Rusty Wessel,
Cichlid Room Companion

A Labridens of a Different Color!

By , 2001. image

Classification: Distribution and exploration, North America.

Micos falls Micos waterfalls at El Salto River, Pánuco system. San Luis Potosí. Photo by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas.

Dr. Robert Rush Miller, the curator of freshwater fishes at the University of Michigan, once wrote that the Pánuco River system of Northeast México is a "hot spot of evolution." Therefore, as expected, an assortment of new fish species is slowly becoming available from this region. The Pánuco drainage and its tributaries cover a large expanse in México. The drainage stretches just east of the Rio Verde flowing easterly where the waters dump into the Gulf of México at Tampico. From the Rio El Salto, in this beautiful area, Juan Miguel Artigas Azas discovered a new color variety of Herichthys labridens.

Fortunately, in September of 2000 Juan Miguel and I collected this "green" form of H. labridens and have managed to reproduce it in captivity.

Herichthys labridens Herichthys labridens from Rio el Salto. Photo by Rusty Wessel.

The green labridens was collected in the Rio Salto above the Micos waterfall and near the town of El Naranjo (the orange tree). Only a natural geographical barrier Micos Falls, the place of Monkeys (mico is Spanish for a sort of monkey), separates the Rio Salto and the Rio Valles. The Rio Salto's waters flow southward over the falls and form the Rio Valles. Many fish above the falls (the Rio Salto) are different from the fish below the falls (the Rio Valles). One such example is the green labridens. The blue form is found below the falls and a green form is found above the falls. Are they truly different? I guess only time will tell. The colors are certainly different and this species should not be mixed in with the blue forms. The Rio Salto H. labridens is definitely greener than blue and seems to be more elongated in body form. However, the behavior of the two variants seems to be similar.

Rusty Wessel Rusty Wessel collecting fishes at Chairel lagoon, Pánuco basin, México. Photo by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas.

In addition to the green H. labridens there is also a new Herichthys that lives above the falls. This new species of Herichthys from the Rio Salto seems to be a new undescribed species. More work will soon be done on this animal.

We originally collected about 15 specimens of the green labridens. These 15 green labridens were about two to three inches in size and were placed in a 40 gallon aquarium. The green labs were treated with Clout for five days (customary for all wild fish introductions into my fish room) to remove the possibility of disease. The tank utilized sponge filters and lots of rockwork. after a few weeks, the fish adapted perfectly to an aquarium environment. I keep all of my tanks at a temperature of about 78°F with a neutral pH. Weekly partial water changes of 25 percent to 50 percent are performed for maintenance. After just a month or so in captivity, one pair began the courtship ritual. Surprisingly, this pair was quite small at only about three inches. Adults reach a length of at least eight inches.

Both male and female turn jet black in the body and under the chin a few weeks before laying eggs. This jet-black coloration is quite striking and continues during the entire process of courtship and protecting the young. A territory is staked out and both parents defend this area.

Eventually, after three weeks, the pair laid about 250 eggs on the side of a rock in the protected nest area. Head jerking and fin twitching by both parents is common during the process of nurturing the young.

Herichthys labridens from Rio El Salto Herichthys labridens pair guarding their free swimming fry at Rio El Salto, San Luis Potosí, México. The female uses her chest to cause a cloud of detritus that the fry uses for feeding. Photo by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas.

The green labridens diligently and fiercely tended to the eggs for several days keeping all other tank occupants a good distance from the nest, as is typical with most cichlid parental care. The eggs hatched in about three days and the fry were free swimming in another five days. Once they were free swimming they readily gulped down newly hatched Artemia (brine shrimp). Both adults constantly watched over the nest and eventually, the fry were removed using a siphon hose and placed in a rearing tank about three weeks after free swimming. The day after removing the fry, the adult pair returned to their normal green coloration. The fry were eventually nurtured onto flake food and will readily accept any food. In the wild the species predominately eat mollusks and crustaceans, so a snail-based diet is recommended.

The green H. labridens certainly would be a plus to anyone's collection of Central American cichlids. Whether it is a new species or just a geographical variant, the green labridens would be a welcome addition to the hobby. I suggest you try them.

Fortunately, in September of 2000 Juan Miguel and I collected this "green" form of H. labridens and have managed to reproduce it in captivity.

Herichthys labridens Herichthys labridens male from Rio el Salto. Photo by Rusty Wessel.


Wessel, Rusty. (May 15, 2001). "A Labridens of a Different Color!". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Feb 24, 2024, from: