There are many specific groups of cichlids that develop fanatics and devotees in the hobby. Some species of cichlids just have something special that keeps bringing hobbyists back for more. Certainly one of those groups are the pike cichlids. The pike cichlid genus, Crenicichla, contains more than 100 species ranging in size from dwarf species of around 3 inches long to large predators that can easily exceed 16 inches in total length. These fish are found throughout South America from Colombia to Argentina. Pike cichlids have long, cylindrical bodies with large, wide mouths made for eating large prey. Even the dwarf species boast a healthy appetite for things that you would swear are too large for them to eat!
One of the more interesting species of pike cichlids is the C. sp. “Belly Crawler.” Belly Crawlers reach a size of between 4 and 6 inches and are found Colombian waters, They inhabit faster flowing waters of rivers and streams. True to their name, this pike cichlid is often seen sliding or “crawling” over stones on the bottom of the river. Their torpedo-shaped body really lends itself to their habit of slinking around as they look for fish or insects among the rocks to eat. They are typically grey or grey-green in color with about six pairs of irregular, forward-inclining, oblique bands along the length of the body. Their eyes are situated near the top of their head so that these fish may watch for prey as they sit on the river bottom.
As with most pike cichlids, Belly Crawlers can be very aggressive with one another. Males can be particularly territorial showing lip-locking and tail-slapping displays regularly. Care must be taken when housing pike cichlids with others of their own kind or similar species. Females will usually show a dorsal fin spot and will have some red coloration in their dorsal fin when ready to spawn. Males will not exhibit the red coloration or the dorsal spot. A bonded pair can comfortably live together in a 55 or 75 gallon aquarium, but there can still be some squabbles if you don’t provide enough cover. Driftwood and rock formations will need to be placed throughout the aquarium to help break up the territories.
Belly Crawlers will be hardy additions to your collection. Even though they may prefer a somewhat lower pH in the wild, like most pike cichlids Belly Crawlers can tolerate higher pH values as long as the value remains stable. These fish will prefer a higher flow rate to mimic their natural environment, so use a powerhead or hang-on filter to help create additional flow in your aquarium. Feeding is relatively easy since these fish will take frozen, live, or pelleted foods with little hesitation. Tank mates should be carefully considered since these fish do have large mouths. Larger Geophagus species or Silver Dollars may be acceptable tankmates depending on the aggression of your individual Belly Crawlers and the size of your tank.
Belly Crawler pike cichlids are just one example of the diverse and rich Crenicichla genus. There so many species available, you could easily find one to suit your set-up. Females of many species develop stunning coloration, and a pair of these fish in adequate housing can be impressive.