Cichlid Room Companion

Breeding tanks

Paratheraps bifasciatus (Steindachner, 1864)

By , 1997. printer

Classification: Captive maintenance, Central and North America.

Paratheraps bifasciatus Paratheraps bifasciatus, photo by David Wong.

This is without doubt the most beautiful fish I have or had ever owned. Paratheraps are vegetarians by nature. Most of them have flat compressed bodies and look very similar. In the genus are Paratheraps fenestratus and Paratheraps hartwegi to mention a few, but the most widely known is the red head cichlid or Paratheraps synspilus. I believe that this genus has been destroyed in the hobby do to hybridization. It is very rare to find a pure form of these fish. (At least in California). The reason being is that most females in this group look alike, a plain tan body with a black swoosh horizontally across and spawns readily with any male Paratheraps.

Paratheraps bifasciatus is a very hyper fish as with all Paratheraps. When moved they take a long time to acclimate to the new tank. And when being chased with a net they seem as though they sprout wings! In fact, the most common method of catching a Paratheraps is picking them off the floor after they flew fifteen feet across your room. This fish spawned in a extremely large tank, my 300 gallon. The tank measured 8'x2'x3' and their tank mates included: Parachromis dovii, P. managuense, Amphilophus citrinellus, Vieja maculicauda, Parachromis friedrichsthalii, and a pair of Hypsophrys nicaraquensis. The pair bonded under a piece of driftwood in the front corner of the tank.

Their daily activity is guarding the corner. Surprisingly this was a fairly peaceful tank, everyone knew their territories quite well, and no one was attacked unless the invisible boundary was broken. The water chemistry consisted of a constant 80 degrees Fahrenheit, pH of 7.0 and a hardness of 60ppm. Lights were on 24 hrs, a double four foot shop light. The pair spawned in the usual Cichlid manner. They simply chose a site in this case was the bottom of the tank. The brood was about 800 fry and the parents guarded them quite well. I didn't bother to keep the batch because I wasn't satisfied with the female I had acquired.

Although I have only seen two fish that I can really call Paratheraps bifasciatus, this is definitely a fish worth searching for. I apologize that I can not tell you how to distinguish a hybrid from the pure ones. But one common clue is that Parateraphs bifasciatus only has the ONE horizontal black swoosh across the body. Most hybrids sold today contain the swoosh along with some faint vertical barring. Avoid those like the plaque! Male P. bifasciatus grow to 12" and females a couple inches smaller. Male bifasciatus have a purple face with yellow, black and red reticulation throughout the whole body ending with a bright fluorescent red tail. Since these fish are vegetarians by nature. They should be trained to eat vegetables when young. I fed mine frozen Krill to retain their color and chopped spinach and other leafy greens and occasionally some fruit. By far the most attractive Cichlid around.


Wong, David. (November 02, 1997). "Paratheraps bifasciatus (Steindachner, 1864)". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on January 22, 2019, from:

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