Synonyms: Astronotus nigrofaciatus, Heros nigrofasciatum
Physical description: A moderately elongated, laterally compressed cichlid with an oval body shape. Eight or nine transverse bars mark the body. These are sometimes broken. The body color is white to very light gray. The dorsal fin may be yellow to iridescent green, and the other fins can have a green tint. The head is slight gray. The belly may have orange or pink scales.
Size/Length: Males to 6" (15 cm), females to 5" (12 cm)
Similar species: C. spilurum
Habitat: The Convict Cichlid comes from a number of varied biotopes. Central America; from Lake Atitlan and Lake Amatitlan in Guatemala south to Panama.
S: bottom, middle
Aquarium: 30" (76 cm) with a volume of 20-25 gallons (57-98 L) is sufficient for a pair. Use a cover of floating plants and provide plenty of hiding places with over-turned flower pots, driftwood, roots, caves, and rocks. This cichlid eats plants and burrows in the gravel.
Water chemistry: pH 6.5-8.8 (7.0), dH 4-20 (10), 68-81°F (20-27°C)
Social behavior: An aggressive fish despite its size. It is best not to keep an unstable pair in solitude, for the weaker of the mates likely be killed. Try raising a group of fish from youth to get the best pairings. Combine with other similarly sized cichlids. The pairs form nuclear families. The Convict Cichlid is not well suited for the "typical" community tank containing tetras and livebearers.
Suggested companions: Cichlasomines, other South American cichlids, Loricarids, Pimelodids, large Characins, Hemichromis, Tilapia.
FOOD: Algae; live; worms, insets, insect larvae, crustaceans; pellet; flake; plant matter; vegetables; chopped meat.
Sexual differences: The males are generally larger, have larger fins, and a steeper forehead. Females are usually more colorful especially during the spawning season when she develops a yellow-orange underside which serves to attract the brood. Males have a pointed genital papilla.
Breeding techniques: A compatible pair is easy to breed. Spawning conditions can be easily brought about by the feeding of Brine Shrimp and bloodworms. Spawning takes place in a cave or on a previously cleaned, flat rock. The eggs are guarded by both parents. The fry are free-swimming 6-8 days after hatching. The parents continue brood care for 3-4 weeks, although commercially bred parents are less protective of their free-swimming fry. Start feeding with microworms, Artemia nauplii, and fine grade dry food.
Breeding potential: 4. Breeding is easy and usually inevitable in a tank with several males and females.
Remarks: Most fish now available are captive bred and successive generations have lost their natural coloring. Try to find wild-caught pair. The color of a fish varies according to its geographical population. Four color variants are now commonly available: An "albino" form, a pink strain, a gold variation, and a bizarre multicolored morph. Other species in the Archocentrus group include C. sajica, C. septemfaciatum, C. spilurum, and C. spinosissimus.
Difficulty of care: 4. This fish should occasionally be fed live foods. The Convict Cichlid is an aggressive fish.