New Fish From Colombia: ‘Cichlasoma’ atromaculatum and ‘Cichlasoma’ cf. gephyrum

'Cichlasoma' atromaculatum "Rio San Juan, Colombia"

I recently obtained two very interesting species of cichlid from Colombia: ‘Cichlasoma’ atromaculatum and ‘Cichlasoma’ cf. gephyrum.

These are two fairly large growing species that until recently were almost non-existent in the hobby. What makes these species extremely interesting is that their evolutionary history and phylogenetic position is unknown. It is currently believed that ‘Cichlasoma’ atromaculatum and ‘Cichlasoma’ cf. gephyrum are most closely related to ‘Cichlasoma’ festae the Red Terror and are members of the so called Festae group. This group is taxonomically orphaned currently, meaning there is no genus that has been described for these fish.

'Cichlasoma' cf. gephyrum "Rio San Juan, Colombia"

Cichlasoma’ cf. gephyrum is a stunningly beautiful fish that occurs from Colombia in the Rio San Juan and Rio Dagua river systems on the Pacific side of Colombia. The fish, which is very similar to ‘Cichlasomaornatum is magnificently spangled with blues and greens. The ones I got are little guys, just an inch long. They aren’t showing a lot of color yet, but it looks like some of them are starting to get some spots. In the wild, this fish can get about 12-14″ in length. Hopefully,  I can spawn them before they get that big.

'Cichlasoma' cf. gephyrum "Rio San Juan, Colombia"

These baby ‘Cichlasoma’ cf. gephyrum are tons of fun to watch as they are very active, swimming all day and picking at the substrate for food.

'Cichlasoma' cf. gephyrum "Rio San Juan, Colombia

'Cichlasoma' atromaculatum "Rio San Juan, Colombia"

Cichlasoma’ atromaculatum, although not as colorful as ‘Cichlasoma’ cf. gephyrum is still an interesting fish. This species occurs in the Rio Atrato, Rio San Juan, and Rio Baudo river systems and also occurs in Panama. Although this species is only documented to get around 10 inches in literature, I’ve heard from people who have collected this fish that they get much larger, 14-16 inches. Females obtain a very nice pumpkin colored belly. I’ve so far found this species to be highly aggressive. They seem to be extremely territorial and have some major teeth that can inflict some serious damage.

Hopefully I can spawn both species soon and hopefully they will become more readily available in the hobby.

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13 Responses to New Fish From Colombia: ‘Cichlasoma’ atromaculatum and ‘Cichlasoma’ cf. gephyrum

  1. Alan Rollings says:

    Hi Sam
    I have got a species flock of atromaculatum (9) 4 definite females and 2 very beautiful males, the others have not coloured out either way, but I think that there is a male and 2 females.
    Good to see you are following your course requisites to publish.
    There are times when I see my “c.f. gephyrum” and they have a look of the kraussi and myersi group.

    Looking forward to catching up in July at ACA.


    • Sam Borstein says:

      That’s awesome Alan. It’s and underrated fish I think, way overshadowed by the gephyrum/ornatum coming into the hobby. They are very pretty. Have you found yours to be extremely aggressive? I currently have all 6 divided as they just beat the snot out of each other. Hopefully I can throw these guys in a pond for the summer to give them some more room and hopefully get a spawn.

  2. Ferdinand Velasco says:

    Any updates on how the “Cichlasoma” cf. gephyrum are doing?

    • Sam Borstein says:

      I don’t think Alan has ‘Cichlasoma’ gephyrum, I do. They are about 3-4″ long now and look beautiful. Still have a ways to grow until they are full color, but already a very nice fish. I need to move them out to a larger tank to hopefully grow out a bit more and spawn. Still have all 10 of them. They are much less aggressive than the ‘Cichlasoma’ atromaculatum, which still haven’t spawned for me yet.

      • Ferdinand Velasco says:

        Sorry for my confusion, Sam. Thanks for sharing an update. I hope that you’ll post an update with photos on your blog when you get a chance. (I recently acquired three 2-3″ juveniles as well.)

      • Sam Borstein says:

        I’ll try to post some updated pics soon. You’ll like them, although if you can, try to get some more. While they aren’t super aggressive, three is just not a good number to start with while dealing with Heroine cichlids. I think have had so few problems with the ‘C’. gephyrum because I have them in a large group.

  3. Thanks for the suggestions, Sam. I would have acquired more, but the three I did get where all that were left. I do have them in a relatively large tank (150 gallons) with a lot of schooling fish (Hyphessobrycon columbianus) and that seems to help keep them active while reducing con-specific aggression. Here’s a video of my young juveniles that I posted on YouTube:

    • Sam Borstein says:

      Very nice. They look great. Just a possible bit of caution with keeping them with fish like tetras and livebearers, I wouldn’t keep them with any that you really care about and want to keep alive. I found similar sized ‘C’. atromaculatum to the fish you have would hunt down livebearers when the lights of the aquarium went out at night. As they are closely related, I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘C’. gephyrum does this as well.

      • ftvelasco says:

        Sam, I saw the great video taken by Jim Cumming of your spawning pair of Mesoheros gephyrum! I did manage to get a pair from the trio that I had back in 2012. They spawned several times, but never did get the eggs to free-swimming stage before getting eaten by the parents.
        Unfortunately, I’ve since lost the male. I have another group of five juveniles presently (4M, 1F).

      • Sam Borstein says:

        They are a super cool fish. They are actually with my dad Rick Borstein right now and spawned for him as I had to move and don’t have large enough tanks for them in my current fishroom (some are over 12 inches). Unfortunately his ate the eggs too, but at least they finally spawned, so that is a start. It seems that people haven’t gotten any spawning action from them until they are relatively large, which sort of surprises me as I have had the closely related Mesoheros festae spawn while at a significantly smaller size.

  4. David Hurley says:

    Hi, I have had my Atros for about 3yrs and finally they bred in January. From what I can tell, this may be the only breeding pair around. Currently, there are 8 about 1/2″ fry I growing out. I would like to hear from others about this amazing fish.

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