Interested in Gymnogeophagus gymnogenys?

Gymnogeophagus gymnogenys. Image from

For those South American cichlid enthusiasts out there, especially those fond of eartheaters, John Carlin at Fincasters recently posted a new episode where he interviews Imperial Tropical’s Mike Drawdy about Gymnogeophagus gymnogenys. This is a beautiful substrate spawning, mouth-brooding cichlid found in Uruguay, parts of Argentina, and parts of southern Brazil. It’s a great interview and very informative, especially for hobbyists unfamiliar with the species. You can view it here. The specimens Mike has on display in the video differ in color from the above, but that’s not uncommon.

If you want to learn more about Imperial Tropicals and Fincasters, see the interviews I did with Mike and John, respectively: Mike Drawdy interview, John Carlin interview. I would also encourage you to visit their respective websites.

Congochromis – A genus of beautiful, small, yet sparse species in the hobby

Congochromis sabinae. Photo from
Congochromis dimidiatus. Photo by Anton Lamboj at”.

One genus of dwarf cichlid that seems to get little attention yet includes, in my opinion, some of the most colorful species is Congochromis. These small cichlids (~ 3″) are found in shallow streams within the central African continent (Gabon, DRC, and Central African Republic).

Most of the information available online for this genus focuses on only a couple of species, which you can easily find with a Google search. However, one of the most comprehensive profiles of C. sabinae that I found is on the Seriously Fish website. has some additional nice photos of C. dimidiatus and C. sabinae. As Ted Judy pointed out in the January/February 2017 edition of Tropical Fish Hobbyist, C. dimidiatus would make a good choice for a cichlid nano tank. Unfortunately and I’m not entirely sure why, but none of the species in the genus seem to be easily found in the hobby.


International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List

If you’ve never heard of the IUCN, or its Red List for that matter, you’re probably not alone. However, I believe all cichlidophiles should familiarize themselves with the list, especially those who consider themselves a responsible hobbyist within the context of conservation.

The IUCN “ the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.” Its purpose is to promote global conservation efforts (that’s a simplified description). For a full description, see the IUCN website. Integral to the organization’s mission is evaluating the conservation status of the planet’s flora and fauna. This is where the Red List comes in. According to its website, “The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.”

Simply put, many cichlid species around the world are in trouble, meaning that they may well become extinct without human intervention of some kind. Sadly, some of the cichlid species being sold at your LFS and/or online are in trouble and are categorized as such on the Red List. The list utilizes several categories to distinguish the threat level of wild species in their natural range, as described in the image below.

Structure of the Red List Categories. Image from

What exactly does all of that mean for you? If you buy wild caught cichlids (referred to as F0 in the hobby) and you’re a responsible hobbyist as I describe, then you should be cognizant of their status on the Red List. In other words, I think you should look-up the species you plan to purchase and see what its status is before you purchase it. Please don’t depend on the cichlid vendor to know that information or assume the vendor cares, and don’t knowingly contribute to the unnecessary exploitation of any cichlid species.

Interview about Crenicichla species

If you recall my post back in February about trying to interview Dr. Henrique Varella from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, you’ll remember I said I was going to try to reach him again. I communicated with him over a year ago and we couldn’t make the interview happen for a variety of logistical reasons.

After a couple of recent e-mail exchanges, Dr. Varella again agreed to an interview. I composed a few questions and sent them to him, so I hope we can get this done soon.

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Varella, he is a prolific researcher in Brazil. He has discovered and formally named several cichlid species, including two recent ones from the genus Crenicichla. His most recent is the formal description of the Crenicichla sp. ‘Xingu III’ cichlid (Crenicichla dandara), which you can read a little more about here.

Stay tuned!

Bloodworm allergies

Bloodworms. Image from

Much has been written lately about bloodworm allergies. I’m sure many of you, like me, include bloodworms in your cichlid food pantry. I’ve never had a problem and I’m quite sure most of you haven’t either. However, that doesn’t mean you never will.

As this interesting article at Reef to Rainforest discussed, it’s a good idea to pay close attention to the labels on the foods you purchase for your cichlids.  Nearly anything can be an allergen. You may have a bloodworm allergy and not yet know it, especially if you’ve never handled them in the past. In fact, it doesn’t even matter what form they come in. Just because they’re frozen or freeze dried doesn’t mean you can’t, or won’t eventually, have a reaction.

2018 ACA Convention

Official 2018 ACA Convention poster. Image from

It’s almost that time a year again! The annual ACA Convention is quickly approaching. Sponsored this year by the Houston Aquarium Society and Houston Cichlid Club, the convention will be July 4-8th in….wait for it…Houston, TX.

If you want to meet some of the most respected cichlid keepers in the country, see some of the most beautiful cichlids, and make some new friends in the hobby, you should make an effort to attend. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out. From the gigantic fish room to the vendor room, it’s three solid days of nothing but cichlids. As always, there will be raffles, auctions, and vendor samples. Oh, and did I mention the speakers? If you do anything, attend some of the talks. They are always very informative.

Visit the official 2018 convention website to register, to make accommodations, and see the speaker list/schedule.

Paul Butler interview

Paul Butler

Though I’m a member of several Facebook cichlid groups, I rarely post in them. I use Facebook just to help me stay informed about what other cichlidophiles are talking about.

Just over a year ago, I came across a Facebook post by today’s interviewee that I thought was very interesting. So much so that I asked him if I could copy part of it and write a blog entry about it. He graciously agreed, and you can find it here. One thing led to another, and here we are.

Let me introduce Paul Butler, who resides in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. He is the owner of PB Cichlid Photography and founder of a popular cichlid group on Facebook. As a fishkeeper for 23 years, Paul has kept many species of fish from coldwater and brackish to freshwater tropical and marine. He currently maintains a pond with Shubunkins, a Malawi Haps and Aulonocara tank, and a marine tank. When he’s not watching his fish, he’s photographing them…or someone else’s.

Let’s get going!

The Cichlid Stage: As founder of the Facebook group Cichlid Keeping Done Right (CKDR), describe it for the readers and why you started it.

Read morePaul Butler interview

CARES Exchange publication

Cover of April 2018 issue of The CARES Exchange. Image from

If you’ve never heard of or are not familiar with the CARES program, I encourage you to learn about it. Rather than describe it myself, visit the interview I did with Greg Steeves. He did a fantastic job describing the program, including information about how you can get involved.

Another lesser known benefit of the program is the publication of the CARES Exchange. The latest issue (April 2018 PDF) has a great article written by Pam Chin about Lake Tanganyika, which is quite timely coming on the heels of Wolfgang Staeck’s article about the lake in the latest issue of Cichlid News, which I posted about last week.

The purpose of the Exchange is

…to make available a listing of CARES fish from the CARES membership to those that may be searching for CARES species.

To this end, it includes species for sale with the seller information as well as a section dedicated to those looking for specific species.  However, don’t overlook the articles and other nuggets of information in each issue. NOTE: CARES is not cichlid specific.

A Lake Tanganyika primer

Latest cover of Cichlid News magazine. Image from

If you’re looking for a good summary description of the lake, including some historical information on cichlid collection there, check out the latest issue of Cichlid News magazine. Wolfgang Staeck has written a very nice little article about the lake titled “The aquaristic history of Lake Tanganyika and present threats to its ecology”.

The Cichlid News is subscription only, but it often has articles that you won’t find anywhere else. If you don’t already subscribe, I would encourage you to do so. For a mere $24, you can get the digital version emailed directly to you as a PDF file four times a year ($26 for the print version). The articles are written by knowledgeable cichlidophiles, many of whom are hobbyists just like you. Each issue typically has four or five articles plus a “What’s New Across the World” section that lists both newer cichlid species and species with increasing demand in the hobby. Complete with full color photos and a short fish description, this section might just facilitate interest in a species you’ve never kept. The current issue profiles 10 different species.

Check it out!

Cichlid threat discrimination

Hypsohrys nematopus. Image from Photo by Robert Allgayer.

Have you ever wondered if bi-parental cichlids actually distinguish threats to their brood based on the threat agent? In other words, are cichlid parents able to determine and rank the threat level of other fish (conspecific or not) to the brood their protecting? The short answer is Hypsophrys nematopus (formally Neetroplus nematopus) can. It’s not out of the realm of comprehension that other cichlid species can do the same.

Conducting an experiment in-situ at Lake Xiloá in Nicauragua, a group of scientists exposed 23 breeding pairs of H. nematopus to territorial threats of equal-sized agents from three species: bigmouth sleepers (Gobiomorus dormitor), convict cichlids (Amatitlania siquia), and a species of molly (Poecilia sp.). The nematopus level of aggression exhibited toward these fish in the experiment varied but was conclusive for each species of interloper, suggesting that nematopus can distinguish levels of threats based on the threatening species and vary their own aggression accordingly. However, the aggression you see in your own tank from breeding pairs of cichlids may or may not be similar. While many cichlid behaviors in closed systems (e.g., fish tanks) may mimic natural behavior in the wild, that is not a given for every cichlid species. Remember, this experiment was conducted in a natural setting, not an artificial one like an aquarium.

For more information on the experiment and its results, you can read the paper from Behavioral Ecology here.

Citation: Sowersby, W., Lehtonen, T. P., Wong, B. B. M. “Threat sensitive adjustment of aggression by males and females in a biparental cichlid.” Behavioral Ecology,  ary037. 2018.