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Heros efasciatus



Cichlidae. Subfamily: Cichlasomatinae


Widespread throughout the Amazon main channel and rio Solimoes and also recorded from the rio Xingu.


Slow moving rivers, tributaries and floodplain lakes. It’s most abundant in deeper, calm waters with a lot of submerged tree roots and branches.

Maximum Standard Length

12″ (30cm). It often fails to attain this in the aquarium, with 8-10″ (20-25cm) being a more likely size.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Its not really suitable for tanks less than 48″ x 18″ x 18″ (120cm x 45cm x 45cm) – 243 litres in size.


A biotope setup would be very simple to arrange. Use a substrate of river sand and add a few driftwood branches (if you can’t find driftwood of the desired shape, common beech is safe to use if thoroughly dried and stripped of bark) and twisted roots. Aquatic plants are not a feature of its natural waters. Allow the wood and leaves to stain the water the colour of weak tea. A small net bag filled with aquarium-safe peat can be added to the filter to aid in the simulation of black water conditions. Use fairly dim lighting.

Water Conditions

Temperature: 22-29° (72-84°F)

pH: 5.5-7.0

Hardness: 1-8°H


Omnivorous and unfussy. Feed good quality dried foods, along with meatier fare such as bloodworm, chopped earthworms and prawns. Some vegetable matter should also feature in the diet. Shelled frozen peas, blanched spinach and dried spirulina-based foods are all recommended.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Except when spawning, it’s fairly mild-mannered for a cichlid of this size. This makes it a good choice for a community of large, peaceful species. Ideally keep it with other South American species, such as

Some specimens can develop a nasty streak as they mature hwen maintained singly. In general this behaviour can almost always be prevented by keeping it in the company of conspecifics. There’s still a chance you may be unlucky and get a rogue individual, but the chances are much smaller when it’s maintained like this.

Sexual Dimorphism

Male is bigger, has markings on gill covers and may develop nuchal hump and extensions to dorsal and anal fins.


If you aim to breed severums, it is a good idea to buy a group of young fish and grow them on. From this group a pair should form naturally. Spawning occurs on a flat stone or similar area, which is then guarded by both parents until the eggs hatch. Both parents will mouthbrood the fry. The fry are fairly large and can be fed on brineshrimp and powedered food.

NotesTop ↑

The severum is one of the most poular and readily available cichids in the hobby, however not everyone realises that these fish can attain a fairly large size and are therefore not suitable for every aquarium. The fish is normally sold in the standard green variety and also gold.

Severums make good fish for a South American community setup, as long as there are no fish small enough for them to eat. They grow quite quickly, so should be housed in an adequately sized tank from the start.

4 Responses to “Heros efasciatus (Severum)”

  • Artie

    I am reposting this because I never received and answer to dispute my theory. I believe that the mouthbrooding species is Heros severus, a not often available species. It is my understanding that the aquarium breed strains such as gold, albino and red are all derived from Heros efasciatus. I have recently spawned and raised the red Severum (Heros efasciatus) and they behaved exactly like Angels, egg layers not mouth brooders. I observed my pair cleaning an angled vertical surface, and laying their eggs. The parents guarded, cleaned and fanned their eggs as they stayed on the chosen site. They became free swimming and followed the parents around the tank. The parents even allowed the fry to eat off their bodies. Similar to Discus and Angels. I never observed any mouth brooding tendencies.
    According to cichlid-forum.com the common aquarium strains readily available are all Heros efasciatus and are substrate spawners. The photo of the gold form looks exactly like the pair I am maintaining with the exception that the markings on mine are red and prominent. Additionally the store/internet site that fish place identifies the gold form as Heros efasciatus.
    I am a member of the Norwalk Aquarium Society and participate in their BAP program working toward “Master Breeder”. Of all the BAP entries for “Severum” at NAS only one has been a mouth brooder. This is leading me to the conclusion that they are all Heros efasciatus. Heros efasciatus has been identified as a “commom” species, where as Heros severus being quite uncommon. The mouth brooding behavior is quite uncommon for a Severum.
    I understand that some of this evidence is ancillary, but based on the information at hand and my personal experience I believe that identifying Heros efasciatusas a mouth brooder is erroneous.

  • Exodus1500

    Artie is correct, but his information is outdated.

    There is only one mouth brooding Heros/Severum. It is Heros liberifer. The liberifer was for a short time known as Heros Severus, however the true heros severus species was later found and the old one, the liberifer, had to be reclassified.

    Neither the current Heros severus, nor the efasciatus, are mouthbrooders.

  • dunc

    Do you have any sources, Exodus1500?

  • Darrell Ullisch

    There is an excellent article in the Cichlid News January 2016 issue written by Wayne Leibel that explains the recent history of the genus. The true H. severus was rediscovered in 2015 by Oliver Lucanus, who found a population that matched the holotype specimen under that name. The fish thought to be H. severus since 1994 was found to not match that specimen, and so was given a new name, Heros liberifer. That is the Mouthbrooding species that was misidentified for 20 years (not what I would call a “short time”) as H. severus.

    Currently the genus contains Only five valid taxa: H. efasciatus, H. severus, H. notatus, H. spurius, and the recently described H. liberifer. There are, however, numerous distinct populations that may or may not be new species. The one other name some people use is H. appendiculatus, which is currently considered a synonym of H. efasciatus (per Kullander 2003). A great deal of work is needed to clarify the placement of some of these populations.

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