Meet the small fish who eat Anaconda skin - cory cats

There are several species of small Amazon catfish inhabiting the Amazon Reptiles Exhibit. The smallest are the cory cats. There are several species of Corydoras (cory - helmet, doras - leathery skin) catfish. The species on display is Corydoras adolfoi, named for Adolfo Schwartz, the explorer who discovered the species in 1982. You may have seen these or similar species for sale at your local pet store. They are a popular hobbyist fish.

A close up of some Corydoras adolfoi in holding at the aquarium.

This species maxes out at about 2.5 inches from the tip of their noses to the tips of their tails. They are originally from a tributary of the Rio Negro in Brazil. A slightly timid species, they prefer to live in groups of six or more fish. There is a large school in the Amazon reptiles exhibit. They can often be seen munching on shed anaconda skin.

A school of Corydoras adolfoi in the Amazon Reptiles Exhibit, sitting on and around an anaconda.

- Marion



Snakes Never Blink

Did you know that snakes have a scale over their eyes? Snakes don't have eyelids and they never blink. The scale over the eye protects the sensitive ocular tissue from damage.

One of the first signs a snake is going to shed its skin is cloudy eyes. The scale over the eye begins to lift as a new one replaces it. It turns milky in color while the new layer is formed. It becomes clear right before the snake sheds.

Ashley the Anaconda, about to shed.



How often do Anacondas shed their skin?

Anacondas, like all snakes, shed their skin. We humans replace our skin, too, but our skin cells slough off a little at a time. Snakes shed their skin all in one piece, sliding out of it like one long sock.

Ashley laying on top of Kathleen, both are about to shed.

When anacondas are babies they shed more often (up to twice a month). As they get older and their growing slows down, they shed less frequently, unless they are in a rapid shed cycle where they shed immediately after finishing a shed. Rapid shed cycles can occur if the snake has damaged scales or other physical issues like pregnancy or a shed that didn't come off quite right. Ashley and Kathleen usually shed between 5 and 8 times per year.

A shed anaconda skin.




A Very Positive Interaction

A few days ago I went into the anaconda tank to scrub off some very stubborn algae on the window. I had a spotter in the back to tell me where the snakes were while I wore a mask and snorkel so I could see underwater. Every time I had the mask settled on my face and got down to work, Ashley the anaconda came to see what I was doing.

A job that should have taken ten minutes stretched into an hour and a half. On the upside, I had a wonderful interaction with Ashley. She came over and put her head on my arm for a while and allowed me to touch and handle her with no protest. Normally I can handle Ashley but she will usually wander off to do her own thing. I was very excited to have had such a long and very positive interaction with her.

Ashley and me.




What ever happened to the turtles in the Anaconda exhibit?

You may remember that there used to be Amazon yellow-spotted turtles in the anaconda tank. The anacondas and the turtles coexisted peacefully. But one day we noticed that Ashley the anaconda had a few scuffed looking scales. Further observation showed that the turtles had started to nip the anacondas. Occasionally, we find animals that cannot live in close quarters with each other. When this occurs we move one of the animals for the safety of both.

Amazon Yellow-Spotted Turtle

The turtles now live separately from the anacondas. They can be found swimming in the Amazon Flooded Forest Exhibit down the hall.




Which exhibit has more fish, the Amazon Reptile Exhibit or the Giant Ocean Tank?

You might be surprised at this answer. While the Giant Ocean Tank is the Aquarium's largest exhibit and has more than 600 fish of over 100 different species, the Amazon Reptiles Exhibit (where the anacondas live) has more that 1,000 fish. There are four different species of catfish as well as large schools of colorful tetra and freshwater hatchet fish.

A view from the front of the Amazon Reptiles Exhibit.