Red Tail Barracuda

Spotted Cachorro, Freshwater Barracuda, Dog Characin

Family: Acestrorhynchidae Red Tail Barracuda, Acestrorhynchus falcatus, Freshwater Barracuda, Spotted CachorroAcestrorhynchus falcatusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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want to buy  john brandofino

The Red Tail Barracuda is a streamlined predator that is referred to as a Freshwater Barracuda!

The Red Tail Barracuda Acestrorhynchus falcatus is one of about 15 or so characin species belonging to the genus Acestrorhynchus. About half of these are found in the aquarium trade and are often referred to as Freshwater Barracuda. This species is perhaps the most regularly seen of this characin of this group. It is also called the Spotted Cachorro, Dog Characin, and Amazon Cachorro.

It doesn’t take much of an imagination to see why species of Acestrorhynchus are called Freshwater Barracudas. The slender elongated pike-like body shape and a mouth full of sharp teeth says it all. This form and the large conical teeth make them perfectly adapted as predators of other types of fish.

The term Freshwater Barracuda however, is applied to several fresh water fish besides species of Acestrorhynchus genus. Livebearers of the genus Belonesox and the Gar characins of the genus Ctenolucius are two such groups, both of which are quick, sharp toothed fish predators with streamlined bodies. A familiar species is the Freshwater Barracuda, or Hujeta, Ctenolucius hujeta. It is a fierce predator that can reach up to 28 inches (70 cm) in length and is not usually kept in the home aquarium.

The Red Tail Barracuda has become a more common import in the last several years. Its slender streamlined body is colored in subtle iridescent silvery-gold hues complimented by beautiful red fins. It can grow to just shy of 11 inches (27 cm) in length and is a very highly evolved fish predator. It can consume any other fish that is about half its size or smaller. Despite its size, appearance, and behavior however, this fish is not a true barracuda. It is a Characin just like the more familiar tetras, hatchetfish, and pencilfish.

As long as you are willing to provide live fish as food, the Red Tail Barracuda makes a great aquarium pet. They do get pretty big and being from a river environment, they need a lot of swimming space and clean well oxygenated water. Though a bit on the nervous side, they are a very interesting active fish. They do best with company and can be kept in a small school or with other companion fish. They will usually do very well with other similarly sized tank mates.

For more Information on keeping this fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Freshwater Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Acestrorhynchus falcatus
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Characiformes
  • Family: Acestrorhynchidae
  • Genus: Acestrorhynchus
  • Species: falcatus
Red Tail Barracuda Fish Feeding

Red Tail Barracuda - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Size of fish - inches: 10.7 inches (27.20 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 82.0° F (23.9 to 27.8° C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Red Tail Barracuda Acestrorhynchus falcatus was described by Bloch in 1794. This species of Freshwater Barracuda is found in many of the rivers of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana and throughout much of the Amazon and Orinoco River basins. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List. Other common names it is known by are Spotted Cachorro, Freshwater Barracuda, Dog Characin, and Amazon Cachorro.

They are a riverine species, inhabiting clean moderately flowing waters and are often found in schools. They are a formidable predator which feed exclusively on fish.

  • Scientific Name: Acestrorhynchus falcatus
  • Social Grouping: Groups - They are often found in schools.
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed


The Red Tail Barracuda has a slender elongated pike-like body shape and a mouth full of needle sharp teeth that are usually visible. It can get up to just about 11 inches (27 cm) and has a life span of 8 to 10 years. The body color is an iridescent silvery-gold becoming whitish on the belly. The fins are transparent, sometimes displaying an orange gold tint. The forked tail fin is a more colorful red with a large black spot at the base.

  • Size of fish - inches: 10.7 inches (27.20 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 years - They have a life span of 8 to 10 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Red Tail Barracuda makes a good choice for an aquarist with some fish keeping experience. They are relatively hardy fish, and water quality is not usually an issue if the aquarium is well maintained. The biggest difficulties with these fish are behavioral. They are fast swimmers and prone to flightiness, so a large aquarium is needed to house them that is long with plenty of open swimming space. Their feeding habits require that they are provided with live fish.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

The Red Tail Barracuda are carnivorous piscivores. They only eat live foods, and they prefer fish! There is a chance they can be trained to accept pre-killed fish, but you can't count on that. Because live fish are what they like to eat, a good practice is to setup a small tank to keep a steady supply of small, live feeders available. You can also offer them earthworms, river shrimps, and other good sized invertebrates.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore - This fish is piscivorous. They eat other fish almost exclusively.
  • Flake Food: No
  • Tablet / Pellet: No
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Most of Diet
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day

Aquarium Care

Due to a diet of live foods, the Red Tail Barracuda can put a large bio load on the aquarium, so there needs to be ample filtration. Water changes of about 30 - 50% are needed every other week, depending on the bio load, to keep this fish happy and healthy.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly - Do a 30 - 50% water change every other week.

Aquarium Setup

These Freshwater Barracudas will spend most of their time near the middle of their home. This is a species that requires lots of space to thrive. Even though they don’t get all that large, a minimum tank size of 55 gallons is necessary to keep them in good condition. They also require good filtration with some current.

These are very active fish and will need a great deal of open area for swimming, but they are also a nervous fish that frightens easily. Providing a decor with some tall plants around the perimeter will help make them more secure and comfortable. But make sure their swimming area is open and unobstructed. They may jump, so the aquarium needs a good fitting cover.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 82.0° F (23.9 to 27.8° C)
  • Range ph: 6.0-7.5
  • Hardness Range: 8 - 15 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Middle - Freshwater Barracudas will swim near the middle of the tank.

Social Behaviors

In the wild the Red Tail Barracuda is often seen in groups. In captivity this is a nervous fish that frightens easily, companion fish help to remedy this. The ideal situation would be a small school of Red Tail Barracudas, or other similar sized occupants. They are not particularly aggressive but will eat any fish that are small enough to fit into their large, toothy mouths.

Good tank mates include other similar sized fish, predators or otherwise, that are basically placid fish and ideally feed from the substrate. Some types of Characins like species of Ctenolucius, Mylossoma or Myloplus, Geophagus spp., Plecostomus, and other bottom dwelling scavenger catfish can all make good tankmates.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - This fish should either be kept singly or in groups of at least six, otherwise aggression levels will run too high.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe - As it is highly predatory, tankmates should be similarly sized.
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat - Aggressive tank-mates should be avoided in all but the very largest of tanks.
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences


Breeding / Reproduction

This species of freshwater Barracuda has not yet been bred in captivity. For a description of breeding characin fish, see Breeding Freshwater Fish: Characins..

  • Ease of Breeding: Unknown - This fish has yet to be bred in captivity.

Fish Diseases

The Red Tail Barracuda are hardy and disease is not usually a problem in a well maintained aquarium. That being said there is no guarantee that you won't have to deal with health problems or disease. Anything you add to your tank can bring disease to your tank. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance. Because these fish eat live food, disease can be passed to them from their foods. Make sure to quarantine live food before feeding.

There are two types of disease that tend to affect the Acestrorhynchus genus in captivity. One is parasites, the other is fin rot. Both are extremely preventable and even treatable. A good thing about the Red Tail Barracuda is that due to their resilience, an outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if you deal with it at an early stage. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your fish the proper environment and give them live foods that are parasite free.

As with most fish the Red Tail Barracuda are prone to skin flukes, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), ichthyobodo infection, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), bacterial infections (general), and bacterial disease. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


The Red Tail Barracuda is commonly available.


Author: Ken Childs, Clarice Brough CFS
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Lastest Animal Stories on Red Tail Barracuda

john brandofino - 2015-03-02
want to buy

Knife Fish Lover - 2014-10-18
Hey guys Knife Fish Lover here ;),do you guys think i could keep one of these bad boys in my 55 with:2 african brown knife fish,1 featherfin squeaker,6 dojo loaches,and a trinidad pleco?Thanks Knife Fish Lover-

  • Clarice Brough - 2014-10-20
    Size-wise and temperament-wise, these fish should be okay together. However, you are heavily stocking the tank, so issues may be overcrowding.
  • Knife Fish Lover - 2014-10-22
    Ok,thanks,my Barracuda will love my 55 long ;) :D!
boostedwrx - 2013-10-14
How many feeder fish should my barracuda eat in 1 day? He is 3-4 inches.

Dan - 2012-04-15
So I love the cudaaas lol i have had 7 in my life. Now I raise them from 3 inch babies in a 36 gallon bow. From then around 5 inches I move them to my 46 bow front and at 7 inches they go in my 6 foot long 2 foot wide 2 foot tall 180 gallon tank and even though they say don't put them in with aggersive siclets my siclets are super aggresive and I worry more with the sicclets then the cudas or my red bellies. The sicclet is a very teritorial fish who love to lay eggs and become more vicious and territorial non the less I have 4 8 inch red tail barracuda between 3 and 4 years of age in my 180. Never mind the siclets my red tail barracudas are so fast and such strong swimmers I reccomend the type of 180 I have at minimum for them and keep up with there environment aka water ph acidity nitrates nitrites and such and they will do fine. Just don't add smaller fish because they veiw them as prey and cause there death do so much damage anything without armor won't survive long. A few plecos a couple oscars and some siclets make a perfect enviornment hope this helps you