OFF TO A FLYING START
The Flyer cichlid is a delightful fish that makes a great introduction to Central American cichlids.
I’m ashamed to say that the Flyer cichlid, Archocentrus centrarchus, had been a rather overlooked species during my time of keeping Central American cichlids, until I acquired a small group back in 2011. But I’m certainly glad I took the plunge, as this a lovely little fish to keep.
Described by Gill and Bransford in 1877, the Flyer cichlid wasn’t commercially available to the aquarium trade until a few specimens were imported into the United
States in 1974 from Costa Rica by Dr. William Bussing, then later into Europe. At retail level, A. centrarchus can be quite an elusive species, which seems to be more readily available on dedicated importers’ lists. This is a shame, as it really is an interesting little cichlid to keep and breed.
Where do they come from?
Archocentrus centrarchus hails from the Atlantic slope of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, inhabiting the quieter parts of rivers and streams in the San Juan drainage system. These fish are also found in both Lago Nicaragua and Laguna Xiloá where they form large shoals and spawn exclusively in the Chara algae weeds.
They are found living alongside many different syntopic species such as smaller Amatitlania nigrofasciata, Neetroplus nematopus to larger Amphilophus spp. and also the predatory Guapotes, Parachromis dovii and P. managuensis.
Recent taxonomy studies place
Archocentrus in its own monotypic genus. While two other species — A. multispinosus and A. spinosissimus — had been placed in the same genus, both have since been re-assigned to new genus placements and are now described as Herotilapia
multispinosa and Rocio spinosissima.
The Flyer cichlid is classed as a small to medium sized cichlid. Certain aquarium populations have been reported to attain a size of up to 20cm/8in, however, a size of 15cm/6in is generally the norm for an adult male. This makes it a very appealing fish to keep, as an aquarium from 120 x 50 x 50cm would be ideal to keep an adult pair along with a range of larger livebearers. As Central American cichlids go, A. centrarchus are quite placid and can be kept in larger groups of eight fish or more. Spawning is generally a natural progression, but depending on aquarium size surplus stock may have to be removed as a pair will become territorial.
If you decide to keep them with other different cichlid species in a large community aquarium, I would perhaps suggest biotope correct Cribroheros
rostratus or Hypsophrys nicaraguensis. You can decorate the aquarium with a sand/gravel mix with rocks and driftwood. You could also try plants such as
Ceratophyllum sp. or Vallisneria and even Java fern attached to wood.
They are an herbivorous species in the wild, feeding on algae and detritus, however,
A. centrarchus will accept many dried and prepared aquarium foods. Higher protein foods such as prawns can be offered but only as a treat. The consensus is that they will fare better on foods which contain vegetable matter.
My own experiences
I first introduced a small group of juveniles into my aquarium back in 2011. Younger specimens are a silvery grey colour with around seven vertical bars. As they mature, the overall body colour will take on a yellow/ green complex with light blue extending from the gill cover through the middle of the flanks. Sexual dimorphism can be weak with this species, but as the fish mature, the male will become more heavily built with a pointed dorsal fin, females appear much more rounded in comparison.
The group grew fairly quickly where sexual dimorphism was becoming a little more apparent. Fortunately, the dominant fish I had a suspicion of being male turned out to be the only male in the group, so I was now left with five females. Two particular females were beginning to change into a slightly darker colour with more pronounced barring and each was defending a corner of the tank. The male and the sub-dominant females from the group stayed together and seemed to ignore the two dominant females. So, I decided to remove the sub-dominant females and keep the male and two dominant females only.
It wasn’t long before the fish started pair bonding. This consisted of close approximate swimming, body shimmering
and occasional jaw locking. Pair bonding in this case seemed to be quite gentle, but this certainly isn’t always the case — Central American cichlids are too intelligent to be that predictable!
A vertical stone was chosen and cleaned as the chosen spawning site. I missed the initial depositing of eggs, but I knew straight away they had spawned, as both fish had dramatically changed from a yellow/green colour to almost black and light grey with thick dark vertical barring.
The pair had deposited a few hundred eggs, but over the couple of days quite a large portion of them were becoming infertile. This initially worried me, but I observed the female picking out the fertile eggs and placing them into the nursery pit — this is unusual as cichlids will pick out the infertile eggs first as a rule; this ensures the fertile ones don’t become infected by fungus.
The eggs finally hatched and became fee swimming fry at around day 6–7, where the pair defended the brood.
Once a pair has formed, these fish can be quite prolific spawners. Always keep an eye on the female, as in the confines of the aquarium there is always the risk of the bond breaking down. This is usually because the male fish is ready to spawn again before the female, resulting in him becoming impatient with her.
Once a pair has formed, these fish can be quite prolific spawners.
These cichlids are fairly placid for Central Americans, and can be kept in groups of eight or more.
Flyer cichlid in normal colouration.