The unique South American Leaffish is a very interesting fish for the classroom or for the collector with many aquariums that wants a conversation piece. It is, however, a challenging pet to own—and it can be expensive as well. If you commit to owning one of these remarkable and rare fish, understand the commitment you are making and fully embrace the challenge of a truly unusual fish.
Origin and Distribution
The South American Leaffish hails from the Amazon River basin in the countries of Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Columbia, and Venezuela. It lives in shallow water where it hides in the vegetation in the riverbed, facing downward. Hidden from its prey by its surroundings, its camouflaged body, and its transparent fins, these fish are nearly undetectable until it attacks.
Colors and Markings
The South American Leaffish looks extraordinarily like a dead leaf, floating among the vegetation toward the bottom of a tank. Like a leaf, it is small, oval-shaped, and flat. It has a huge mouth relative to its size; its lower jaw features a pointed extension. Both its anal and dorsal fins are made up of spines. Under most circumstances, this fish is orange-yellow or brown with random markings as well as three lines running from the eye to the belly, from the mouth to the caudal fin, and from the eye to the dorsal fin.
The most impressive and interesting aspect of the South American Leaffish is its uncanny ability to camouflage itself while lying in wait for prey. Its colors may change in order to fit in more perfectly with its background, whether in the wild or in captivity.
The South American Leaffish gets its name because it looks remarkably like an actual dead leaf.
It looks this way because it is an ambush predator, lying in wait of any prey it can fit in its very large mouth. This fish can eat its weight in live fish every day. Even though it is only about 3 inches full grown, it can clean out your community aquarium in a week. In order for this fish to be kept alive, each fish must be fed at least 3 grown guppies per day, or they will quickly weaken and die. Bottom line: It is best to keep this species on its own. If you do want to include other fish in the tank, choose larger, more robust and aggressive species such as the Armored Catfish or medium-sized loricariids.