Cursing your cichlids

Image from, courtesy of Getty Images.
“Don’t be such a dick!” Those are the words I spoke this past Saturday while cleaning one of my tanks. Do you ever talk to your fish? I will have to admit, I do so on occasion but it’s not like I ask them how their day is going or anything. It’s usually more within the context of feeding or aggression such as “Why won’t you come over here and eat that?” or “How about you get over of there and leave him alone?”

Of all my fish, there is only one that has what I will describe as a nasty disposition. It’s an adult male Altolamprologus calvus.  He’s who I called “a dick.” I’ve had three calvus, and the other two were more mild mannered. Water change day is always an adventure with him. He’s a beast and just doesn’t like anything inserted into the tank, which is a 75g community Tang tank. I typically have to distract him, unless I want my hand beaten up. Anything that goes into the tank – vacuum tubes, glass cleaners, sponges, hands – gets attacked. At 5.5″ inches, he’s not big enough to cause any real pain. But he can draw blood if he hits you just right. I don’t name my fish, so he doesn’t have a name, but you can call him Mr. Nasty.

I wrote a short piece a few weeks ago about the calvus species and why it isn’t for beginners.


Adult male Altolamprologus calvus Black. Photo by author.
What is interesting about his attacks is that he’s unpredictable. He’ll act nice and calm, entice you into thinking that he’s going to ignore you, then turn on a dime and hit you like a missile. Sometimes it’s just the surprise that startles me. That’s when I curse him. I know, it’s silly. But when you’re not expecting a shot from a 5″ + fish, it’s a bit unnerving. He’ll calm down some after a minute or two once he gets used to the presence of whatever is inserted into the tank. However, you still have to keep an eye on him and know where he is.

I have smaller fish that are aggressive and defensive, but they’re shellies and only come after things that get near their shells. If you’ve ever kept ‘Lamprologus’ ocellatus, you know that they will viciously defend their shell. I have a colony of occies and they peck me all the time when I’m cleaning. Ounce for ounce, they hit as hard as any fish I’ve ever kept. Do you have any fish that behave like that?

2 thoughts on “Cursing your cichlids”

  1. Hi Scott, I’m new to the hobby and just found your blog. I appreciate everything you put into this site; particularly you not having ads—it keeps the focus on the excellent content and expertise you generously share. I’m looking forward to reading your older posts and learning more! Many thanks!

    • Hey Matt! Thanks for the kind words. It means a lot. The blog is my way of paying it forward for all of the help I received when I first began my cichlid journey many years ago. Please share the blog with your fish keeping friends and, if you’re on FB, you might share it there too. The more readers the merrier!


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