Native to extreme northern Peru and coastal drainages of western Ecuador as far north as the Río Esmereldas drainage and possibly beyond. The form from the Esmereldas and above may represent a different species (see ‘notes’).
Inhabits coastal waters, including streams and rivers.
Maximum Standard Length
220 – 300 mm.
Aquarium SizeTop ↑
Base dimensions of at least 150 cm x 45 cm are required.
The tank should ideally be furnished with a soft, sandy substrate and driftwood branches, with some large flat rocks to act as potential spawning sites. If there are other fish in the tank, arrange the decor to provide as many visual barriers as possible. Although unlikely to eradicate it completely, this will at least help to dissipate aggressive behaviour. Floating plants to provide shade are also a good idea, but rooted plants are less so, as this fish is an avid digger. Species that can be attached to decor, such as Anubias. or java fern stand a much better chance of survival. It’s quite sensitive to deteriorating water quality so employ an efficient biological filter, along with a stringent maintenance regime.
Temperature: 68-75°F (20-24°C)
Omnivorous and generally unfussy. Feed a good quality cichlid stick as staple, and supplement this with regular feeds of live and frozen foods such as earthworms, prawns, mussels etc. Vegetable matter, including peas, spinach should also form a good proportion of the diet. High protein foods such as beefheart and other red meats are not a suitable option, as they can have a detrimental effect on the fishes digestive system.
Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑
Best kept alone as a single specimen or mated pair, unless you have an enormous tank, as it’s generally an aggressive, territorial species. In bigger tanks (650 litres plus) it can be kept alongside other robust cichlids, large Loricariids and other big catfish. Decent-sized active species such as silver sharks, tinfoil barbs, silver dollars and the like are also a possibility. Don’t be tempted to keep a pair in a community, as all hell will break loose if they decide to breed.
As already mentioned, males are substantially larger than females. They also develop a spectacular nuchal hump when mature, and usually develop extensions to the dorsal and anal fins, features lacking in females. These humps only develop during the breeding season in nature, but in aquaria many specimens possess enormous, permanent humps.
Relatively straightforward, provided you can obtain a compatible pair. Unfortunately matching adult fish is a tricky process, with males often killing females if they are simply added to the tank together. Some hobbyists have had success by inserting a clear divider in the middle of the tank and allowing the male to get used to his potential partner this way, removing the divider after a few weeks. A far more preferable and easy method is to buy at least 6 young fish and allow them to pair off naturally. Once a pair forms it’s wise to remove the other fish, and tankmates of any kind are not an option beyond this point, as they will almost certainly be killed when spawning commences. The aquarium should be set up as suggested above with slightly soft and acidic water of pH 6.5-7.0 and a temperature of 75°F. It’s best to use air-powered filtration as fry may be sucked up by power filters. A variety of flat stones will provide potential spawning sites. Feed the fish lots of live and frozen foods to bring them into condition.
The fish become sexually mature at around 4-6″ and once you have a pair they should breed without too much encouragement from you. Spawning can often be initiated by performing a large (30-50%) water change with cool water. The pair will choose and then thoroughly clean a spawning site within their territory. This may be a flat rock, large flowerpot, or a pit excavated from the substrate. Spawning occurs in a similar fashion to many other cichlids, with the female laying a line of eggs before moving away, allowing the male to take her place and fertilise them. Up to 400 eggs may be fertilised in this manner. The eggs hatch in around 3-4 days, and during this period the male will defend the spawning site while the female tends to the eggs. Upon hatching the fry are moved to a pre-excavated pit in the substrate where they remain until they become free swimming. This usually takes another 6-8 days, and at this point they can be fed microworm, brine shrimp nauplii and powdered dry foods. They should be left in with the parents until broodcare begins to diminish (usually around 6 weeks), as if they’re removed the male may attempt to spawn with the female again, and if she isn’t ready to do so he may turn on her.