Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Scientific name explanations

Why use scientific names?

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!

Full name examples:

Chaetodontidae means "bristle-tooth" used to describe "Butterflyfish".

Geophagus jurupari
Geophagus jurupari

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 delhezi
Polypterus delhezi

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 argus
Scatophagus argus

Scatophagus means "dirt eater"

Taxonomy Family Tree:

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
Neon tetra, Paracheirodon innesi

Kingdom: Animal
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.

The genus name

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.
For example if a fish has lots of stripes then searching for a species name containing multifasciatus or fasciatus which means many stripes or striped. Such descriptive names are often used.

albus: white
albi: white
acanthus: thorn (Greek)
aeneus: brass or copper coloured
aequi: equal
aequidens: equal teeth
affinis: resembles or related to
amphi: two
amphi: all around (Greek)
argenteus: silvery
arthro: jointed
astro: star
aureus: gold
balantio: bag
balistes: thrown/catapult
barbus: beard
branchia: gills of fishes (Greek)
caeruleus: cerulean, dark blue
cara: head
cephalus: head
chaeto: long hair or bristle
cheilus: lip
cheir: hand
chiton: tunic (Greek)
chromis: colour (Greek)
chryseus: golden yellow
chryso: golden
cirri: hairs
cory: helmet
cteno: comb
cyaneus: dark blue
cyrto: rounded
deca: ten
diplo: double
donte: teeth
dolicho: long
doras: skin
electo: chosen
embiotica: offspring living within
erythro: red
fasciatus: striped
festivus: festive, bright
flavescens: yellowish, pale yellow
flavidus: yellow, yellowish
flavus: yellow
fluviatilis: belonging to a river
gaster: stomach
gastro: stomach
geo: earth
gnathus: jaw
grammus: mark
guttata: speckled
guttatus: spotted, speckled
gymno: naked (Greek)
hemi: half
hetero: other or different
hex: six
holo: whole
hoplo: tool
hypsypops: below the eye (Greek)
ichthys: fish
immaculatus: spotless, unblemished
iso: same or alike
labeo: large lips
laetacara: smiling cichlid
lepto: thin
macros: long
maculatus: spotted
margin: margin/borders
mega: large (Greek)
Melano: black
mordax: prone to bite
morpho: form (Greek)
multi: many
nano: small (Greek)
naso: nose
neo: new
niger/nigra/nigrum: black
notus: back
ocellatus: rings
oct: eight
odon tooth
opisthen: back or behind (Greek)
oto: ear
paleatus: mixed with chaff
para: near
paralichthys: parallel fish (Greek)
pavo: peacock/lots of colours
pelycyo: hatchet
phagus: eater
pharynx: throat
pheno: obvious
pholis: scale
phorus: bearer
phyllo: leaf
plako: tablet (Greek)
platy: wide
pleuro: side
pod: foot or feet
poecilia: many coloured
poly: many
prion: a saw (Greek)
proto: first
psuedo: false
pterus: wing or fin
puntius: point
reticulata: made like a net
rhamphos: beak
rhizo: right
rhynchus: snout
rubicunda: red
rubens/ruber: red
rufescens: light red, almost red
scat: dirt
scorpaena: scorpion
sebastes: magnificent (Greek)
similins: similar to
scalare: ladder
soma: body
spilos: dots
splendida: glittering
steno: narrow
stichos: line
stigma: spot or mark
stoma: mouth
sternicla: breast
striatus: lines
symphys: to glue together
taeniatus: with a stripe
tetra: four (Greek)
thoracatum: breast-plate
thorax: chest (Greek)
tropheus: eater
tri: three
tyranus: aggressive
viridescens: pale green
viridis: green
xanthinus: yellow
xeno: stranger
xipho: sword
zona: girdle
zonus: banded