How do I create a biotope for Parachromis motaguensis?

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Central American cichlid expert Juan Miguel Artigas Azas explains what the natural habitat of the guapote cichlid Parachromis motaguensis is like, and describes how you can recreate it at home.

Parachromis motaguensis, as all the other Parachromis species, is a large, aggressive predator. Males can easily grow to 30cm/12” in total length and can be very aggressive, particularly to females or males of the same or similar species.

In contrast to this behaviour they are also often very shy fish, so they require a large tank with hiding places and housed with large companions.

I would recommend no tank smaller than 400 l/88 gal to house them and my favourite set-up for this fish includes a fine layer of sand, a lot of driftwood and some rocks that provide ample cover. Plants are a waste as in the aquarium they will normally be uprooted.

Their temperature range must be between 24-30°C/75-86°F, ideally around 26°C/79°F, as lower temperatures tend to increase their shyness, in my experience. Nevertheless, I think that some variation during the year is necessary for their wellbeing.

The pH in their habitat ranges between 7 to  8.5 and they normally inhabit habitats where water is hard or very hard. The chemical parameters may not be critical, but it certainly helps keeping them in this range as you will get better fish and coloration.

This item was first published in the September 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.