GROUPS OF CICHLIDS
Central American Cichlids
This group comprises several genera closely related to the South American genus Cichlasoma, and assigned to it until recently. The earlier name, and also Heros, is still commonly used. Their distribution encompasses lakes, rivers, and streams in not only Central America but also the southern United States and some Caribbean islands. The water in these regions is normally hard and alkaline (pH 7.5-8.0), and still or with a slow to moderate flow. The maintenance/breeding temperature is 24-27°C (75-80°F).
All are monogamous, seasonal substrate brooders, with a fairly large territorial requirement – a diameter roughly 5 to 10 times adult male length. Many are highly competitive, and only the smallest species are suitable for a Central American community, and then only in a large (120 cm/48 in) tank. NONE IS SUITABLE FOR THE GENERAL COMMUNITY. They should never be mixed with their Amazonian cousins, whose temperament and water requirements are completely different, though some can be housed with some cichlids from hard water areas of north-west South America. Digging is often frequent and extensive.
Males are usually larger than females and have longer finnage; one sex may be more colourful than the other. Ideally pairs should be given their own quarters, at least for breeding, with 80 cm (30 in) the minimum tank length for the smallest species. The males of some large species may represent a serious danger to the females.
Archocentrus, Neetroplus, and Herotilapia (7.5- 18 cm/3-7 in) are omnivorous cave brooders, feeding on invertebrates and some vegetable matter. Apart from Herotilapia and Archocentrus centrarchus, they tend to be very belligerent for their size. Thorichthys (10-15 cm/4-6 in) breed in caves or other sheltered sites (for example, between rocks, or beneath overhangs) and are insectivores.
Chuco, Copora, Paraneetroplus, Tomocichla, and Theraps (13-30 cm/5-12 in) are also cave brooders, but occur in faster-flowing water than other Central Americans. They require a rocky habitat. Paraneetroplus are herbivorous and the others largely insectivorous. Copora nicaraguensis is unusual for a substrate spawner in that its eggs are non-adhesive, laid in a pit, and taken into the mouth for cleaning.
Herichthys, Paratheraps, and Vieja (20-35 cm/8-14 in) are herbivorous open brooders, generally with little sexual dimorphism. Although peaceful in relation to their size, they require spacious (minimum 120 x 50 cm/48 x 18 in) private breeding quarters.Amphilophus (20-30 cm/8-12 in) are bottom-sifting omnivores. Some of these open brooders are extremely intolerant of con-specifics or similar-looking con-generics, and males may be a serious threat to females. Nandopsis and Petenia (15-75 cm/6-30 in), the “guapotes”, are open-brooding predators with piscivorous tendencies. They are solitary except when breeding, and are therefore intolerant of other fishes. Bonded pairs, however, are often highly tolerant of each other, and will unite to exterminate any competition.