Matt Clarke looks at one of the basketmouth cichlids, Caquetaia kraussii.
Scientific name: Caquetaia kraussii
Origin: Colombia: Magdalena, Cauca and Atrato basins, and Lake Maracaibo basin. This species is being farmed in South America. It was introduced to the Orinoco basin during the 1970's and the Llanos drainage in Venezuela. Its subsequent spread is expected to damage the ecosystem.
Size: Males can hit 20-30cm/8-12".
Diet: As the capacious mouth suggests, this is a predator and wild fish feed on shrimp, amphipods, cladocerans and small fishes, including characins and Poecilia.
Water: Unlike some South Americans, these are said to come from harder more alkaline water, around pH 8.0 and moderately hard, 26-31C./79-88F
Similar species: There are two other species in the genus: C. myersi and C. spectabilis. Some also consider umbrifera to be a member of the genus, but this is debatable. While rare, some specialist shops have had all species in stock during the past year.
Identification: This fish can be identified on the basis of the following characters: 10-15 soft dorsal rays, 5-6 anal spines, 8-10 soft anal rays. It looks a bit like C. spectabilis, which is from the Rio Negro in Brazil, but it's more golden with a bigger blotch on the operculum. Prominent bars when fighting or spawning.
Aquarium: According to Galvis et al., 1997 this fish is found in rivers, but prefers weedy swamps and marshes. A tank planted with robust plants would suit it well. The fish are quite aggressive, especially with rival males, so provide plenty of space and hiding places. An adult pair deserve a tank of at least 120cm/4'. Can be mixed with other robust cichlids.
Availability: Not at all common. These were photographed at Wholesale Tropicals, London. We also spotted some babies at Maidenhead Aquatics in Harlestone Heath.
Price: These were on sale for £7.50, but when we called, they only had two left and were trying to get hold of some more.
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