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What were my first cichlids?  In 2001, I came across the domestic strain of convicts at a Palatine local fish store – Pet Food Warehouse, which sadly, does not exist today.  Back then, convicts were commonly known as Archocentrus nigrofasciatus.  I bought a group of five and I had two pairs breeding on each end of a29 gallon tank within a week’s time.  And the fifth convict?  He was killed on Day 1.  This was the first instance where I discovered that 3 or 5 fish of the sameNew World species in the same tank is not a good number.

I was amazed at how each pair established and defended a territory in a relatively small environment and with no visible boundaries.  I watched one pair spawn and I had no idea what was happening. The female laid the eggs on the end of the tank, on the glass right above the level of the substrate. The other pair spawned the next day, laying the eggs on the other tank end almost at a mirror image position of the first pair.   

And then it was war!! Each set of parents guarded their end of the tank as if they were soldiers making a last stand.  For four days, I watched the pairs dig pits in the substrate on their respective half of the tank, building up the substrate to create sight blinds, like bunkers.  They would move the eggs into pit after pit, not leaving them in a single place for more than half-day.  The males would strut toward No-Man’s Land and battle, taking scales from each other.  One of the males was constantly on the offensive, apparently looking to expand his territory, always pushing the fight.  Sometimes, one of the females would double team the opposing male and a quick skirmish would break out for two seconds with more scales flying.  Other times it was two-on-two, with the males reacting to moves toward their females and the females countering those moves, and so on.

All this is going on with my eye inches away from the glass.  I was fascinated that fish would, or could, behave this way.  I would watch one female “peck” at the snout of her male, apparently getting him in “game shape” and alert to defend the nest, or to help move the babies to another pit, or to dig yet another pit.  Another time, I could actually hear the impact of both males, after charging at each other at full speed, with brute force.  Each circled around after the collision, clearly dazed, and when they came to, they assumed their positions and just kept battering each other once again.

And then….the fry became free-swimming….  First, I was shocked; I did no research, and did not expect babies to be swimming after a week’s time.  I wasn’t prepared to move the fry out or pass them along to anyone, so I could do nothing other than simply watch. Ultimately, both sets of fry became so interspersed such that each set of parents were tending to “their” brood.  But that was not without massive casualties from both families.

And then I bought another 29 gallontank and raised the babies.  The original convicts grew out to be close to six inches in length with wonderful long trailers.  And then I bought more tanks and then acquired Parachromis dovii, the first fish that I submitted under the breeders’ award program.  But I’ll save that story for a future month’s blog entry.

So what does my fish room look like?  I have nothing compared to other club members in terms of number of tanks and gallons.  I have 20 tanks total:


5 gallonsX 3

10 gallonsX 3

20 gallonsX 1

29 gallonsX 2

75 gallonsX 6

100 gallonsX 2

125 gallonsX 2

135 gallonsX 1


Total:1,158 gallons

Stock list February 2012:

Amatitliana species undescribed

Amphilophus hogaboomorum

Amphilophus labiatus (white)

Hoplarchus psittacus

Cichla monoculus

Crencichla cf. lugubris "red-green"

Crencichla sp. atabapo I

Crencichla sp. venezuela

Crencichla lenticulata

Next month’s blog topic?  I have a few in mind, but send me topics that you would like covered in future months.