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July 01, 2011

Welcome to another week with us here at The Wet Spot!

As most of you know by now I will be on vacation next week. In my absence, there will be no outgoing orders from July 4th to July 8th. With my leave I am sure there will be many emails to respond to. I would like to thank all of you for your patience as I return all of your questions or concerns. Shipping will begin immediately July 11th. If there is something you would like to order from this week’s list, do not hesitate to place your order. I’ll have it out for you in no time. Now for this week’s notes…

In the upper north eastern continent of South America lays the country of Colombia. Now known as the District of Colombia, is rich in a culture of dancing, football (aka, soccer), music, and food, but most important to us as hobbyists, the Orinoco River Basin. The flooded region connected to the Amazon contains wildlife that is vast as the area is. The river is full of life from that of the intelligent Freshwater Pink River Dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) to the mouth of the Orinoco Crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius). Among the unusual wildlife lives one of my personal favorite families, the South American Cichlids, or known as the Cichlidae family which belongs to the order Perciformes. With over 1300 species described by scientists, and many more un-described, there could be up to 1700 species that the human race has not identified. The Amazon basin contains many of these beautiful and unique fish that we enjoy in our homes and offices.

In this huge family belongs a cichlid that in my opinion is greatly underrated. Hoplarchus psitticus “True Parrot Cichlid” is one of the most beautiful cichlids from the Amazon Basin. This iridescent green fish has bright red eyes with black spots that are lateral with the body. Along the stomach area there are lighter green bars that flow up into big spots above the lateral line. A bright red line runs on top of the dorsal fin that stands out against the green. The ventral fins have blue and red lines that create a rainbow of colors. These fish can be found in the countries of Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuela. In Brazil, the fisherman of Manaus calls them papagai, which is Portuguese for “parrot”. In fact, the name psitticus is derived from the family Psitticidae, which is the family for parrots!

Hoplarchus psitticus

These fish grow very large and will require a bigger aquarium for the fish to be able to reach their full size of 14”. It is best to keep them in small or groups or with other moderately aggressive fish of similar size. They are typically found along flooded brush and forest regions of the blackwater tributaries of the river basin and prefer to be kept in softer water, though not necessary as a Ph value of 7 will be just fine. An insectivore by nature, diet should consist of such foods like frozen shrimp or pellets.

Hoplarchus psitticus Juvenile

I have experienced firsthand how much personality these amazing cichlids have. My H. psitticus at home, Estabon, glides through his aquarium with minimal effort. I find him constantly curious in the corner of the tank a waiting for me to get up and feed him. He seems to be just a big puppy dog and knows how to demand his food without ever having to make a fuss. These fish can live a very long time, and are defiantly a pet that will be with you for as long as you can house them!

Moving further down the country, we come across the Rio Atabapo. The Rio Atabapo lies on the border of Colombia and Venezuela and is home to a most unique severum, Heros cf. severus “Atabapo”. What makes this severum unlike it’s cousins you ask? It’s a mouth brooding severum! When a pair forms they lay eggs onto smooth vertical surfaces. After about 48 hours the female scoops up the wigglers into her mouth. For the next 7-14 days she’ll “incubate” the eggs as the fry develop further. Once this happens she’ll start letting the fry become free swimming until they are big enough to fend for themselves. H. cf. “Atabapo” has a brown body that has bright red eyes. 6-8 rows of gorgeous red dots line the stomach area, and six rows of vertical black bars run about half way up the body. The chest is also colored that beautiful red that runs into the ventral fins and into the anal fin. Finally, a solid black line runs from the top of the dorsal through the caudal and into the ventral fin. This pattern seems to radiate during spawning, and some hobbyists have even seen “spots” appear in the face. Feeding is typical of the genus, and water quality should be kept much like that of H. psitticus. Together, both of these cichlids will keep your 210 gallon family just as unique as you are!

In conclusion, there are many species of cichlids available in the trade. Some are often overlooked as just a brown fish when young, but with age can truly turn into a beauty. Though many of us cannot house them, they are indeed a sight to be seen! I would like to thank Wayne Liebal for providing the information and influence of writing this article. Remember to check the products link for our current stock list. Have a happy 4th of July from all of us at The Wet Spot and I will talk to you all when I return!

Anthony Perry
Sales Manager