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FAQs on Pike Cichlids

Related Articles: Pike Cichlids, Oscars, Neotropical Cichlids, African Cichlids, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes in General

Related FAQs: Neotropical Cichlids 1, Cichlids of the World, Cichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,

Pike cichlid ID/question        8/9/19
Greetings, WWM fishy folks …
<Hello Linda,>
I have a bonded pair of pike cichlids I got as juveniles (about the size of an average index finger when purchased) from a local big box store — they were unhelpfully labeled ‘pike cichlids’ and of course the staff had no idea what species they were or proper care instructions for them.
<My first introduction to Pike Cichlids was much the same.>
I raised them among other SA cichlids at around neutral pH, and they are now between 20-25 cm long (the one I believe is the male is larger) with the approximate girth of a hefty banana. Internet resources have had a lot of conflicting information, and I haven’t been able to determine whether I have C. strigata or C. sp. “Venezuela.”
<I do not think these are the true Crenicichla strigata, which probably aren't imported much, if at all. But do agree we're looking at the Crenicichla lugubris group of species, which includes both C. strigata and C sp. 'Venezuela'. I suspect that given the hazy understanding that scientists have of this species group, and the hopelessly muddled (and misidentified) photos in the aquarium press, pinning down the precise species would be difficult. Indeed, if these were tank-bred species we might even be dealing with hybrids.>
The male in the photo has his ‘threat dress’ on, which he adopts whenever he’s trying to warn me away from taking photos; the lateral stripe is usually absent similar to the female.
<Yes, and the rosy belly on the female is indicative, too.>
Have you any idea from the photos what they might be?
<See above; Crenicichla lugubris group, but precise species hard to say. But if I was pushed, I'd probably go with the C sp. 'Venezuela' sold as Crenicichla strigata over the years, but probably not that species as such. Crenicichla lugubris itself is another option, but the lack of red would seem to indicate against that.>
The pair currently reside in a 180 gallon tank with a silver Arowana and a young giant gourami who, as you might observe, is an avid photobomber. There used to be an adult short-bodied marbled bichir in there as well, but the pikes began harassing her as they seemed to want to claim the entire tank bottom as their own — at least the parts with hides — so I moved the bichir.
<The smaller Bichirs are rather too gentle to keep with potentially aggressive cichlids; indeed, have seen such Bichirs stripped of their fins when kept with "peaceful for Mbuna" Yellow Lab cichlids.>
Recently, however, the pikes have shown what I believe is nesting behavior.
<Oh dear!>
They’ve been digging out hollows under logs and spending much of their time there, and over the past few days the larger of the pair has been harassing the gourami and even the 18” Arowana when they comes near their burrow. So far there hasn’t been any damage inflicted (except when the Aro got startled and jumped into the center brace, knocking off a few scales), but I worry that if they do start spawning they might cause major havoc in the tank, particularly with the Arowana being naturally prone to jumping.
<A correct analysis. Breeding Pikes is not something to be undertaken lightly. They produce large broods of eggs, potentially thousands of them, and the market for juvenile Pike Cichlids is tiny, at best. So it's arguably not even worth doing. But yes, once defending their eggs, the Pikes will attempt to destroy anything that gets too close. Your problem with moving the Pikes to a smaller tank is if they're stressed enough to de-pair, there's a risk of them becoming aggressive towards each other.>
Would a 75 gallon aquarium be large enough to isolate them long enough to finish spawning provided they get frequent water changes?
Thanks in advance for any assistance you can offer!
Linda A
<Good luck with these fabulous and evidently very healthy fish! Neale.>

Red pike problem please help        11/20/15
Can you guys help me identify this and what i might do to solve this problem its in a friends fish tank looks like hole in the head maybe and some sort of fungus but im really not sure thanks
<Almost certainly Hole-in-the-Head, though of course secondary infections (bacteria, fungi) can infect the open sores on the head and lateral line system. Metronidazole is pretty much the only reliable treatment. You also need to determine why this has happened. Poor diet and high nitrate are almost always the causes. With carnivorous fish you the special problem of how to get vitamins (mostly in plant foods) into them. If your Pikes take quality pellets, then that's not a big deal, and simply offering the odd earthworm or gut-loaded river shrimp will top them up nicely. The problem comes when folks feed them just minnows or whatever. Such foods have little vitamin content, contain thiaminase (which breaks down vitamin B1), and introduces all sorts of unknown parasites and pathogens. Sadly, because the folks selling predatory fish sometimes tell inexperienced fishkeepers to "just add a few Goldfish" for food, this sort of horribly sick predatory fish situation is extremely common. Anyway, treat as per HLLE, and optimise diet and water quality. Cheers, Neale.>

re: Red pike problem please help        11/20/15
Thanks for getting back so quick
<You're most welcome! Neale.>

Dwarf pike ID, is this a female belly crawler?    9/19/12
Hello crew!
I've had this little guy (I thought it was a guy anyway, but from what I now understand it's probably a girl)
<Appears to be so>
 for about six months. He/she was rehomed from my 75g Amazon tank to my living room 140 gallon planted community display tank. The tank has sand substrate, Congo tetras, leopard bush fish, a black ghost, two green Severums, a small tire track eel and assorted smaller type "Plecos". I know it's a bit of a mix and match, but everyone seems to get along fine and there's no out of place aggression.
<Thus far...>
Anyway, I can't remember what she was sold as, but I remember it being wrong, and I have since tried to ID her. The red coloration happened recently, and appears to be female breeding colors of the belly crawler?
<May be this Crenicichla species; can't quite be sure; the distinctness of the lateral splotches, the reddish dorsal fin...>
Hopeful that you can confirm this, or might have an idea regarding the correct species if it's not a belly crawler.
Thanks in advance!
Kind regards,
Aslak Evang
<Am sending this query to our resident Cichlid expert Chuck Rambo, for his input. Bob Fenner>

Dwarf pike ID, is this a female belly crawler?     9/19/12
< Chuck's take.  From the red coloration and the spot in the middle of the dorsal fin it is definitely a female pike. It probably is a Crenicichla cyanonotus that gets up to 20+ cm.>

Would a large pike co exists with a midas?   8/1/10
The pike is at the store and about 12 inches.
<No. Pike cichlids are South American cichlids and store-bought "Midas" cichlids are hybrid Central American cichlids. They have completely different water chemistry requirements. Plus, both species can be extremely
territorial and the imbalance in size and jaw-structure here means that fighting between them is likely to be asymmetrical. I have kept both these fish, and wouldn't dream of mixing them. Of the two, Midas cichlids are
most fun, and in a 200 gallon system my specimen got along fine with an North American Gar, and Ictalurus catfish, a Gibbiceps Plec, some Convicts, some Red-breasted Tilapia and a Jaguar Cichlid. The Midas ruled the roost, and spent all his time at the front digging caves and trying to scare away people who got too close to the tank. By contrast my Crenicichla saxatilis pair had to be kept alone, and all they did was hide, and frankly, they
were among the most boring fish I ever kept. Cheers, Neale.>

Cichlids, neotrop. cross repro. & Crenicichla sys.  -- 02/02/10
Hey WWM crew, I had a few cichlid questions. I just had 2 different types of cichlids spawn. A male jack Dempsey and a female festae. Do you know how they will look or anything of that sort?
<Something in between the two. Hybrids generally aren't particularly attractive, and only in rare cases (and even then, arguably) are the hybrid offspring worth rearing. In almost all cases, hybrid eggs should be destroyed.>
Will they have any sale value?
<None. In fact a negative value. Hybrids are bad for the hobby. Retailers sell them without telling people what they are, and even if they do, some idiot will cross them with, let's say, a Jack Dempsey, and sell what he or she calls "Jack Dempseys" onto another pet store. So now you have fish that are 75% Jack Dempsey, and 25% Cichlasoma festae. Someone thinks they're getting a Jack Dempsey, plans their aquarium accordingly, and ends up with an adult fish that neither looks nor behaves precisely as it should. In short, hybrids are bad. Producing hybrid fish is one of the most thoughtless and harmful things hobbyists can do.>
Also, my LFS has 2 really pretty pike cichlids. One is called a franata pike and the other is a golden pike.
<Crenicichla frenata and, I'm guessing, Crenicichla sp. 'Xingu I'.>
I have a 20 long aquarium with tons of plants. Some of the plants even hang from the glass top for an overhang. Could these 2 go in there?
<Not a chance. Crenicichla frenata gets to at least 20 cm/8 inches in length, and Crenicichla sp. 'Xingu I' to 30 cm/12 inches. Both are extremely territorial and highly aggressive towards similar-looking fish.
<<There are some "dwarf" Pike Cichlid species... RMF>>
Pike cichlids generally are difficult to maintain, and as with any carnivorous fish, an important task is weaning them off dangerous live foods (like feeder fish) and onto proper foods (like earthworms and pellets). Crenicichla spp are extremely sensitive to nitrate, and keeping them in as large a tank as possible is crucial to long term health. This is
much easier to do in tanks where they're kept alone, so there isn't competition. On top of this, I kept a mated pair of (wild-caught) Crenicichla saxatilis as a student, and while very beautiful, these are very nervous, shy fish. They hid all the time, except when feeding. Not that much fun, really.>
They're about 4 inches long each. The tank also has a 6 inch ornate bichir in there. Thank you for your time.
<Always happy to help.>
P.S. A great plant for keeping cichlids and polypterids are those reptile plants with suction cups. Be sure to rinse them off first!
<Yes, do agree with this strongly. The only thing to check is that anything bought in a reptile store doesn't have exposed metal screws or other components that might rust when kept underwater. Ornaments and such designed for dry land use may not be safe in aquaria. Anyway, thanks for the tip! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Cichlids -- 02/02/10
Thank you very much.
<My pleasure.>
I'll just keep a few fry to myself and feed the rest to my payara.
<Why bother? Just wash the eggs down the drain or let some catfish eat them. Feeding live fish to predators tends to cause more problems than it solves. While cichlid fry are safe in terms of thiaminase and fat, using feeders does seem to encourage aggression in fish and doesn't offer much scope for providing economical vitamin-rich foods.>
About the pikes though, would a be able to keep one of them?
<With a big enough tank, sure. They are difficult to maintain, but certainly not impossible.>
He would probably end up in a 40 breeder my himself.
<Too small. Do look at the "Dwarf" Pike Cichlids, but even those are delicate fish, and keeping them properly isn't as easy as their small size might suggest. If you want a predatory cichlid, and plan to set a tank up for their needs, then I'd sooner recommend things like Altolamprologus compressiceps or the rather lovely dwarf Rhamphochromis. Both of these are fairly hardy, and most importantly of all, can be weaned onto foods other
than live fish easily.>
If the pikes are a no go, what about Anableps?
<Not in a 40 gallon tank. Do read about the needs of these BRACKISH water fish. They are schooling fish, and need a tank with a "table" in the middle where they can rest (essentially a slate propped up with a couple of bricks, with just enough water on the slate for the Anableps to beach itself). Although quite easy to keep if you can secure healthy specimens, very small specimens are notoriously poor travelers.>
Or maybe a smaller cichlid like a Firemouth?
<Firemouth cichlids are a lovely, relatively mild sand-sifting species ideally suited to aquarium life. Breeding pairs are territorial, but because they are poor fighters (they have specialised jaws) they shouldn't be combined with other cichlids. Best kept with dither fish, such as Swordtails.>
Also, I'm assuming the payara cannot go in with the cichlids, correct?
<We're talking Hydrolycus scomberoides, right? Indeed not. Maximum length in the wild is something like 60 cm. Unfortunately they almost always die after a few months or a year in captivity. So far as I know, no-one has
kept these fish to maturity under home aquarium conditions. Massive filtration and extremely frequent water changes are almost certainly essential, given the riverine habitat of these predatory fish. In my opinion, they shouldn't be in the trade at all. Cheers, Neale.>

Sveni Pike Cichlid compatibility -- 09/26/09
I have the chance to get a sveni pike cichlid roughly 6".
<Ah, Crenicichla sveni, closely related to Crenicichla saxatilis. Nice, if shy, fish.>
Would they be compatible with some lima shovelnose catfish.
<Provided the Lima Cats weren't too big to eat them, and provided the tank had the strong, well oxygenated water flow Crenicichla sveni requires, yes, they could be combined.>
The largest is 10", then I have three smaller ones about 5" in a grow out tank.
<Hmm... very difficult to say if the 10-inch Lima is too big: you're going to have to judge this yourself. My gut feeling is they'll be fine together, but because Crenicichla are so slender, they're comparatively at more risk
of being eaten than, say, a deep-bodied cichlid of similar length. This said, Lima Cats are generally very mellow and once used to being fed "easy to catch" foods like pellets and earthworms, aren't especially predatory.
This is how public aquaria get sharks to live with smaller fish, by the way; once predators get used to regular, easy meals, they don't tend to view their tankmates as prey. If you're doing the *wrong* thing and using feeder fish, then all bets are off, because you're training your fish to attack any small fish dropped into the tank. Moreover, the use of feeder fish appears to increase aggression, which isn't going to help. I mention these issues because in some parts of the world the dangerous and hopelessly outdated idea of using cheap, store-bought feeder fish still persists, despite all the evidence that Minnows and Goldfish in particular are unhealthy, and cheap fish are disease-ridden.>
I am worried because both occupy the lower portion of the tank.
<Lima Cats are actually much happier at the mid to upper levels, provided the vertical and/or horizontal overhangs are available. With a bit of planning, you should be able to create some narrow crevices for the Crenicichla, while also providing ledges or tall plants for the Lima Cats.>
The larger tank would be a 90 gallon, footprint of 48" x 18", the grow out is a 29 gallon, footprint 30" x 12". The other thing I am worried about is either the larger catfish eating the pike, or the pike eating the smaller catfish. Would it be safe to add the pike to either of these tanks.
<As I say, depends on various factors. Cheers, Neale.>

Pike Cichlid ID/Info  - 3/16/2006 My husband and I recently purchased a Crenicichla xingu 2 and we are having a hard time finding information on this particular species.  I have found 2 pictures online, both of which are completely different from one another.  I wanted to see if you know any information on this species and if you know what exactly they will look like when full grown.  Thank you. David Fillmore < Crenicichla sp. Xingu II comes from the Rio Xingu river in Brazil. These are one of the big ones and can get close to 18 inches when full grown. They prefer water in the mid 70's F. A pH of around 7 is fine. It is a meat eater that will take small fish as well as worms and frozen food too. It likes a tank that is not too bright that is decorated with stones roots and caves. The male is overall a faint steel blue color with the top of his head being an olive color and the bottom of the head being an off white. The female is the pretty one. She has an olive brown body with a rosy pink belly. Her fins are red and edged in white and then black. The top of the head is an olive brown but the bottom is a bright yellow gold color. This is a pretty rare species in the hobby. Most of the time the Crenicichla species Xingu I or better known as the orange pike is offered for sale. The big problem with pike is that they need clean water or they start to get sick.-Chuck>

Pike Cichlid Beat Up And Hiding Hello, I have a 3 inch golden pike which has a  problem.  He was originally in a 55 gallon tank along with a 5  inch tiger Oscar, a 3 inch jack Dempsey, 2 inch Pleco, and a 2 inch  catfish.   The 55 gallon tank is temporary and eventually they  will be in a 90 gallon tank.  Yesterday I noticed that my pike had  some red spots on his side which I could tell were not part of his  colorization.  I spoke to a guy at the LFS who knows his stuff,  and he told me it is probably hemorrhaging, caused by the other fish who  are picking on him.  Then today I noticed that he would not come  out of his cave and when he did he got viciously attacked by the Oscar  and Dempsey.  I took him out of the tank and placed him a 10  gallon tank which I had bought recently as a quarantine tank.   However the tank has gotten a chance to cycle and has only been running  for half a day.  I placed the pike in there because I though he  wouldn't make in the 55 tank another day.  He has been in the 10  gallon for about four hours and hasn't moved at all, he's still  breathing but I don't know what to do.  Any advice that you could  lend me on this situation would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you. Jim <Pikes really don't do too well with other aggressive cichlids. The pike cichlids mouth is for catching smaller fish. It doesn't do too well against other cichlids that may bite it and break it. Your pike is pretty tough and will probably recover from the attacks, but the tougher question is where to put it. The other fish get big but your pike will not be able to tolerate the more aggressive cichlids. Your pike will get about 18 inches when full grown s will need at least a 55 gallon tank all on his own.-Chuck>
Pike Beat Up II    
Thanks for your quick response.  However since I sent my email to  you the Pike while in the 10 gallon still hasn't moved, eaten and is  breathing  heavy and looks really stressed.  He still has the  red marking on his side. I even put so live food in the tank with him  and he didn't even acknowledge it.  When I took him out of the  other tank  (55 gl) I was treating it with quick cure for protozoan  parasites which some of the fish had especially the Oscar.  Can  the parasite from the 55 gallon be the reason for his heavy breathing  and stressed out condition.  I put PimaFix in the 10 gallon to  help him, but nothing.  Is there any medication that I should give  him that would help him recover.  Thank you in advance for your  help. Jim < Sounds like you pike really got beat up. The Nitrofuranace will help with both bacterial and fungal infections. If you pike is listless and non-responsive you could try adding a teaspoon of rock salt per 5 gallons, but after that there is not much you can do except keep the water clean and warm (80+F).-Chuck>

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