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Crenicichla saxatilis (Linnaeus 1758)
by Don 'Z-Man' Zilliox

While at the 1999 ACA Convention in Detroit, I stopped by to visit my friend Delores Schehr at Wet Thumb Aquatics. I had passed along some Crenicichla regani to her the year before and she said that she had something that I might be interested in. So I took home with me six 2" Crenicichla saxatilis. Unsexable at this time I placed them all in a 20g long and just let them grow out. Month's later I discovered one dead one and decided they were getting too large for the 20L at about 4" and transferred them to a 55 with a pair of Cichlasoma elliotti and lots of overturned flowerpots and other assorted items for hiding.

Eight months passed and I found another had either been killed or died of natural causes. Yeah, right! Now down to four specimens I noticed one was much larger and one of the other three had quite a large stomach. It sure looked like I had at least one pair and the other two were most likely females. Soon the swollen belly took on a pink hue and a week out two later she was much thinner and upon looking around, found eggs on the side wall in a cave-like decoration. Just my luck as two days later, the eggs were all gone. Not long after, another female laid eggs in the same place but they didn't last long either.

Three weeks after the first spawn, the same female did it again. This time I took everyone else out of the tank and she had the 55 to herself and her eggs. About a week later she had tiny fry following her about the tank but put them back each evening like most other cave spawners. At this time I fed copious amounts of live baby brine shrimp, as I knew the mother would eat any excess. Soon I noticed that there weren't as many fry around as there were in the beginning and she was not watching them so closely anymore. So one evening I was able to reach in and remove the pot with all the fry inside and place them in a previously prepared 15g tank. After two month's they had reached 1"TL and I lost no more fry. Unlike "soft water" species, these fish spawned in water that was only around 78 degrees F with a pH of 7.5.

The male was then put back in the 55 and she soon spawned again but this time I removed the wrigglers but there didn't seem to be as many as the previous spawn.

Crenicichla saxatilis comes from the South American coastal river drainage's of the Guyana's (Guyana, Surinam, French Guyana) and the coastal rivers between the Amazon delta and French Guyana in Brazil. It is a member of the so-called "Spangled Pikes" and the male reaches about 8"TL. The males have a great deal more spangles than the 6"TL females and have very pointed dorsal and anal fins. The females can also be identified by the black blotches with the white aura located in the dorsal fin. This species is always found near the coastal areas, not more than 100 miles or so inland from the sea and spangling is a common feature among coastal species and very rare among inland species. As it turns out, my friend Vinny Kutty has just written a great article on the "Spangled Pikes" for the April issue of CICHLID NEWS. Beside some of his beautiful pike photos, he states that like other predatory cichlids, these fish may consume or destroy their offspring if they are present in the aquarium if the pair begins to spawn again. A similar fate may befall juveniles no longer under protective care and the fry are perceived as being intruders in the parent's territory, particularly if one of the parents has been removed or killed. If I had only know that back then I maybe could have saved more fry from the first spawn by either leaving or removing both parents instead of just one. He also states that "Ironically, the true C. saxatilis is rarely found in the tanks of North American hobbyists." So I sent him an E-mail about my fish and asked him how I could make sure of which fish I really had spawned. After mentioning to him that I acquired them from Delores, he said he saw them himself that same year and they are the TRUE Saxatilis! Boy, did he make me happy as I hate to misidentify any species I have in my possession because if I sell or trade them under the wrong name it's very difficult to go back and make corrections at a later time.

From my limited experience, I would say to give them lots of room with plenty of hiding places as I only used a 55g and it seemed to be a little small. Watch carefully for aggression by the pair against other occupants. At first spawning the male was about 7"TL, spawning female about 5"TL and the other females a little smaller. They are fed mostly frozen brine shrimp with occasional offerings of flakes, which they seem to just pick at.

This is the second pike species to spawn for me as I was lucky enough to obtain good spawns from a pair of C. regani a few years ago. I now have a very nice young pair of C. proteus that I hope will do the same for me in the future. I have found that the dwarf and medium size pikes are not all that vicious as I first believed and with lots of room and patience they can be fun to work with.

Thanks to Vinny Kutty for location data on this species.
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