As with other Pike cichlids, the use of PVC tubes in the aquarium is suggested. It may be unaesthetic but it is quite effective in keeping increasingly aggressive sub-adult fish from destroying each other - Pikes subscribe to the out-of-sight-out-of-mind philosophy. While some species are quite aggressive, they reserve most of their aggression towards conspecifics and other pikes, usually leaving non-pikes alone. Juvenile lugubris-group Pikes are highly social and seem to need a lot of physical contact with each other. They writhe and squirm en masse if large numbers are housed together. Aggression levels elevate as they begin to lose their juvenile color patter. They lose all aquarium manners at this time in their lives and are indiscriminately aggressive towards all conspecifics and increasingly so towards other Crenicicla species. Getting a group of lugubris pikes past this 'awkward stage' is difficult without a very large aquarium and numerous hiding places. With surging hormones and a newly discovered sense of territoriality, dominant males will often destroy females along with subdominant males. If PVC tubes can aid in the survival of two Pikes to adulthood and compatibility, they ve served their purpose, despite making your aquarium look like a construction site. Once these Pikes pair up, they are quite gentle and affectionate with each other. Blind dates and arranged marriages with adults are a hit or miss proposition. Watch very carefully after introducing the pair and if there is violence, I suggest you look for another, more acceptable mate for your fish. The best alternative is to just purchase at least 6 of them as juveniles and hope you end up with a compatible pair.
Sexing these fish is easy if they are adults. The females have a thin white band just under the outer edge of the dorsal fin (submarginal band)and a pink belly while the males lack these features and are generally a bit larger and less colorful. Unlike members of the saxatilis-group, these fish do not possess extended dorsal fin rays and cannot be reliably used to determine the sex.
Success in breeding these Pikes is very rare. The reason for this situation is usually a lack of effort. There are very few people who have remained with a group of these Pikes raising them from juveniles to adulthood and providing them with ample room, appropriate food and acceptable water quality to be rewarded with a spawn. To my knowledge, Wayne Leibel may be the first American and possibly the first person to have spawned a member of this group in aquaria. While spawning reports of saxatilis-group members are common, I only know of three species of the lugubris-group that have been successfully reproduced in captivity: C. marmorata (by Wayne Leibel and Frank Warzel), C. vittata (by Uwe Werner) and C. lugubris (by Frank Warzel.) A spawn from C. acutirostris was reported from Germany (Warzel, 1995) but there were no live fry. Frank also reports that his C. phaiospilus laid eggs but the eggs did not hatch. Ron Georgeone had a similar experience with C. sp. Xingu I. When spawning did occur, eggs were laid in caves, and the large eggs were attached to the side of the cave by filamentous stalks (Leibel, 1992.) The eggs sway in he water current, since they are not firmly fixed to the surface.
While the fry-rearing behavior of members of the saxatilis-group pikes (Spangled pikes) provides few surprises to breeders of neotropical cichlids, lugubris-group pikes are full of surprises. The eggs have a lengthy development stage; Leibel (1992) reports that the fry were not free swimming for seven days post hatching. They allow their fry to contact feed and even open their mouths wide for the fry to enter and investigate/search for food! The high interjuvenile tolerance is an indication of the length of parental care provided. It is likely that parental care ceases when the juveniles cannot stand to be near each other. Generalization regarding the number of eggs cannot be made since we have only a handful of recorded spawns. As with all cichlids, the number of eggs is highly dependent on the condition of the female.
Wayne writes that the spawning conditions were neutral pH, soft water and a temperature of 78°F. This is certainly less extreme and easier to duplicate than some of the water values I have seen lugubris-types living in: pH of 5.4 and near-distilled hardness and temperatures in the mid 80s °F. He reports that the fry became free swimming after 12 days (5 days to hatch and 7 more to swim.) Of course, higher temperatures will quicken the development of the fry. Wayne's successs is not just a result of luck; upon reading his spawning report, one comes to the conclusion that the tank was very heavily filtered and aerated and the fish were provided numerous spawning sites in the form of gnarled driftwood and an unlimited supply of feeder goldfish.
Pike cichlid diseases? Well, I can t help you I ve never had a sick Pike! Perhaps I ve been lucky but these are certainly tough characters. If given clean water and a good variety of foods, they are capable of warding off illness quite well. Graham Ash of UK claims to be able to reverse hole-in-the-head disease by placing the fish in a stress-free environment at a temp of 90°F and treating for Hexamita with Metronidazole. My attempts to do this, following Graham's technique, arrested the progression of the problem but it did not reverse the disease or heal the holes.
Their behavior in the wild is not well known but the picture is becoming increasingly clear. Reports from hobbyists who have snorkeled in Rio Xingu are that some of the larger lugubris-group members in that river protect their fry until they are almost six inches long and well into their juvenile stage. Adults in the wild appear to be mostly solitary, until it s time to breed. My observations on C. lugubris in the Rio Uatuma are that they live in still water in riverside lakes and pools. The visibility in the water was fairly murky and as a result, snorkeling would not have revealed much. My friend, Jeff Cardwell caught them using a small hook and line. On another trip to the Peruvian Amazon, I was able to observe Crenicichla cincta in two different habitats - calm lakes and a swift-flowing stream. In both cases, the water was near neutral and soft (pH 7.2 and 90uS conductivity). The water in the lake was warmer at about 83°F and the stream was at 78°F. The stream had little in the way of cover or hiding places, but it was only a few yards from the main channel of the Amazon River and it could have been seeking shelter from large catfish. The lake had a muddy bottom littered with dead leaves, tree stems and twigs. C. cincta is found along the entire length of the Amazon, from Iquitos to Belem, and I would expect to find it in various habitats and water conditions.
Special thanks to Mostly Cichlids for allowing us to publish this article.