(This article was originally published in Cichlid News Magazine, Jul-98 pp. 26-27, It is reproduced here with the permission of author Don Zilliox and Aquatic promotions).
Species of Apistogramma and smaller Cichlasoma types dominate my tanks, but on a recent trip to Cleveland for the Ohio Cichlid Association Cichlid Extravaganza I found none listed on the showroom bulletin board. What I did find were "dwarf" pikes (genus Crenicichla), so just out of curiosity I went to check them out. After looking at three pairs of Crenicichla regani Ploeg, 1989, I decided to purchase only one 3" pair. Little did I know I would later regret that decision. At the time I simply figured that they would make a nice addition to a large display tank, and I would have something different to show club members when I arrived back home.
Always having been told that pike cichlids would accept only live foods, I purchased a couple dozen feeder guppies and placed them along with the pikes in a 76 liters (20-gallon), slate bottom tank just to grow them out. A half-dozen 10 cm (4") clay flowerpots were placed in different locations about the tank. I cut an entranceway in each just large enough for the fish to enter, as I normally do with apistos. A few floating killifish-type "mops" were added along with a large handful of Java moss. No gravel or any other type of substrate was used; two jumbo bubble-up box filters completed the setup. All I had to do was sit back and watch the fighting, as I was sure they would kill each other sooner or later. And sure enough the male began chasing the female relentlessly about the tank; I felt so sorry for her that he was removed to an adjacent tank, and both were forgotten. After another two months or so, I noticed both displaying through the glass sidewalls.
Given their interest in each other, I returned the male to the main tank, but a clear glass divider was inserted to separate him from the female. Both live baby brine shrimp and frozen brine shrimp were accepted greedily. All this time the pair was maintained in regular tap water with a hardness of 170 ppm and a pH of 7.5 at a temperature of 26°C (78°F). Next I removed 80% of the water, replacing it with purified RO water at a temperature of 22°C (72°F). This drastic change quickly brought down the tank temperature to 23°C (74°F) with a hardness of 40 ppm and a pH of 6.0. Over the next two days the temperature returned to 26°C (78°F), and the female's belly developed a rosy hue. The divider was then removed and since nothing violent resulted I left the pair together overnight. The next morning the male was patrolling the tank, but the female was nowhere to be seen. Hours later I could wait no longer and began lifting the pots to locate her carcass assuming the worse but instead was delighted to find her hiding under one of them, guarding a clutch of beige-colored eggs hanging from the ceiling by fine, short threads. The male was then immediately transferred to his previous home. Nothing else much was observed for the next five days until I finally noticed wrigglers on the slate bottom under the pot, guarded carefully by the attentive female.
Crenicichlia regani female from the Rio Trombetas caring for her fry, The Cichlids Yearbook 6, page 75. Fish and Photo by Frank Warzel.
By this time the male had reached about 10 cm (4") in length, the female 9 cm (3.5"). He had a light tan ground color with a very dark lateral stripe; the pointed dorsal and anal fins were pale orange edged in bluish-black. The female had more rounded unpaired fins; the dorsal fin contained an extensive black blotch surrounded by a starkly contrasting white border. Five days later I finally observed the fry swimming about the tank, herded along in a small tight school by the female. At this time freshly hatched brine shrimp nauplii were provided, and soon after all the fry were observed with pink, distended bellies. The original feeder guppies were still for the most part present and unbothered; however, guppy fry disappeared as quickly as they were born. After only two months the pike fry were already 2.5 cm (1") in length and removed to their own tank where the water was gradually converted back to regular tap water. The parents were then reunited and have never fought since. For their second spawn I left them together. The female guarded the eggs and wrigglers, with the male joining in the care of the free-swimming fry. I am thankful for this, as I believe that there is no greater pleasure in the hobby than seeing a devoted pair leading young around their tank. I should have taken all three pairs, but I had no idea that they would spawn. I have since learned that my pair is the only of the three to survive.
Eight months after their birth, the F1's are now spawning and rearing fry in regular tap water. One thing I've noticed is that each individual male and female is somehow unique in appearance. Interestingly, some of the fry are much more colorful than the parents. At this time the original pair has not changed in size, but the female now has four black blotches that run together but are all encircled by the white margin in the dorsal fin. In the year-old females, the markings in the dorsal are quite variable (see Warzel, 1996).
I call Crenicichla regani the "gentle pike," because about a dozen adults can be grown out and maintained in a 76 liters (20-gal "long") along with some dither fish with no problems whatsoever. Of a hatch of about 100 fry, I get about 65% males, which isn't bad though the females are much better looking. I don't have a community display tank, but I believe the "gentle pike" would be a welcome addition to any display of small to medium-sized South American cichlids.
Many thanks to Mike Zebrowski of Michigan for collecting the wild fish in the Rio Purus of Brazil and to Wayne Leibel who encouraged me in Cleveland to obtain at least one pair.
- Warzel, F.; 1996; Variation in Crenicichla regani. The Cichlids Yearbook 6:74-79.