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Tag Archives: South American Cichlids

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My Experience with the Red-breast Acara, Laetacara dorsigera

Hi, Jose here. When I was younger, I was looking for something that would light up the bottom of my 30 gallon South American tank. I did a little research and found a picture of a curviceps…I got really excited because from what I found they were pretty little fish. I purchased a trio of Dwarf Acara at a local pet shop labeled “sky blue curviceps”.  I didn’t know much about them, and I hadn’t really heard about them from other enthusiasts, but then again I wasn’t into cichlids at that time, so it was something new.

After they became adjusted to the tank, I ran peat through my Fluval 402 filter and hoped for some eggs. After a couple of nerve wrecking months, I noticed that a pair had formed and the third fish was killed by the pair. I placed some smooth, flat 5 to 6 inch rocks hoping the new couple would spawn on one. I figured that their tankmates (neon tetras) wouldn’t mess with the eggs, so I didn’t have to worry about anything eating them. But in watching the pair, I noticed something that worried me a little. I thought the male would be a light blue dwarf, but this fish was developed red color from the lower tip of the mouth to the rear of the body and red ventral fins. The “female” was also brightly colored, so I started wondering if I had two males. The person at the pet shop told me the female should be dull-looking because only males have color, a common trait amongst many cichlid species.  Read More »

Setting up a South American Cichlid Aquarium

Peacock BassHey folks, it’s been a while! Today I’m going to give you some suggestions on creating a habitat for small South American Cichlids, but first let me tell you about some new additions to my finny friend collection. I recently bought a 4 inch Geophagus altifrons and two 5 inch Ocellaris Peacock Bass. They ended up going into my 40 breeder with my 2 to 2.5 inch Cuban Cichlid pair. After acclimating for an hour or so, they were placed into the tank.  I observed their behaviour towards the Cubans for a while, just to be sure there weren’t giong to be any problems. The bass showed no interest in attacking or devouring my little Cubans, actually it was the opposite, as the Cubans actually displayed threatening behaviour towards the bass by flaring their gills and charging at them. This went on for at least 2 days, and then I noticed that the bass would not eat any of the prepared foods that I put into the tank. I offered some trout worms and still no luck. I decided to break down and get a few small feeders, a last resort.

As the days went by I noticed that the Cubans would hide a lot and only came out for feeding, so I decided to watch them with the room lights off. The bass were hunting the Cubans! We were getting ready to move to another apartment, so I had to think fast. The wheels in my head started spinning. I moved the pair of Cubans into the 10 gallon that was holding my Largemouth Bass, and he went into the 40. He quickly assumed dominance over the Peacock Bass. I thought that maybe if the Peacocks saw the Largemouth eat that they would catch on. Again, no luck…now they’re stuck on feeders, so I’ll be hoping to trade them in one day soon.

Now on to the subject at hand, a set-up for South Americans. A tank for South Americans can range from a 10 gallon to an aquarium over a couple hundred gallons, depending on the fish you want to keep. If you’re hoping to keep fish like Peacock Bass to maturity, you’re going to need a BIG tank, but for this blog installment, I am going to talk about a 15 gallon set-up for some Dicrossus filamentosus. Known as the Lyretail Checkerboard Cichlid, males top out at 3 inches and females at 2.5 inches. This species is found along muddy shorelines with scattered leaf litter, so the decor I suggest will make them feel at home. You can furnish the tank with driftwood and maybe some small clay pots and flat stones for when the fish are ready to spawn. If you want, you can even try to add some leaves you may find in a river, stream or lake; just make sure you rinse them off really well. The last thing you want is to unleash a hellgramite or some other unwanted invader into your aquarium (yuck). I would recommend some low light plants, like java fern and anubias species tied to the driftwood, and a dark, fine sustrate for the bottom. Low light will complement the fish, too. Under bright light the blues, greens and reds on this species practically disappear. Low light plants, driftwood (which often leaches tannins) and the addition of products like Amazon Extract (blackwater) keeps this particular species looking sharp.

Checkerboard CichlidOnce you fill the tank, check out your pH and hardness. You should aim to maintain a stable pH of 6.5 for wild fish and 7.0-7.4 for captive bred fish, with a low general hardness. The driftwood and Amazon Extract or a similar additive will help to keep the water soft. These little guys like the water warm and stable at about 80 to 82 degrees, so you’ll need a fully submersible heater for the tank.  For a 15 gallon, one in the 75 watt range with a external thermometer should do the trick. Lighting should be chosen with the plants in mind more than the fish. A small power filter pushing 75 to 100 gallons an hour should keep the environment healthy, as long as you don’t overcrowd. Stay on top of weekly water changes, about 10 percent each week. Diet for these fish can consist of any foods from flakes to frozen to live foods, like blackworms and bloodworms. I would add 4 to 5 small 1 inch fish to the tank to try to get a pair, moving the rest once a male and female pair up. Then I would add 5 rummy nose tetras and 5 neons or cardinal tetras to keep the middle of the tank active since the cichlids spend most of their time on the bottom.

I hope this was an enjoyable read for people and I hope I piqued someone’s interest in these little gems from South America. Let me know if you have any questions or if you’d like to share your own ideas for a South American set-up.

Until next time,


Peacock bass image referenced from wikipedia

My Top 10 South American and West African Cichlids, From the Mind of a Cichlid Madman

Dicrossus filamentosus "Checkerboard Cichlid" - SmallSo, this time we are going to talk about my 10 from two areas, South America and West Africa. I’ve found through experience that both species can tolerate the same type of water conditions, with pH below 7.5 and softer water than African Lake Cichlids. Most of the species I’ve kept were for the challenge of breeding and/or their rarity. So lets begin. Read More »