A slightly less common livebearer
by Tom and Pat Bridges
First published in "The Scat" - St. Catherine's Aquarium Society, Canada.
Even publications like the "Atlas of Livebearers of the World" © 1993
state that this fish "hasn't caught on yet as an aquarium fish", so I guess it's
not surprising that we weren't aware of them until Brian Glazier brought a pair to our
club to help illustrate his talk on livebearing fish.
We had some success with Alfaro cultratus, (the Knife-edged livebearer), a few
years back but here was a new, (to us), species with a similar, (although less
pronounced), row of knife-like scales along its bottom edge between the anal fin and the
tail. As well, these huberi were chubbier and somewhat more colourful than the cultratus.
The scales on the upper body were edged in black and the back lower half of each fish was
This male doesn't like a bare tank
This is a double patronym fish. The genus was named in honour of the zoologist Dr.
Anastasio Alfaro of the National Museum in Costa Rica and the species name honours a Dr.
The fish was first described by Fowler in 1923. He placed them in the genus Priapichthys.
Later Hubbs revised them to Furcipenis based on the form of the gonopodium and
finally Rose and Bailey firmly planted them in the genus Alfaro where they have
stayed since 1963. (Isn't nomenclature fun!)
Apparently they are found in clear, unpolluted streams along the Atlantic side of the
Central American countries; Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. The books suggest that they
grow to about 5 cm (males) and 7 cm (females). So far our pair is a bit smaller than that
but they are still quite young.
A young pair of A. huberi
We acquired the pair at our club auction, brought them home and quickly learned the
first hard lesson about these huberi. I decided to acclimatize them to our water
in a bucket while I got a tank ready. It was late so they were left overnight in about a
half bucket of water with a box filter. The bucket was not securely covered. In the
morning the male was happily swimming in the bucket but the female was located some
distance away, not yet completely dry, but unable to recover. She probably jumped when the
light went on. (If the male had jumped we might still have had some babies to work with
but ... such is luck.) Then Pat informed me that Susan Glazier had told her the huberi
were good jumpers.
The second lesson came when Brian graciously agreed to provide another female. It sure
looked like a female but after a couple of weeks in our tank it developed a gonopodium.
Now we had two males. Huberi may delay developing male characteristics. I had
noted that Brian had far more males than females and I was not about to ask him to part
with any more of his huberi.
Kitchener saved the day with their special event and rare fish auction. The Glaziers
contributed another pair of huberi and our bid was successful.
Mother trying to get some peace
Needless to say, we placed this pair in a well planted and well covered ten gallon
tank. A teaspoon of coarse salt was added per gallon of water and a variety of
freeze-dried, flake and live (daphnia) foods were fed.
So far we've had four small spawns, the largest of which was only a dozen. It is
possible that father may have reduced the numbers. We notice that as mother's time to drop
approaches he positions himself below and to the rear but we have never actually seen him
The time between spawns has been about 5 weeks. The babies have been healthy and ready
to take finely powdered food right from the start. They are a little bigger than the usual
guppy fry and don't seem as sensitive as the literature would have us believe. Maybe we've
just been lucky.
With regular weekly water changes growth has been fairly rapid and some have already
been transferred from a mesh net box in the parents' tank to their own ten gallon setup.
2 to 3 week old baby huberi
So far we have found the Alfaro huberi to be a somewhat shy but quietly
attractive little fish that doesn't seem likely to over-populate a tank. (I doubt that
they will be sold as feeders any time soon.) Experiments will have to be done to see
whether they make good community tank partners with such other livebearers as guppies,
platies and swordtails. We recommend them for anyone who would like to try something a
little bit different.
Update: This morning, Sept. 15, '98, we found a spawn of 39 babies in the tank. Mother huberi
seems to be getting better with practice.