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Husbandry and captive reproduction of
a recent import from the Peruvian Amazon:
Tahuantinsuyoa Macantzatza, the Inca Stone Fish
by Mark Robinson
A wild-caught specimen in the aquarium.
If you think the spelling of this fish is difficult, just try to pronounce it. The Tahuantinsuyoa Macanzatza or Inca Stone Fish is an interesting dwarf species from the Peruvian Amazon in South America. To be perfectly honest, I knew nothing about these fish when I bought them. They were listed as a newly imported species and curiosity got the better of me. However, while I was waiting for them to arrive, I was able to get some basic information. They like soft water and they are bi-parental mouth brooders.

With that abundance of knowledge I was able to get the tank ready for the six wild-caught beauties I had ordered. I setup a 55-gallon tank with -inch of silica sand for substrate and filled it with RO water. The fish would not tell me what temperature they liked to be kept in so I set the heater at 78 f. as I do for all fish that don't speak up. With a name like Inca Stone Fish, I thought they might like rocks like my African cichlids but since they come from soft water maybe driftwood would be better. I chose the scientific approach and put both in the tank so they could decide for themselves. I wanted to keep the ph between 6.5 and 7.0 but by using pure RO water, the ph was having a tendency to drop well below 6.0. Using 1/3 tap water and 2/3 RO water, I was able to keep the ph fairly stable at 6.5 to 6.7.

When I released the Tahuantinsuyoa Macanzatza in the tank, they were very shy and chose to stay completely out of sight for at least 20 minutes and then they got over it. I did not know exactly what to feed them so I started with some graze flake, which they ate with some reluctance. As time went on, they seemed to eat just about anything although they showed the most enthusiasm with plankton, plankton flake, and bloodworms.

Over the next few weeks, a pecking order was established but there were no defined territories or pairs formed. Size was the only visible factor to use for sexing and I could only assume that the larger fish were the males. Pairing did not occur until three of the fish had their vents protruding in preparation of laying eggs. At this point, one female became dominant, she paired up with the larger dominant male, and the rest of the fish were chased to the upper corners of the tank.

I thought I had provided everything these fish needed for successful spawning. There was sand, rocks, caves, and driftwood to offer every conceivable type of surface a fish could possibly hope to have. This evidently was not enough. I then noticed the pair making a joint effort to remove some of the large flat leaves from one of the plastic plants that were in the tank. This gave me the idea that they may want something they could move around to their liking. I broke up some slate with a hammer into thin pieces approximately the size of small potato chips and placed a pile in the tank. The pair immediately dismantled the pile and dragged a piece to an open area.

They spent the next four days flipping and cleaning that piece of slate to the point that I was almost expecting it to shine like chrome. On the fifth day, I came home at Noon to check my email and I just happened to look in the tank sitting two feet away. The female was starting to lay eggs and the male was hovering about two inches above her. She would lay a few eggs, move away, and the male would swoop down and fertilize them, then they would repeat the pattern. The whole process only took about ten minutes.



The male hovers above the female while she lays eggs.


The female laid all these eggs in < 10 minutes.

I did not want to risk losing this spawn so; I removed all the other tank mates and let the pair guard the eggs in peace. However, I thought these were mouth brooders! Over the next few days, I witnessed the eggs turning a whitish color, which I thought was fungus. I did not know if the eggs were being fanned enough or if the male just did not get the job done. The female did not attempt to remove the whitish eggs and more were turning color by the day. Finally, on the third day, all the whitish eggs were gone but there were only about eight eggs remaining and they too were turning color. An hour later, all the eggs were gone. Oh well, maybe they will do it right the next time. Wait a minute! The male looks like he has something in his mouth. Sure enough, I guessed the male finally played his role and scooped up the remaining six or eight eggs.

The following week I was kept in painful anticipation. The male looked like he was holding, but I was not sure. Then the female would look like she was holding, and again, I could not be sure. Their pouch would look a little swollen but not very much. Seven days after the last eggs disappeared, I was sitting at my computer and saw a little speck move rapidly behind the piece of driftwood in the tank. When I moved so I could see better, there they were. Not the six or eight I was hoping for, but the whole batch of at least 35 fry the size of a caraway seed or smaller. Whoo Hoo!!



The male did most of the holding.


It was a pleasant surprise to see all these fry swimming.

The male seemed to be the primary keeper of the fry and he would not let the female get too close without his gills flaring. When someone entered the room, he would suck up all the fry and hide under the driftwood. After a few days, the adventurous little swimmers needed the attention of both parents and both at any sign of danger would suck them up.

After two weeks of watching this extraordinary parental care, I was surprised again. One morning, the female became very aggressive and took complete control over the entire batch of fry. At 8:00 a.m., the tank was in harmony and by Noon, the once proud and dominant male was reduced to a beat up, ragged-finned target of aggression and fearing for his life. As soon as the fry were removed from the tank, harmony was restored.

The fry seemed to do fine being fed a diet of crushed flake. They are over six weeks old now and most are over -inch long. I do not even bother crushing the flake anymore.

The Tahuantinsuyoa Macanzatza is a very interesting and fun fish to have. The males seem to reach a maximum length of approximately 4 inches and the females may or may not be slightly smaller. I do not find them to be fragile or difficult to keep or overly aggressive to other tank mates. However, they are cichlids and do behave accordingly. As far as I know, the fry are all alive although some are missing due to the persuasiveness of a fellow hobbyist. Would I recommend this species to a cichlid enthusiast? Absolutely!

I have been able to get a fish or two to spawn and I have read a few books but I do not consider myself an expert. I just enjoy the hobby and wanted to share this experience.

 

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