Territoriality and Aggression with Central American Cichlids

Discussion about cichlids from Central America
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Jim Cumming
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Territoriality and Aggression with Central American Cichlids

Post by Jim Cumming » Sat Mar 16, 2013 2:17 pm

I have 4 large breeding pairs of Paraneetroplus in a 180G tank along with two other (singles) species. Normally, you would think that "all h**l" would break loose when one or more pairs decide to spawn. And normally, that is what very well could happen. I had put up a video of the tank and its inhabitants some time ago, and someone commented on the unusual way I had the flower pots oriented. Not on their side, not inverted with a hole in the side, but mouth up. There was no substrate in the tank (for ease of maintenance) and I had 7 or 8 large pots (10-12" diameter) staggered over the length of the tank. The only decoration was some large plastic plants to provide refuge and create sight-line breaks. I found that with the pots this way, the pairs felt much more secure and capable, protecting their territories (just the area of the pots' opening). It's not unusual to see four pairs (10-12" fish), each above its own pot, challenging other nearby pairs, guarding their eggs or fry sheltered within the confines of their pot. The parents don't seem as nervous as they do if they lay their eggs on the bottom (rock or pot). Now I know this isn't the way nature intended, but it's a possible (short term?) solution to a problem that many CA keepers especially have with some of their fish -one of aggression and overcrowding. Rusty Wessel was recently in town (presenting on Thorichthys and Cichlids of the Yucatan). He has noticed that in their natural habitat, Thorichthys make do with ever-shrinking territories the higher the population densities are. In fact, Thorichthys in his opinion do better when somewhat crowded. And how does he accommodate them in his fish house? Using pots mouth up!! I happened to stumble on this approach many years ago when I had four breeding pairs of 'meeki' in a 25 G tank with a foot print of 18" x 18". I had 5 pots (mouth up of course) in each corner, with bottom to top plastic plants in the center and between the pots along the sides. It was not uncommon to have all 4 pairs tending eggs or young at the same time. The fry would move from their parents to other parents. The pairs stayed in their small territories and even though the fry wandered, the parents stayed pretty much put. I have tried this with a colony of Orange Chromides too and it works!!! Just some food for thought. Here are a few pics of the 180G with pairs in their pots.
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Piotr Koba
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Re: Territoriality and Aggression with Central American Cich

Post by Piotr Koba » Sun Mar 17, 2013 2:52 am

I assume that the edges of the pots pairs have chosen to spawn in create "territory boundaries" to far greater extent than plants do. That is quite clever - fish find their territories only within confines of the pot, hence they do not fight too much, also because between the pots they have fixed neutral grounds. I personally like much more natural scaping of a tank, but I also realize that it is quite difficult to furnish it in such a way, that 4 adult Paratheraps are fine with the "given" territories. More to that, when fish have the possibility to rearrange rocks and substrate, they are more aggressive, because they actually can enlarge their territory; then "all hell breaks loose", which is a common problem for those who like large "cows" as I call these cichlids, but do not own a suitably large aquarium.

To sum up, this might be a good idea, but it also depends on characters of the fish. Cichlids are variable animals and while you might just have luck, someone els might end up with a slaughter in similarly tank... And as I mentioned - not everyone likes pots... :lol:
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Piotr

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Jim Cumming
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Re: Territoriality and Aggression with Central American Cich

Post by Jim Cumming » Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:46 am

Poitr, your points are certainly well taken. I wasn't suggesting that this is the optimal way to keep these fish. I was just pointing out the incredible flexibility that these pairs exhibit, breeding and coexisting under somewhat adverse conditions. If I had my way (more big tanks :D ), I'd certainly maintain them as close to their natural habitat as I could. But realistically speaking, few hobbyists can do that, and still have the fish that they want. My problem is, I love the fish I have, and I want to house them with their best interests in mind, so I guess what I've got going on is a compromise. The fish manage to (more than just) get by, and I get to enjoy having them. Probably selfish on my part :-D. By the way, most of my tanks are set up in a natural way. Ijust have to handle some of my my "cows" in this way. BTW, I'm not particularly fond of pots either. Just wanted to put it out there.
Jim
"The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them".
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Grummie2
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Re: Territoriality and Aggression with Central American Cich

Post by Grummie2 » Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:08 am

Very interesting observation Jim, I'm itching to give it a try, just need some suitable fish and some pots! I have some asfraci that might appreciate the upturned pot, they like boulders but don't seem too bothered about defining the territory, maybe this'll help!
Graham

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Re: Territoriality and Aggression with Central American Cich

Post by CichlidAddict » Fri Mar 22, 2013 2:24 am

I saw your video and am amazed that they coexist and breed in crowded condition. It works because of your set up but also because Vieja species are the most gentle CAs. Try that with Midas or Jaquar and you will likely come up with one pair.

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