You are looking at a 35 gallons tank with gravel as a substrate and heavily decorated with piles of rocks and a few plants. Among those plants, there are a big Aponogeton crispus, some Vallisneria gigantea and some Anubia nana. This hand made tank has a large bottom suitable for American cichlids, its dimensions being 36" x 18" x 18". The hood is also hand made out of pine wood, and it houses two 36" fluorescent, a power glow (Hagen) and a full spectrum (CGE). Aeration is provided with a strong Whisper air pump and filtration is accomplished with a Fluval 203 (Hagen). A 150 watts visitherm heater completes the equipment.
In this tank you can find two breeding pairs of fishes that spawn alternatively. These is a Geophagus braziliensis pair on the right side of the tank, while the left side is occupied by a breeding pair of Archocentrus centrarchus Gill & Bansford 1877, commonly known as the flyer cichlid. These two are currently breeding, as you can see in one of the pictures. This adult male is about 5" total length as the female is about half an inch smaller. These breeders were obtained from a local pet store that imported them from a fish farm in Florida. The breeding pair have been conditioned with flakes food (Wardley's total tropical) and an assortment of different brands of cichlids pellets. The water temperature is steady at 78°F, the tank pH is at 7.0 and the hardness is 5 German degrees of hardness (around 70 and 80 ppm). Weekly water changes of 50% are beneficial to induce spawning of the Flyer cichlid.
These fishes look as an hybrid between an Archocentrus nigrofasciatus, the widely known convict, and the Herotilapia multispinosa, the rainbow cichlid, because of its barred pattern and his ground coloration. In non breeding condition, the Flyer cichlid exhibits a pattern of dark vertical bars over a yellowish background. At breeding time, the female undergo a striking color change, turning almost completely jet black, on a dark gray background. The color pattern of the male changes also, but only when the fry achieve the free-swimming stage. The male adopts a similar dark pattern.
The pre-spawning activities consist of the color change of the female, and plenty of quivering and flaring by both partners. As the females cleans the spawning substrate, the male digs pits around all around his territory. Nevertheless, few plants were uprooted in the process. The couple you see now chose a vertical rock, in some sort of a cave build with flat rocks. The spawn size averages 400 eggs which will hatch after 60 hours at that temperature. The wrigglers are then transferred to predug pits and moved from one pit to the other at regular intervals, in the typical American cichlid manner. After five days, the fry are free swimming and are eagerly accepting newly hatched brine shrimp nauplii. After a short while, they can switch to finely crushed flake food. They grow very fast, if provided with sufficient tank space at this point, and as well as a good water quality, which goes hand to hand with a good nitrogen cycle management schedule, e.g. plenty of water changes and good filtration.
Behaviorally speaking, this typical central American cichlid compares to the well know convict cichlid for his interspecific relationships with other fishes, even if they achieve a bigger size when adult. However, the males can become rather nasty and easily kill the females if the tank isn't properly set up to provide plenty of hiding places for the unripe females. In conclusion, the Flyer cichlid fishes is another nice addition to a new world cichlid enthusiast, so don't miss a chance to get your hands on it.
Special rights for exclusive electronic distribution are given to Juan Miguel Artigas Azas, in The Cichlid Room Companion.