A seven year old 5 inch specimen
Abramites hypselonotus is a unique fish with its tall body and constant forty-five degree head down attitude. It needs crevices to hide in that fit its body shape. Shale or driftwood may be used. Tall plants would be ideal if it were not for the fact that this fish is primarily a herbivore. It would be difficult to supply enough plants to serve this function without it all being consumed. I provide them with lots of Swahala driftwood and this serves the additional purpose of helping to keep the water slightly on the acid side.
A group of Abramites
The literature when describing the temperment of this fish can be sometimes cruel and misleading. It is usually described as being peaceful when young but becoming beligerant among others of the same species as it ages. It is said that adults may be kept singly or in groups of seven or more but that in smaller groups fighting may ensue.
Keeping a single specimen may invoke a seemingly bizarre display as the fish reaches adolescence. Without others of their species they may begin "bothering" other fishes for a period of time. They do not harm the other fish, but they do make a nusiance of themselves. They constantly position themselves parallel to their selected friend in what appears to be a sexually motivated maneuver. This selected friend of the Abramites from my observations is always a fish as larger or larger than the Abramites himself and little fishes are never in danger of being "bothered". I've seen this happen with large Red Hooks and adult Jailbird Leporinus. I believe some observers mistake this behaviour as agression.
I have had no problems with two or three three adults together, however I do provide them with ample niches to retreat into and they are not subject to a bare tank environment. In larger groups mine have always spent less time in their niches and more time schooling together.
They eat flake food, fresh zucchini and spinach, canned green beans and peas, chopped frozen shrimp meat, frozen brine-shrimp and tubifex worms as well as an occassional helping of hornwort that I trim from other tanks.
It was about seven years ago that I obtained my first Abramites hypselonotus and it was something of a rescue mission. It was a mature specimen which had been traded to a dealer who had no understanding of the fishes nature or requirements. To him it was a big fish, hence it went into the bare tank that housed a full grown Oscar. Here it had no place to hide and as far as feed only obtained leftover bits of the live foods he gave the Oscar. The constant competition with the Oscar had resulted in the webbing between its fin rays becoming ragged and torn.
I took it home and placed it in a 75 gallon community tank the surface of which was clogged with dense Hornwort. He started right in consuming the Hornwort. It took him ten days but he ate every bit of it. He was now sated and happy.
My first specimen has about seven others of his species for friends now but he will always remain my favorite Abramites.
About five years ago my first Abramites went through near tragedy when he developed a swim-bladder disease. This disease causes the fish to loose their sense of swimming balance and they end up lying about the tank in any given attitude even if it were upside-down. In this state as the condition worsens they become increasingly vulnerable to attack by tankmates. Over the years I lost a breeding Angel and a couple of Gouramis due to this disease and I didn't have much hope this time either. I placed him a ten gallon tank with sides left to be covered with algae and a couple of small mosquito fish as the only other residents. For nearly two months I would check him daily only to find him still in some weird position. I assumed he would eventually die, but that didn't happen. One day he suddenly appeared completely normal and recovered. Two weeks later I returned him to his home tank where he remains today.
From this experience I would advise anyone having swim-bladder problems with a fish to first isolate the fish so that other fish won't attack him and then just be patient.
A note here: I've read that about 90% of swim-bladder problems are mechanical and that less than 10% are bacterial in cause. I wouldn't waste money on antibiotics for the few cases that are bacterial. The drugs probably wouldn't help them to recover anyway.
I would recommend a single specimen of this species for any fair size community tank with slightly acid water, provided there are niches for the fish to retreat into. Its shape, markings, and attitude will contribute to the diversity of the display.