Blind Cave Fish
At first glance, you might assume that there is something very wrong with this fish! This fish doesn't have any eyes! Don't feel sorry for it! This fish isn't deformed! It hasn't lost a fight with another fish! This is just how this fish lives its life! And before long, this fish may very well hold the key to restoring sight to blind human eyes! It's exotic looking, remarkable, eyeless wonder called the Blind Cavefish!
I have to admit that when I first saw the blind cavefish, I was among the many people who thought something was truly wrong with it. In my years of keeping fish, I have had many fish that may have lost an eye due to in tank fighting. I have even had pet stores give me fish that had lost an eye, to prevent euthanasia. In fact, one of my oldest fish is an orange finned loach that lost an eye in a fight with a catfish. The pet store didn't think they could sell a "damaged" fish, and they didn't want to kill it, so I ended up with a freebie! Three years later, that one eyed loach is as healthy and happy as any other fish in its tank! However, how could a fish with both eyes missing be considered healthy, much less "normal"?!
Like many hobbyists, I was attracted to this unique fish by its exotic appearance. However, I held off buying a blind cavefish until I could find out if it was supposed to be an eyeless fish, and if it was a healthy species. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only was the lack of eyes considered to be normal for this fish, but that it was also one of the hardiest fish for beginners to choose for their aquarium!
The blind cavefish is member of the characin family of fish. More specifically, this fish is a type of tetra. This peaceful fish is a native of Texas, Mexico and Central America to Panama and Argentina. In fact, the blind cavefish holds the distinction of being the only characin that is found in the United States.
In its natural habitat, the blind cavefish is found in caves where there is no light at all. The blind cavefish actually lost its eyes many years ago. Because the fish lived in dark caves, the blind cavefish lost its eyes to better develop its other sensory organs. In fact, if you look at an adult blind cavefish, you will notice that its eye sockets have disappeared completely! It looks as if the blind cavefish has never had eyes at all. However, that's not exactly the case.
Many hobbyists assume that the blind cavefish is a fish that is just born without any eyes. You might be surprised to learn that the blind cavefish actually begins life as a sighted fish with a pair of eyes! When the blind cavefish are born, they actually have eyes! However, as the fry grow, their eyes will fall out! And it's not too hard to witness this bizarre phenomenon for yourself in the home aquarium.
The blind cavefish is one of the easiest freshwater fish to breed in the home aquarium. The blind cavefish should always be kept in mixed sex schools of three or more. It's easy to distinguish between the sexes of the blind cavefish: the male is the thinner of the two sexes. Once the blind cavefish pair off, it takes very little for these fish to breed, and breed readily!
If you are wanting a whole bunch of baby blind cavefish, all you will need to do is lower the aquarium water's temperature to around 68 degrees. In cooler waters, the blind cavefish will easily reproduce. After the female blind cavefish scatters around 70 eggs, the fry will hatch in about 48 hours. A few days after that, the fry become free swimmers. The fry are then easy to raise on fine live foods. Enjoy the young while you can, because once they mature, they will lose their eyes and never look the same again!
Despite the lack of eyes, the blind cavefish is actually an attractive fish. Most blind cavefish have a slightly translucent body which has a yellowish tint. This translucent body gives the fish a pink, shiny surface, while its fins are often clear. There is even a pigmented, surface dwelling variety of the blind cavefish. Many hobbyist choose to really show off their blind cavefish by keeping their aquarium dimly lit.
Another reason why the blind cavefish is so popular with hobbyists is because it is truly an undemanding fish. This is why many beginning hobbyists choose this fish. The chemistry of the blind cavefish's water is not critical, but the water quality should be good. The blind cavefish will need water with a pH between 6.0 to 8.0, and a temperature anywhere between 68 to 77 degrees. A gentle flow of water is also appreciated.
The blind cavefish is a relatively small fish that won't take up a lot of space. Adult blind cavefish will usually reach a length between 3 ½ to 4 inches long. With a school of three or more of these fish, the blind cavefish can easily be kept in a minimum of a 20 gallon tank. The blind cavefish will need to share this aquarium with other similar sized, peaceful community fish. Cichlids and other aggressive fish should never be kept in the same tank as the blind cavefish!
As you would probably guess, the interior of blind cavefish's aquarium isn't too important to this fish. However, the blind cavefish does appreciate moderate rock and plant decorations. You may be thinking that the more decorations you put in the blind cavefish's tank, the more things the fish will bump into. That shouldn't be a concern.
The blind cavefish is able to navigate around its environment using its lateral line system and something that is rare in other fish: an advanced memory. While many fish have an attention span of around 3 seconds, the blind cavefish uses its advanced memory to remember where everything is located. With this memory and the lateral line system, the blind cavefish rarely, if ever, bumps into anything!
Many hobbyists would probably think that it would be difficult to feed a fish that is blind. In the blind cavefish's case, that's not true. The blind cavefish has a terrific sense of smell and is highly sensitive to vibrations. While this sensitivity to vibrations may make the blind cavefish appear to be jumpy, the fish actually uses this sensitivity to find its food. Since the blind cavefish is an omnivorous fish, it will readily accept foods like brine shrimp, glass worms, bloodworms, tubifex worms and flake foods. Due to the blind cavefish searching for food nearly all of the time, this fish will be an active and often seen addition to any community aquarium.
Recently, the blind cavefish has become popular to folks other than freshwater fish hobbyists. Doctors and scientists now have a profound interest in the blind cavefish. In recent studies, the blind cavefish has been spotlighted for their acceptance of transplanted eyes. Scientists have implanted lenses from a surface dwelling fish into the blind cavefish. After eight days, lenses began to develop on the blind cavefish, and rods developed! This has given scientists a lot of insight into the development of the eye. It has also given scientists and doctors great hope for human eye transplants!
The blind cavefish is an easy fish to find. Most pet stores, and even wall to wall discount stores carry this fish simply because of its eyeless novelty. The blind cavefish may be found in some pet stores under the names Blind Cave Tetra or Silvery Tetra. In most cases, the blind cavefish is a very affordable fish. I have seen this fish retail anywhere from $4.00 up to $7.00 apiece. That's truly a small price to pay for a miraculous blind fish that may some day give sight to the blind!