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Herotilapia multispinosa "Rainbow Cichlid"
by Zeb Ernest (Zeb)

Herotilapia multispinosa (some-times referred to as the "rainbow" cichlid in the pet trade) is a hardy and colorful Central American cichlid. It makes a great addition to community tanks, but is also worthy of a showy species-only tank, even safely placed in tanks containing certain livebearers, tetras, and other fish usually not easily placed in the cichlid aquarium.

Debatably the smallest Central American cichlid, H. multispinosa is also unique in that it possesses tricuspid teeth, which greatly enhances the ability to feed on filamentous algae, making up a large portion of its natural diet. These three specialized teeth have earned multispinosa its own genus, Herotilapia. Its characteristic golden coloration along with the orange eyes, black markings, and subtle blue hues make it a truly stunning aquarium occupant. It can mature at a size of just 3", and is often not noted to grow much larger. Sexing is fairly simple: females will be smaller and somewhat dull in coloration compared to a dominant male.

My pair has spawned on flat surfaces, cave like structures and overhanging foliage. In fact, they had their first spawn in less than a week of arriving in their tank! To condition for spawning, try generously feeding a quality flake food high in vegetable content. Many times, spawning can be predicted by a change of colors. Deeper orange accompanied by black along the lower body portion is usually a sure sign of reproductive activity.

Ranging along the Atlantic & Pacific slopes, the Rainbow Cichlid can be found from Honduras to Costa Rica where the fish is likely to be found seeking refuge among the submerged logs, tangled roots and overhead cover of muddy lake shores and swampy bogs. It is often found foraging through the muddy substrate in pursuit of anything edible.

In the aquarium, provide a tank of at least 20 gallons with a fine substrate and heavy cover. Though their diet in the wild mainly consists of algae, captive specimens thrive on prepared flake food as well as a variety of insect based foods, pellets and small portions of shrimp. It is important to provide a significant amount of vegetetable matter in their diet. Peas and Spirulina are sufficient staples of a varied diet, and are often consumed with much enthusiasm. A pH within the range of 7.0 - 8.0 seems ideal, but H. multispinosa tolerate many water conditions. Avoid poor water conditions by a weekly water change of at least 20%.

H. multispinosa seems to be capable of holding a territory without over aggression and may be kept with other similar sized cichlids as well as larger livebearers. Some aquarists have noted their ability to survive in a cichlid aquarium along with larger and more aggressive fish due to their non-competitive status. As with any fish, carefully observe aquarium occupants and remove as necessary.

The Rainbow Cichlid is an ideal fish to keep and breed for the beginner, and certainly possesses the traits to earn a place with hobbyists. With its ease of care, wonderful behaviors and coloration, I am confident that anyone who decides to try keeping H. multispinosa will not be disappointed.

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