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FAQs on Neotropical Cichlid Foods/Feeding/Nutrition

Related Articles: Neotropical Cichlids, Central American Cichlids by Neale Monks, African Cichlids, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes in General

Related FAQs: Neotropical Cichlids 1, Neotropical Cichlids 2, Neotropical Cichlids 3, Neotropical Cichlid Identification, Neotropical Cichlid Behavior, Neotropical Cichlid Compatibility, Neotropical Cichlid Selection, Neotropical Cichlid Systems, Neotropical Cichlid Disease, Neotropical Cichlid Reproduction, Convicts, Oscars, Firemouths, Texas Cichlids, Severums, Triangle Cichlids, Cichlids of the World, Cichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,

Hoplarchus psittacus not feeding      1/22/19
Greetings crew. I hope you are doing well.
<And you Robert>
Im happy to say I've kept my aquariums in check for some time now. Im writing to you today due to a rehome i accepted.
An adult Hoplarchus psittacus. Owner didn't say much why he was getting rid of many of his fish. When it got home i noticed maybe why:
<... an unusual cichlid; mostly out of the Rio Negro>
Cloudy eyes and bloody dorsal fin, hole in the head ( mildly) and severe stress, although, i guess any fish as big would also be very stressed. A week in observation in a 60 gal just for him, everything cleared. Good color, no blood, nothing. I received him well fed though, he's around 24 cm, maybe more. After 4 weeks i moved him to the 150 gal south American planted tank: Festivums, yellow acara, fancy Plecs, some unidentified species of big Pencilfish ( 9 cm each).
<These last can be troublesome... mean toward other fishes>
Problem is, while i saw him take bites out of food in the 60 gal, he never showed much enthusiasm for food, but was very active and colorful. He devoured plants massively though.
Now, in the 150, he's become skittish, duller colored, and is not eating, clearly he's beginning to become skinny, you can see a sunken stomach and skinny areas around the dorsal/anal fins.
<I'd move this fish back to the sixty>
Its been 2 weeks in the 150 and still nothing. Tank parameters are ph 7.8,
<This is way too high... this fish needs soft, acidic water conditions>

gh 10 , kh 14, temp is 25 c. These psittacus were brought a year ago by a store and were considerably smaller, so these have grown here. Water is changed weekly ( 75%) properly treated. Water service has been cut for quite a while, so im due 1 week of maintenance ( never been a problem, have gone even 3 weeks, since its not overly stocked and there it is full of plants). I tried soaking the food in garlic but nothing works, he does show interest and sometimes takes bites but spits it out.
<I'd try a good pelleted food (Hikari, Spectrum), and live insect larvae if you can get them>
A lot of the time is scared by other fish splashing water while feeding furiously. He's at least 2.5 times bigger than the biggest fish, how is he scared?
<Strange setting, being moved....>
I have medicine for internal parasites ( Levamisole) and can quarantine again if need be, but i would really like to know if i can try anything else beforehand ( moving a 24 cm fish is stressful for both him and me).
<I would treat this fish with both Levamisole and Metronidazole for possible lumenal issues. IN the sixty>
Food used so far is flake, granules, pellets ( 5 mm size) crumbles. Maybe try a bigger food? I breed roaches for my frogs, but he isnt interested in that either. Problem is he shows interest but most of the time he gets scared, or just spits the food.
The other day i saw him poop and it was a normal, thick poop. Nothing unusual. But, lately ( 4 days ago) he's started twitching his fins, caudal and dorsal, in a way which made me reminisce of mix of shimmies with flaring. He's also started darting, although pretty unusual. Fins are normally extended and he moves around the whole tank, but is skittish to me and active fish.
I link a photo of him currently, i hope you can see it.
Thanks, again.
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Hoplarchus psittacus not feeding /Neale        1/23/19
Greetings crew. I hope you are doing well.
<All good, thanks.>
Im happy to say I've kept my aquariums in check for some time now. Im writing to you today due to a rehome i accepted.
<Okeley dokeley.>
An adult Hoplarchus psittacus.
<Nice! Not a common fish at all.>
Owner didn't say much why he was getting rid of many of his fish. When it got home i noticed maybe why:
Cloudy eyes and bloody dorsal fin, hole in the head ( mildly) and severe stress, although, i guess any fish as big would also be very stressed. A week in observation in a 60 gal just for him, everything cleared. Good color, no blood, nothing. I received him well fed though, he's around 24 cm, maybe more. After 4 weeks i moved him to the 150 gal south American planted tank: Festivums, yellow acara, fancy Plecs, some unidentified species of big Pencilfish ( 9 cm each).
<A better home. Sounds about right in terms of tankmates. Can't imagine your Pencilfish are really Pencilfish at that size -- seems more likely they're Anostomus spp.>
Problem is, while i saw him take bites out of food in the 60 gal, he never showed much enthusiasm for food, but was very active and colorful. He devoured plants massively though.
<Correct. They are very much like Severums in terms of diet. Omnivores, but appreciate fresh greens. Do also try cooked peas, as well as Spirulina-based flake foods or pellets. They should take good quality cichlid pellets too, such as Hikari Cichlid Gold.>
Now, in the 150, he's become skittish, duller colored, and is not eating, clearly he's beginning to become skinny, you can see a sunken stomach and skinny areas around the dorsal/anal fins.
<One thing is to offer the fish equivalent of crack cocaine, also known as earthworms. Most fish go wild for these, and they are both safe and nutrient rich. Do check the tankmates too. If this fish is being bullied, he may be off his food.>
Its been 2 weeks in the 150 and still nothing. Tank parameters are ph 7.8, gh 10 , kh 14, temp is 25 c.
<These are soft water that probably won't be completely happy in hard water.>
These psittacus were brought a year ago by a store and were considerably smaller, so these have grown here.
Water is changed weekly ( 75%) properly treated. Water service has been cut for quite a while, so im due 1 week of maintenance ( never been a problem, have gone even 3 weeks, since its not overly stocked and there it is full of plants). I tried soaking the food in garlic but nothing works, he does show interest and sometimes takes bites but spits it out.
<Cichlids will often eat anything when happy, but nothing when stressed. So review the environment before worrying about him being picky. Chances are that he'll eat more readily once you figure out what's going on.>
A lot of the time is scared by other fish splashing water while feeding furiously.
<A-ha! He's not going to like that. Green foods that he can graze at a leisurely pace may help here, because the other fish will calm down and leave him alone.>
He's at least 2.5 times bigger than the biggest fish, how is he scared?
<He's a fish! Not that bright! Or put another way, he isn't as confident as you about his ability to take down the opposition.>
I have medicine for internal parasites ( Levamisole) and can quarantine again if need be, but i would really like to know if i can try anything else beforehand ( moving a 24 cm fish is stressful for both him and me).
<See above.>
Food used so far is flake, granules, pellets ( 5 mm size) crumbles. Maybe try a bigger food?
<See above.>
I breed roaches for my frogs, but he isnt interested in that either. Problem is he shows interest but most of the time he gets scared, or just spits the food.
The other day i saw him poop and it was a normal, thick poop. Nothing unusual. But, lately ( 4 days ago) he's started twitching his fins, caudal and dorsal, in a way which made me reminisce of mix of shimmies with flaring. He's also started darting, although pretty unusual. Fins are normally extended and he moves around the whole tank, but is skittish to me and active fish.
I link a photo of him currently, i hope you can see it.
Thanks, again.
<Hope this helps. cheers, Neale.>
Re: Hoplarchus psittacus not feeding       1/23/19
Yeah, they are Anostomus now i think about it. No red fins whatsoever though, so unknown id.
<Anostomus Anostomus and Anostomus ternetzi are the two "common" species in the trade. If you send a photo along, I can try and ID the fish for you. They're nice fish of course, but can be territorial, so one to watch if you're dealing with some social issue.>
Regarding the hard water. I stay away from obligate soft water fish ( wild discus, altums, chocolate gouramies) but i thought the psittacus would be fine since theyve been growing in these waters for over a year, although, to be honest, the store brought 10 of them, but i only know of 3 of them that are still alive, we are a small community of hobbyists.
Do you think it is imperative to ro/ di the tank?
<No. It'll help, but good water quality is usually more important for cichlids than the precise pH and hardness. Large cichlids are often nitrate sensitive, so that's the thing to watch. Oh, and oxygen level.>
I have severam pieces of driftwood leaching tannins. Not sure if that helps. This guy was in a community of big cichlids ( bocourty, vieja spp, Oscars) i figured he would be better with me.
<Almost certainly, but still, something sounds "off" here, so would be watching feeding behaviour closely, and adapting feeding accordingly. Cooked peas and stuff like that can be left in the tank for longer, and shy cichlids will slowly graze on them, even when they're otherwise being pushed around at feeding time.>
Thanks, again, Neale.
<Most welcome!>

Re: Hoplarchus psittacus not feeding /RMF       1/23/19
Thank you for your response. Ill see to move him to the 60, but i guess once he's fine he can be moved back to the 150? He just looked to cramped in the 60, really.
<Yes and yes>
Regarding the hard water. Normally i stay away from obligate soft water fish ( wild discus, altums, chocolate gouramies). I thought rehoming the psittacus would be alright since theyve been in the country living in these waters for a little over a year and even grown. I am 100% sure nobody has given their psittacus soft water, nobody does that here for freshwater, although to be honest, approximately 10 psittacus were brought by the store, and i only know of 3 of them to be still alive. Figures, hoo?
<Might be the cumulative effects of high pH....>
He was kept in a community of big cichlids ( bocourty, Oscars, vieja spp) so i figured he would have it easier with me. Before turning another tank into ro/di, do you think a lot of driftwood/leaves would help as much? I have several pieces still leaching a lot of tannins.
<Yes they would help some; not as much as mixing, blending RO/DI>
Thanks, again.
<Welcome. BobF>

Re: Hoplarchus psittacus not feeding      1/24/19
Im send you the link of the Anostomus. They are boisterous among themselves but are oblivious to any other fish.
<I bet! Anostomus are notoriously cranky in home aquaria. They sometimes chase similar-looking fish, but otherwise make good aquarium residents with robust community species.>
They dont look too big in the photo, but they are. Theyve been here for over 4 years. I guess they dont have much longer? :(out of a group of 8 I've only lost one so far.
<They live a while. My singleton has to be a good 8 years old by now.>
Update on psittacus. I did a deep substrate cleaning ( quite hard to reach every area in such a densely planted tank). I also remembered what used to happen with discus and low temperatures. The tank stays at 25 during the day, i raised the temp to 28 over night. The psittacus has fed all day!
Not as much as the rest but he's definitely bolder and swallowing food. No spitting. He has taken tablets and pellets so far. Im making some room to add driftwood right now. Lets see if he keeps eating.
<Indeed; do watch oxygen levels as you warm the water up.>
In 5-6 years this aquarium has suffered quite a few plagues due to inexperience. Last two years have been pretty stable. Since its a planted tank it will naturally tend to accumulate detritus and an increasing amount of decayed mulm. I guess it would be a good idea to restart the tank?
<Not necessarily. To a degree, fish consume the decaying organic material, particularly Anostomus, which seem to be as much detritus and algae eaters as anything else. Rebuilding a tank can make sense, but it's not something to undertake lightly, and does lead to stress for the fish. Of course the main thing is that the filter is happy, so keep that running in a bucket of water so that the bacteria aren't stressed.>
If i miss maintenance for more than 3 weeks fish start to get sick, something which does not happen in my other tanks which are relatively more stocked. Is there such a thing as a "sick" substrate? Holding opportunistic pathogens?
<Not really. Pathogenic bacteria are all over the tank already -- Aeromonas in particular. Mature, deep substrates have anaerobic conditions that hold the bacteria that get rid of nitrate. That's a good thing. When you rip up the substrate, most of those bacteria will die, so nitrate can accumulate faster between water changes. That's a bad thing! Another risk is you suddenly expose hydrogen sulphide produced by anaerobic decay into the water. Assuming you remove all the fish first, this shouldn't be a danger to them. But if you leave the fish in the tank while removing the substrate, it's a potential danger, especially if water circulation is poor. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Hoplarchus psittacus not feeding      1/24/19

<These certainly look like Anostomus ternetzi to me! Nice fish, a little smaller than Anostomus Anostomus, and generally a bit less aggressive. Neale.>
<<RMF, have attached the photo.>>

?... Convict, Dempseys... cichlid... fdg.     4/27/12
One more thing I've been feeding my convicts With Hikari cichlid pellets so I thought my JD's will also eat it but it seems like they are not interested in that food so I'm thinking to buy the Hikari golden. I'm trying to look for a type of food that the two kind of fish will eat. What do you recommend me to buy them? Is it right if I buy them the Hikari golden pellets ?
<I'd try Spectrum pelleted food... of a size appropriate to your fishes sizes. Bob Fenner>
Feeding neotrop. cichlids... child      4/29/12

Hello I have a question a week ago I bought a pair of jack Dempsey I have them in a 60 gallon tank and in another tank I have convicts . I've been feeding my convicts with Hikari staples but when I gave that food to the JD's they ignored soo was thinking if I can feed them with Hikari gold pellets?
Cuz I want to buy a type of food which both fish will eat. is it fine if I get the Hikari gold pellets or what other type of food should I buy for them ? A food that both kinds enjoy?
<Both cichlids are omnivores, so the more variety, the better. Hikari Cichlid Gold is an excellent staple, but you could add some meaty foods (like prawn, bloodworms, brine shrimp, earthworms, squid, tilapia fillet) as well as some occasional green foods to prevent bloating and enhance their colours (cooked peas and cooked spinach are both taken, especially if
the fish are starved for a few days before hand). Cheers, Neale.>

blue Acara feeding  3/28/10
Hi, I have 3 juvi blue Acara sharing a tank with 2 julii cories.
<Mmm, the Acaras might... in time, grow to cause troubles for the Corydoras>
I've had them just under a week now and the two smaller ones are eating everything I give them but the larger one is not interested in food. He has tried flake and bloodworm once and spit them back out right away. I don't think any food has been swallowed. He poop looks empty and pale. This particular fish is very coloured compared to the other two that are eating very well.
<Mmm... this raises a question re the system itself... perhaps it's too small... the two fish being fine there, the highly coloured one too stressed. Write back re the physical dimensions of this tank, these fishes>
The blue on his body is always vibrant and the bars are dark. He is somewhat shier than the other two. The tank's temperature is 80 F, pH 6.6, natural "blackwater" from tannins in Mopani driftwood, sand bottom, live plants, and large rocks. Any suggestions to get this fish to eat?
<I would try some live foods... if the Acaras are big enough, simple earthworms of appropriate size... perhaps cut into sections right before feeding if the worms are too big. Oh... and what species of Corydoras is this? Many prefer cooler (temperature) water...>
How long before he starves?
<Could be days more>
Your experience is appreciated.

Re: blue Acara feeding - 03/28/10
They are in a 36" long 30 gallon tank. The two smaller acara's are 1.5" and the larger is almost 2" (and he did eat some bloodworms today - swallowed them too).
<Ah good>
I am picking up a 100 g (6 foot) tank today and will be setting it up for Severums. Is it advisable to put the acara's in the 100 g tank too?
<If they're about the same size this should be fine>
The Corys were sold as Juliis. I can leave them in the 30g and lower the temperature to 78 F if that's advisable.
Very good. Bob Fenner>

Food for green terror -- 11/03/09
This is Pavan again from India. I have green terror juveniles.
<These are pretty fish, but they do become very aggressive when sexually mature!>
I give them pellets, frozen prawn, dried earth worms.
<Why dried earthworms? Fresh (or live) earthworms are better -- less chance of causing constipation.>
But I would like to give them good food so that I can watch them growing well.
<A good quality pellet or flake, such as Hikari Cichlid Gold, should ensure perfect health. Augment with cooked peas and spinach (for fibre) and live earthworms and mosquito larvae (for a treat!). No need for anything else.>
Please tell the information about what type of other food they accept. in our place we don't have good pet stores.
<These fish are omnivores, and in the wild eat algae, organic detritus, and small invertebrates. So you have plenty of scope to experiment! The main thing is to avoid too many foods that are fatty or contain thiaminase.
Don't take live food from ponds or streams with fish in them. There's a risk of introducing parasites from the wild into your aquarium. But mosquito larvae collected from a rainwater butt, for example, is perfectly safe if there aren't any fish in there.>
If there is something that I can prepare at home, provide it.
<Many options here:
Thank you.
<You are welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: T-Bar Cichlid, hlth., sys., fdg.... English?    8/16/08 Hello, You told me to raise my water temperature he seems to be a little better, like him chasing other tank mates around. When I give him frozen brine shrimp he tres to eat it then spits it back out. He seems to be completely black in colour, really skinny and gets tired really easily. What could I do to help him? Thank you for your time. < Frozen brine shrimp has almost no nutritional value, so I would recommend a high quality pellet food instead.-Chuck>

Re: T-bar cichlid problem thank you for your email so what type of pellet would you recommend thank you again for your help <Ditto this one! Please, use capital letters at the beginnings of sentences, full stops (periods) where they should be, and what the heck push the boat out and use commas if you want. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: T-bar cichlid problem What type of pellet should I get? Thank you. <There are many good foods for Central American cichlids. Since they're most omnivores, using a mixed diet is best. But as a staple pellet, try something like Hikari Gold. Augment with feedings of chopped mussels (good combo of meat and algae), tinned peas, cooked spinach and frozen bloodworms. Live brine shrimp are fine as treats, and provide useful fibre, but not much else. Once a week would be fine. Do remember not to overfeed your cichlids: they will always *seem* hungry, but they don't need as much food as they'll eat! Overfeeding, and consequent water quality problems, especially re: nitrate, are much more serious, leading to things like Hole-in-the-Head. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: T-bar cichlid problem Thank you for your email. <Happy to help.> Well I bought Hikari cichlid gold today and I have JMC high protein fish food an frozen brine shrimp. <Very good.> Do I need to get any other foods because they all seam protein foods? <As mentioned before: greens! These cichlids are all more or less omnivorous, which means they MUST have plant food as well as meaty foods. This is easy to cater for, as described earlier.> Thanks <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: T-bar cichlid problem Thanks for your email. Do t-bars eat lettuce and cucumber? Thanks <If they're hungry, cichlids will eat anything! But lettuce isn't recommended; it contains no nutrition at all. Much better to go with tinned peas, or better still, strips of Sushi Nori. You can buy Sushi Nori in bags of 10 sheets for about 1 UK Pound (convert to your local currency) and that'll last you months. Tear off small pieces, and attach to a lettuce clip or use a rubber band to attach to a stone. Both Sushi Nori and tinned peas are nutritious, safe, and very cheap (you can freeze any tinned peas you don't use, and just defrost a few whenever you need them). Sometimes cichlids will ignore plant foods: don't give in! Let them starve a day or two; it'll do them no harm and much good. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: T-bar cichlid problem 8/16/08 Thanks for your help I will get peas because if I got the sushi Nori my Uaru would eat it all and gard the place I put it (which it used to do with the lettuce). <So offer both! The Uaru is a very herbivorous cichlid, and does need regular feedings of green foods. If you must use lettuce, don't use iceberg or anything red or funky; use old fashioned green, curly lettuce.> How often should I feed them peas? <As often and as much as they want. Squishing the peas helps the cichlids figure out what they are. Green foods do little to no harm to water quality.> Thanks for all your help. <Cheers, Neale.> Thank you for your help. You have helped me a lot. Thanks again!! <You are most welcome. Cheers, Neale.>


Cichlid Mystery... Neotrop., sys., hlth., fdg., beh.    8/6/08 Re: Cichlid Mystery Wild Florida Cichlid Problems (Chuck's Second Opinion) 8/6/08 Hello Crew, hope you have some insight for me, for I am mystified. I have a 20 gal tank with a single specimen Mayan Cichlid (False Red Terror). <Are we talking about Cichlasoma urophthalmus here? Obviously this species, getting to 40 cm in the wild, is far too large for a 20 gallon tank.> < This fish is commonly found in Florida,-Chuck> I've had it since it was the size of a penny; he (theoretical; only going from how bright salmon red he gets when showing off) was netted out of the actual Everglades (where they are an invasive species), and he is now about a year and a half old, and about 5-6 inches long. He is fed a variety of foods: Hikari Gold cichlid pellets, dried Gammarus shrimp, dried bloodworms, live Ramshorn snails and occasionally, live Gambusia and Mollies from a large 65 gal Everglades tank I have in the Florida room, also the source of the snails (and home to a 8-inch Orinoco Sailfin Catfish that I thought was a tadpole once.) ALL his live foods are grown by me, so I have no fear of contamination that way. <Still, I'm leery of using wild-caught fish as food because you're running the risk of introducing parasites that don't normally occur in aquaria and so end up being difficult to treat. As you may/may not know, many parasites pass through multiple hosts, for example a small fish, then a bigger fish, and then a predator bird, then out with the birds faeces into the pond and back to the small fish. Because this cycle can't occur in aquaria or fish farms, these parasites don't normally occur in tropical fish tanks. If you have a fish that happily eats prepared and frozen foods, why take the risk?> So far he is the textbook definition of a Mayan, charging the side of the tank anytime you walk by, and sometimes attacking his own reflection for hours at a time, unless he is hiding behind the huge water sprite planted in there. <OK. These are nice fish; kept one in a high-end brackish aquarium for a long time. They thrive in brackish/marine conditions, and are arguably more mangrove swamp cichlids than anything else.> I went away for 5 days for vacation, so I stuffed his tank with snails and food fish, and had someone feed him some of his pellets about two days before I came back so he wouldn't starve. <OK, here's the first problem. NEVER, EVER "stock up" a tank with food. A healthy small fish like a Neon can go a week without food NO PROBLEMS. A big healthy fish like a cichlid can go two weeks or more without food, and in the wild would have to periodically anyway. In other words: it is better to leave your fish hungry during vacations than the alternative, which is to risk overfeeding them (or having them overfed). Too much food = too much ammonia/nitrite, and that leads to stress.> I came back only to find him lying on the bottom of his tank, in a hole he'd cleared out, looking the palest I've ever seen... his eye-spot was white, and he was still for hours. He had re-arranged his pea gravel extensively, which makes me think he might have been looking for snails. <Hmm... more likely displacement activity. When animals can't do one thing, because of stress or some other factor, they will sometimes do some other, unrelated activity. Humans biting their nails is the classic example: nothing to do with being hungry for protein!> Much testing of water ensued, to no answers... pH is 7.2, ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates under 20 ppm, tank temp is 78, water is general hard, absolutely nothing happening there. <Ah, but you misunderstand. The nitrite/ammonia spike could have easily occurred day 1 after you left, and by now the filter has removed them both from the water, but the fish remains stressed.> The tank is acrylic 20 gal, has an Eclipse 2 (capacity much higher than 20 gal) filter top with bio-wheel in perfect working order and seeded with my own bacteria from other tanks., and there's plenty of aeration in the tank. The tank water gets changed weekly along with all the other tanks. <Still too small. These novelty filters that fit the hood are maybe fine for small tropicals like Neons but have no place in the cichlid aquarium. Too much space is given over to compact cartridges contains junk you don't need like carbon and Zeolite. Not enough space is given over to mechanical media and especially high performance biological media (ceramic noodles). Complete waste of space if you ask me. You should be using a decent canister filter rated at 6x the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. For this species of cichlid a 20 gallon tank makes no sense at all, and long term you're going to find this fish increasingly difficult to keep healthy.> After testing and re-testing and finding nothing to correct, I went and fished out a few snails and threw them in, in hopes that he'd become more animated. <No, doesn't work this way. When fish are sick or off-colour, you don't feed them. You run the risk of making a bad situation worse. A healthy fish -- particularly a cichlid! -- will be begging for food once hungry.> After a few hours and his lights turned off (on a timer, mind you), I could hear the clicking of snail shells against the tank, so I knew he must be feeling better. The next day, after the snails had been eaten, I tossed a few Gambusia in there. It's been 2 days, and he is back to normal, charging the side of the tank every time someone walks by, attacking his food and patrolling his tank, flashing his stripes when he's aggressive or just turning brilliant salmon if I get near... What do you guys think happened? My theory is he might have knocked himself out charging his own reflection, but any and all advice is greatly welcomed. Maybe he missed me? <Suspect a water quality crisis in your absence.> Carol <Hope this helps. Have cc'ed Chuck, our cichlid guru, for a second opinion. Cheers, Neale.> < Sometimes in the dark, fish get spooked by shadows. In a small tank where there is no place to hide it could have damaged himself on an object or on the tank himself. As per Neale's recommendation a larger tank is in order for the best concerns of your Mayan Cichlid.-Chuck>

Feeding, FW   4/7/08 Hello Neale, how are you today? I have a question for you. Is it okay to feed my fishes every other day, or is it best to feed it everyday? I don't want them to starve but my tank has been very dirty lately, which means...i have to clean it :( . Anyway, thanks for all your help. <Hi there. What are the fish? If we're talking small tetras, Danios and the like, they should really be fed daily, though you can safely skip one day a week. Larger fish, particularly predators like big catfish and Oscars, can easily get by on reasonably large meals every other day, and some would suggest that for inactive predators (catfish, lurking pufferfish) that this is indeed recommended. That said, I'm not a big fan of feeding large fish big meals infrequently. I can't help but feel that water quality is better maintained by feeding more frequent but smaller meals (snacks, if you like). Less protein is dumped into the aquarium at any given instant, and therefore the resulting ammonia spike is smaller. For short periods (up to one week for small fish, over two weeks for big predators) most fish can go without food completely. If you're holidaying or find yourself having to deal with filtration problems, then not feeding at all for a while is therefore a perfectly viable course of action. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: feeding 4/8/08 Hi again, i have medium sized cichlids, like firemouths and convicts. Will it still be okay to feed it "snacks" every other day or is it best to just feed it "snacks" everyday. Last, when you say "snacks" how much exactly do you mean? Thanks so much for your previous answer. <Medium sized cichlids like these can/should be given one reasonable sized meal per day. The standard advice holds here as in other situations: you want fish that have gently rounded abdomens but shouldn't look swollen. Stop feeding when the fish are still alert and looking for more, not when they are lethargic and obviously satiated or "full". All the food should be gone within a minute or two. Err on the side of underfeeding. Cheers, Neale.>

Jaguar Cichlid... gen., sys., food   03/04/2008 Hello, I have recently acquired a jaguar cichlid. I'm not sure how old he is, but he's about 10 to 11 inches long. I think he is male. <Lovely fish; difficult to sex.> The lady I bought him from said he had killed his mate, and had been off his food for a week or so. She thinks he killed her because up until that time, the tank had been quite algae-filled, and the female was able to hide. The owner decided to scrub the tank down, and that is when the female became more visible and was killed. <Doesn't really sound very likely, unless the algae were huge kelp-like things!> The owner was an experienced fish hobbyist - in fact, I bought her entire collection: 25 years worth, mostly of African cichlids, along with a community tank and some South American cichlids. I have them in five tanks. <Sounds nice.> My jaguar cichlid is in a 35 gallon tank, with a little driftwood and a rock cave which he sometimes hides in. Tank dimensions are 3 foot by 1 and 1/2 foot by 1 foot. (This is the same size he was used to before I purchased him.) <Ah, the plot thinnens. Simply too small. When I kept this species, it was in a 200 gallon system, and realistically you need to be keeping them in something "jumbo" sized, i.e., 75 gallons upwards; these are BIG, TERRITORIAL fish.> Once he gets better I am looking to move him to a larger tank, but don't want to risk stressing him any further by moving him at present. <Quite the reverse is likely to be true. Provided water chemistry is constant, and he isn't placed in a tank with a larger, territorial cichlid -- moving him is a great idea.> I have had him for a couple of weeks now, and have offered him all kinds of food: frozen fish food that she had been giving him before he went off his food, freeze dried blood worms, flakes, pellets, ground beef, raw fish, live fish, but so far he has eaten nothing. <Well, for a start, stop with the live feeder fish. Live foods generally, and feeder fish especially, appear to bring out aggressive tendencies in fish. Live fish are also parasite time bombs, unless you're breeding your own. One of the most idiotic things in the hobby is the use of Minnows and Goldfish as feeder fish. They are far to high in fat and contain lots of the Vitamin B1-destroying chemical Thiaminase. Bob Fenner (who runs WWM) has made the point in print and elsewhere that Goldfish are then #1 cause of mortality in captive Lionfish! The ONLY safe fish species that can be used as feeders are gut-loaded, home-bred livebearers. Anyway, Parachromis managuensis will eat pretty much anything when settled. Earthworms are a favourite. My specimen enjoyed squid and other types of seafood. Oily fish was enjoyed, by this wrecks water quality, so use sparingly and just before doing a massive water change. Once settled down they eat pellets, and these are truly the ideal staple, being safe and nutritionally balanced.> I had a couple of smaller problem fish - a minnow that was killing its tank mates and a barb that was chewing the fins off its tank mate. I put them in with my jaguar cichlid, hoping he might be tempted to eat them. He does dart at them occasionally, but until this morning he hasn't killed them. Today I found the small barb dead, floating around the tank. The jaguar will look at it and just swim away. He might have killed him, but it's more likely that the barb died of stress. <More than likely territorial aggression. In any case, this ISN'T how you solve aggression problems in community tanks. Tiger barbs for example become nippy when they're kept in too small a group. "Punishing" a specimen because it is doing what its genes are telling it to do is just plain dumb. It's a fish, not a naughty child. So, look at how many Tiger Barbs you have, and if there's less than six, add some more. Do also remember that Tiger Barbs are NOT GOOD COMMUNITY FISH. This is made plain again and again in the fishkeeping press, so there's no excuse for not being aware of this. You simply don't keep them in [a] small tanks and [b] with slow moving or long-finned tankmates. Fine with barbs and tetras, not fine with Gouramis and angels.> The PH is 7.7; nitrites close to zero, ammonia close to zero, the water is not very hard (just above the 'soft' line when I tested it.) He has oxygen (bubbler stone), low lighting, the temperature is around 73 degrees. <Parachromis managuensis needs hard to very hard water with a basic pH and LOTS of carbonate hardness. I'm guessing he's off colour and not eating because the water is all wrong. This is non-negotiable. The pH should be 7.5-8.5, general hardness around 15+ degrees dH, and carbonate hardness upwards of 7 degrees KH. Adding salt and other Mickey-mouse quick fixes are not an option. Raise the KH by incorporating lots of calcareous media in the filter. You can also add tufa rock and other calcareous rocks to the aquarium, but by themselves these have a marginal effect on KH. Crushed coral or crushed oyster shell in a nice big canister filter is the way to go. Water changes need to be generous: these are heavily polluting fish, and this means they produce the chemicals that acidify the water. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm > He seems very shy - not at all the aggressive guy I was told I was getting. He shies away from the walls of the tank if anyone comes near, if I stick my hand in he'll swim away, and he backs away from any food that is dropped into the tank. <Wrong water chemistry, and absolutely normal behaviour under the circumstances.> I've put salt in the tank and have done a 20% water change, but so far nothing has helped. <For the seven billionth time for people who haven't learned this yet: aquarium salt doesn't raise hardness or pH. It is of no damn use in a freshwater tank! Carbonate hardness comes from carbonate and bicarbonate salts, and these are not to be found in boxes of sodium chloride! Also, water changes should be around the 50% mark, weekly.> His water also stinks like dead fish, not strongly but it is there. <Sounds like too much food, not removed quickly; perhaps under-filtered too and certainly not enough water changes.> I'm concerned he is starving himself to death. <He is.> He seems quite active, swimming around and occasionally darting to the surface. <Darting behaviour in stressed cichlids is a very bad sign.> Do you have any suggestions about what I could do to get him eating again? <Many many things. Please read my advice carefully, and then sit back and read the article about water chemistry. It is absolutely critical you understand this, because right now this fish doomed with a capital D.> Thanks very, very much for your help and advice! Dana <Happy to help. These are gorgeous fish, and my specimen was a real show-stopper, but they are not "easy" fish, and Central American cichlids generally need very specific water chemistry conditions to do well. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Jaguar Cichlid, sys.  03/04/2008 Thanks for your help! I'll get him in a bigger tank right away. I have a couple of empty tanks sitting around: a 70 and a 100 gallon, so that shouldn't be a problem. I'll get the water hardness fixed right away too. The jag is such a gorgeous fish, I'd have hated to have him die on me, so I'll be onto this today. Thank you! Dana <Dana, all sounds promising. I hope things get fixed, and you enjoy many happy years with this wonderful fish. Mine was a sweetie, and in the 200 gallon tank not at all aggressive. Possibly was a female though. So difficult to sex. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Jaguar Cichlid, sys.,  food  3/6/08 Hi again, Neale, Well, I've got my jaguar moved to a larger tank (70 gallon), with plenty of crushed coral. The water has tested quite hard - we may need to dilute it just a bit but it's much better. <Wouldn't worry about diluting the water to make it less hard. Central American cichlids like their water to be "liquid rock"! The other thing is that messing about with RO water or whatever adds to the effort and expense of water changes. Central Americans really want big water changes, and that being the case, YOU want things as cheap and easy as possible!> Nitrites, etc. are all low. Ammonia is zero, Ph is 7.8 . Water temperature is 75 degrees. <Perfect.> Today he is moving gravel all over the place, rearranging his aquascape to his own liking, I guess. He hadn't been doing this for quite a long time, so I think that's a healthy sign. <It is indeed! Well done. A happy cichlid is a digging cichlid, that's what I always say.> I've offered him all kinds of delicacies: frozen bloodworms, dried bloodworms, (so far I haven't been able to find any live bloodworms), cichlid pellets (large and small), brine shrimp flakes, tropical fish flakes, frozen cocktail shrimp... He STILL won't eat a thing. <Give it time. Hunger makes the best sauce. Do try earthworms though: they're used as bait in fishing for a darned good reason -- NOTHING is as yummy to a predatory fish as a nice juicy earthworm. So grab a hand shovel, go to the yard, and have a root about.> He just watches the bits of food float around the tank, then turns away and ignores them or swims into his rock cave. He seems active and curious: watches people as they walk past his tank, but quickly backs away if anyone actually approaches him. <The curiousness is excellent and precisely typical of happy Guapote cichlids.> What can I do to interest him in eating again? Why would he be starving himself when he seems otherwise healthy and active, though maybe a bit timid for a jaguar? <Jags are timid; it's a myth I think that predatory cichlids are aggressive cichlids -- quite the reverse in fact. Predatory fish need to go about their business unnoticed, or their prey would see them. Worse, if they got into a fight, their delicate jaws would be damaged. So predatory fish tend to back off rather than go looking for fights. This holds for Guapote (what yours is), for Pike Cichlids and of course for Oscars. Compare with omnivorous or even herbivorous cichlids like Tilapia and Mbuna or even Kribs -- for their size, these fish can be incredibly punchy. In any case, make sure you have lots of hiding places (remember the Golden Rule: the more a fish can hide, the less often it will choose to do so). Floating plants such as Indian fern will also make a big difference, though those big 36" plastic plants are probably going to be easier to use in a large tank with a strong filter.> I really appreciate all your help and suggestions. I'm very new to the whole cichlid scene, though I've done community tanks for a few years. <Ah, welcome to the Cichlid Club! Cichlids really are fish that become members of the family; they're smart and they become tame. When I looked after my Jag it was in a display tank in a lobby area, and we'd arranged some chairs nearby. People would go get coffee from a machine in another room and then come sit by the tank so they could spend a couple minutes "chatting" with the Jaguar and the Midas Cichlid that also lived in there. The two cichlids would go to the ends of the tank and hang out quite contentedly, apparently enjoying the attention (or perhaps trying to get out and kill the big gangly apes threatening their territories!). Anyway, do try the earthworm trick, and also remember these fish hunt at dusk and dawn, so feed first thing in the morning or last thing at night.> Dana <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Jaguar Cichlid Earthworms? Umm... This is Canada: the frozen North! To reach an earthworm, I would have to hire a bulldozer. I'll look up fishing stores and see if they have any. Thanks again!! Dana <Hello Dana. Surely you're can't be much further north than I am here in the UK? But I guess those darned polar winds make a difference. In any case, yes, earthworms should be available from a bait shop. And you can actually grow your own! Earthworm "farming" is a hobby of sorts here in England. There's an excellent little book called "The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms" by Amy Stewart all about what earthworms do, why they matter, and at the end of the book, how to care for them. Fascinating stuff! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Jaguar Cichlid 3/7/08 Hi Neale, I don't know whether or not we're further North than you are, but the ground is frozen solid and we're expecting another 60 cm. of snow over the next 36 hours. <Yikes!> Happily, there are bait and tackle stores that sell worms for people who brave the elements and go ice fishing, so I'll be headed out there after work this afternoon. <Very good.> The jag is still digging and digging and attacking his bubbler. He sure doesn't look sick, though he is much thinner than when we got him. I have no idea how he stays alive after a month without food. <He's a fish, and in the "dry season" likely has to make do with very little food.> I'll let you know whether the earthworms do the trick. <Yes, please do.> Thanks again, Dana <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Jaguar Cichlid -- 03/10/08 Hi again Neale, Here's the jaguar's dietary report: he pays no attention to food whatsoever, including earthworms. I tossed one of his rejects into a different tank for my smaller cichlids and almost started a war. The worm was gone in seconds. I have a fresh one hanging from a suction cup at the side of the jaguar's tank, but he ignores it completely. I thought if I hung it from the wall of his tank, he might notice it more, rather than having it hide in the gravel like the last ones did. He is still moving a lot of rock, swimming around and investigating everything, and ducking into his cave regularly, but he's just not going to eat. If you think of anything else that might help, I'm very open to suggestions. Thanks, Dana <Hello Dana. I can't think of any "quick fix" here except to try as many different things as you can. If the fish is otherwise behaving normally, there may be something sapping his appetite. Bloating, constipation and Hole-in-the-Head all start with a loss of appetite, so consider those options, since all are quite common in cichlids. I'd perhaps treat for Hexamita/Hole-in-the-Head proactively, just in case. This disease is much easier to treat before the symptoms become established and obvious. I'd then run something laxative through the system, such as Epsom salts (see elsewhere on WWM for the details). If these don't help, then something systemically anti-bacterial like Maracyn would be a good idea. All this said, he may simply [a] not be settled and [b] not wild about the foods being offered. Time and variety will fix this. A risky option might be to introduce some other fish of comparable size but sufficiently durable they won't be harmed. Often fish that are reticent about feeding become bolder when they see other fish "take the bait". This is standard practise in marine communities for example, where damselfish fulfill this role admirably. Cheers, Neale.>

Tips For Keeping Large Cichlids    2/16/07 I received your last e-mail and was a little disappointed that the answer I was looking for could not be found.  I understand that I placed a new Green Terror in with highly aggressive fish, but I also heard that Green Terrors knew how to fend for themselves.  I named mine Wimpy. When I first placed my Pike in with the Jaguar, Red Devil, Jack Dempsey, and Convicts, the Pike (being of similar size) made it perfectly clear that he was not scared of jack %$#&! Sorry if that is not acceptable on your web page, but it's the truth. I assumed things would be similar with the Green Terror, but no such luck. So here's the thing.  I already asked this question but received no clear answer.  If I trade in my Green Terror for another fish, what types of fish should I consider, that are aggressive enough to protect themselves. Oh, and I'm not quite sure what size my tank is, it's actually my boyfriends (he's in jail so I can't ask him either), but it's really big, and there are alot of plants and rocks to hide in. In fact, I think there is too much extra space and I should buy more fish. Will ponder this idea a little longer though.  Also, you said that it was a bad idea to feed them feeder fish...I don't quite understand why.  I've read that those types of fish ~love~live food. I've also been feeding them Tubifex worms, and cichlid pellets, is this wrong as well? Please educate me on what is appropriate food for my cichlids.  Thank you. -Marie < All cichlids are territorial to some degree. When ever you add a new fish to a cichlid tank he needs to be big and strong enough to establish a territory. Sometimes this means he needs to take one away from another fish. Most of the time the fish that already in the tank will be the winner. The loser new fish is soon pushed around by all the fish and gets beaten up in the meantime. The best way is to start with a group of smaller fish and try to raise them all together. Smaller fish can inflict less damage and they soon establish a pecking order and the tank stays relatively peaceful. Older fish are already set in their ways and have teeth that can inflict damage. It is much more difficult to mix bigger and older cichlids. Larger fish are usually offered as trade-ins to fish stores so you will probably have fish like Oscars as the most common choices. The green terror was not a bad choice. It just needs to be bigger than the other fish. Next time when you add a new fish you need to move all the rocks and ornaments around, add the new fish and turn off the lights for the night. In the morning all the fish will be busy trying to establish territories and the new fish will have a chance as all the fish compete with one another. You have a very large tank. Feeder fish carry diseases that can be transmitted to your aquarium. To successfully treat your aquarium could cost you 40$/50$/60$ on medications  depending on its size. Feeder fish are a disposable commodity and are fed just enough food to barely keep them alive. They have very little nutritional value. A better choice would be a good quality sinking pellet. Live foods such as earthworms, crickets, mealworms, waxworms and kingworms probably would all be relished by your fish. Just feed once a day and make sure that all of it is eaten in a couple of minutes.-Chuck>

Jack Dempsey Hooked On Blood Worms    11/27/06 I have a 2 inch electric blue jack Dempsey and he is in a 60 gallon tank. He has been pooping stringy white for several days. He is eating fine (although he refuses to eat anything but bloodworms) and moving around fine. Water tests all measure zero for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. No signs of ick on him or other fish in the tank, and the others poop the normal brown/black poop. Is the poop from eating only bloodworms or is it reason to be concerned about something else? Thanks for your help, Kelly < Don't feed him for three days then offer a few blood worms with some other foods like Spectrum pellets. Over time his blood worm only diet will cause problems.-Chuck>

Cichlids not eating  11/21/06 Hello, I have a 75 gallon tank which houses a 10 inch Oscar, 7 inch  Jack Dempsey, and 6 inch Jaguar cichlid.  The past three days  both the Jack Dempsey and Jaguar Cichlid have been acting weird.   When I go to feed them both of them and the Oscar get excited and come  to the top of the tank.  However when I drop the food in both the  Dempsey and the Jaguar eat and then spit out the pellets. It seems as  if they don't want the food.  I've been feeding them Hikari gold  pellets and freeze dried krill.  They usually love both types of  food until the past few days.  I waited a couple of days in hope  that they would take the food from hunger, however they have not.   The Oscar is acting fine and eating well and not bullying the other two.  All of my water levels are fine.  There are no other  signs of problems with the fish and they are swimming around just  fine.  What could have cause both of these fish to suddenly  dislike their food?  Thank you for your help.     Jim <Mmmm, good reporting of your observed facts... It may be that there is more bullying going on than you realize... The fact that the Oscar itself is still feeding leads me to believe it is not the food itself that has become unpalatable... I suggest you separate the Oscar to check the aggression hypothesis. Oh, and just in case there is some sort of non-measured metabolite anomaly at play here, I would do some good-sized water changes (25%) or so, every few days. Bob Fenner> Loui, the Red Devil... not feeding   11/14/06 Hi: <<Hi, Daniella. Tom here.>> I'm wondering if you can help me.   <<I'll give it my best effort.>> Loui Lucifer is our red deviled cichlid. <<Red Devil Cichlid. Just a little help. :) >>>> He is a 10' male in 47 gallon tank. <<10' (inch), not 10' (feet). My apologies, again.>> He used to have a lot of energy and was very temperamental. (I couldn't keep anything in my tank or else he would kill and eat it).   <<Definitely a Red Devil Cichlid! Not unusual for this fish at all.>> Within the last week he has changed.  He does not eat and he stays in one corner in the side of his tank.  He hasn't touched his feeder fish.   <<Too many feeder fish isn't recommended. They're not a good part of a Cichlid's diet. They're not nutritious and can introduce disease(s) into the tank. Yes, Cichlids do feed on fish in their natural habitat but these aren't the same fish we buy at the store.>> I can't notice anything unusual about his appearance except he has turned a much brighter range in comparison to before. He's much paler.  We have tried feeding him blood worms thinking that he might need a change in diet. <<A variation in diet is excellent  but I don't think this is the problem.>> He hardly swims and appears extremely depressed.  We have done a 25% water change.  The pH level is about 8 and I'm not sure what the nitrites are but am taking a sample in.   <<Very good! Ask them to check ALL of the parameters including ammonia, nitrite and, particularly, nitrate levels. Cichlids are not very tolerant of nitrate levels over 20 ppm (parts per million). We, in the hobby, think of levels up to 40 ppm as being 'safe' but this isn't necessarily true for Cichlids. The lower the levels are, the better.>> The feeder fish we bought 2 weeks ago are still alive and had appeared to have ich on them. Would this have an effect on Lou and why he is not eating?   <<Hopefully, Lou will not eat a fish infested with Ich. (I wouldn't!) Unfortunately, the fact that the 'feeders' have Ich means that Lou is liable to get it, especially in the state that he's in. Please, research our site regarding the use of aquarium salt for treating Ich. Much as it bothers me to say this, your Cichlid comes first. Treat your tank with Lou in mind and forget the feeders.>> Could he have an internal infection from these fish?   <<Again, Daniella, this is entirely possible. Without more information, it's very hard to say what might be wrong with him. There are many good foods available for your fish. Stay away from 'feeder fish' for the time being. There are just too many problems associated with them.>> Help. We are really worried and don't feel he's going to make it. <<Keep doing regular water changes to reduce possible high nitrate levels. Use aquarium salt and heat to get rid of the Ich problem. Make sure that you vacuum the bottom of the tank, or substrate, during water changes. This will help in ridding the tank of Ich and nitrates. It sounds like Lou is big and, otherwise, healthy. Hopefully, what I've suggested will bring him back to his 'usual' self. Good luck, Tom>>

Jaguar feeding question    5/28/06 Crew, First off, many thanks for this great site. It's helpful in more ways than you know! My question: I have a 12" Managuense. I have fed it feeder fish although I know I'm not supposed to because of the dangers. I did a search on the site and couldn't find anything about what to feed it. I have read large sticks and things like worms and stuff but do you have a more precise diet? <Mmm, "cichlid" et al. pelleted and stick foods, earthworms, mealworms, cut meat in moderation, fish flesh...> It is becoming quite expensive to feed him feeders so your expertise is appreciated. Thanks much, Matt <I'd cease with the feeders... Bob Fenner> Gold Severum Not Eating    2/17/06 Hello, I have a large Golden Severum in a 55 gallon tank with a Smaller Green Severum and a few other fish, 5 other fish to be exact. My Golden has stopped eating and his fins are a bit clamped, but shows no other sign of stress. All the other fish are fine and seem to be getting along well. The only thing I did notice is that the Green Severums markings have become much more pronounced. This has been going on for about a week now, and I am becoming a bit worried about his health. Once again he does not look to be "sick" just not eating. One more thing, I have tested the water, and done a partial water change, but there doesn't seem to be any water quality problems. Thank you Guy Clemency < I think your gold severum has been sick for a week and the smaller severum is becoming more dominant as the larger one has become sicker. Not eating and clamped fins are not good. I would recommend isolating the fish in a hospital tank and treating with a combination of Metronidazole for internal infections, and Nitrofuranace for external infections. Follow the instructions on the packages.-Chuck>

Red Devil, refusing to eat We have a Red Devil ..it is pink. it use to eat real good with the pellets we fed it and some worms once in awhile ..but now it will not eat and it has become more aggressive. we have this big rock in the tank with the fish and it has become so obsessive of it.. <The aggression and territoriality are normal; this fish did not earn the name red 'devil' for nothing.  How big is the tank?  What are its tankmates?> can't get it to eat at all ..we drained the tank half way and put clean water in thinking that might be it but no change.. <Even better than that (well, nothing's better than a good water change, really), please do test your water for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH.  More than likely, something's out of whack and making him not feel well.  Also, did you dechlorinate your tapwater before putting it in the tank?  Did you match the temperature in the tank?  How often do you do water changes, and vacuum the gravel?  What kind/how much filtration?> We need some help ...we need to know what we can do to make it eat. it wont have anything to do with goldfish either ..chase it and that's about it.. <Well, first off, goldfish aren't a very good food choice, and pelleted foods aren't the best, either.  Try tempting him with some frozen meaty foods, like bloodworms, or Formula One food.  Perhaps try bits of cocktail shrimp, as well.  Failing that, try soaking any of those foods in garlic juice (McCormick makes a water-based garlic extract that you can find in the spice rack at the grocery store, or you could also use garlic gel caps from the vitamin aisle - poke a hole in one end with a needle, and squeeze the oil onto the food, let it soak in).  This may help entice him to eat.> Hope you can help Marilyn <Hope so, too.  -Sabrina>

Colombian Acara not eating Hi guys, I'd like to say thanks to Chuck for his advise on stocking!! I have a new question about an unpleasant situation concerning my gorgeous new Colombian Acara and his loss of appetite.  Here's my set-up: 75 gallon(48x18) - Fluval 404 - PH 7.4(straight from the tap - I don't adjust it) -TEMP 77F Lots of rock and wood for caves and territories Fish: Blood Parrot - 4" Gold Severum - 4" 4 Penguin tetras 4 Giant Danios Red-Tail Shark -2 1/2" New additions(9 days ago): Green Severum - 2" Convict - 2" Colombian Blue Acara - 3 1/2" Here's what's happening: I moved from a 30gal to this 75 and waited for it to cycle (with the fish from the first group). I seeded the tank with stuff from the 30, so it only took a week. But the nitrites didn't rise more than 1ppm, so I think I wasn't stocked heavy enough for a good cycle. Anyway, after waiting to be sure of stable conditions, I then added the Acara, green Severum and convict together all at once(9 days ago) so as to divert aggression from my larger gold sev. and parrot. The convict harasses the green Severum a bit, but the green sev. still eats and hides with the bigger guys who tolerate him, and will grow big enough to stand his ground. My problem is with the blue Acara. During the last 3 days, I noticed that he isn't eating (rejects whatever he takes in his mouth), and is starting to get harassed from the convict, who must sense that he is sick, because the Acara used to chase him and is much bigger. He doesn't seem very active, except when the convict is chasing him. The Acara was bold and hungry for the first 4-5 days or so. The following is noteworthy: 1) I noticed ich on the green sev on the 3rd day, so I medicated with Quick Cure for 3 days (removed my penguin tetras to a smaller tank and half-dosed them) until the signs went away. If I'm right, I should do another 2 or 3 day cycle after waiting 5 or 6 days? < If you really have ich in your tank, then that could be a problem. While looking for little white spots on the fish you must realize that the parasites are attacking the gills too. Some other symptoms would be fishes dashing against a rock or sand too. What for the white spots at treat accordingly.> 2) increased the temp from 77 to 80F to speed up the ich, which is now back down to 77(I thought that maybe the higher temp was making my Acara uncomfortable?) < All your fish could easily handle 80 degrees. This would help combat the ich too.> 3) the tank had a mini cycle after the additions which ended yesterday after nitrites reaching 1ppm(I have done 25% water changes for the past 2 days and now my amm. and nitrites are zero) So, I'm hoping that one of the above is the cause. Maybe sensitivity to the Quick Cure? < The Acara may have been weakened by the ich but usually they are not too sensitive to the medication. Watch out for the medication affecting the bacteria bed. Check ammonia for spikes.> Maybe acara's are really sensitive to nitrites? <Not really> Or maybe a parasite from the beginning? the Acara ate just fine for at least a couple of days though). Your advice would be greatly appreciated. I was told that acara's would be okay with a convict. This Acara has the most colourful finnage. I'd hate to lose him. If it's a case of not being able to live with a convict, I'll take the con back even though he is really cool eats up every scrap). What can I do to assess the acara's condition? < Seperate the Acara from the rest of the tank. Keep him at 80 degrees. Offer him some small washed earthworms. If he doesn't eat them then there is a problem. Watch for additional problems and stay in touch. If he eats the earthworm then fatten him up for a couple of days. Before you put him back into the main tank you can rearrange the decorations add the fish back into the tank and turn off the lights for the night. In the morning all the fish will be busy trying to establish new territories and may not pick exclusively on the new guy. You convict comes from Central America and is well known for being aggressive. If the problem persists then either the Acara needs to toughen up or you will need to get rid of the convict. maybe more decorations are needed in the way of rocks or driftwood.> And should I add aquarium salt for stress relief? < Salt will increase that slime on the fish and not much else> I must apologize that most of my info has come from research on the net - I still lack the knowledge of experience!! (I'm definitely over-sensitive). I've only been at this for 6 months. Should I just wait it out? < Your blue Acara can only take so much abuse. They can go a week without eating but damaged fins don't grow back nearly as nice. -Chuck> Thanks again for your advice! Corey Cormier

Frelling Red Devil! Hi!  I was wondering if you could help me with an issue that I am having with my Red Devil. He is an adult male, and approximately 10 inches in length. About a week ago I put him in a new 60 gallon aquarium and now he has not eaten in a week. The pH is set proper and so is the temp. I have tried all the foods he normally eats and then some. He still won't eat. I thought that it may be  because he is still getting acquainted with his new surroundings but I don't feel like it should take this long. What do you think and do you have any answers that may help me save my fish? He is active and still moves his gravel around. How long can he go without eating?  < Cichlids in general are territorial and seem to be more shaken up by a change in surroundings then most other fish. A couple of things come to mind. If the tank is in a new location then additional foot traffic may make him more reluctant to come out. Brighter colored gravel may make him more obvious and once again more reluctant to come out. Try some washed earthworms to get him going. If the temperature is around 80 then he can probably go a couple of weeks without too much suffering.-Chuck>  Ron Sankary

Jaguar Cichlid Hi. I just recently purchased a very large, I'd say about 9 inches long, African Managuense. I have never seen one this big before that's what tempted me towards the purchase! I am not sure though how much and how often I should feed this species especially considering this size? His second day at home in his new 45 gallon tank he ate all 10 large goldfish that I brought home! Is 10 goldfish in one hour too much? When do you suppose I feed him a gain? He is a monster but I don't want to under or over feed based on his size. Any suggestions on the frequency and amounts for feeding? Thanks! Chris <Hi Chris, Don here. Please make every attempt to get him off feeder fish. Sooner, NOT later you will bring in Ick or worse. You can feed him garden worms as a treat. Many good pellets and sticks out there for large cichlids. Cheaper than feeders, far safer and better food value. But I'd wait three or four days before feeding him again. After ten goldfish he needs a break. Get him good and hungry then try the sticks. Feed as much as he will eat in five to ten minutes. You should feed a fish this size every other day. Siphon out any leftovers and test the water. He will foul it quickly. This fish can hit sixteen inches, you will need a much bigger tank for him in the future. BTW, he's not African but from Central America. Read here http://fish.mongabay.com/species/Cichlasoma_managuense.html  Don>

Green Terror Growing Up  8/31/05 My baby terror has a faint red outline on its tail fin, does that mean its a male? < The red may be based on genetic factors as well as environmental factors too. I have seen no reliable indication that a tail color indicates the sex of the green terror.> What kinds of foods do you recommend so that my terror will grow big and beautiful? < Spectrum pellets, Marineland pellets, OSI flake, and some earthworms when he gets larger.-Chuck>

Pleco feeding Hi, Thanks for your help. I took your advice and got two pleco's to go in my tank with my Oscars and Severums. Everyone is still quite small ( Oscars are already bigger than the rest ). I never see the pleco's eating ( one is Gibbiceps Pleco and the other is a Gold Nugget ), so at night night I place some algae wafers and cucumber slices in the tank. <Good idea. Do you have a bit of sunken "driftwood" in the tank? A very useful adjunct to these Suckermouth South American Catfishes nutrition.> I noticed the Oscars and Severums like these foods as well and my question is : Am I over feeding the Oscars and Severums by leaving large pieces vegetables in tank overnight ? <No worries... these materials won't cause them trouble (unless there's so much in the system that it rots)> I know about the 5 minute rule...but Am worried about the pleco's not having a chance to eat if I don't leave the food in overnight. The tank is a newly cycled tank and is very clean. Thanks, Adam <Do keep an eye on ammonia for a few weeks more... and start in with regular (weekly, biweekly...) gravel vacuum, water changing, etc. Bob Fenner>

Jack Dempsey that won't eat <<Greetings, JasonC here...>> I've got a 5.5" Jack Dempsey Cichlid that I've had for nearly four years that won't eat and exhibits a disturbing reaction when offered food. He will go up to the food, look like he's going to bite it, and then back up and shake his head. He also scratches himself on the gravel sometimes. He's never been anything but a voracious eater in the past and has been growing like crazy since I moved him into a decent sized tank (he grew an entire inch in last month). His colors are brilliant and he looks perfectly healthy, though is very shy (used to eat from my hand, now hides behind rocks). <<How long has it been in this new tank... could just be making the adjustment, or perhaps doesn't have sufficient places to hide.>> I've tried everything I could think of: flakes, pellets, chicken, beef, tuna, bloodworms, live fish. The only thing he's shown any interest in was a baby puffer fish that was in a temporary tank with him for a few hours, and luckily my girlfriend pointed out that puffers are poisonous. <<Lucky is right.>> He shares the tank with a baby Managuense Cichlid that is behaving normally, though they both have decided to move most of the gravel to one side of the tank. <<Any chance of separating these two? Just on the odd chance that the Dempsey doesn't want to share, or perhaps feels a threat from the smaller fish.>> I've been cycling the water very frequently (every four or five days) in case water quality has been lacking. I've also examined him for external signs of disease and even peer down his throat, nothing looks awry. <<Do check your water chemistry... make sure the pH isn't off. You just want to make sure you aren't introducing the problems in your source water.>> It's been about three weeks since he's eaten and I'm pretty stumped, any ideas would be much appreciated. <<You might also try some live bait food, like night crawlers, ghost shrimp, or perhaps even a crayfish. Something to attract interest.>> If there's any information I left out I'll eagerly supply it. Thanks, Nathan French <<Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Jack Dempsey that won't eat Wow, thanks for the speedy response. <<You are quite welcome.>> Answers to your questions: 1. He's been in the tank for about five months. It used to have a small firemouth, juvenile green terror, and jewel cichlid (the first two are currently recuperating elsewhere, the jewel committed suicide but that's another story) but now it's just him and the Managuense. I will try adding some more things to hide behind, I removed a large lava rock when he started getting shy in hopes he'd stop being a "rockfish." 2. I don't believe he's threatened by the Managuense, it's half his size and he routinely bullies it. If they weren't separate species you'd think they are a mated pair, they stay together and attack other fish together. The Managuense has never once attacked him so I'm not worried about it. 3. I haven't tested the water quality and I probably should. <<I agree.>> I've never worried about it in the past because I keep mostly cichlids and they tend to do well in the local water supply (medium-hard, fairly neutral). <<Ever test for chlorine/amine? Do you let your water sit for a couple of days before adding?>> I've been picking up some non-cichlids lately though so it may be time to get a little more serious about water quality. Also you didn't touch on the gravel-scratching behaviour. <<No, I didn't... you mentioned in your previous email that you had checked it over and all seemed well.>> He seems irritated, which is why I suspected parasites early on but just haven't found any. <<Well, you could still treat as if there are parasites.>> I've been thinking of giving him a salt bath, is there any risk to this? <<You mean like the opposite of a freshwater bath for a saltwater fish? I'm not familiar with the procedure for freshwater fish. It would 'seem' like it might work, but I'm not at all sure what the affect would be on your fish. I'll do some more checking around... in the meanwhile, keep up the observation and perhaps consider quarantine and treatment with other treatments if a parasite shows itself.>> Thanks, Nathan French PS: It turns out the (dwarf) freshwater puffers I have aren't poisonous, but still they're too cute to become feeder sacrifices. <<Good enough. Cheers, J -- >>

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