Heiko Bleher reveals some of the dwarf Crenicichla species he has found in South America.
Crenicichla sp. aff. nothophthalmus
Origin: Río Inirida, Tres Pedras, El Remanso, Colombia/ Brazil.
Water: pH 5.41.
Habitat: Caño with sandy bottom covered with leaves, driftwood, fallen-in trees in shady habitat. Overhanging jungle trees and tea coloured water.
Notes: Crenicichla notophthalmus was described by Regan in 1913 from the lower Rio Negro, near Manaus, and I found this beautiful dwarf species 2,000km/1,240 miles west in the Inirida basin in Colombia.
This species is distinguished from C. notophthalmus by the male’s tail and different dorsal colour pattern (pictured top). The female (below) is distinguished by its colour pattern, especially eye colours, below the eyes, dorsal fin colours and the two spots in it are completely different from the described species.
C. notophthalmus is also easily recognised by the first three dorsal spines being free standing in the male and second and spine higher than all other dorsal fin rays. Those characteristics are missing in this fish.
Aquarium: This species needs slow flowing water and the aquarium should have areas of low light, like floating plants or a Philodendron growing into it. As tank mates I suggest only small characoids such as Nannostomus marginatus, N. eques, Carnegiella strigata and Moenkhausia oligolepis, and/or dwarf cichlids, Corydoras, Otocinclus and Ancistrus species.
Crenicichla sp. ‘1’
Origin: Água Claras, Leticia, Colombia/Brazil.
Water: pH 3.99-4.05.
Habitat: Fast running large creek covered with sand, many leaves along its edges, roots and submerged fallen trees, shady with overhanging trees. Water tea coloured with no vegetation.
Notes: Less than 8cm.3.1” TL, this does not match any known species. It might look similar to C. macrophthalma which was also described from Manaus but over 1,500km/930 miles east. The described species has no caudal spot and has a humeral spot which is absent in this species.
Aquarium: It should have flowing water and some areas of low light, as this species has adapted to such conditions in the wild. If you want plants with it try some floating varieties, perhaps some Echinodorus species, like E. peruensis. Have Hyphessobrycon species as tank mates, such as H. sweglesi, H. robersti, H. erythrostigma, H. loretoensis and Nannostomus species, as well as Carnegiella species and/or dwarf cichlids, Corydoras, Otocinclus and Ancistrus catfish species.
Crenicichla sp. ‘2’
Origin: Caño La Libertad, Apaporis basin, Colombia.
Water: pH 6.56.
Habitat: Slow, shallow creek with sandy bottom, gravel and rocks, driftwood, fallen-in trees, and overhanging trees, so mostly shady. It had black water, no aquatic vegetation, but many tree roots, Philodendron and other terrestrial roots.
Notes: More than 80 species of Crenicichla have so far been described from South America, east of the Andes, and possibly twice as many more have to still be identified.
I found at least one species in every body of water east of the Andes all the way to Argentina, sometimes up to three in a single habitat.
I now believe this to be the most widespread cichlid genus in the world.
This featured fish is almost certainly a new species. I have not previously seen a Crenicichla with a vertical humeral spot and a orange circle around the caudal spot.
By the size of the eyes this dwarf, at less than 8cm/ 3.1”TL, has adapted to live in almost total darkness. It is a peaceful species adapted to live with Corydoras and characoid species, with smaller loricariids and other dwarf cichlids, like Apistogramma, Dicrossus, and Laetacara species
Aquarium: This is perfect for smaller aquariums with sandy bottoms, some gravel and rocks, a few plants, driftwood and leaves. It should have a slowly flowing filter.