Crenicichla johanna


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Matt Clarke looks at the lovely Crenicichla johanna, a stocky and colourful pike cichlid from Brazil.

Common name:

Scientific name: Crenicichla johanna Heckel, 1840

Origin: One of the most widespread members of the cichlid subfamily Cichlinae, C. johanna is found over a very wide area of South America. Museum records show that specimens have been collected in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela, Guiana and French Guyana. As a result, these can be imported from almost any country in South America.

Size: Males up to about 30cm/12", sometimes a tad more. Females about 20-25cm/8-10".

Diet: Stomach analyses of wild fish have shown that they eat fish, insects and plants, but captive fish take most chunky foods including pellets.

Water: Adaptable, as it occurs in both white water and black water areas within South America. Kullander states a pH of 7.0, GH 20 and temperature of 23-27C/74-81F.

Aquarium: As with all of the larger pikes, a very big tank is required to keep this species. If you want to have a crack at spawning them, you'll need a minimum of a 180cm/6' tank containing loads of rocks and wood to act as hiding places and potential spawning sites. They're cave spawners, so plenty of big hiding places are needed.

Breeding: Like many of the larger pikes, including other lugubris group species, these are rarely bred in captivity. In fact, I've never heard of johanna being bred in the aquarium. Pikes often have strong pair bonds and look after their fry for very long periods. Softer water, a good diet and loads of room is probably the key to getting lugubris-group pikes, like johanna, to spawn. Few of them are bred, but that might simply be because so few people have put any real effort into breeding them.

Identification: The lateral stripe of this species is quite distinctive.

Notes: This species is a member of the lugubris group and a number of geographic variants are known which differ slightly in colour, and possibly also in morphology. It remains plausible that these may be split at a later date. There are now over 100 species of Crenicichla with dozens awaiting description. The lugubris group was erected by Dr Alex Ploeg (now Secretary General of OFI).

Availability: Despite being widespread, these aren't that common in the shops, although this may possibly be because pikes aren't widely sold and there are better looking and more sought after varieties than johanna available for import. These wild fish were imported from Brazil by Hobby Fish in Buckinghamshire.

Price: This is a wild caught pair and will set you back about 100.