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Crenicichla sp. "Pacaya"
by Don 'Z-Man' Zilliox

Last summer while on the Internet I just wanted to take a look at what was available. What caught my attention was Crenicichla sp. "Pacaya" with an accompanying photo. The pair looked very attractive but the seller happened to be in Toronto, which might cause some customs problems. I figured I could easily drive up and bring them across myself so I sent a message to the unknown seller. Two days later I received an answer from of all people, Jim Robinson who has lectured at our club and I have talked to at other gatherings. After thinking about not getting them, my friend Bill Duzen agreed to purchase some and share the shipping cost which turned out minimal anyway because they were only shipped from nearby Niagara Falls, New York USA. It just shows how some new species can be found in unusual places.

Crenicichla sp. ''Pacaya'' Eight small specimens arrived and were all placed in a 15-gallon tank. I had other urgent matters that took my time away from the fishroom and they grew just enough to eliminate each other until there remained only 4 specimens of just under 3" remaining. By the time I prepared their new quarters I ended up with just a male and a female. Still having no other information regarding them except one more photo of a male in AquaLog II with information that they grow to almost 10 inches.

My male was almost 4" and mostly brown with a spattering of gold spots and a very nice herringbone design all along each side. The female was a little larger with a very rosy belly area and the tell-tale white margin along the upper portion of the dorsal fin. I was positive I had a pair.

I readied a 30-breeder by placing three 6" long 1-1/2" diameter pieces of gray PVC tubing, clay flowerpots and lots of Java moss in the tank along with 2 "bubble-up" air driven filters. When ready, the pair was transferred into it along with 2 un-paired Apistogrammas and 2 Albino Corys. The water was adjusted to a TDS hardness of 40ppm and a temperature of 82 Fahrenheit with the pH just around 6.5.

The pair got along nicely for a long time and soon that rosy red belly started to show on the female. I had been feeding them frozen brine shrimp and a few cichlid pellets but while at my local fish store I purchased a tablespoon of live blackworms. I don't like to use them for my Apistos but fed them to some other species that I have been working with. The pikes got their goodly share though. That was Wednesday afternoon.

Friday morning I checked the tank as usual and there they were! Well over 100 eggs in one of the PVC tubes! But then looking around some more I found that another tube nearby also had well over 50 more. The male by this time was hiding about 2 feet away and wasn't being bothered at all. That's what I thought. Soon I noticed that he was missing chunks out of his tail and he was removed to a spare 10-gallon tank along with one Cory to recuperate.

In only 4 days both tubes had wigglers all congregated on the bottom. In another 5 days I found the female herding around a large group of free swimming fry. Every evening the female herded her offspring into large flowerpot cave and brought them out each morning. They accepted newly hatched brine shrimp right away.

About one week later my wife and I were going away for a few days and to make sure there would be no problems, I then took out the female and placed her in a tank all by herself to rest and feed in peace. When we returned I found no dead fry so I knew that I hadn't lost any babies.

About 2 months after free swimming I started to divide the fry up into 5 separate tanks as I have had a problem before with loosing an entire tank of fish. This way I still would have 80% of the fish remaining. By this time they were aggressively eating frozen brine shrimp in small quantities along with twice a day offerings of live baby brine shrimp.

It has been quite a few months now and they are still in those 5 tanks but are less in number due to the fact I have spread them around to my friends and a few sales. They get mostly frozen brine shrimp and any live baby brine shrimp that I have left over each day. They also seem to be very slow growing for me but have had remarks from others that they are growing quickly.

Many new smaller pikes are being imported every day. Check around at your local fish store and see what is available.

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