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Issue # 3

Focus on Archocentrus Keeping & Spawning

Archocentrus centrarchus

Costa Rica Biotope Plus much more 1

Hello and welcome to the new printed edition of issue # 3 This edition we will focus on the genus Archocentrus. Three great little cichlids that are ideal for small to medium sized aquariums. Sadly , Archocentrus spinosissimus are extremely rare, not only in aquarium circles, but also in their natural habitat. I wanted to highlight this smaller group of centrals, because I believe this group of fish have been rather overlooked in the hobby, which is a shame as all three species share and display interesting spawning and fry rearing characteristics. Sam Borstein has kindly wrote an interesting article focusing on the very elusive Archocentrus spinosissimus. This particular fish are very hard to come by in the hobby now and recent attempts to collect and study the fish in the wild have failed. Sam talks about the taxonomy and Phylogeny of the species as well as spawning and highlighting the unique fry care in beautiful close up photography. For my biotope feature I wanted to share my Costa Rica Riverine aquarium that I’ve been working on, as well as listing and illustrating the wonderful cichlids that live sympatric with each other. This is a completely new concept for me which has worked out very nicely and I’m enjoying immensely. Hope you all enjoy issue 3. Please rate and subscribe, I would also be very grateful for any feedback suggestions and articles you would like to see featured, perhaps write one yourself?

Advertising Rates Full Page £80.00 Half Page £40.00 Notes for Contributors If you would like to contribute an article or submit any photography work, then please send all work to the editor of The Central Scene at the following email address: Text can be submitted in email draft or sent in Microsoft word doc. All illustrations, drawings and photography work, should be sent separately in high resolution format (jpeg, tiff) and original size if possible. Photographic contributions without text are also welcome. When sending photographic work, Please do not send with a water mark, as authors and photographers are always credited. Articles and images published in the Central Scene remain the intellectual property of the original author, photographer, illustrator, and any work published may not be reprinted without the contributor’s written permission. 2

Contents 4

Archocentrus centrarchus Observations through the aquarium


Archocentrus spinosissimus Sam Borstein introduces a rare gem from Lake Izabal Basin Guatemala


Uncomfortable Reality! Members of the ACACED highlight river pollution problems in Costa Rica


Costa Rica Riverine A guide on creating a Tomocichla tuba riverine biotope


F & Q on Wood The Central Scene answers some common questions


Cichlid Profiles Archocentrus multispinosus GĂźnther, 1866

The views expressed in Central Scene are those of the individual(s) concerned and not necessarily those of the Editor. While every attempt has been made to ensure accuracy, the editor and its contributors disclaim all liability for any loss, injury or other problem arising from the use of information contained herein. The Central Scene Š copyright of Lee Nuttall 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted or stored in any information retrieval system, in any form or by any means, without the express permission of the copyright holders. 3

Observations through the aquarium


Archocentrus centrarchus protecting spawn from Vieja maculicauda


A.Centrarchus male in normal colouration

I’m ashamed to say that Archocentrus centrarchus has been a rather overlooked species in my time of keeping Central American cichlids, but after acquiring a small group back in 2011, I’m certainly glad I took the plunge. Archocentrus centrarchus hail from the Atlantic slope of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, inhabiting the quieter parts of rivers and streams, they are also found in lakes (Lake Nicaragua). They are classed as a small to medium sized cichlids where certain aquarium populations are reported to attain sizes of up to 20cm/ 8”, however, sizes of 15cm/ 6” is usually the norm. All currently assigned species of Archocentrus are substrate spawners. The etymology means archo = anus + Greek, kentron = stinger; referring to the

spine on the anal fin, centrarchus = this name was given to the species because of similarity in appearance to the flier sunfish of the genus Centrarchus. Younger specimens are a silvery grey colour with around seven vertical bars. As they mature the overall body colour will take on a yellow/green complex with light blue extending from the gill cover through the middle of the flanks. Sexual dimorphism can be weak with centrarchus, but as the fish mature the male will become more heavily built with a pointed dorsal fin, females appear more rounded in comparison. Although described by Gill and Bransford in 1877, the fish weren’t commercially available in the aquarium trade until specimens were imported in 6

Female fish changing into dominant colour form

sub dominant females from the group were together. I decided to remove the subdominant females and keep the male and two dominant females only, this arrangement worked out very well in the end, especially in the males favour. The group shared the tank with a large pair of Vieja maculicauda (Black Belt cichlid) another fish that is also found in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua, but not the Great Lake. The tank was a 300g / 1363L, so plenty space form pair forming and spawning. It wasn’t long before pair bonding was witnessed, which meant one female was ignored. Pair bonding consisted of close approximate swimming, body shimmering and occasional jaw locking. Pair bonding in this case seemed to be quite gentle, but this certainly isn’t always the case, Central American cichlids are too intelligent to be that predictable! A vertical stone was chosen and cleaned as the spawning site. I missed the initial depositing of eggs, but I knew straight away they had spawned, as both fish had dramatically changed from a yellow/ green to almost black and white with thick

1974 to the United States from Costa Rica by Dr. Bill Bussing, then later into Europe. Aquarium experience I introduced a small group into my aquarium back in 2011. The fish were only juvenile specimens, so sexing at this stage was nigh on impossible, however, there was a particular dominate fish in the tank which I assumed was most probably a male, this hunch turned out to be correct. Archocentrus centrarchus are herbivorous in nature, but will except most aquarium staple foods with variety like occasional bloodworm. The group grew fairly quickly where sexual dimorphism was becoming a little more apparent. Fortunately, the dominant fish turned out to be the only male in the group, so I was left with 5 females. Two particular females were changing to a slightly darker colour with more pronounced barring and each defending a corner of the tank. The male fish and the other 7

dark vertical bars. In fact, the white appears more as a grey colour, but the dramatic change gives that first impression of white. The male seemed to be doing his share of care, only until the other female came into view he would become distracted and try his luck pair bonding. The male would always come back and resume defending duties. The pair had deposited a few hundred eggs, but over the couple of days, quite a large portion of eggs were becoming infertile. This initially worried me, but I observed the female doing a role reversal and picking out the fertile eggs instead. Usually cichlids will pick out the infertile eggs first; this ensures the fertile eggs don’t become infected by fungus. The eggs hatch and become fee swimming fry around day 6/7 where the pair will defend ferociously if needed, even the large V. maculicauda pair were easily dealt with. Of interest, the Archocentrus complex appears to share one characteristic in fry care that at some stage they hang their fry in bunches off roots or plants. In the aquarium, plants and roots will be substituted with rocks, wood, even the aquarium dÊcor like filter pipes and heaters. I must admit I did not personally witness this behaviour; perhaps I just missed observing it? 8

Once pairs form and spawn, there is no stopping them. The male fish swapped between the two females, which works in favour to keep aggression levels between the pair at a minimum. In the confines of the aquarium, pair bonding always has the risk of breaking down, as the male fish becomes impatient with the female because he is ready to spawn, while the female is still tending to fry. 9

By Willem Heijns

The male guarding free swimmers

A. centrarchus is the type species of the genus Archocentrus as Gill (1877) described it. Archocentrus contains two groups.The first group consists of A. centrarchus, A. spinosissimus and the enigmatic A. immaculatus. The second group comprises A. nigrofasciatus, A. spilurus, A. septemfasciatus, A. sajica and A. nanoluteus (the “yellow dwarf”). The main difference between the two groups is formed by the superterminal (lower jaw longer than upper jaw) mouth of the first group, whereas the second group (nigrofasciatus and the like) has jaws of equal length. A second characteristic of the group is the high number of anal spines (X-XI). The species names centrarchus and spinosissimus clearly refer to that fact. But there is another species with a name referring to a high number of anal spines. I am talking about the species known as Herotilapia multispinosa here. This species shows a lot of resemblance with A. centrarchus. The pictures of The pictures of both species in breeding colours are proof of this resemblance.

A. centrarchus and H. multispinosa are believed to be very closely related to each other and to A. spinosissimus, meaning that they share a common ancestor (Bussing, 1976). The origin of these three species is thought to have been caused by vicariant events separating the western part of the old Nuclear Central America (México and Guatemala), the eastern part of the same area (Honduras and Nicaragua) and the Talamancan area (Costa Rica), home of A. spinosissimus, H. multispinosa and A. centrarchus respectively. In fact, I think that Herotilapia multispinosa really belongs to the genus Archocentrus. This is remarkable because H. multispinosa was placed in a separate genus on the basis of it’s dentition. Herotilapia has tricuspid teeth, whereas all basis of it’s dentition. Herotilapia has tricuspid teeth, whereas all Archocentrus-species have uni- or bicuspid teeth. Perhaps dentition isn’t that important as a character as has been thought for a long time. A behavioural treat supporting the close relationship is formed by the fact that all 10

Editors Note

species of this group keep their larvae after hatching hanging at the roots of aquatic plants instead of putting them in a pre-dug pit in the bottom.

Currently, the assignments appear that Group 2 Archocentrus are now assigned to Cryptoheros, and Herotilapia are described under Archocentrus. Opinions will always divide.

Archocentrus centrarchus is highly recommended to keep, not only because they are peaceful, but they have fascinating spawning and parental behaviour. This is an ideal cichlid to keep in smaller aquariums; a breeding pair could easily be kept in a 50 g/ 240l aquarium. If you’re planning to keep them in a community tank, then go for a little larger. The minimum I would personally recommend is 90 g/ 400L. You could keep them with smaller biotope correct centrals like Archocentrus multispinosus. In larger communities, they will do well with many different cichlids, large or small.

References: •Bussing, W.A. (1998) Peces de las aguas continentales de Costa Rica. Revista de Biología Tropical, 46, 1–468. •Concheiro Pérez, G., Rican, O., Ortí, G., Bermingham, E., Doadrio, I., Zardoya, R. (2006) Phylogeny and biogeography of 91 species of heroine cichlids (Teleostei: Cichlidae) based on sequences of the Cytochrome b gene. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 43, 91-110. •Gill, T. & Bransford, J.F. (1877) Synopsis of the fishes of Lake Nicaragua. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 29, 175–218.

They aren’t often available in aquarium stores, but if you have the opportunity, seriously give them some consideration.

•Schmitter-Soto, J.J. (2007) A Systematic Revision of the Genus Archocentrus (Perciformes:Cichlidae), with the Description of Two New Genera and Six New Species. Zootaxa 1603, 1-76.

Archocentrus multispinosus

Willem Heijns, 2007 Observations and captive breeding of Archocentrus centrarchus, with notes on Archocentrus A. spinosissimus photo Willem Heijns,

Archocentrus spinosissimus

Archocentrus centrarchus


Sam Borstein Introduces a rare little gem from Lake Izabal Basin, Guatemala In the brief period I’ve kept Archocentrus spinosissimus it has become one of my favourite fish. One of the perks of being a lab member of the Evolutionary Ecology of Fishes Lab at California State University, Sacramento is that we have many interesting heroine cichlid species that are not easily obtainable in the hobby. I was ecstatic to see this species, which I had only previously seen in books, grace our fishroom. Hopefully, my experiences keeping this fish will inspire a little more admiration for this underappreciated species which is not only pretty, but also displays some truly unique behaviour. Upon first glance it is quite easy to understand how Archocentrus spinosissimus gets its common

names. Archocentrus spinosissimus is often referred to as the spiny cichlid and the pepper cichlid. Spiny cichlid is an apt nickname as the specific epithet literally translates to “most spiny” and the fish has numerous dorsal fin and anal fin spines. Sometimes hobbyists shorten the species name and call the fish “Spinos”. I’ve more commonly heard this species referred to as the pepper cichlid in aquarium circles in the United States. This nickname is also quite understandable. While some may say that Archocentrus spinosissimus lacks the exuberant colours that many of the other cichlids have, it has a subtle beauty in its extremely high contrasting coloration pattern.

Male Archocentrus spinosissimus have beautiful long finnage and may also develop a nuchal hump


Archocentrus spinosissimus has a stunning pearly white base coloration with numerous black spots adorning the body, leading to the name Peppered Cichlid. This species also has magnificent trailers to its dorsal and anal fins that flow and are adorned with iridescent blue and green highlights.

(Archocentrus) spinosissimus by elevating Archocentrus to full generic status and since then the fish has been classified as Archocentrus spinosissimus. Archocentrus spinosissimus has been hypothesized to have close affinities with Archocentrus centrarchus and Archocentrus multispinosus. Archocentrus multispinosus was formerly classified as Herotilapia multispinosa with the key difference being in tooth structure, with Archocentrus centrarchus and Archocentrus spinosissimus having unicuspid or bicuspid teeth and Archocentrus multispinosus having tricuspid teeth. Because tooth structure is known to be very plastic in cichlids and not a reliable character, Schmitter-Soto (2007) suggested synonymizing Herotilapia with Archocentrus, but this move has been in dispute. Molecular phylogenies suggest that this group may not be monophyletic as Archocentrus multispinosa groups closely with Tomocichla whereas Archocentrus centrarchus is nestled within the Amphilophus (Hulsey et al., 2004; Conchiero Perez et al., 2006, Smith et al., 2008; Lopez-Fernandez et al., 2010). Unfortunately, the phylogenetic position of Archocentrus spinosissimus is understudied and very few studies have Archocentrus spinosissimus samples.

Archocentrus spinosissimus grows to a very manageable size of around 10-12 cm for the average male with females growing smaller, typically closer to 8 cm in length. The largest individual I’ve seen of this species reached 15 cm. This species is not highly sexually dimorphic. Other than differences in size, Archocentrus spinosissimus males generally have longer extensions to their dorsal and anal fins as well as a rounder cranial profile. The differences in the genital papilla when spawning are noticeable between the sexes with females having a rounder, blunter papilla. Distribution Archocentrus spinosissimus was described by Vaillant & Pellegrin in 1902 as Heros (Cichlasoma) spinosissimus. The type specimen of Archocentrus spinosissimus was collected in the Rio Polochic in Guatemala, a tributary of Lake Izabal Basin to which Archocentrus spinosissimus is endemic. This species inhabits slow waters in the drainage that have a high amount of aquatic vegetation. This fish does not seem to be common throughout its range and recent attempts to collect this species have failed (Hanneman & Middleton, pers. comm.)

Aquarium Care Archocentrus spinosissimus poses some interesting requirements. In my opinion, this species is the shiest and least aggressive heroine cichlid. The only times I have observed aggression has been when the fish have been spawning. As such, I would recommend maintaining this species in a species only set up. While a tank of 150 litres will suffice, a tank of around 208-284 litres is recommended. While pairs could probably be housed in an 80 litre aquarium, I’ve found keeping a group of around 8 in a larger tank seems to be the best method. Archocentrus spinosissimus is sensitive to poor water quality and frequent water changes are a must, with 50% water changes a week recommended.

Taxonomic History and Phylogeny As stated above, Archocentrus spinosissimus was described by Vaillant & Pellegrin in 1902 as Heros (Cichlasoma) spinosissimus. In 1904 Pellegrin described a variant of Cichlasoma (Archocentrus) spinosissimus, also from the Rio Polochic, as Cichlasoma spinosissimus var. immaculata. Cichlasoma spinosissimus var. immaculate has since been proven to be a synonym of Cryptoheros spilurus which is also endemic to the Lake Izabal Basin (Kullander 2003; Schmitter-Soto, 2007). In 1930 Jordan et al. created a new combination for Cichlasoma 13

Male Archocentrus spinosissimus breeding colour is less dramatic than that of the females.

Archocentrus spinosissimus is not picky about its water parameters. While the water parameters in the native range of this species consists of a pH of around 6.0 and almost no hardness, I’ve found that this species does quite well in water of hard water with a pH in the mid 7’s. Water temperature should be around 23-26 °C. A recommended set-up for Archocentrus spinosissimus should include with drift-wood and rocks. While many heroine cichlids will actively dig up aquatic plants, a heavily planted tank is critical for Archocentrus spinosissimus, the reason for which will be discussed later in the breeding section below. The combination of these elements will make this shy fish feel comfortable. I’ve found that this species is not picky about substrate and either pea sized gravel or sand make fine substrate choices. In the wild Archocentrus spinosissimus has a benthic diet, feeding on larval insects found in the substrate and on aquatic plants. In captivity it is not a picky resident accepting just about every type of prepared food. I feed a mix of a high quality flake and pellet foods with the occasional treat of frozen blood worms. This combination keeps the fish in good shape and conditions them to spawn.

Breeding Unlike its suggested relatives Archocentrus centrarchus and Archocentrus multispinosus, Archocentrus spinosissimus is difficult to breed in captivity. It also tends to breed with less regularity than the other two members of the genus. Sexual maturity in this species seems to be at a size of 5-7 cm. Before spawning females will become noticeably plumper and their genital papilla will become noticeable. In my experience, Archo centrus spinosissimus is an open spawner which lays eggs on vertical surfaces. A vertical piece of slate leaned up against the glass or a flower pot provide excellent spawning sites for this fish to lay their eggs on. It is not uncommon for the fish to spawn on the glass of the aquarium. Clutches generally number is in the range of 100-150 eggs. After spawning Archocentrus spinosissimus will display their breeding colours . Formerly a white fish with black spots, the parents take on a much darker coloration with the ventral half of the fish becoming almost black while the dorsal half becomes a dusky grey. In addition the vertical striping becomes quite prominent on the dorsal half of the fish when spawning. The colour change is most dramatic in females and on occasion some 14

This pair (male on the left and female on the right) of Archocentrus spinosissimus has just spawned on the flower por. They have not yet fully developed their breeding coloration.

males may not even change colour during the whole process. I’ve found that Archocentrus spinosissimus are pretty good parents, using what little aggression they possess in defence of their offspring. Archocentrus spinosissimus has extremely small eggs. Ron Coleman (pers. comm.) has found that Archocentrus spinosissimus has the smallest eggs of all the heroine cichlids he has measured for his research on cichlid eggs. The eggs take around two days to hatch at which point it will become apparent why adding plants is extremely beneficial. Once the eggs hatch, Archocentrus spinosissimus hang their larvae upon aquatic plants! I’ve found that typically the fish will hang the larvae on either a plant leaf or in the roots of floating aquatic plants. This behaviour is not unique to this species; in fact, all three members of Archocentrus demonstrate this behaviour as do other genera such as Mesonauta, Pterophyllum, Symphysodon, and some Australoheros. Most likely this behaviour has developed to combat hypoxia in the larvae as the plants offer plenty of oxygen due to the by-products of photosynthesis for the larvae to consume (Courtenay & Keenleyside, 1983). Interestingly, live plants are not a must. This species will gladly hang their wrigglers on plastic plants. When no live or plastic plants are provided 15

Archocentrus spinosissimus lay their eggs on vertical surfaces. Here the female chose to lay eggs on a flower pot.

the fish will sometimes hang their larvae from the surface of the water on water tension alone! While live plants are not necessarily a requirement, I’ve had the best luck obtaining a successful spawn when live plants were in the tank. After about four to five days as wrigglers, the offspring become free swimming where they are usually found still nestled in the plants. Given the extremely small size of the eggs, it should come as no surprise the fry are also quite small, which poses some difficulties. I typically like to feed my new cichlid fry newly hatched brine shrimp nauplii. Unfortunately, depending on the source

from where the brine shrimp cysts are collected from, some newly hatched nauplii may not be small enough for the new Archocentrus spinosissimus fry to consume. It can be tricky finding food appropriate for the fish to eat on their first fragile days of free swimming. I’ve found that the best method is to leave the fry in with the parents in the densely planted tank where they can pick microorganisms off of the plants. Parental behaviour begins to dwindle after about a week post free swimming and the fry may become vulnerable to predation by other tank inhabitants. For this reason, I like to siphon out the fry to raise in a

A close-up of Archocentrus spinosissimus wrigglers hanging in the roots of water sprite. 16

Archocentrus spinosissimus female is diligently guarding her offspring. Here the female can be seen keeping a close eye on the wrigglers hanging in water sprite roots tank to rear. Unfortunately, these have since passed, but I currently have a group of twelve of their offspring that are growing up fast. They have just started spawning for me. The first few spawns have been infertile but I hope they will spawn successfully in the near future. Archocentrus spinosissimus is truly a fantastic and interesting species to keep but unfortunately is quite rare in the hobby. I suspect much of this is due to the apparent rarity of this fish in the wild and new specimens being imported into the hobby are not common. If you do see Archocentrus spinosissimus available, you should really snatch it up. You will not be disappointed by the amazing beauty and behaviour of this docile species.

Archocentrus spinosissimus in breeding dress become much darker. separate tank. By this time the fry have sufficiently grown enough to eat newly hatched baby brine shrimp. Raising the fry is not difficult in and they grow fairly quickly, with fry growing to 2-2.5 cm after two months. As they get larger, transitioning them to prepared foods is quite easy.

Below, microscopic photos of Archocentrus spinosissimus fry at a scale of 2mm

Conclusion Until recently, I had only a few older Archocentrus spinosissimus of around eight years of age. These fish would spawn for me from time to time and I’d be able to get a few fry out of the 17

Derick Herrera Solano & Jennifer Contreras Picado Costa Rica is home to 250 species of freshwater fish (Angulo et al, 2013), representing 0.9% of the fish species in the world. This wealth of fish fauna is explained by the confluence of several factors that are summarized in fish fauna division developed by Bussing (2002) where the Mesoamerican region is divided into four provinces fish (Fig. 1), each of them is characterized by groups species with similar geographic distributions and endemism in species and genera is also typical of each province. In Costa Rica match three of the four fish counties: Nicaraguan Chiapas, San Juan and Isthmian.

However, it has not been properly recognized, this wealth fish fauna, valued in recent years, which has led today to a deterioration of freshwater ecosystems alarming Costa Ricans and unnoticed by most, worsening the situation, because that ignorance of reality is the major cause of the problem. According to Bussing (2002), the worst damage to aquatic ecosystems is difficult to perceive in a photograph. In recent years, there has been a significant decrease in number of species and

numbers of individuals of fish in certain rivers. In the Central Valley, the main damage done is sewage, waste coffee, and industrial chemicals. In the other sectors of the country, the use of agrochemicals to irrigate crops of bananas, cocoa, cotton, rice and pineapple periodically remove the fish fauna of many rivers. The mills, dairies, sawmill and other industries, also drop their waste into rivers, destroying fish stocks.

Another form of pollution are sediments of land adjacent to the rivers; erosion is a natural phenomenon and the fish are adapted to natural periods of high turbidity during floods of the rainy season, but with the clearing of forests and ploughing the land for agriculture, the sediment carried by the rivers is much larger and can affect some species, reducing 18

diversity of habitats necessary for fish fauna rich in species and biomass. Another effect of deforestation is the obvious scarcity of water, mainly in the Pacific Slope (Bussing, 2002). When these variables meet, pollution and deforestation, the result is known all over the planet: Global warming. Specifically, in a tropical country like Costa Rica that can be felt in one direction, rainfall shortages. According to National Meteorological Institute is confirmed the decrease in rainfall pattern of 2012, up 40%, which caused a regime change in rainfall in 2013, where brief rain occurred but dangerous as they are capable of causing disasters especially in the centre of the country, this caused by urban disorder, which never respected or institutions with competence did not make them respect, protection areas on both sides, on the banks of rivers , creeks or streams, this according to Article 33 of the Forestry Law, No. 7575, causing the channels remain very low and floods is provided (Astorga, 2013). To this must be added the problem still persists, the mismanagement of solid waste, which reached a good amount of water bodies, as in the Tarcoles River, where most of the country population and major productive and economic activities is concentrated. Throughout the basin, 2.33 million people live which equates to about 55% of the national population; well are located 80% of industries including since five years to high-tech industries, beverage, chemical, agro-industrial, metallurgy; and the main trade and increased service delivery in the country. For this reason this basin is considered the most polluted in the country and one of the highest polluted in Central America. (Espinoza et al, 2004). Ironically one of the solutions proposed by the Government to this problem was the creation of the environmental tax for dumping (Decree No. 31176), under the principle that "the polluter pays" and those who generate pollution are charged for damages that the discharge of wastes causes which affect third parties and

ecosystems. The Regulatory Commission of this fee is agreed in the general payment of the pollution load, but giving an incentive to those who meet the maximum concentrations defined by the Rules of Dumping and an additional penalty for not meeting (Astorga, 2013). Aware of this uncomfortable reality, a group of aquarists, biologists and conservationists have come together to found the Costa Rican Association of Aquarists for Conservation of Freshwater Ecosystems (ACACED, for its acronym in Spanish), which has as its mission, to conserve freshwater ecosystems of Costa Rica, by the responsible aquarium, environmental education, research and interference in management policies, involving different organs, science, and the general public (ACACED, 2014). In addition, to deal with the problems that affect aquatic environments, the Association develops activities such as, studies and inventories of freshwater ecosystems; environmental attacks denounces and situations of ecological risk that violate current conservation laws; promoting the creation of new laws and projects as biological closures, fish passes and exhaust dampers background in Hydroelectric Dams. Additionally, the Association works in citizen awareness on the proper use of freshwater ecosystems and resources through environmental education activities such as talks, courses, debates, environmental fairs, tours and exhibitions oriented to the general public and specific groups; disseminating the 19

results of environmental studies and educational materials through print media such as books, magazines , newsletters and newspapers; electronic media such as websites, email , forums, blogs, social networking, and radio and television; support and build fish breeding stations for species considered at risk; conducting courses , forums , workshops and seminars given by national and international , public and private educational institutions ; promote Aquariology as science derived from Aquarium to study all aspects of creating and maintaining species and artificial aquatic ecosystems and controlled manner, both in aquariums as in any other facility for the conservation of aquatic ecosystems; clean-ups and reforestation of river basins. These efforts would be rendered useless without a real commitment and support from both public and private institutions and the general public, because even though Costa Rica has one of the strictest Environmental Legislations internationally, these are not effective. According to the Government the reason is lack of resources to monitor compliance and selfish and carefree culture with the natural environment around them. Costa Rica, has been privileged with one of the greatest biodiversity on the planet, thanks to its geographical position, a privilege that has been exposed to the world and has given him the recognition of "green country", but the reality is that there has not been the ability to protect these natural resources, being the most neglected freshwater ecosystems. The human species is only one of many living species on this planet, is part of biodiversity and vitality depends solely on this. Humans cannot survive without nature; unfortunately ecosystems have a limited extent influenced by human actions.

freshwater fishes of continental and insular Costa Rica: additions and nomenclatural revisions. Astorga, Y. (2013). Estado de la Nación: Estado y Gestión del Recurso Hídrico en Costa Rica. Taken from biblioteca_virtual/012/ Estado_gestion_recurso_hidrico.pdf

References ACACED (2014) Misión. Taken from: http://

Astorga, Y. (2013). Estado de la Nación: Gestión del Recurso Hídrico. Taken from http:// biblioteca_virtual/019/astorga_2013.pdf

Angulo, A; Garita-Alvarado, C.A; Bussing, W.A & López, M.I (2013). Annotated checklist of the 20

We wouldn’t put up with this decoration in our aquariums, then why put up with it in nature!?

Bussing, W.A. (2002). Peces de las aguas continentales de Costa Rica. Ed. Universidad de Costa Rica. 2 ed., 1 reimpr. San José Costa Rica. ISBN 9977-674892 CRHOY (2012). Pretenden declarar iniciativa de limpieza de cuenca del río Virilla de interés nacional (Figura 3). Taken from portadapretenden-declarar-iniciativa-de-limpieza-de -cuenca-del-rio-virilla-en-interes-nacional-y0l7x/



A look at creating a riverine biotope based around Tomocichla tuba

Creating a biotope display aquarium is a great way of learning about the fish we keep. It gives the opportunity to find out what species live sympatric together, as well as the underwater environment including how rock formations look and aquatic fauna that maybe present in each waterway. Costa Rica is an interesting country to research and create a cichlid biotope from as the endemic species available is quite diverse. There is around 9 genera of cichlid that inhabit the many river systems of Costa Rica, giving us plenty of scope when choosing species and combining different cichlid species. Costa Rica boarders Nicaragua in the North and Panama to the South, River systems both have Atlantic (Caribbean sea) and pacific side drainages. The San Juan River is Atlantic side, one of the largest and is shared by both Nicaragua and Costa Rica. I have been planning a Riverine setup for some

time, but was unable to source a suitable cichlid to base the aquarium on. I was very fortunate to grab a small group of Tomocichla tuba, these are very hard to find in the hobby and were lucky that my good friend Ross Evans had grown a large group on at the unit. Tomocichla tuba range extends into eastern Nicaragua, through Eastern Costa Rica to the very tip of Northern Panama. They are a riverine species and found in waters with high oxygen content and strong current. The underwater environment is mainly rocks/ boulders with a sand –gravel River bed. I would regard T.tuba as a fish for the more advanced aquarium keeper. They need quite a strong flow in the aquarium, failing that provide water with high oxygen content by using a spraybar to break the surface of the water. My filtration system is very basic, perhaps crude as the background in the aquarium conceals a basic biological filtration system made up from sheets of filter 22

sponge. Two powerful pumps draw the water through; this gives me a maximum flow rate of 8000 LPH, providing a strong enough current that Riverine cichlids will appreciate. I quickly learned that Tomocichla tuba can be very quarrelsome amongst themselves, so therefore needed a distraction. Keeping to the biotope theme I decided to add a group of Neetroplus nematopus (neets). Neets are a feisty little cichlid that inhabits lakes Rivers and Streams of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. They live sympatric with T. tuba in fast flowing Rivers and Streams so can make ideal tank mates. They can be quite rough with conspecifics and other fish, so make sure you have a large enough tank and plenty of rock work!

the formations in an aesthetically pleasing way, but by following planted aquascaping designs, we can apply the same basics principles. When creating rockscapes I prefer to use the golden rule ratio or mound shaped composition. Also when creating rock formations, we need to take the inhabitants into consideration by providing holes and crevices for territory, spawning and escape routes. Tomocichla tuba need spacious tanks, so I have also provided plenty of open swimming space. If keeping T. tuba, I wouldn’t use anything smaller than 200cm in length. This aquascape doesn't follow any particular aquascaping rule, only to try and represent a rocky inspired river tank. The aquascape is finished off with optionally adding beech tree branches penetrating through the surface of the water.

Aquascaping As I mentioned earlier, the T. tuba biotope is mainly a rocky affair. Rock aquascapes can be quite difficult to represent, as you may need to place the 23

Cryptoheros nigrofasciatus make good tank mates for T. tuba

Although T. tuba thrive in strong current, this isn’t essential when keeping them in a community aquarium, as we can provide plenty of aeration which they will also appreciate. Some cichlids species that are included as tank mates on the next page won’t always appreciate a strong current in the aquarium, so this is where we may need to make compromises. Cichlid species like Astatheros altifrons, Cryptoheros nigrofasciatus and Hypsophrys nicaraguensis appeared to be quite suitable. Remember, this is a Costa Rica inspired biotope where we can base the tank on any chosen fish, not just Tomocichla tuba. There are many beautiful fish to choose from that will be ideal for a large rock aquascaped tank featured. 24

Beech tree branches are arranged penetrating through the surface to add interest to the rock-scape.

Tomocichla tuba is a large fast swimming fish, that needs space!


Astatheros altifrons

Astatheros rostratus

Cryptoheros nigrofasciatus

Cryptoheros septemfasciatus

Hypsophrys nicaraguensis

Neetroplus nematopus

Tomocichla tuba

Astyanax aeneus


Astatheros altifrons (Kner & Steindachner, 1863)

Tomocichla tuba (Meek, 1912)

Distribution: Central America: Pacific slope of Costa Rica (Térraba River) to Panama (Chiriqui River). Countries: Costa Rica, Panama

Distribution: Central America: Atlantic slope, from the Escondido River (Nicaragua) to the Cricamola River (Panama).

Astatheros rostratus (Gill & Bransford, 1877)

Countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama

Distribution: Central America: Atlantic slope of Nicaragua and Costa Rica (San Juan River drainage including Lakes Managua, Nicaragua and Masaya, to Matinaon River).

Astyanax aeneus (Günther, 1860) Distribution: Lower Rio Papaloapan and Colima, Mexico south to some places in Central America, extending to the Rio Cocle del Norte and Rio Tabasara in Panama

Countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua Cryptoheros nigrofasciatus (Günther, 1867)


Distribution: Central America: Pacific slope, from Guatemala to Costa Rica (Tárcoles River); Atlantic slope from Aguan River (Honduras) to Guarumo River (Panama).

Countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama

Kullander, S.O. 2003. Cichlidae. Pp. 605-654 In Reis, R.E., S.O. Kullander & C.J. Ferraris, Jr., (eds.),Check list of the freshwater fishes of South and Central America.

Cryptoheros septemfasciatus (Regan, 1908)

Photo credits:

Distribution: Central America: Atlantic slope of Costa Rica, from the San Juan River drainage to the Banano River.

Astatheros rostratus Robin Hansson Cryptoheros septemfasciatus Peter Andersson Astyanax aeneus Wisse Sluijters

Countries: Costa Rica Hypsophrys nicaraguensis (Günther, 1864) Distribution: Central America: Atlantic slope, from the San Juan drainage, including Lake Nicaragua, in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, to the Matina River drainage in Costa Rica.

Other Costa Rica species considered that are sometimes available, but not illustrated. Note, that some of these species may not be biotope correct with T. tuba habitat, but can still be used to create your own Costa Rica inspired biotope.

Countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua Neetroplus nematopus Günther, 1867 Distribution: Central America: Atlantic slope of Nicaragua and western Costa Rica, in the San Juan River drainage, including Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua.

Astatheros alfari, Astatheros longimanus, Astatheros rytisima, Archocentrus centrarchus, Archocentrus multispinosus, Cryptoheros sajica, Tomocichla seiboldii, Parachromis dovii, Parachromis loisellei, Parachromis managuensis, Vieja maculicauda.

Countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua


Does the thought of choosing and collecting wood fill you with confusion? The Central Scene answers some common questions. Q Is wood found in Central American biotopes?

You can use many different types of wood either bought from a local fish shop or collected yourself. Bog wood can be available in many different sizes, but can be become very expensive and limited in shape and size The pros with aquarium bought wood are you can be sure that it will be safe to add to the aquarium and will generally sink straight away. There are many different varieties available like common Malaysian Bog Wood, Sumatra Wood, Redmoor Root Wood, which can be quite buoyant when first added to the

Yes, wood plays a large part when setting up a biotope for Central American cichlids, it is found in many different water ways. The wood can be found in piles along the banks or from overhanging branches from trees. Wood can range in size from small branches to actual full sized sunken trunks. Wood is also a good decoration for creating territory and spawning sites for cichlid pairs. Q So what kind of wood do you suggest?

Many Central American river systems will have an abundance of wood Photo Š Dieter Duehring


Rocks and wood, make a perfect combination!

aquarium. Horn wood is quite dense and heavy and will easily sink. Although aquarium safe, it is still good practice to prepare the wood prior to adding by cleaning and soaking for a couple of days. The other type of wood is stuff you can collect yourself. This can work out very cheap as collecting your own will be free. Shape and size won’t be limited either, however, be sure it will be safe to use. Q What safe wood can I collect? There are many different types of wood you can collect yourself depending where you live and what’s available. In the UK, the most commonly used wood to collect are either beech or oak tree wood. These two types of wood have been used and proved to be aquarium safe by many hobbyist. Other wood that are reported to be safe are from fruit trees like apple, pear and damson. There maybe others, but I don’t think it would be responsible to list them here as I can’t be sure they are 100% aquarium safe. I would advise to stay clear from conifer trees unless preserved in bogs, as they can contain toxins that could leach into the water making it milky! Many hobbyist from Germany and the Netherlands use wood called ''Wortelhout’’ (Wood Root).

UNSAFE WOOD! Not all wood is suitable for aquarium use. Evergreen and Hawthorn can harbour lethal thorns. Pine wood in unpreserved form, Willow and Yew may contain lethal toxins?


This wood originates from German peat bogs where it has been preserved in the ground for centuries. There is no concerns regarding particular species of tree, as the preservation of the wood has made them safe. Some are oak others are reported to be conifers, both can have different densities and effect the way the wood finally sinks. If it’s not possible to collect this wood yourself, many shops can stock it. This is some of the best looking wood available as pieces can boast nice root systems and be available in very large sizes. If you decide to collect wood from trees, then this must be done in winter time as we can be sure that the sap has gone back into the tree and reduces the chance of sap leaching into the water. Cutting wood straight from a tree will limit you to branches

most probably float, thus requiring you to weigh the wood or permanently fixing it with aquarium sealant. Depending on the source or the thickness of the wood, the sinking process can take several months. Thinner branches should sink in weeks. Q My wood has white things growing on it, should I be worried? No, this is perfectly normal and can also appear with certain types of wood purchased from your local fish store. These are harmless white fungal spores developing as a result of the wood submerged in water. This will be more commonly seen on wood that still has some bark attached to it, but don’t worry. Although unsightly, the growths will disappear over a few weeks either naturally or from your cichlids grazing on the stuff.

rather than thick wood pieces. If you’re lucky, you can collect wood from a dead fallen tree. This is a better source if you wish to collect larger thicker pieces, as the wood will be dead and quite weathered. Make sure the wood isn’t rotten or harbours any fungal growths. Q How do I prepare the wood for aquarium use? When you are happy with your wood, give it a close inspection making sure there aren’t any fungal spores and rotten areas. If the wood is large, then cleaning will probably need to be done in a bath or tub. Fill the bath with very hot water and let the wood soak for a while. You can add a salt solution if needed but this is completely optional. With a hard brush, scrub the wood clean removing any bark or debris. Once you’re happy, give the wood a blast with a pressure washer and leave to dry out in the elements for a couple of weeks. Prior to adding the wood to the aquarium you can leave the wood to soak in water for a few months; this process helps the wood to sink as well as removing tannins that inevitably will leach from the wood. Tannins isn’t a problem and contrary to some people’s belief, will have no effect on softening the water or lowering the pH values if your water is already hard and alkaline. When adding the wood for the first time, it will 30

To prevent too many fungal growths, try to remove as much loose bark as possible. If the wood gives off a bad smell over time, you may have a problem? Either you are using unsuitable wood or it may have been rotten when you first collected it? Fungal growths like these are completely harmless, your fish may even relish them?


This display aquarium uses many different shapes and sizes of wood combined to give a great effect. All the wood featured is collected from beech and oak .

Q Will my cichlids damage themselves on the wood?

through the surface of the water. Wood is an essential part of any Central American aquarium and has many benefits. It is also worth noting that wood harbours bacteria and levels can rise in aquariums with too much wood. This can be detrimental to the health of some cichlids that may require pristine conditions such as riverine species or the Herichthys cichlids from the Rio Verde springs. This could show itself with ailments such as cloud eye and scratches developing bacterial growths. Good filtration and water management should keep these concerns in check.

This unfortunately is the risk you have to decide, however, there is always a risk be it with large rocks or artificial décor. Make sure that the wood doesn’t have very sharp pieces sticking out. If they do, either round off or cut it away. Q My wood looks very limited, how do I make it look interesting? Some pieces of wood can look a little underwhelming and gives little impact to the display. One way of bringing your wood out, is to customise it by using and fixing other different pieces to it. By fixing thinner branch you can represent root like appearance. Learn to position your wood using composition techniques. Try to position the wood in different ways by having it penetrating

Wood doesn't last forever and at some point will need replacing, especially wood that hasn’t been preserved in bogs.


Wood offers sanctuary and spawning sites for many cichlids.


Archocentrus multispinosus Günther, 1866

Etymology: Archocentrus- Greek, archo = anus + Greek, kentron = stinger; referring to the spine on the anal fin multispinosus means "many spines" Common name: Rainbow cichlid Size: Regarded as a dwarf species of the Central American world A. multispinosus grow to around 5” /12 cm Males, 4” / 10cm Females. Some aquarium specimens can grow a little larger. Distribution: Archocentrus. multispinosus are found in Central America on the Atlantic slope, from Patuca River (Honduras), to the Matina River (Costa Rica). Pacific slope regions are from the Guasaule River (Nicaragua) to the Tempisque / Bebedero Rivers (Costa Rica). The type locality specimen is from the lake of Managua.



Archocentrus multispinosus getting ready to spawn. The belly region of the fish will get noticeably darker at this point.

Notes and Aquarium experiences: Archocentrus multispinosus (Rainbow cichlid) is an excellent fish for anyone wanting to get into Central American cichlids. One of the smallest members of centrals, behaviour, temperament and colour are very appealing. Not strictly a fish that displays every colour of the rainbow as the base colour is usually a orange/yellow depending on mood and populations, but subtle greens and blues can be picked out in good quality specimens. Mature males will display a pointed dorsal edge, while females appear rounder and smaller. Juvenile fish are much harder to sex. In the aquarium they are ideal as they are fairly peaceful (except

when spawning) and will tolerate some plants and different water conditions. They are quite adaptable at lower acidic pH ranges from as low as 6.5, although adaptable, good water quality shouldn't be skimped on. A good water and temperature range is medium hard water with a pH range between 7-8 and temp around 25c - 28c. Although a fairly easy fish to spawn, higher temperature ranges will stimulate them. Archocentrus multispinosus are great little fish to keep and certainly overlooked, pick a group up if you can, you won't be disappointed! 36

Females lack a pointed dorsal edge

Biotope information: Habitats are reported to be shallow water along lakes rivers streams in marginal vegetation where the water in reported to be quite turbid. These cichlids are also found in stagnant ditches or small pools where they will spawn (Baylis 1974- 1976). These small bodies of water can be quite shallow where temperature fluctuations between 15c and up to 35c through daytime are common place. Plant life like Azolla mexicana and Heteranthera sp. can be found, this can give us clues on how best to set up a genuine biotope. Algae and rotting vegetation will be in abundance where A. multispinosus will feed by scraping the algae with their adaptable teeth. The only other fish reported to be sharing these hostile habitats are young Parachromis managuense, Poecilia sp. and Astyanax mexicanus. 37

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The Central Scene Issue 3  

North & Central American cichlid keeping

The Central Scene Issue 3  

North & Central American cichlid keeping