Caquetaia myersi pair in the aquarium looking after their spawn. Photo and Fish by Tonny Brandt Andersen.
(This article was originally published in "Buntbarshe Bulletin" No. 181, pp. 10-15. the bulletin of the American Cichlid Association).
|Quebrada Aguascalientes, Colombia. Photo by Tonny Brandt Andersen.|
Caquetaia myersi female taking care of spawn. Photo by Tonny Brandt Andersen.
Caquetaia myersi protactible mouth structure clearly shows why it is an efficient pedrator. Fish and Photo by Tonny Brandt Andersen.
In 1993 I travelled to Columbia where I visited the province of Caqueta. My travelling companions and I caught Caquetaia myersi in a number of rivers near the town of Florencia. This province is dominated by the Rio Caqueta system, which flows into the Amazon River. We found Caquetaia myersi in the Rio Quebrada Mochilero, Rio Quebrada Aguas Calientes, Rio Quebrada Montanita and Rio Quebrada la Granada. In these rivers we measured water temperatures between 22.7°C (73°F) and 31.7°C (86°F), the pH was between 6.0 and 8.5, and the hardness was under 2 dH. We were aware of the existence of this cichlid before coming to this province, but it is one thing to know that it is living there and another to catch it. We were, therefore, very glad to catch the first specimen in Quebrada Mochilero, and I must say that we were lucky to get both large and small ones during the week we were in Florencia. When you are out to collect fish, it is important to know whether you are collecting for scientific purposes or for the aquarium. Large fish may be desirable for scientific collections, but they are difficult to bring home to Europe alive for the aquarium. Therefore, I mostly collected young specimens. The larger cichlids can be caught using at large net, and the smaller species, as well as the young of the larger cichlids, can be caught using a hand net when swimming around with snorkel and mask. Catching fish this way is not very easy, since the young ones are very quick in the water, and we are not. In Quebrada Aguas Calientes I found a parent with more than 200 fry of a size of 1 to 2 cm (0.4 to 0.8 inches) among the vegetation on one side of the river. I and a friend of mine, F. Ingemann Hansen, caught some of these and were able to bring them home to Denmark where we have our aquariums together in the same place. This way we could both enjoy the results of our travel to Colombia.
In the aquarium the small cichlids grew very fast with ample feeding and weekly water changes. When they reached a suitable size they were moved to a 720-litre (190gallon) aquarium in with other adult cichlids, such as Bujurquina, from Colombia. The aquarium was decorated in order to give the cichlids the best possible surroundings. Wood and large and small stones were placed so that the different species could use them for territorial borders. Flat stones were placed where it was possible to use them as spawning substrates.
Two of the Caquetaia myersi took an area with a flat stone for spawning site and defended it bravely. It was very clear that a spawn would take place because the female, which was a little smaller than the male, got a more intense yellow color, even though the color patterns of males and females are very similar. The similar color patterns made it clear to me that both parents would take part in raising the young and caring for the fry. This was what I saw in the river Quebrada Aguas Calientes although in two other places I saw only one parent with the young.
I have spend many hours in front of the aquarium the last year, especially when it looked like they were ready to spawn. In preparing the spawning site. Both male and female can be seen swimming with head down and tail straight up. Sometimes when they are in this position one of them (I think the male) will open its big mouth and suddenly close it again making a "clicking" sound that is very easy to hear outside the aquarium. It looks to me as if this influences the female, because every time I have seen this I notice a reaction from the female. It could be that this is part of the breeding ritual to stimulate the other sex, but I am not sure. I have only seen them spawn once, and that was when they first spawned. Because I was not aware of anyone breeding this species before, I was very careful not to disturb them. I saw how the female slowly moved over the flat stone attaching the eggs, and how the male followed and in the same movements fertilized the eggs. Similar movements are used by the female when she uses her body and fins to fan fresh water over the eggs. Occasionally she gives a more sudden move to give more movement in the water over the eggs. During these movements she often comes so close to the stone so that she touches it. When another fish comes too close to the breeding site, the male usually chases them away but the female will also take part in defending the territory. They both take part in caring for the eggs. They are not afraid of much bigger "fish." For example, while snorkeling in the Rio Quebrada Aguas, an adult pair came towards me in sudden quick moves to defend their young and I am sure that they would have attacked me if I wasn't careful.
At the same time as they were caring for the eggs, the female started digging a small hole in the gravel not far from the spawning site. I presume that it was to keep the larvae in, but I did not observe this. A friend of mine has told me that the adult Caquetaia myersi helps the larva out of the eggshell. The young eat a lot, they grow fast and become large predatory cichlids which eats, or should I say swallow, any fishes small enough to enter their mouth. It is not the most popular fish to sell to an aquarium shop, but friends in Germany and Norway now keep Caquetaia myersi in their aquaria.
|Quebrada Mochilero, Colombia. Fish by Tonny Brandt Andersen.|