Cichlid Room Companion


Cryptoheros nanoluteus

By , 2007. printer
Pam Chin, 2002

Classification: Captive maintenance.

" Care and breeding of this small and beautiful Central American Cichlid from Panama "

Breeding female A female of Amatitlania nanolutea guarding her fry in the wild. Photo by Rusty Wessel. determiner Juan Miguel Artigas Azas

My latest passion has been a group of Cryptoheros nanoluteus (Allgayer, 1994) that a friend gave me. When I received them they were about 1.27 cm (1/2") long, they were from stock that had originally been collected in Panama. The Holotype was found in Boca del Toro, Río Guaramo, Chiriqui Grande District in Panama. You won’t find this cichlid in the mainstream of the hobby; in fact it is like a top-secret cichlid. You will have to drill deep into the cichlid network to find it. For only a reclusive pack of diehard Cichlasomaniacs keep this jewel from Panama, and they rarely let it leave their circle.

Was this a friendly gesture? Or was this a test? I took it seriously, I knew I better not kill them, or I would never live it down. This is the smallest Central American cichlid to date with males around 7.5 cm. (3") and females about 5.0 - 7.5 cm (2" - 2.5"). I put my new C. nanoluteus in a fry tank where they would receive the same care as other fry Gary was raising up. Here they would get plenty of water changes, freshly hatched baby brine shrimp, finely ground cichlid staple flake and algae wafers.

A few months later Gary was moving fish around and juggling tanks, I told him that was fine, but please leave my nanoluteus in a tank by themselves. Even though I had other fry like Copora nicaraguensis, and Neetroplus nematopus that they probably would be fine with, but I just felt they were too young and couldn’t do it. It wasn’t long before I could see that a few were growing faster than the rest of the group, and I suspected they were males. A few weeks later I observed what appeared to be some pair bonding behaviors. I had some breeding caves in the tank for cover and a male was patrolling around one, allowing only one little female to enter, and relentlessly hitting the conspecifics. I wasn’t expecting them to pair off this quickly, I knew this tank was too small, and if a couple were going to try to spawn, it was going to be a mass murder.

I pulled out the possible pair and placed them in a tank by themselves, with tons of pots and rubble. I took the remaining nanoluteus and put them in a 75 liters (20-gallon) tank with some Geophagus steindachneri juveniles that were just a tad smaller. Well, I didn’t think that through very well, and of course the male killed the female in a week or so. Strike one!

Soon the rest were all starting to show their colors, and every photo I have seen or taken doesn’t show how great these fish really look. Their coloration is amazing; bright green, yellow, dark green, black stripes and their eyes are striking. The coloration in the iris is a metallic turquoise, and I don’t think I have ever seen a pupil that black, which seems to make their eyes even brighter. The dorsal is edged in red, while the anal is edged in black and the tail is clear yellow with blue highlights. For a bonus the female has a distinguishable ocellation in her dorsal surrounded by metallic blue spangles; it is a beauty.

Cryptoheros nanoluteus (Allgayer, 1994)
Panama, Central America

Cichlid staple pellet

My Spawning Conditions:
74 - 76 F., pH 8.5, Hard water

Males: 7.5 cm. (3")
Females 5.0 cm. (2"+)

Sexually mature at 10 - 12 Months
Substrate spawner, bi-parental care

When ever I get obsessed with a cichlid I like to move it to the house, because I want to observe it every moment that I can. It seems like I have a pet project going in every tank at the house, and I was trying to figure out what I could move around to squeeze in the nanoluteus. Then along came the Sacramento Aquarium Society’s annual FINDIG, and I who never wins anything, won a tank in their raffle. It was a 29-gallon Eclipse knock-off made in Asia. It has a built in wet/dry filter in the hood along with a nice light, and came complete with a stand. I was thrilled, and immediately thought that this is the perfect tank for my nanoluteus.

They were getting along great with the G. steindachneri so I moved them over to the house along with the nanoluteus. I wanted some dither fish with little of class, so I added (8) Congo Tetras. Gary, my head tank decorator, aquascaped the tank beautifully, with a few plants and some small round flat rocks. A couple of months later I could see the coloration on two had been knocked up a couple of notches, it was hard to believe that they could become anymore colorful, but they did. The male was showing an almost electric green and yellow, while the female began to show a lot of black in the face and body. They picked an upright rock in the corner of the tank, and began to hold off the crowd. It was your classic cichlid spawning; the male patrolled the area, while the female prepared the site. I don’t know who started it, but they just kept following each other across the rock, this lasted for more than an hour.

The next day the rock was removed and taken over to the fish house, and placed in a clean 10-gallon tank. Gary used a couple of spawning caves to support the ends of the rock and turned it with the eggs facing down, he then placed an airstone under the rock, and with in 48 hours we could see that many had hatched out and were now wrigglers. In another day or so they started to fall off the rock to the bottom of the aquarium absorbing their egg sacs, a day or two later they began to free swim, and we started feeding freshly hatched baby brine. I was thrilled! I had my very own school of little nanoluteus.

About a month later I bought a purple fish castle on e-bay and I wasn’t quite ready to take it over to the fish house, so I put it in the nanoluteus tank, and they went crazy over it. A couple of days later, there was a full moon, and a pair of nanoluteus took over the castle, and were holding the rest of the fish at bay. The female was nearly black, while the male looked like a bright yellow and green flare. The next day Gary pulled out the castle and saw the plaque of eggs on the inside, and he took it over to the fish house. He placed it in a clean 10-gallon tank and put the castle in a horizontal position with an airstone inside under the eggs. Now I have two schools of nanoluteus.

I have a tendency to keep species only tanks, but I think this cichlid needs to be in a community setting. I would almost classify them as hyper as they hardly hold still and usually can be found schooled together patrolling the tank in a pack. Keeping other fish in the tank allows you to manage their aggression. Although they will still fight among each other, it doesn’t seem to be as serious when other fish are present. This species seems more eager to spawn in a cave or enclosure then on a rock, and this allows for easy removal of eggs/fry. The Geophagus steindachneri have been the perfect tank mates, and it has been great watching them grow up with the nanoluteus.

This cichlid has so much going for it; their size is great, their color is outstanding, and of course they have that classic cichlid breeding behavior that we all love to observe. If you have wanted to try a Central American cichlid but don’t think you have a big enough tank, you should give Cryptoheros nanoluteus a try. I have found this delightful little cichlid a joy to work with and have put it on my "must keep forever" list!


Chin, Pam. (July 26, 2008). "Cryptoheros nanoluteus". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on December 09, 2021, from: