Pam Chin, 2002
Cichlid Room Companion

Pablo, me & Juan Miguel (Parachromis dovii)

By , 2002. image

Classification: Captive maintenance, North America.

Juan Miguel, Pam's pet Parachromis dovii

Parachromis dovii

Common Name:
Wolf Cichlid, Dow's Cichlid

Atlantic Slope and Pacific Slope, from Honduras to Costa Rica, Rivers and Lakes

My Spawning Water Conditions:
pH 8.5, hard water, 74 F.

26 ­ 30 inches

Sexually mature at 10 ­ 14 Months
Substrate spawner, bi-parental care

I was enamored with Pablo long before I knew what a Parachromis dovii was. I first heard about him in early issues of the Buntbarsche Bulletin (Journal of the American Cichlid Association), and something struck me. It was like a bell in my head. I remember reading old issues that had bits and pieces about him in letters and articles where anyone and everyone who had ever met Pablo had a few comments to share about him. He was owned by Guy Jordan (A founding member of the ACA.) or Guy was owned by him, depending on who you are talking to. From what I gathered they were very close, and well bonded. Now, more than 30 years later, he really is a legend and there are many stories and myths about this most famous Parachromis dovii, Pablo.

When I first met Gary, my finmate, he had big aquariums with big fish, and they all had names. I loved feeding time as we would go to each tank and interact with these large fish that projected so much personality. As time went on and I too became interested in the hobby, then somewhere along the way we got off the big fish track and stuck in the Rift Lakes. Not that there is anything wrong with that! But, for some reason you just don't name your Julidochromis or Neolamprologus, or at least I don't.

Sometimes you forget why you are even in the hobby, and why you are so stuck in one area of fish that you can't even see the forest for the trees. I think I was there, I was so focused on Africans, I thought that meant you can't keep anything but them. Then I started hanging out with a few Central American cichlid people. Cichlasomaniacs is what I called them, now I want to be one. With Pablo in the back of my mind, I kept telling Gary the next time I see P. dovii on the auction block I was going to bring some home. I wanted a big fish again, and I wanted a P. dovii like Pablo.

A few years later, my friend Juan Miguel, was coming for a visit and asked if I wanted any fish that he was working with, and I chimed in with, "how about dovii??" He explained that he didn't have any but was going collecting in Costa Rica, and would see if he could find some there. When we met, he handed me a small jar, and inside were (10) Parachromis dovii about 1/2" in length, they were silver with one horizontal black stripe through the body. He told me how he found them, and how he was nearly killed by their 30" father!! I was thrilled!!

I took them home and placed them in a 10-gallon tank in the fish house. I couldn't wait to get home from work each night to feed them. They even attacked baby brine shrimp with vengeance at this size. They literally grew everyday, as we poured the wheaties to them. In less than two weeks, we decided that we better move them up to a 30-gallon tank. At four weeks, one started to get obviously larger than the rest of the group, and he was named Juan Miguel.

Two months later, and now in a 55 gallon tank, we had lost one, but the nine that remained were doing great. They started to show a yellow color throughout the body and the stripe was getting larger. I couldn't stand it any longer; I wanted to move them to house where I could watch them all night, right next to the couch and the TV. However, that would mean moving the Tropheus brichardi group that occupied that 80-gallon tank for the last 5 years.

I told Gary I didn't care about the Tropheus, go ahead and flush them, of course I was kidding. But, I wanted that tank for my new pet project, and right away. Like a good husband he conceded and moved the Tropheus in to another tank, and that is another story for another time! The P. dovii were about 4 months old when they moved in to the house, and not only did they get to know us better, but we got to know each of them as their personalities began to show. Juan Miguel was the leader of the pack, and no one crossed him. He was easily 3½ inches and the rest about 2 ­ 3 inches. We fed primarily floating sticks, they like to attack them, while the sinking types were left to rot on the bottom. Mosquito larvae had been good when they were in the fish house, but I wouldn't let Gary feed that in the people house. Tubiflex worms were a favorite too.

When Juan Miguel reached 4+" I decided to remove him from the group, he was hogging all the food, and starting to pick on the smaller ones, which I believed were females. His new home was a 55-gallon hex, still in the living room, in the middle of all the household action. In less than a week a new dominate male was king of the tank, I named him Ferdi, after my friend Ferdinand Velasco, who is a big P. dovii fan. He wasn't the largest P. dovii left in the group, but he was keeping everyone else in line, in a typical P. dovii fashion; aggression. A few weeks later Ferdi also went into a 55-gallon hex, on the opposite end of the couch, from Juan Miguel.

The larger they all grew, the more beautiful they became. The golden color throughout the body was very intense as well as the green and red around the head and the base of the dorsal. A nice light blue-green was coming out in all the fins and tail. The horizontal stripe has grown thicker and is easily 1" wide. The females have great color also; they are nearly all yellow when fully mature. Their eyes are wonderful, they are quite large, as big as M & M's, and the iris is a bright metallic bronze color. They are very attentive and you can tell they are watching everything that is going on around them. I swear they are even interacting with my dogs, when they get on the couch. One feature that give them so much personality is their extra large mouth, where these canine teeth are hanging out. Just one look at that, and even a rookie can tell this is one bad predator.

Seven P. dovii remained in the large tank, the males were around 6 inches and the females a couple of inches smaller. Gary was confident that he had a pair, and although we were excited, everyone had to tell us that it wouldn't be long before he trashed her. This male was so good to the female, he adored her, and I couldn't imagine that happening. Instead of beating up his mate, his first mission was to take out the other two males, and that left us with 3 extra females. Gary removed them to the fish house for safekeeping, and left the pair in the 80-gallon tank by themselves.

Exactly 11 months after we received the fish, the young pair spawned, after preparing a site for about 4 weeks. They had laid the eggs under a rock they had dug out, and the wrigglers all fell into the egg crate and gravel. They were not discouraged, and spawned again in about 3 weeks, this time Gary removed some of the wrigglers, to raise up. They continued to spawn like clock work every four weeks, we continued to remove some fry every other time or so, until we wondered what were we going to do with a ton of P. dovii fry. The male continued to adore this female, he just followed her everywhere around the tank, and I was very surprised he hadn't at least beaten her up, after all the horror stories I have heard.

We moved the pair in to a 100-gallon tank, so Gary could have the 80-gallon back for his Tropheus, or what was left of them. They continued to spawn for another 6 months, and then one morning the female was dead. A sad story, but it has been a wonderful adventure, and being able to spawn this fish was a bonus. My goal was just to have one big male, so to get a pair and actually raise fry was a pleasant surprise. I gave the breeding male and extra females to my friend Roland, and I hope that he too is successful working with this big tank buster.

Juan Miguel and Ferdi are still the conversation pieces of our living room, and now are well over 9 inches and still growing fast. Their tanks are about 10 feet from each other, and it is obvious that they are aware of one another. They will pile up the gravel to one side of the tank as high as they can, as if they are digging pits. Then they rise above it slowly spying on each other. It is a riot to watch them, but it is clear that Ferdi is pretty much petrified of Juan Miguel!

It is a happy ending, I now have my own Pablo in training. My Juan Miguel knows everything that is going on, and always greets me when I enter the room. He flashes that big toothy grin, looks at me with a sparkle in his eye and I just melt, what a cool cichlid he is!!

Adult male Parachromis dovii in the central american cichlid display at Steinhart aquarium in San Francisco, California, april 2000. Part of the magnificent freshwater fish collection maintained by Frank Glennon. Photo by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas. determiner Juan Miguel Artigas Azas

References (4):


Chin, Pam. (Aug 05, 2002). "Pablo, me & Juan Miguel (Parachromis dovii)". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Feb 24, 2024, from: