Cichlid Room Companion


Gymnogeophagus sp. "Rosario I", A New Species from Uruguay

By , 1998. image
Tonny Brandt Andersen, 1998

Classification: Taxonomy and phylogeny, South America.

Gymnogeophagus sp. 'Rosario I' Gymnogeophagus sp. "Rosario I" male in the aquarium Fish and Photo by Tonny Brandt Andersen.

In the spring of 1996 Swedish aquarists and an Uruguayan, temporary living in Sweden contacted me. Pipo Cantera, the Uruguayan, explained the situation for me. In short, he was travelling back to Uruguay with his family, and had for the last 2-3 years been working on getting a license to take out live fish from Uruguay. This permission had now came trough, and he wanted information about wholesalers in Denmark (and the rest of Europe).

We had several conversations that weekend, and it all ended up with me being part of the group travelling to Uruguay in November and December of 1996. For four weeks we would be travelling in the north-eastern and south-eastern parts of Uruguay, collecting fish, spiders and snakes.

This travel was very interesting, because we could very easily come across many new undescribed species, due to the fact that Uruguay has not been co-operating with other countries and ichthyologists for many years. This has definitely changed now, and authorities in Uruguay as well as ichthyologists and aquarists in Europe have been very interested in the results of our first travel.

To me, one species has a very special place in my heart. I was "in love" from the first moment I saw it, and it has proved to be something special.

In the south of Uruguay, near the town Rosario, we stopped and camped by the riverside for 3 nights. The people from the town, as a nice place to play and swim use the river Arroyo Colla. They bring bicycles, football and their dogs, and then the place is not the nice quiet nature, with sounds from the birds. Collecting in the place we managed to catch some fish in the mornings and in the evenings, with especially good results during the night. And although all the beautiful fish we caught, the battery lamps we used attracted mosquitoes and we all got many mosquito bites. I won't tell you that because of the fish I forgot everything about itching, because that would be lying. But I will mention the fish that we caught: Cichlasoma n.sp., Gymnogeophagus sp. "Rosario II", Rineloricaria sp., Loricariichthys sp., Ancistrus sp., Synobranchus marmoratus, Salminus brasiliensis, Hoplias sp., Astyanax fasciatus, Steindachnerina biomata, Hyphessobrycon n.sp., and of course Gymnogeophagus sp "Rosario I".

The river was deep and 15 to 20 meters wide on one side of the bridge, because the bridge almost formed a dam, and on the other side, the river was flowing normally, and only around 5 meters wide and 1.5 meters deep. There were a lot of large stones on the bottom, and the sides of the river were covered with vegetation, such as Echinodorus and bushes. Branches from the trees and the bushes were also hanging down into the water, making perfect hiding places. The water was measured at 10:30 in the morning, and the temperature was 26°C. pH was 7.5, GH 8 and conductivity in microsiemens 365.

The first time I saw this fish, I was also asked what I thought it could be. My answer then was that it must be or have something to do with Gymnogeophagus gymnogenys because of the body shape, but the colors and the black markings are different. The male has a black vertical band under the eyes (suborbital stripe) and this band continues between the eyes (Superorbital stripe). A black broad vertical band is also seen on the top half of the body just in front of the dorsal fin. This band is connected to the gill-cover and it looks as if the lateral band begins there, but when looking closely it is possible to see that it begins behind the eye. One of the transversal bars forms the large lateral spot. The color of the body is yellow with a beautiful shiny green. The dorsal, caudal and anal fins are blue and red, and this is the only place that I can think of that has the same color as Gymnogeophagus gymnogenys. The lips of this cichlid are metallic blue, and because of that, we didn't use other names when we talked about it in Uruguay than Gymnogeophagus "Blue lips". We caught many other Gymnogeophagus species, but not one with lips like this.

Gymnogeophagus sp. 'Rosario I' Gymnogeophagus sp. "Rosario I" spawning pair in the aquarium. Fish and Photo by Tonny Brandt Andersen.

I brought the fish to Denmark just before Christmas 1996, and for some time four "Blue lips" were sharing a 250 litres aquarium with the 6 Cichlasoma n.sp. and some Gymnogeophagus sp. "Rosario II" also coming from the same river. I lost one male "Blue lips", but apart from that everything went well for some time. In the beginning of April 1997 I could see eggs on a stone. The female covered these eggs with gravel, and I could see that she was guarding the spawning site. She wasn't doing a very god job, so I removed all other fish except than the 3 "Blue lips".

After only a few days there was no eggs left. But then after not more than a week, a new spawn took place. This time and the next, which also took place shortly after the eggs had disappeared, were not successful either. I then understood that I had one male and two females, because no female could be able to spawn tree times during two weeks. One day when I came home from work, a new spawn had taken place. Again, the female was guarding the eggs, and later the same evening she had covered the eggs with gravel. She guarded the eggs for 3-4 days and then during the 16th April the eggs were disappearing. I could see the female getting bigger and bigger as she had more and more larvae in her mouth.

In the evening of the 17th of April, I saw the male guarding the fry, and I was very surprised to see that the female was no longer near the fry. When I got close the male gave a signal to the fry, and all of them swam into his mouth. This was a surprised to me, because I had expected that the female would be doing this, so I got my video camera, and placed it in front of the aquarium, after 15 to 20 minutes I had the whole "show" on video. And I asked some of my friends about this behavior. Since that day only the male took care of the fry, and I guess that he had to take care of about 40 to 70 young ones. On April 24th I could see that the fry had grown so big that he could no longer have all of them in his mouth. And when I got close to the aquarium, he took as many fry in his mouth as it was possible and left the rest. Not even at this stage did the female help. Both females were hiding behind the roots, and I could see that the male could no longer keep all of the fry inside his mouth. Therefore some fry were swimming around in the aquarium. After a few more days, I thought it was best to catch the young ones, in order for them to survive. It would not be nice if they would suddenly disappear. The funny thing was that when I caught them, I found two sizes, which must had been the result of two spawns.

Gymnogeophagus sp. 'Rosario I' Gymnogeophagus sp. "Rosario I" female in the aquarium. Fish and Photo by Tonny Brandt Andersen.

For some time I have kept the adult fish together with other species, without new spawns, but then I wondered if this could be caused because of being winter in Uruguay at this time? I isolated the 3 again, and shortly after a new spawn took place. Again I could see the eggs on a flat stone close to the front window of the aquarium. The spawn took place on the 14th of July and the female was guarding the eggs, this time she was more careful than what I have seen before. On the 15th I could see the male close to the eggs, as the female was not in sight, probably behind some roots. The eggs were still on the stone. I could count around 30 in the center group. Eggs and their covering gravel were removed on the 16th and I could also see that a lot of digging had taken place around most of the plants. I must say that I did not have plants in the aquarium in April when the first couple of spawns took place. Unfortunately I could also see the male chasing the two females, which got me to believe that no fry had survived. On the 20th I changed 50% of the water, and there was still no young ones appearing in the aquarium. This happened again two days after a 50% change of water. On the 26th August I could again see eggs on the stone, but only to find the stone empty again the next day.

When I want to be happy, I have to turn to the aquarium with the young ones from the spawns in April. They have grown to around 2-3 cm. I think they could have been larger, but I keep them in a small tank, where I have to be careful about the balance, and be sure that all the food is eaten. Nevertheless, I am happy to be able to supply my friends with an extremely beautiful new cichlid from Uruguay, and hopefully this beautiful fish can also be yours in the near future.

Arroyo Colla The river Arroyo Colla near the town Rosario in Uruguay, habitat of Gymnogeophagus sp. "Rosario I". Photo by Tonny Brandt Andersen.


Andersen, Tonny Brandt. (Jun 12, 1998). "Gymnogeophagus sp. "Rosario I", A New Species from Uruguay". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Nov 30, 2022, from:

Name substitutions

  • Gymnogeophagus sp. "Rosario I" refers to Gymnogeophagus mekinos