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Heros severus
by Joel Williams

Photograph Organism Terrestrial plant Fish Adaptation

Female (L) and male (R) in mating ritual.


The severum is a fairly peaceful cichlid, although it will destroy plants and occasionally dig in the gravel. They will eat small fish such as most common livebearers and tetras therefore they should be kept with other larger peaceful cichlids such as the Blue Acara. The severum like the Discus is a somewhat shy fish and should be kept with fish of similar habits.


Severums readily accept frozen or prepared foods, flakes pellets etc. As well as fresh vegetables such as peas (they tent to not eat the shells of the peas just the stuff that pops out into their mouths when they squeeze them), lettuce and zucchini.

Body Form

Generally a round fish, with strong lateral compression, with a steep forehead, much like the Discus. The dorsal and anal fins are long and pointed in the male compared to that of the female, the anal fin reaches to the end of the caudal fin. The Ventral fins in both sexes are elongated.


Severums are available in 3 color forms, which are green gold and turquoise. The general color in the wild form is usually a brownish green with somewhat of a brown to orange color. The Ventral fin is copper in color. 8 to 9 vertical stripes (bands, which is why they are commonly referred to as banded cichlid) run the length of the fish. These bands are more pronounced on the juveniles, by the time they reach their adult size, only the lower halves of the bands and the entire band closest to the caudal fin retain its dark color although they can turn them on and off entirely at will. Their eyes have a distinctive red orange coloration. Through selective breeding the gold color variation was produced, their pattern is similar to the green but is a milky gold color and the bands are very washed out and most fish lack them entirely. Most have very pronounced red ventral and anal fins and red freckle like markings on their faces.

Differentiating between the male and female can be very difficult in younger specimens. The coloration of the male and the female are basically the same, the female is usually paler and lacks the blue wormy markings on the head. The adult male has longer more pointed fins. The female has a dark patch on the dorsal fin right above the second to last band.


The Severum is a typical open breeder though they do not pair as readily as other South American Cichlids. During breeding they become highly aggressive, will dig up plants, gravel and chase other tank mates. Breeding should be done in a separate breeder tank. The substrate should be dark colored gravel. They enjoy having separate hiding places and plenty of open space to swim. I usually use large clay pots, as they can be broken to your needs, as they can hide in them and yet they provide a good flat surface for them to spawn on. Be sure to maintain excellent water conditions and a constant temperature of 72of closer to 80o to instigate spawning.

Getting severums to pair off can be very time consuming, they seem to be very selective of their partners and may not even show any interest when compared to other South Americans. I have had 3 pair in one tank for over 6 months before the first signs of a pair being formed. First sign of a pair being formed is generally lip locking and a sort of tug a war between the dominant pair in the tank. Once they do pair they will breed readily and be very protective of their brood and fry. The female will lay upwards of 1000 eggs or more each spawning.
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