I remember the first time I saw a picture of
A. rostratus I thought, "How nice, a Geophagus-looking fish
that can tolerate a wider range of water quality." I had tried
to keep several species of the geophagus family before, like daemon,
accuticeps, and surinamensis, but with each species,
it was only a matter of time, usually a year and a half, and the
fish would get pitted up or sick or stressed out and dye. Besides,
these fish were delayed mouth brooders and I have always found
mouth brooding cichlids to be boring. Still, I told myself that
someday I would have to have A. rostratus swimming in one
of my tanks, but at that time I was more into dovii and
some of the other brutes.
My desire to keep this fish was really clinched when I saw a
video produced by Don Conkel. The video showed Dons facility
and some of his breeding ponds and vats. In one of the scenes
Don showed a breeding vat containing two pairs of rostratus. Each
pair was guarding fry and from time to time the fry would swim
back and fourth between the pairs. Now I thought that was just
too cool and I really wanted to see if I could recreate that scene.
So the next time I saw rostratus available on a list I quickly
ordered six of them.
What I did not realize when I bought the fish
was how great a species they were to keep in community tanks.
The number of different species that I have kept with this fish
over the years is staggering. When they were juveniles they were
kept with Caquetaia spectabilis and Pentenia splendida.
As they grew I moved them to a tank with Vieja synspila
and Cichlasoma uropthalmus. Some other tankmates
that they have had over the years include regani, melanurus,
microphthalmus, aureus, fredrichsthalli, and the list goes
on and on. About the only fish they dont like being kept
with are each other. Every time I tried to keep these fish in
a tank by themselves, they would chase and nip constantly. So,
back to a community tank they would go.
The problem with keeping A. rostratus
in a community tank was that although they got along well with
the other occupants and looked great, I never saw any real signs
of spawning activity. At first this didnt bother me too
much. I told myself that this fish must be slow to mature, but
after a while, I kept hearing from other hobbyist who were spawning
their rostratus. Now, at this point, I have been keeping rostratus
for almost six years and still had five left. I couldnt
kid myself any longer, as my slow maturing theory was about four
years too old. So I decided I was going to set up a pair and force
them to spawn. I chose what I assumed to be a male as it was the
largest of the group, about six inches, and had an excellent brassy-silver
color, with a very nice reticulated overall pattern. The female
was obviously smaller, about four inches, and had a more blotchy
looking pattern. Other than size, the differences between the
sexes were subtle at best, so I was really taking an educated
guess. As it turned out, my guess didnt really matter because
even though they were a pair, the male killed the female in two
weeks. Oh well, I guess Ill just have to get used to keeping
these fish in community tanks.
A few years ago I decided to set up a garden
pond in my back yard. I hate cutting the grass so I decided to
set up the biggest pond I could afford, and before I new it I
had a pond that was 8 wide and 24 long. When I put
the fish out in the pond I made a wonderful discovery. Rostratus
make excellent pond fish. They dont hide in the plants or
under rocks like other cichlids do. Due to their natural feeding
habits, they like to stay out in the open shallow parts of the
pond constantly picking at the substrate. When they spawn, it
is in the open as well. The pair will do an excellent job of guarding
the fry for the whole summer. They keep their fry in a tight pattern
and never let them stray too far. No matter how many years I keep
cichlids, I never get tired of watching a pair defend their fry.
However, when rostratus fry become free swimming, you dont
get to see a large cloud of fry like you do with other Cichlasoma
species (Parachromis managuensis). Instead the fry stay
low to the substrate. Spawn sizes are also much smaller, usually
only two to three hundred. I have also noticed this with other
Amphilophus species that I have spawned.
So now every year the rostratus spend their
summers in the pond and their winters in a large community tank.
Two summers ago, I thought I was going to observe that scene which
I wanted to recreate so many years ago. Two pairs of rostratus
had set up spawning sites no more than four feet apart. When the
fry became free swimming the two pairs would sometimes get within
a foot of each other but I never saw the fry cross over, and as
the fry grew larger the pairs just stayed farther and farther
apart. It was still pretty cool to watch. This summer I lost one
of the rostratus, probably due to nothing more than old age. Im
not sure how long rostratus will live but at ten years they still
look great and still spawn every summer in the pond. The three
remaining fish are currently being housed with 'C'. pearsei,
T. meeki and P. polleni, so I guess we can add a
few more species to the list.
When people ask me what my favorite Cichlasoma
species is, I usually say umbrifera or haitiensis,
but the fact that I have kept rostratus longer than any other
fish to date, tells me that I had better include them in the future
Update: I wrote this article back in 2000. As
of this date I only have one of the original rostratus left. I
cant believe that a fish I purchased back in 1989 can still
be alive in one of my tanks.