Festivum, Festive Cichlid, Flag Cichlid Mesonauta festivus
Synonyms: Acara festiva, Cichlasoma festiva, C. insigne, C. insignis, Heros festivus, H. insignis, Mesonauta festiva, M. festivum, M. insignis
Physical description: An oval-shaped cichlid with some lateral compression. The dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins are elongated and whitish-yellow in color. The back is whitish gray to dark gray. The body is whitish silver. The rear parts of the body along with the caudal penuncle. A diagonal band extends from the tip of the dorsal fin to the eye. This stripe extends to the mouth, although this part is usually very faint.
Size/Length: To 6" (15 cm) in aquaria; as large as 8" (20 cm) in nature.
Similar species: M. festivus was revised in 1991, resulting in the division of the species into five separate species: M. acora of the Tocantins and Xingu Rivers; M. egregius of the Orinoco River in Columbia; M. festivus of the tributaries that flow into the Amazon in Bolivia and Paraguay; M. insignis of the upper Rio Negro and Orinoco River, in the area near the famous Casiquiare Canal; M. mirificus of the Peruvian Amazon.
Habitat: Found near the shore in water with tall reeds and plants in slow-moving are standing parts of streams. The Festivum can be found with Discus and Angelfish in nature. Amazon River in Western Guyana.
S: bottom, middle
Aquarium: A tank measuring 36" (91 cm) with a volume of 40 gallons (151 L) is suggested for adult fish. The tank should be well-planted and have a cover of floating plants. Provide hiding places among roots, rocks, and driftwood. The tank should be well-aerated. The Festivum needs regular partial water changes to thrive. It is sensitive to water pollutants especially nitrates.
Water chemistry: pH 5.5-7.5, dH 2-18 (10), 68-82°F (20-28°C)
Social behavior: A timid, peaceful cichlid that is skittish. A common mistake is combing the Festivum with Neons, which are among the Festivum's natural food. Keep with other peaceful cichlids. Pairs form nuclear families.
Suggested companions: Catfish (Armored, Pimelodids, Doradids, Loricarids), characins (Headstanders, hatchetfish, larger schooling tetras, Silver Dollars), cichlids (Angelfish, Discus, Waroo, Acaras, Ram, Eartheaters).
FOOD: Live; fry, crustaceans, insect larvae, terrestrial and aquatic insects, worms; flakes; pellets. Its diet occasionally needs to be supplemented with vegetarian flakes, oatmeal, or vegetables.
SEX: Difficult to distinguish between the sexes. Males have elongated pectoral and anal fins, although this is not entirely fool-proof. Some claim that males have a longer snout.
Breeding techniques: Breeding is difficult. Try using warm water 77-84°F (26-29°C) with a pH around 6.5 and a hardness around 5 dH. The eggs, numbering 500-1000, are laid on flat rocks, wood, or plants leaves. The spawning site is carefully cleaned. The fry hatch in 2-3 days at 77°F (26°C). The fry hang from leaves for 2-3 more days, and then are free-swimming. Both parents guard the fry. Start feeding with small live foods and crushed flake food.
Breeding potential: 8. The Festivum is a difficult cichlid to breed due to troubles with inducing the pair to spawn.
Remarks: Most of the fish available in the trade are captive bred in Florida. The Festivum reaches sexual maturity at one year. The Festivum is one of the most plentiful cichlids in the Amazon Basin.
Difficulty of care: 5. The Festivum is sensitive to water pollutants and needs to be fed live foods on a regular basis.