Classifying Fishes: Order Characiformes

Classifying Fishes: Order Characiformes

The classification of animals is called taxonomy, all types of animals, including fish, are categorised into different types. Fish are generally grouped according to their likenesses and differences by the people that do the classifying called taxonomists, or systematists.

Five "orders" make up 95% of the fishes in the freshwater aquarium hobby. They are the Cypriniformes, the Characiformes, the Siluriformes, the Cyprinodontiformes and the Perciformes. The remaining 5% are spread over another 4-5 orders.

The Order Characiformes

The order Characiformes contains a vast variety of fish, including the family Characidae which contains all small tetras, the subfamily Serrasalminae (piranhas), the family Gasteropelicidae (Hatchet fish) and the family Lebiasiniadae (Pencilfish).

See examples below:


neon tetra  Lemon tetra

All of the small tetras, such as the neon and lemon tetra of the family Characidae, belong to the order Characiformes.



All of the subfamily Serrasalminae - the piranhas - belong to the order Characiformes.



All of the family Gasteropelicidae - Hatchetfishes - belong to the order Characiformes.


pencil fish

All of the subfamily Lebiasiniadae - the pencilfish - belong to the order Characiformes.

Groups and Taxon / Taxa

Like all animals, fish are classified into large primary groups that are broken down into smaller groups, which are then broken down into even smaller, less inclusive groups.

For fish, the largest and most inclusive group would be the kingdom Animalia, which contains all animals.The next being the phylum, for fish it would be the phylum Vertebra, which contains all animals with backbones.

The next smaller grouping would be the "class" Osteichthyes, before descending into the four main "taxa" that make up the classifications of fish. These are the order, the family, the genus and the species. Some subfamilies, subgenera and subspecies also exist. In future blogs, we will explore in depth the history and the meaning behind them.

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Photo credit(s): Canva Pro Licence

HatchetfishesKnowledgePencilfishesPiranhaTetraTropical fish

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