Ah, those scary scientific names that keep popping up everywhere! Although at first it can be a little overwhelming to use, they are very important when you need information on a specific type of fish. Some fish have been in the hobby for so long with the same name that it really doesn't seem important to know the scientific name because when you tell someone that you have a guppy or a molly they immediately know what fish you are talking about. However as you stray away from the more common fish you will find that more then one fish can have the same common name or some fish that have multiple "common" names depending on what store you are in. This is when the usage of the scientific name becomes very important so people will know which fish you are talking about.
Even though most people recognize the importance of using scientific names for their fish, they can be challenging to figure out and remember. Most of the scientific names are derived from the Latin language, then just to make life a little more confusing they will also through in the occasional Greek word for you! However if you have a basic understanding of what some of these terms translates to it'll be easier to either identify the fish, why they are classed together and possibly some of their habits. Hopefully this listing will help you sort out these Latin names a little easier!
Chaetodontidae means "bristle-tooth" used to describe "Butterflyfish".
Geophagus means "earth eater" used to describe
a genus of substrate sifting cichlids.
Hemitaeniochromis means "Half Stripe Colour" used to describe a species of Malawi cichlid.
Neolamprologus multifasciatus means "new Lamprologus with many stripes".
Polypterus means "many wings" - refers to the large number of dorsal fins - common name Bichir.
Scorpaenidae means "scorpion" and refers to the fish being venomous. "Lionfish" is one member of the Scorpaenidae family.
Scatophagus means "dirt eater"
Every living thing has it's own unique identity. To make it simpler for scientists to identify different living creatures they are divided into different groupings. Here is an example of all the full name for the Neon Tetra.
Neon tetra, Paracheirodon innesi
Phylum: Chordata (with a spine)
Sub-phylum: Vertebrata (with a backbone)
Super Class: Gnathostomata (Jawed Vertebrates)
Class: Actinopterygii (Ray-finned fish)
Sub Class: Neopterygii (New fins)
Division: Teleostei (True Bony fish)
Super Order: Ostariophysi (Specialized inner ear, anterior vertebrae (The Weberian complex) and gas bladder)
Order: Characiformes (This originated when Africa and South America still formed a single land mass 100 million years ago)
Sub Order: Characoidei (Denotes that the fish are Characins)
Family: Characidae (American Characins, African Characins and Tetras)
Sub-family: Tetragonopterinae (Tetras)
Genus: Paracheirodon (Closely related species)
Species: innesi (the specifics for the individual animal)
When referring to a fish, it's necessary to give both the genus and species names in order for people to know which fish you are talking about.
Is unique to a group of closely related species, however it's possible to have two of the same species names provided they aren't in the same genus. Convention also says that scientific names should be italicized. Genus name is always capitalized and species name is always lowercase to differentiate between the two names.Here is a list of the more common terms used in the scientific names of fishes. Becoming familiar with these terms and their meanings can be an aid to identifying unknown fish.
acanthus: thorn (Greek)
aeneus: brass or copper coloured
aequidens: equal teeth
affinis: resembles or related to
amphi: all around (Greek)
branchia: gills of fishes (Greek)
caeruleus: cerulean, dark blue
chaeto: long hair or bristle
chiton: tunic (Greek)
chromis: colour (Greek)
chryseus: golden yellow
cyaneus: dark blue
embiotica: offspring living within
festivus: festive, bright
flavescens: yellowish, pale yellow
flavidus: yellow, yellowish
fluviatilis: belonging to a river
guttatus: spotted, speckled
gymno: naked (Greek)
hetero: other or different
hypsypops: below the eye (Greek)
immaculatus: spotless, unblemished
iso: same or alike
labeo: large lips
laetacara: smiling cichlid
mega: large (Greek)
mordax: prone to bite
morpho: form (Greek)
nano: small (Greek)
opisthen: back or behind (Greek)
paleatus: mixed with chaff
paralichthys: parallel fish (Greek)
pavo: peacock/lots of colours
plako: tablet (Greek)
pod: foot or feet
poecilia: many coloured
prion: a saw (Greek)
pterus: wing or fin
reticulata: made like a net
rufescens: light red, almost red
sebastes: magnificent (Greek)
similins: similar to
stigma: spot or mark
symphys: to glue together
taeniatus: with a stripe
tetra: four (Greek)
thorax: chest (Greek)
viridescens: pale green