnivorous Fish

Banded Leporinus needs a new home.

They should have warned me when I bought it. No, better yet, they shouldn’t sell these fish at all.

Banded Leporinus closeupIt’s a Banded Leporinus and when I bought it, it was only about an inch long. With black and yellow stripes around its sleek body, I thought it was an attractive addition to my fish tank. Unfortunately, it liked to hide in the 55-gallon tank it shared with other fish (much like the incredible Ghost Knifefish I spent $20 on about a year ago) and I didn’t see it too often.

When I did see it, I was surprised to see how big it was getting. It seemed to grow like a weed. Soon it was about 10 inches long.

And that’s when I noticed that the other fish in the tank were disappearing. They weren’t dying and floating around the tank waiting for a scoop to the burial ground in kitchen sink’s disposal unit. They were simply disappearing, like they never existed.

I was down to about three fish when I realized what was going on. The Banded Leporinus was killing and eating his tank mates.

Banded Leporinus in my TankBy the time I got my old 20-gallon tank set up for his new home, he had just one neighbor left. I managed to catch him and put him in the new tank. He was not a happy camper. He kept bashing himself against the tank walls. Finally, he settled down in a natural “cave” I’d created for him by stacking a few rocks with a big rock over the top. And that’s where he is to this day, two years later. (And yes, I realize that a fish this size needs a much larger tank to survive in, but I’m not about to let him have my 55-gallon tank for himself.)

When I get down to the Phoenix area, I try to stop at a pet store and buy him some feeder fish. Those are the poor, defenseless goldfish they sell for about 12 cents each. I bought him 6 the first time. They were gone in 2 days. Since then, he’s managed to devour a dozen of them in less than 36 hours. He does it at night, when no one is looking. I’ve never actually seen him eat anything.

Nowadays, I throw some bloodworms (frozen or freeze-dried) and shrimp pellets in there for him. I’m tired of him and want him to either die or go away. But I don’t have the heart to kill him.

He gets very angry when I try to clean his tank. He bounces off the tank walls so much and so hard that he stuns himself and then kind of just floats around. I always wonder: Is this it? Can I get rid of him now? But then he recovers and slips into his cave, looking out at the living room and shying away from anyone walking by.

Anyway, this fish is free to anyone who wants him. Just come with a bucket (with a cover; he jumps!) or big piece of Tupperware and he’s yours.

23 thoughts on “Free to a Good Home: Carnivorous Fish

  1. A quick update on this fish. The other day, I was trying to clean his tank and he was thrashing around like I was trying to kill him. I got completely fed up. I caught him in a net and dropped him into a bucket of his tank water, then drove him over to the nearest pond (not exactly a common thing here in Arizona) and let him go. He swam off. The way I see it, he’s either dead or thriving. Good riddance!

  2. It is very bad to realease a non native; although it may have been cruel to kill him, other species are in danger now; things like this could seriously damage a whole ecosystem.

  3. 1) He was by himself, so it isn’t like he’s going to reproduce.

    2) He was old. Even if he survived the move (which is doubtful due to water temperature differences and chemistry, he probably won’t live long.

    3) The pond in question is on a golf course and has no incoming or outgoing water sources, so he’s not going to travel.

    4) There probably isn’t any other fish life in the pond for him to threaten.

    5) In fact, the only carnivorous food source he’s likely to find in the pond is mosquito larve (if he lasts until mosquito season begins). Since West Nile Virus is a serious problem in Arizona, he could actually help the ecosystem by reducing mosquito population from that pond.

    So I don’t think I did a “dangerous” thing. “Seriously damage a whole ecosystem” is a pretty silly thing to say, once you know the facts.

    Lighten up!

  4. Recently learned mongooses were released in Hawaii to combat rats, unfortunately, mongoose are diurnal, rats nocturnal.

    Now there’s a mongoose problem. I wonder if the eat fish?

  5. Okay I realize this was posted a year ago, but reading this was like reading about my leporinus. The only difference is, mine doesn’t hide all the time…mine…who killed off all his tank mates secretly, at night, including some of his own kind and aggressive tiger barbs….well mine also moves rocks and plants. He’s constantly digging ditches, moving marbles and rocks, pushing plants around his tank..it’s bizarre. I can’t hate him because he’s by far the most entertaining fish I’ve ever had. …oh and I inherited this tank. I would never had put such aggressive species together.

  6. L, I don’t think they should sell these fish to home hobbyists at all. Imagine buying a fish tank for your kids with one of these. Just 1/2 inch long when purchased, it grows and grows as the other fish in the tank mysteriously disappear. That could give a kid nightmares if he realizes what’s happening.

    I just plain hated mine. Don’t miss him one bit. But every time we drive past that pond — just the other day, in fact — we speculate on whether he’s still alive in there, nibbling at the legs of unsuspecting ducks.

  7. Your story sounds very strange. I have a few leporinus’ and they do hide a bit, move rocks to make a nest and chase one another, but I have yet to see one eat another fish…I guess you can’t say never with nature. Reading your latest post brings this thought to mind, fish stores are businesses. They are not in the business of keeping your fish tank family friendly or lengthening the lives of it’s inhabitants, they are in the business of SELLING FISH!! Fish stores will gladly sell you a remarkable cute 1.5 inch red-tail catfish, but never tell you that it will grow to 4 feet long and would gladly eat your hand if it were presented to it. Retailers will stock the Alligator Gar, which get to be upwards of 5 feet long and is essentially a gator with flippers. Which bring me to this…as a aquarium hobbyist it is your responsibility to research any fish before you buy it or at least find a good fish store that will tell you the truth about what you are about to buy. What you should have done is load your fish in the bucket and bring it back to the store you bought it from, and they could deal with it (probably sell it to some one else (3 cheers for profits)). National geographic has a couple articles recently regarding the threat to endemic species from actions such as dumping exotic pets, it’s just a bad practice.

  8. i just ran into one of these Leporinus that a friend had and he said he had it for a long time with his other fish like a dempsey and a rope fish and a few other large aggressive fish and then one day after about 2 years the other fish in the tank started just dying and he lost all 6 of the other fish and all he ever saw out of the Leporinus was it hiding under a rock all day longi just put the Leporinus in my tank with my Aequidens rivulatus and within 24 hours the Leporinus has already taken a piece of one my fishes fin and my fish is always chasing it around as if it wanted it gone i really agree these fish should be kept away from other species as i have found in my research that they will eat anything and everything that is alive they will even eat there own species so i would love to here of a good home for the one i have the pet stores dont want him here because he is so big

  9. Dude ur right i bought two of them and they ate my new baby angelfish that i really liked and now im tryin to get rid of them. And i havent even had them for a week!

  10. Here’s an update, a whole year later. I switched jobs which means I lost the fish as they were technically office fish. I checked back with some former co-workers in December of 2008 just to see what was going on. Turns out the Leporinus’s murderous rampage didn’t end with my departure. Apparently he murdered every tank-mate they purchased after I left. All types of supposedly “aggressive” fish that should have been able to hold their own against him. But they didn’t know they were dealing with true evil. Found out the office staff gave him away to a pet store. Found out later he apparently committed suicide by jumping out of his new tank. I feel sad. An epic story is over. RIP, Leporinus. I’ll never forget your immense size, weird ditch-digging and marble moving habits, and ravenous hunger.

  11. WOW!! I thought I wanted one of these because they kind of look like the yellow perch (native fish to Michigan), but after reading these things, no way! I have 9 zebras (pet store lady can’t count) and a placo. I plan on getting a doz. or so neons, a couple gourami, a red tail and maybe some silver dollars. I cannot afford to have well over $100 in fish eaten by this thing. The info I read on these is that they are herbivores and ocassionally fin nippers, apparently thats not the case. I don’t know if captivity and poduction breeding has changed the species or what, but it should be updated. Thank you to all of the people who have and have had these fish posting their experiences.

  12. Yeah don’t do it, unless you’re content to sacrifice all your leporinus’s tank-mates. I won’t deny the leporinus was the most entertaining fish I’ve ever been around…

  13. It sucks that your leoporinus is probably dead, rather than in a fish tank where it could have still potentially prospered.

    I know pet stores can be misleading at times, and often people end up with fish bigger than what they can provide for.

    Whatever reason you try to give for your negligence though, it is still your negligence. When typing “Banded leoprinus” into google, the first result you get is this one: http://badmanstropicalfish.com/profiles/profile1.html .

    On the site the first line of text clearly says,

    “Seen frequently at shops when small the Banded Leporinus is not a fish for the beginner. Stunning in color, it is a fast grower that has a mean streak to smaller fishes. They are fin nippers that sneaks up on its’ prey no matter what size. A super jumper the aquarium must be tightly covered.”

    Right under that it says that the fish can get to be a foot long.

    It doesn’t take a genius to put those two lines together, and realize that any fish smaller than a foot is potentially a meal for the leoprinus.

    Don’t go as far as to say that shops shouldn’t sell these fish, they’re great for the hobby if you actually do your research.

    By the way, your leoprinus chose to hide because though not a schooling fish, they prefer the company of their own kind, or fish with a similar body shape/coloration/pattern; a little research would have fixed that problem as well.

    • Hani: I don’t think he’s dead — well, he probably is by now because it’s been a few years. He was pretty indestructible. I think I gave him a fighting chance. The alternative was to flush him, which probably would have clogged my toilet, or just toss him in the trash. Either way, it would have been a far worse death for him.

      As for fish shops — I was recently in a Petco (or PetSmart; I get them mixed up) where they were selling leoporinus. I told the girl selling fish that they should not sell those to the general public. I then told her my story. She responded by pointing to the sign under the tank, which said the fish only got to be 4 inches long. I told her that if you put it in a big enough tank, it’ll get much, much larger. But they don’t know and they don’t care. I know now and I’ll never buy one again.

      And you have to understand: I seriously doubt whether any casual aquarium owner searches Google for information about fish before they buy them. I researched after the problem of the disappearing tank-mates began, after someone else advised me that leoporinus was “evil” (his word). My post here is just another warning to the folks who don’t know better.

      I don’t have a tank to make a single fish happy. I have two tanks with two communities. Leoporinus isn’t a good part of any community.

  14. I bought My leoporinus 2years ago and the pet store told me if he is raised with his tankmates he won’t eat them. I have spent alot of money on my fish from my bushynose catfishes to my oscars and they all got along until 2months ago. I started waking up 1 by 1 finding just the bones of my catfish,then my severumn I have grown to love my leporinus and couldn’t figure out why this sudden change. He was well feed with algea tablets and blood worms. you are right they should not sell this fish to the public. Now to save whats leftof my tank I have to find the leporinus a home. Don’t be fooled by thier beauty.

  15. I bought about 1,5 years ago a pair, about 6 inches. They only chased each other and behaved well with my 10″ oscar, 3X 4″ Silver Dollars, 2X 13″ pacu and 2X 6″ Red Hooks.

    One of they died about 6 months ago, couldn´t find the cause.

    Now the only one left prefers to be bee in hiding, hes around 10″ now, and I believe he began nipping the fins of one of the pacus, Not too bad, but he is not afraid of the size of the others. He is too fast.

    Im not too concerned, but you have to be careful.

    They are extremely handsome, and I believe that if they are kept at least in pair they will not bother anyone else, and you will have a good show every time.

  16. i was wondering if i cold have this fish it is for my dogghter i want to get her a knew fish becuse she hase broke her leg and she is in a wheel chair and on croches and she is with fiseotherapy email me back please at BritneyJay@hot mail.com

    • Sorry, but the fish is long gone. We released it into a pond. If it isn’t dead from old age, it’s likely to be too large for any fish tank. Sorry!

  17. I think your an irresponsible fish owner. That fish probably is or could still be eating not only our native fish (regardless if it’s a lake, river or golf coarse pond there are still native creatures & plant life purposely put there)but other fish that are intentionally put in that pond in an attempt to curve West Nile cases. So beside whatever damage you may have caused there you did have other options other than your blog. There is a fish exchange in Phx where you could have traded him in or as I’ve been told by my sister “Ebay baby!”. You are obviously a smart & accomplished person, you should have done you homework before you purchased him. Poor Fishy!

    • Lori: Since I’m sure you’re an expert on this, I have no defense for my appalling actions. It’s a good thing that experts like you troll the Internet, sharing your expertise on three-year-old blog posts. eBay — what an idea! I bet lots of people would pay me big money for a disruptive, carnivorous fish they could buy at the local Petco for less than $5.

      Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  18. Wow – just stumbled across this – Maria, you generated some crazy responses from people – don’t let it bother you though – i am a responsible fish owner and may have done the same thing. In fact, it was because of MY Leporinus’s identical behavior that I found this post. Mine is an 8 inch crazed psycho!! He kills fish in an aggressive way I have never seen before. very violent and not at night either, in the open. I will be trading it in to the pet store in the next couple days, and if they won’t take it, then it’s off to the nearest golf course!!!

What do you think?