This time around I want to talk about something I hold dear to my heart…aggressive cichlids. Most cichlids have a mean streak towards other fish in the tank, but its a whole different story when that aggression is turned on an unsuspecting aquarist.
Most of the species that exhibit this type of behavior tend to be in the South and Central American cichlid group. The African Rift Lake cichlids normally keep the aggression focused on other fish in the tank, though I’ve had some shell-dwellers who would attack my arms and on occasion rip out some arm hair…truly they can be like feisty little bulldogs. Some larger West Africans and cichlids from Madagascar have also shown brazen territoriality towards me in my many years of keeping them.
When people want aggressive fish, they tend to walk out of the store with an Oscar or a Piranha, but that is no guarantee you’ll end up with a “man-eater”. One thing my experience with keeping and breeding many different species of cichlids taught me is that they are all unique, and while one individual may cower in a corner, the next may show no fear or apprehension about chomping on a finger or some arm skin. I once read a cichlid book that said Firemouth cichlids were peaceful, so I purchased 2 pairs of 2 inch fish and put them in a 55 gallon tank. The next day I had to purchase a divider for the same tank to stop the carnage. I have spoken to many customers in the store about the fish they keep and the behaviors shown by those fish. Often, though they would share experiences opposite of my personal experiences with the same species. You can rarely tell how a fish will act towards you and other fish until you get it home to your tank and allow it to adjust.
In my experience, when it comes to aggression towards hands in the aquarium the trophy goes to fish of the Amphilophus family fish like the Midas cichlid and the Red Devil just to name a couple. The one that has always seems to become aggressive towards me is the Midas cichlid. Every single one I have kept has always gone after me and has even drawn blood, even fish that were “rescued” from poor conditions or surrendered by customers. The Trimac and Bleekeri from Madagascar are also consistently nasty in my experience. Although I have had many others threaten me with their stance like Firemouths and even a Red-hump Geophagus, but they were “all bark and no bite”.
Right now, my 5 inch Largemouth Bass likes to bite me when my hand goes into the tank to clean. Although it doesn”t draw any blood, when he hits the 12 inch mark I might be singing a different tune. Why are some fish prone to strike? The best reasoning is that they do whatever is necessary to guard their territory. I’m sure they don’t appreciate when we ruin their decor by redistributing piled and dug up gravel or replacing skewed plants and ornaments either. It’s their home, and we are not invited I guess.
Check out the video below that shows what happened to me when I had to work in the Colored Black Devil tank here at the store.
Until next time,