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/A Diversity of Aquatic Life


Born in the U.S.A. (and Mexico), the Texas Cichlid, Herichthys cyanoguttatus


By Bob Fenner



The only cichlid family member found in the United States (naturally), Herichthys cyanoguttatus is a wonder in its behavior and coloration while spawning and rearing its young. Further south in its range (in Mexico) this is a food and game fish. In "el norte" its distribution is marked where water temperatures don't fall below 57 F. Happily the lower parts of the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers have some warm water feeder springs that flow year round. 


Herichthys cyanoguttatus Baird & Girard 1854, the Rio Grande or Texas Cichlid. North America; Texas to northeastern Mexico. To a foot total length. pH range: 6.5 - 7.5; dH range: 5.0 - 12.0, temp.: 20 - 33°C. Aquarium image.

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Tank Size:


    Know why it's called the Rio Grande river in Texas? Maybe to hold this cichlid. Honestly, for growth, moving about, alleviating aggression, this fish needs room! Pairs should not be tried in anything smaller than a hundred gallons, an individual (by itself) in a sixty. 

Water Chemistry:

    Most all tapwater sources are fine for this fish, just do adhere to regular, weekly water changes. You can literally see them "light up" with color and improved vitality after these change-outs. 



    About gravel: Texas cichlids are substrate filter feeders, similar to Eartheaters, scooping up mouthfuls of gravel, manipulating it and spitting it back out... not always in the same place as it was before. Arrange any potentially dangerous decorations (e.g. rocks) where they will not fall if undermined. Oh, regarding plants, plastic-only please, unless it's your intention that they be food. 



    Can you say feisty? Most Texas cichlids "get along" in a community tank setting... some are just plain mean, a few others are absolute terrors... taking on most anything live placed in their system. 



    According to Ad Konings (1998) and fishbase.org, Herichthys cyanoguttatus is an omnivore, consuming insects, worms, crustaceans as well as plant matter. Other sources state that it is principally a consumer of vegetation. All captive Texas cichlids I've come across eat most anything and everything offered. 



    This is amongst one of the easiest cichlids to spawn, on par with Convicts. Females may breed when as small as two inches in length. This fish is easy to sex; usually have a largish black spot on the spiny portion of their dorsal fins that males lack; males have a hump-like area on their foreheads and longer, more pointed unpaired fins. 


    Slightly elevated temperature (more than 72 F.) and regular water changes are generally enough to trigger or re-trigger spawning. Take note that this species is a prodigious multiplier, a few to several thousand young can be produced per spawn. Better to have a plan in place for selling, feeding off your excess in advance of their growing. 


    Use of a "whipping boy" or third party fish, to go along with a mating pair is suggested. This gives something other than the female for the male to "pay attention to"... Females being much smaller, they are often lost to aggression... in mating, rearing young, particularly with new pairs or in small systems. The whipping boy species should be something other than a cichlid... fast... and smart. 


    Females find and clean off a solid space to lay their eggs... which may number in the few hundreds to thousands. Males tend toward more territorial guarding functions, but can become overbearing in overseeing the eggs and young. For new pairs especially, it's advised to be prepared to separate the female with a partition or remove her to safe, separate quarters should the mating process prove too punishing. Eggs hatch out in about three days at 25 C. The young are chewed out of their egg shells by the female and placed in a pit dug by her and the male. Young are free-swimming about four days after hatching.  



    Herichthys are notably disease resistant as far as aquarium fishes go. However, if other fishes in their system become infested with ich or velvet, it is possible, though they will likely be the last to show it, for them to succumb as well. This species is easily cured of such ills with readily available chemical remedies. 



    It seems neither saviors nor native fishes are recognized in their own homelands. The Texas cichlid can be found regionally on a time to time basis... but deserves far more attention than it gets. This is a good looking, behaviorally interesting fish that actually likes "right out of the tap" water (sans sanitizer) in most municipalities. 

Bibliography/Further Reading:


Konings, Ad. 1989. Cichlids of Central America. TFH Publications.

Konings, Ad. 1998. The Texas cichlid. It's all about the water temperature. AFM 2/98.

Loiselle, Paul V. 1985. The Cichlid Aquarium. Tetra Press, Melle Germany. 

Loiselle, Paul V. 2001. As might be expected, Texas cichlids can be Texas sized. AFM 2/01.

Sands, David. 1986. A Fishkeeper's Guide to Central American Cichlids. Tetra Press, Blacksburg, VA.

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