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CICHLIDS



TRUE ACARAS AND OTHER RELATED CICHLIDS
The Acara Family is found only in tropical South America. This family includes two groups, True Acaras and Acara related species. Included in this family are cichlids that are, and formally were part of the genus Aequidens. Now, due to some recent reclassification, the Acara group includes fish of the following genera; Aequidens, Bujurquina, Cleithracara, Guianacara, Laetacara, Krobia, Nannacara and Tahuantinsuyoa. True Acaras are made up of species that remain under the genus Aequidens, while Acara-related species include the other, previously mentioned, genera.
SIZE: True Acaras are larger than other Acaras, ranging from 7-12" (18-30 cm) in length. Other Acaras are no larger than 6" (15 cm) and no smaller than 2.5" (6.4 cm).
TANK: Smaller Acara-related species can kept in a 24" (61 cm) or 20 gallon (75 L) tank, while the larger types (4-6" or more) can be kept in a 32" (81 cm) or 30 gallon (114 L) tank. These Acara-related species, outside the spawning season, will not uproot or consume plants. The larger True Acaras (Aequidens) need a tank measuring at least 40" (101 cm) with a capacity of 45 gallons (170 L). These Acaras have a tendency to uproot plants, so only large, robust types should be used. All Acaras prefer large open swimming areas. Retreats, created by using wood, roots, and rocks, are necessary.
WATER: Most Acaras can be kept in water with perimeters of; a pH from 6.0-7.5, a water hardness from 2-18 dH, and a water temperature of 72-79F (22-26C). Some species are more particular to correct water properties than others.
SB: True Acaras are somewhat belligerent and territorial. These often consume small fish. Other related Acaras are smaller and far less aggressive, and make fine companions for a large community tank. Most Acaras form monogamous pairs and later, nuclear families.
SC: Aequidens can be combined with large, robust species including catfish (Loricarids, Pimelodids, Doradids), characins (Anostomus, Leporinus, Silver Dollars, Pacus), other cichlids (Eartheaters, Crenicichla, Cichlasomines, Astronotus), and miscellaneous fish including the Arawana. Acara relatives can be combined with smaller, less aggressive species including catfish (Callichthys, Loricarids, Doradids, small Pimelodids), characins (tetras, Headstanders, Hatchetfish), and cichlids (Apistogramma and Angelfish).
FOOD: Acaras are greater eaters that will eat a wide variety of live and dry foods. Live foods, including Tubifex worms, insect larvae, and crustaceans, are happily accepted. True Acaras can also be fed small fish. Chopped meat, pellets, tablets, and flakes, should also be offered.
B: Three types of spawning methods are common to Acaras.
(1) The first consists of a monogamous pair laying eggs on a previously cleaned rock. The brood and fry are carefully cared for.
(2) The second type is characterized by the eggs being laid on fallen leaves. This enables the pair to move the eggs when threatened by pollution, predators, or drought.
(3) The third type deals with primitive mouth brooding and includes fish of the genera Bujurquina and Tahuantinsuyoa, and two Aequidens species. The eggs are laid on a previously cleaned surface and allowed to hatch. The larvae are incubated in the mouth by one or both parents until they are free-swimming. The free-swimming fry are permitted to reenter the mouth at times when danger lurks.
BP: 7. Depending on the species breeding can be moderately easy to very difficult. Generally it is moderately difficult.
R: "Acara" is a Guarani (Amerindian) word meaning "fish of little worth."
In 1840, Heckle created the name Acara using the local native word for this fish. This created problems as Acara was a synonym used for juvenile Oscars (Astronotus ocellatus). Thus the name Aequidens (meaning "equal tooth") was created.
DC: 4. For the most part, Acaras are hardy fish that, when kept under a regime of frequent partial water changes, prosper and develop full colors. Some of the true Acaras tend to be on the bit aggressive side.

Blue Acara
"Aequidens" pulcher
SYN: Aequidens latifrons
PD: An oval-shaped cichlid with a broad forehead. The body coloring ranges from light gray to black with each scale having an iridescent yellow to turquoise spots. Five to eight transverse stripes are present, but often not visible, on the body. The cheeks and gill cover are marked with turquoise spots and lines. The fins are marked with a covering of iridescent turquoise to dark blue splotches and the caudal fin and rear part of the anal fin may be marked with a pink tint. The upper crest of the dorsal fin is occasionally orange.
SIZE: To 8" (20 cm) in nature, although rarely larger than 6.3" (16 cm) in captivity.
SS: "Aequidens" coeruleopunctatus, A. latifrons, A. rivulatus.
HAB: Northern South America and Southern Central America; Colombia, Panama, Trinidad, Tobago, Venezuela
S: bottom, middle
TANK: A tank measuring 36" (91 cm) with a volume of 35 gallons (132 L) is sufficient. The tank should have strong lighting and a fine gravel or sand substrate is recommended. Use hardy plants in the back and corners of the tank. Hiding places of rocks, roots, and wood are suggested, as are open swimming areas.
WATER: pH 6-8 (7.0), 1-25 dH (10), 68-77F (20-25C)
SB: A territorial, though peaceful species that can be combined with similarly-sized companions. Pairs from monogamous bonds and later, nuclear families.
SC: Pimelodids, Loricarids, Doradids, "Cichlasoma," Severum, other Acaras, larger characins,
FOOD: Live; insect larvae, crustaceans, worms, insects; chopped meat; tablets; large flakes
SEX: The anal and dorsal fins are more elongated, often extending beyond the caudal fin, on the male.
B: The Blue Acara may spawn several times a year under the right circumstances. The pH should be between 6.5-7.2, the water hardness from 2-10 dH, and the temperature from 77-82F (25-28C). The eggs are deposited on rocks out in the open. These are fertilized by the male and carefully guarded by both parents. The parents may pick off unfertilized eggs. The eggs hatch after 2-5 days, and the young are free-swimming a few days later. The parents continue their care for the fry, which can be fed on Artemia nauplii and roftiers.
BP: 5. Breeding is easy.
R: The Blue Acara group is undergoing further revisions, so this is why Aequidens appears in quotation marks. Fish are sexually mature from 2.8" (7 cm). The Blue Acara is a greedy eater whose excrement quickly dirties the water. Thus it is essential to make frequent partial water changes and not to overpopulate the tank. Most fish available to the hobby are bred in Florida or Southeast Asia and lack the coloration of wild-caught specimen.
DC: 4. The Blue Acara is a hardy cichlid which requires regular water changes.

Green Terror, Rivulatus
"Aequidens" rivulatus
SYN: Acara aequinoctialis, A. rivulata, Chromis rivulatus
PD: An oval-shaped cichlid with a rounded caudal fin. Older males develop a large lump on the forehead. The upper back is olive green, while the flanks are iridescent light green. Each scale has a dark green marking giving the fish several sets of broken stripes. Two to four iridescent gold, lateral stripes are also located in this area. The belly is pinkish brown as is the head. The cheeks are marked with lines and dots that are iridescent turquoise in color. The fins are marked with iridescent green to blue markings and the edge of the dorsal and caudal fins is orange or white-depending on the geographical population.
SIZE: Males to 8" (20 cm), females to 6" (15 cm).
SS: Blue Acara ("Aequidens" pulcher). The Green Terror was known as A. pulcher for some time. Aequidens aequinoctialis may be a separate species as may be A. azurifer.
HAB: South America; Columbia, Ecuador, Peru.
S: bottom, middle
TANK: A 36" (91 cm) or 35 gallon (132 L) tank is sufficient for smaller individuals (under 5"). Adult specimen require a tank measuring at least 48" (122 cm) with a capacity of 55 gallons (209 L). Provide many hiding places among rocky areas and driftwood. Use large, hardy plants if any, because this fish may burrow. Leave an open swimming area.
WATER: 6-8 pH (6.8), 4-20 dH (8), 68-77F (20-25C)
SB: A territorial fish that can be combined with other large, robust, aggressive fish. Pairs form a nuclear family.
SC: Cichlasomines from South and Central America, Pimelodids, Loricarids, Doradids, Silver Dollars, Pacus, Arawana.
FOOD: Large live and dry foods, pellets, live fish, frozen
SEX: Males will develop a large hump on their forehead with age. The females are usually darker in color and smaller.
B: Breeding the Green Terror is somewhat difficult. Try using warmer water with a temperature of 77-81F (25-27C), a pH of 6.5, and a water hardness from 5-8 dH. As many as 300 eggs are laid on carefully cleaned rocks. The fry hatch in 3-4 days and are free swimming after 9-12 days, at which time they can be fed Brine Shrimp. The fry are sensitive to water pollutants and should be changed often. They are slow growing until the reach 3/4", when their growth rate accelerates.
BP: 7. The Green Terror is a moderately difficult fish to breed.
R: Keep up good water conditions for this fish's full colors to come out. Some researchers believe that A. rivulatus has some dwarf sub-species that grow no larger than 5" (13 cm). Sexually mature at 4-5" (10-13 cm).
DC: 6. An aggressive cichlid that is sensitive to old water. The Green Terror requires lives foods.

Saddle Cichlid, Two-spot Acara
Aequidens tetramerus
SYN: Acara dimerus, A. tetramerus, A. viridis, Chromis punctata, C. uniocellatus
PD: An oval shaped cichlid with a large forehead. The body coloration is split at a lateral black stripe. Above the stripe the coloration is dusty-brown, while below the stripe the coloration is off-white. Some populations may have broad bands on the body, while others may not. There is an obvious black spot on the upper part of the caudal peduncle, and a duller one on the cheek. The cheek may have iridescent, worm-like markings.
SIZE: To 10" (25 cm)
SS: L. viridis
HAB: Found in still and slow moving water throughout South America (Guyanas, Venezuela, Brazil, Columbia, Peru). Several different populations are known to exist.
S: bottom, middle
TANK: The Saddle Cichlid requires a tank measuring at least 48" (122 cm) with a capacity of 55 gallons (209 L). The Saddle Cichlid requires frequent, partial water changes to thrive. Provide open swimming areas with retreats and hiding places of wood, roots, and rocks. This cichlid will burrow, so only use well-rooted, hardy plants, if plants are desired.
WATER: pH 6-7.5 (6.7), dH 3-18 (6), 73-81F (23-27C).
SB: A territorial fish that can be kept with other Aequidens and Cichlasoma species. Pairs form nuclear families and are excellent parents.
SC: Cichlasomines from South and Central America, Pimelodids, Loricarids, Doradids, Silver Dollars, Pacus, Arawana.
FOOD: Live; fish, worms, shrimp, insect larvae; pellets; tablets
SEX: Differentiating between the sexes is difficult. Males are usually more colorful and have pointed anal and dorsal fins.
B: Use water with a pH around 6.5, that has a hardness between 5-10 dH, and make frequent partial water changes. The female lays up to 1000 eggs on rocks and roots. The parents aggressively guard the fry, which hatch after 3-4 days and are free-swimming in 3-5 more. Start feeding with nauplii and roftiers.
BP: 7. The Saddle Cichlid is not an easy fish to breed.
R: The Saddle Cichlid is eaten as a food fish in its natural habitat. Most fish available to the hobby are captive-bred, and have, as a result, lost some color. Wild-caught fish are rarely imported, but are a great find. The color of this fish depends on the habitat where it originated.
DC: 6. An aggressive cichlid that must be fed live foods.

Keyhole Cichlid
Cleithracara maronii
SYN: Acara maronii, Aequidens maronii
PD: An oval-shaped cichlid with a short body and a rounded forehead. The body has a mottled golden-brown coloration and occasionally is marked with faint lateral lines. A curved, dark band runs through the eye, from the front ray of the dorsal fin, down to the corner of the gill cover. A characteristic dark splotch, near the midsection of the body, is said to resemble a keyhole - hence this fish's popular name. The fins range from body color to dark green-blue in color. The Keyhole cichlid has the ability to undergo a rapid color change when frightened. The colors can change to a dark brown.
SIZE: To 6" (15 cm) in nature, although males rarely exceed 4" (10 cm) in captivity. Females only reach 3" (8 cm) in captivity.
SS: None
HAB: South America; found in the Rio Maroni on the border of Surinam and French Guyana.
S: bottom, middle
TANK: A 24" (61 cm) tank with a capacity of 20 gallons (75 L) is sufficient. The tank should be well-planted with plenty of hiding places. The substrate should be fine gravel or sand. Leave open swimming areas.
WATER: pH 6.0-7.7 (7.1), 3-20 dH (10), 72-77F (22-25C)
SB: A shy, peaceful cichlid that can be combined with small schooling fishes . The parents form strong monogamous bonds.
SC: Tetras, Hatchetfish, Corydoras, Apistogramma, Loricarids, Gouramis.
FOOD: Live; insect larvae, aquatic insects, crustaceans, worms; flakes; pellets. Provide a varied diet for this fish's colors to stand out.
SEX: Males are larger and his anal and dorsal fins are elongated.
B: Use water with a pH from 6.4-6.8, a water hardness from 3-12 dH, and a temperature from 75-79F (24-26C). An open brooder, as many as 300 eggs are deposited on a previously cleaned stone. The eggs are tended to by both parents, who fan them with fresh water and pick out unfertilized eggs. Sometimes a pair will eat their first brood, but will spawn again in a matter of days. If this behavior continues, the eggs should be removed after they are laid. The fry hatch after 3-5 days and are free-swimming several days later. Start feeding with roftiers and Artemia nauplii. The parents may continue their care for the fry for up to six months.
BP: 6. The Keyhole Cichlid is an easily bred fish that often will spawn in a community tank.
R: The Keyhole Cichlid's name can be derived from its newly assigned genus name: Cleithracara (Kleithron is a Greek word, meaning "lock"). The Keyhole Cichlid requires frequent partial water changes. This cichlid is nervous, thus care should be taken when performing tank maintenance. Most fish available to the hobby are bred in Asia; very few are imported from its native habitat.
DC: 3. The Keyhole Cichlid is a hardy cichlid which can tolerate a range of water properties.

Flag Cichlid, Flag Acara, Curviceps, Sheepshead Acara
Laetacara curviceps
SYN: Acara curviceps, Aequidens curviceps
PD: The Flag Cichlid is oval-shaped with a rounded caudal fin. The body color ranges greatly depending on the population. Generally the back and head are olive gray. The flanks are green to blue in color, increasing in color as they near the caudal fin. Occasionally a few scales may be red. The first rays of the dorsal fin are light-green becoming green, then dark blue on the final rays. This fin is marked with a red edge. The caudal fin is dull red-orange in color with a series of blue, broken lines. The anal fin is the most colorful of all, with the middle rays being deep blue, and the outer partners having similar coloration to that of the caudal fin. Red and blue morphs are also widely available. A black, lateral stripe extends from the eye, back to the mid-section of the fish.
SIZE: Males to 3.5" (9 cm), females to 2.8" (7 cm)
SS: Young Port Cichlids (Cichlasoma portalegrense), Dorsigerus (Laetacara dorsiger)
HAB: Found near the bands of slow-moving rivers and lakes. South America; throughout the Amazon Basin.
S: bottom, middle
TANK: A tank measuring 24" (61 cm) with a capacity of 20 gallons (75 L) is fine for a pair. The tank should have heavy vegetation in the corners and back parts. Use driftwood, roots, and rocks to supply hiding places. The tank should have open swimming areas and a fine gravel or sand substrate.
WATER: pH 6.0-7.8 (7.0), 1-18 dH (8), 72-82F (22-28C)
SB: A peaceful fish outside of the spawning season. The Flag Cichlid can be combined in a community tank with good-sized tetras of the upper swimming levels. However, at spawning times, the pair should be removed so they are not to damage any companions. This species will no harm plants. Pairs form nuclear families.
SC: Tetras, Hatchetfish, Corydoras, Loricarids, Gouramis.
FOOD: Live; crustaceans, insects, aquatic insects, worms, insect larvae; flakes; pellets.
SEX: Males are larger with elongated anal and dorsal fins.
B: Separate the pair from other fish into a breeding tank having water with a temperature from 79-86F (26-30C), a pH of 6.0-6.8, and a water hardness from 1-6 dH. The pair should be conditioned with insect larvae and crustaceans, and frequent partial water changes should be made. Open brooders, that lay as many as 300 eggs on a previously cleaned rock or piece of wood. The eggs may be consumed by the parents. If this behavior continues, the eggs should be removed just after the spawning. In either case, the eggs hatch after 2-4 days, and the fry are free-swimming several days later. The young are very small, and can be fed on liquid foods along with Artemia nauplii.
BP: 6. The Flag Cichlid is not difficult to breed.
R: Fish belonging to the genus Laetacara (derived from the Latin word, laetus, meaning happy) are known as "Smiling Acaras," as a series of dark stripes extend from the eyes to the lips. This gives the appearance that the fish are smiling. The Flag Cichlid does best when kept under a regime of frequent partial water changes. Most fish available to the hobby are captive-bred. Wild-caught specimen have much better colors are far more variable as several different geographical color morphs are known.
DC: 4. A hardy cichlid recommended for community tanks.

Golden Dwarf Cichlid
Nannacara anomala
SYN: Acara anomala, A. punctulata, Nanacara taenia
PD: An oval-shaped cichlid and laterally compressed cichlid. The caudal peduncle is characteristically short, while the dorsal fin of males is highly elongated. The eye is large. The male is much more colorful than the female. His back and upper-parts are olive brown to light brown, as is his belly. The flanks are iridescent blue to green, as are the cheeks. Depending on the mood the fish may display two dark, lateral stripes, and faint transverse markings. The dorsal fin begins as red, but turns green as it approaches the rear. This fin is tipped with a red edge. A white line parallels this red edging. The anal and caudal fins are red to blue or green. The females coloration is much blander. Several color morphs are common. At spawning times the female's coloration changes to a lattice-pattern that crisscrosses on her body.
SIZE: Males to 3.5" (9 cm), females to 2" (5 cm)
SS: Nannacara aureocephalis
HAB: South America; Western Guyana
S: bottom, middle
TANK: A tank measuring 24" (61 cm) with a capacity of 20 gallons (75 L) is adequate. The tank should be heavily planted at the corners and back. Provide hiding places with rocks, roots, and wood. Allow open areas for free-swimming.
WATER: pH 6.2-7.5 (7.1), 3-14 dH (10), 72-81F (22-27C)
SB: Outside of spawning season, this cichlid is peaceful. The Golden Dwarf Cichlid does not uproot or harm plants. This fish can be combined with small fish of the upper swimming levels.
SC: Tetras, Hatchetfish, Corydoras, Loricarids, Gouramis.
FOOD: Live; worms, insect larvae, aquatic insects, crustaceans; flakes; pellets.
SEX: Males are considerably larger, have elongated anal and dorsal fins, and are more colorful.
B: Use water with a pH from 6.2-6.5, a water hardness of 4-12 dH, and a temperature from 79-86F (26-30C). Some authors suggest peat filtration to help stimulate spawning, although most agree that this is unnecessary. Up to 300 eggs are laid in a previously cleaned cave. The male should be removed at this point or else he may be bullied to death by the female. The female continues her care for the young and the fry. The eggs hatch after 2-3 days when they are moved to a shallow pit. The young are free-swimming 4-5 days further. They can be fed on crushed dry foods and Brine Shrimp nauplii. The female attracts the young by vibrating and jerking her body.
BP: 6. Breeding is fairly easy.
R: Several geographical/coloration populations are widely available including orange, red, black, and mottled morphs. Most fish available to the hobby are captive-bred, thus less colorful.
DC: 3. An ideal fish for an aquariast wanting to ease their way into care for other cichlids.

By Rhett Butler







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