Cichlid Room Companion

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A Brief Intro to the Cichlids of Lake Nicaragua

By , 1996. printer

Classification: Captive maintenance, Central and North America.

" Fishroom talk taking place on 1996-Mar-12 "

FektoN says: I believe the subject was supposed to be "Interaction of Lake Nicaraguan Cichlids", but it's now more like: "a Brief Introduction to the Cichlids of Lake Nicaragua".

FektoN says: My primary sources are Ad Konings' "Cichlids From Central America", discourse with JuanMi, and the limited experience I've had with some of these cichlids.

FektoN says: there are 14 species indigenous to this lake...all were formerly known as 'Cichlasoma', but as you know that group has undergone some taxonomic work...

FektoN says: many of the names are still in the air, but I'll use what I believe to be the most up to date Genera...

FektoN says: here's the list of species:

FektoN says: dovii, nicuaraguense, nematopus, managuense, citrinellum, maculicauda, labiatum, centrarchus, longimanus, loisellei, nigrofasciatum, spilurus, multispinosa, and rostratus.

FektoN says: all of these used to be Cichlasoma except multispinosa, and nematopus.

FektoN says: I'll be taking these fish by their groups, and finishing up with some interesting facts at the interesting little thing in particular; stay tuned.

FektoN says: since the PA system isn't on, I encourage anyone with something to say to go on and say it...same goes w/ questions of course...:)

FektoN says: I'll be starting with Parapetenia...

FektoN says: many of the Parapetenia are also referred to as Nandopsis ; Juan told me that the Parapetenia I'm discussing tonight will most likely stay in the Parapetenia Subgenus.

FektoN says: This subgenus contains the well-known managuense or Jaguar cichlid...which is a convenient fish to start with.

FektoN says: the managuense is named for the location where its type specimen was collected, lake Managua. These guys get 50cm long (almost 20" or so!!), and they consume a diet of mostly smaller fish,

FektoN says: these guys are known to produce huge spawns in the aquarium and in nature; and almost all offered for sale, are of course, captive bred.

FektoN says: A close relative of managuense is Parapetenia dovii, which grows even larger than the managuense.

FektoN says: unlike their aforementioned cousin, these guys are specialized feeders...they eat mainly small Cichlids in the wild....young ones of big species and adults of smaller ones. This is something I like to tell customers who don't seem to realize what they're getting into.

FektoN says: they are renowned for their apparent intelligence, and the subject of many hokey "fish legends" ; like that they've broken through tanks to get at moving objects in the room.

FektoN says: such rumors are of course, unsubstantiated.

ARCAS says: sounds like a fish with an attitude...

ARCAS says: crashing through a tank.... was it on video..:)

FektoN says: the other Parapetenia is the Loisellei, which stays a bit smaller, like a bit over 30cm (12"+). I don't know too much about these guys, but they are pretty homicidal too....they proved too disruptive for a 150g tank full of Neotropical Cichlids at this shop I used to work at, so we moved the pair to a separate morning, the female was dead, with much of her body Missing.

FektoN says: I'd say all Parapetenia's in this lake have a attitude, but dovii is said to be the most fearsome...and perhaps the most sought after. Definitely attitude, Arcas.

Rsf says: dovii are excellent fish, the Steinhard aquarium in San Francisco has an excellent display with some dovii in it, if anyone gets the chance to go there

FektoN says: Rsf, I've never visited, but the Steinhard aquarium is famous for its Cichlids...this book I'm using has many wonderful photos taken there.

Rsf nods his head in agreement.

FektoN says: on to the amphilophus subgenus.

FektoN says: this genus contains one of the most famed Cichlids, the Red Devil...

FektoN says: in the hobby, Devils can belong to either labiatum or citrinellum; I believe we're dealing with more hybrids than anything else.

FektoN says: I once read in a little book by Loiselle that hybridization occurs in nature, and a recent issue of TFH discusses some interesting experiments done on female citrinellum with males of A. citrinellum, labiatum, and zaliosum, another closely related species.

FektoN says: anyway, labiatum and citrinellum are very similar...they both occur in gold forms, even in nature.

FektoN says: it is said that this is a breeding deep, murky water it helps fry find mom...which explains why many Citrinellums don't morph colors till they're big.

FektoN says: the citrinellum is also known as the lemon Cichlid and the Midas Cichlid, but you're most likely to see it as "red devil" or "citrinellum"...

FektoN says: these differ from the labiatum in that labiatum has large lips and eats a lot of veggies along with crustaceans and mollusks, especially snails....

FektoN says: citrinellum, and the other amphilophus in Lake Nicaragua, eats mainly invertebrates... BTW, the Devil types get around 1 ft long (30cm).

FektoN says: the other amphilophus are A. longimanus and A. rostratus.. these guys stay around 6 to 8 ", and apparently do not occur often in the trade. :(

FektoN says: on to the next group... These are the Theraps...

FektoN says: as a note, this group is definitely going to change...the above two groups are more stable; Parapetenia is mainly piscivorous, and amphilophus concentrates on invertebrates...Theraps is sort of a catch-all.

FektoN says: Juan tells me that they are already "under construction"...because irregulare, the type species, is very different from many of the others...for now, Theraps will have to do though.

FektoN says: first off, we'll hit another old favourite...Maculicauda AKA the black belt...

ARCAS says: nice fish...:)

FektoN says: Very nice fish, of my favourites

FektoN says: these guys turn up all over in Central America, probably the most widespread...all of these fish are hardy, but black belts are very tolerant of varying water conditions...they've been observed in coral reefs and stuff is believed that they use the ocean as a means of dispersal; they use it as an avenue to get to new areas where their kind has not yet colonized.

FektoN wonders if T. maculicauda is a suitable fish for the reef tank. ;)

FektoN says: These guys maximum out at 12", females are less with most all of these fish. Not as belligerent as the other bruisers mentioned so far, but still nasty.

FektoN says: Juan tells me they will eventually be placed in the Genus Vieja most likely.

FektoN says: the other fish that can be called "Theraps" is Nicaraguans, named for the very lake I'm talking about... These guys are very different from the rest of the Theraps group, and may be placed in their own monotypic genus.

FektoN says: Konings doesn't feel the need to mention this, but he *does* say that they are closely related to Neetroplus nematopus.

FektoN says: These guys, who I tend to call "Nickies" for short, get 8-10", females smaller Both sexes are breathtaking, I personally prefer the orangey-pink female, which also sports a bluish head. These guys take a lot of snails and stuff according to Konings, but Juan has read that they are strongly herbivorous. These are currently my favorite Central Americans; they aren't extremely nasty and VERY nice looking.

FektoN says: onto the next group...the Archocentrus....this contains nigrofasciatum, the world famous Convict.

FektoN says: everyone in the room who has kept convicts say "aye".

FektoN says: aye

FektoN waits patiently for a bunch of people to say aye.

FektoN says: we're all familiar with these little guys, males reach a maximum of 6", females up to 4". Convicts are representative of all Archocentrus ; they are insectivorous, and they stay small but nasty.

FektoN says: when I say a fish is nasty, I mean in the aquarium of course...much of this aggressive behavior is limited to 2-second encounters in the wild.

FektoN says: the other Archocentrus is spilurus, the Blue-Eyed convict. True to it's name, these guys look and behave a lot like convicts, but have blue-eyes and a more olive tone. These guys reach 5" maximum (all sizes are approximate.)

FektoN says: The last Archocentrus is centrarchus...the flier Cichlid. A fin count of this fish will show anyone that they may not stay in this subgenus...there are more spines in the anal fin.

FektoN says: these are another example of your typical insect eater otherwise...get 6" +/-

FektoN says: OK, a closely related fish to A. centrarchus in Herotilapia multispinosa...the Rainbow Cichlid. Very similar fish to the flier, but they get their own genus because, they are the only cichlasomines with tricuspid teeth...

FektoN says: These are herbivores; they are very easy to care for and breed, a perfect beginner's fish. They even hang their fry in bushes...a remarkable site that I've seen only in photos.

FektoN says: lastly, we have Neetroplus nematopus, a fish that unfortunately bears no common name because it's never seen in the trade. A shame, these guys seem very neat aquarium subjects :(. They stay very small, 5" is a large size. Also, reputably the nastiest Cichlid in the lake, when you consider the size.

FektoN exclaims: that's pretty much everything as far as the species go....whew!

RgrMill cheers enthusiastically. Good talk!

FektoN says: As an aside, I'd like to mention that all of these fish are very hardy and easy to care for, accepting a wide-range of water conditions.

rgrmill says: Eating a wide range of tankmates...

FektoN says: all are indigenous to Lake Nicaragua, but none are endemic...they occur in all kinds of habitats, very adaptable. Of course, they are also prone to killing their buddies, as rgrmill said. A large tank is a must.

FektoN says: Does anyone want to hear the cool relationship between nickies, nematopus, and Dovii's? It's short, I promise.

Rickdf says: sure FektoN

FektoN says: ok, in the lake, nickies and nematopus compete for the rocky zones in which they breed. The Nematopus are much smaller, but they've got heart, and usually succeed in driving the nickies out. :(

FektoN says: Dovii's breed in more open areas in deeper water, where they try to raise huge spawns... According to Konings, frustrated male Nickies will help these dovii's raise their brood. the result? More dovii's next year, which eat many of the nematopus, their favorite food. Meaning less competition for the nickies next spawning season.

FektoN says: I think that's the coolest sh%t! It is this little anecdote that prompted this tedious but (I hope) informative meeting.

JOM nods his head in understanding.

FektoN says: in closing, I'd like to encourage people to look into the fascinating Cichlids of L. Nicaragua...a lot of attention is paid to the fish in the African Rift Lakes, but there are some nice ones here too.

FektoN asks: I guess that's it...if anyone has questions?

Ratman applauds

FektoN bows, but feels like a windbag.

Cburke claps his hands in appreciation...he apologizes for coming in late

FektoN has to go out soon; his girlfriend is pissed cause she thinks he's a fish head.


Weidel, Robert. (May 27, 1996). "A Brief Intro to the Cichlids of Lake Nicaragua". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on October 19, 2019, from: