OFF TO A FLY­ING START

The Flyer ci­ch­lid is a de­light­ful fish that makes a great in­tro­duc­tion to Cen­tral Amer­i­can ci­ch­lids.

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Welcome - WORDS AND PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: LEE NUT­TALL

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.

Tank set-up

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.

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