Cichlid Room Companion

Breeding tanks

Nandopsis tetracanthus (Valenciennes, 1831)

By , 2000. printer

Classification: Captive maintenance, Central and North America.

Nandopsis tetracanthus

Nandopsis tetracanthus male. Fish and Photo by Ian Tan.

It was the first time I've seen a Nandopsis tetracanthus when I was at a local fish farm in December 1999. This farm specialized in cichlids and they had 3 beautiful pairs of them. The males were all about 5 inches long with accompanying females at 3 to 4 inches. At that moment, the asking price for a breeding pair was $600 (local currency). That's equivalent to approximately US$350! I was certain I wanted the fish, but not at that price!

A month later, I discovered one of our local fish stores selling N. tetracanthus juveniles (< 3 inches). The price was much more affordable and I was very sure I would bring home a couple of them. I spent a good 2 hours picking out what I thought was 2 males and 2 females. Apparently, sexing them wasn't too difficult as females tend to have a much darker (almost black) belly when sexually active. They are also comparably smaller than the males that are silvery-gold with black speckles covering the whole body.

The group was placed into a comfortable 4 feet tank with gravel and a few pieces of driftwood. pH was maintained at 7 with a temperature between 25 to 27 degrees Celsius. Water quality is maintained with 2 internal power filters coupled with weekly water changes of 60-70%. The fishes were fed Tetra-bitsTM in the morning and frozen bloodworms in the evening. Within 2 weeks, it was obvious a pair had formed as the dominant male has shared his quarters with a female that was slowly growing fuller.

I partitioned the tank into half as the pair became more aggressive towards the other 2 fishes. Amazingly, the other 2 fishes seemed to be able to get along well and had bonded as a pair as well! I found 2 old flowerpots, knocked out their bases and put 1 in each half of the tank.

Nandopsis tetracanthus

Nandopsis tetracanthus female guarding her wrigglers. Fish and Photo by Ian Tan.

The tank was filled with so much activity as the 2 pairs kept trying to chase each other away. The males will "fight" each other while the females will try to square off against each other further down the partition. They will take time-off as the males will then go in circles around his consort and entice her into the pot that was chosen as the breeding site. I've not seen them locking lips but sometimes a male can get so nasty that the female will be frightened away. This could be due to the female not being totally ready.

Another 2 weeks past and the first pair seemed to be ready for spawning as they've cleared out all the gravel in the pot lying on it's side. They were busy cleaning the inside of the pot and were less bothered with the other pair, spending more time flirting with each other and preparing the spawning site. I decided to transfer the pair to a separate breeding tank filled with aged water with fine gravel and an empty pot on its side. It was the following Friday evening when I noticed the female's ovipositor protruding more then usual. The pair was certain to spawn the next day, which they did.

There were easily 300-400 eggs being laid on the bottom of the pot. The female now took over the responsibility of keeping the eggs clean while the male was always on a look out for intruders, which included myself. The eggs took almost 48 hours to hatch and were free swimming after another 5 days. This was accompanied by a color change in the male. He now spots the same color dress as the female. I decided not to remove the parents till a later stage as it was interesting to see how they took care of their brood.

I fed the free-swimming fry with baby brine shrimp for the first 3 weeks before switching to frozen daphnia when they were large enough to handle them. The fry were very robust and easily fed. By the 3rd week, the tank was obviously crowded and it was time to transfer the fry to a larger tank. By the 6th week, all of them were able to take frozen bloodworms. At about 4 months old now, I'm left with about 90 juveniles which measure about 2-3 inches. The male has since grown to 6 inches and the female four. It was definitely a wonderful experience breeding the Nandopsis Tetracantha.

Nandopsis tetracanthus

Nandopsis tetracanthus pair guarding their fry. Fish and Photo by Ian Tan.


Tan, Ian. (January 20, 2000). "Nandopsis tetracanthus (Valenciennes, 1831)". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on January 22, 2019, from: