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Meet the Species: Saddle Cichlids


Orange flashes and amorous spines all give flesh to the bulky presence that looms in the shadows of many South American pools and waterways.

The muscular body, orange throat and sharp rows of teeth all indicate its dangerous side. Preying on anything slow enough or small enough to fit in its mouth.

This large cichlid consumes a diet of invertebrates, fish, amphibians and any nuts or small fruits that fall into the water. Quickly and instinctively lurching towards any movement. This trait has suited their expansion across the waterways of the South American Continent.

However, while there adaptability to a wide variety of food sources is hugely beneficial.

Life is still not easy.

These opportunistic hunters begin as minute eggs, often numbering in the hundreds. The life that these small fry endure in the jungle is harsh.

Survival rates are small.

Yet, for those few who do make it to adulthood, life stays intense; a constant duel between reproduction and survival. Contending with the harsh dry seasons and then finding a partner during the rainy season.

If such a fish is lucky enough to make it to this point, males will dance and show off to impress their female.

Once paired, they will both ruthlessly defend their territory – sharing the responsibility of fanning the eggs, though the female does tend to the more intimate care. Once hatched the fry are then moved from pit to pit with parents holding the surrounding waters from any potential aggressors.

Eventually, they too will leave their parents and begin the cycle again. Most will die, while some will continue. Adults can often reach sizes of twelve inches and upwards.

For more information on saddle cichlids and their care in captivity, don’t forget to check the aquatic articles for our silly about saddles cichlids article…

Alexander S. Howson

Alexander S. Howson is a naturalist and nature writer.

Along with a heavy interest in Aquatics, birds and ecology. Alexander now directs a large deal of energy attempting to re-educate the public about aquatics and promoting the conservation of a range of wildlife species.

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