Archocentrus spinosissimus is one of my favorite fish. Until recently, I had only one old pair about 8 years old that would spawn for me from time to time. This pair spawned for me a few weeks ago, but I only got 6 fry out of the heavily planted tank and the rest of the fry were unfortunately picked off by other aquarium residents.
That’s why I was thrilled to find eggs in a tank I had with a group of eight 2″ spiny cichlids I was raising. It was really hoping for a successful spawn and was excited about this new pair that formed as I’m not sure how much longer the older pair of Archocentrus spinosissimus has left. Sadly, this spawn doesn’t appear to be fertile. At least these younger fish have bred and that’s a start. Here are some photos.
This 4-6″ cichlid is easily one of my favorite species. Although not extremely colorful, Archocentrus spinosissimus is gorgeous as it has a wonderful bright white body with highly contrasting dark black spots, leading to one of its common names, the Pepper Cichlid. This species also has magnificent trailers to their fins that just flow. Their fins are also the reason for their other common name, the Spiny Cichlid as the hard rays of their fins are quite spiny.
This fish is very mild and shy and I tend to keep them in species only tanks. even amongst themselves, they are not aggressive. I’ve found the best set up is a mid sized tank that is heavily planted with some floating plants. The reason for lots of plants is two fold. First, this is a shy fish that enjoys the refuge offered by the plants. The second reason plants are good for this species is their interesting breeding behavior.
The Pepper Cichlid has some very neat spawning behaviors. Although I’ve not found this species spawns as frequently as other Archocentrus species, it is not overly hard to spawn. I’ve found this species likes to spawn on hard vertical surfaces. A decent sized piece of slate or a flower pot should fit the bill. The Pepper Cichlid lays extremely tiny eggs, in fact, Dr. Ron Coleman’s Cichlid Egg Project data shows them to have the smallest egg of Central American Cichlids! Spawns usually are around 100-250 eggs depending on size of the female. After these eggs hatch, it will become apparent why adding plants is extremely beneficial. The parents hang the wrigglers from floating plants or plant roots at the surface of the water!
This is an amazing sight to see. Most likely, this fish does this as they spawn in the shallows of Lake Izabel where there may not be high quantities of oxygen. By hanging them in the plants, the larvae have more access to oxygen to develop. Although the development of the larvae does not require plants when spawned in aquaria, I’ve found a much higher spawn success rate when plants are available for them to hang the wrigglers.
This behavior is not unique in cichlids. Some other species that are reported to do this as well are Archocentrus centrarchus and Herotilapia multispinosa. I’ve spawned both of these fish, but never witnessed the behavior in this species. Another species I did see the behavior in was Australoheros oblongum an interesting South American Chanchito type that behaved very similarly when spawning to the Pepper Cichlid.
If you can find them, the Pepper Cichlid is a great fish and I highly recommend it. I personally believe this is the least aggressive Central American Cichlid species. Sadly, the availability of this fish is poor. I’m not quite sure why it isn’t more popular as it is an extremely interesting and attractive little fish.