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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

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The Central Scene Issue 3  

North & Central American cichlid keeping

The Central Scene Issue 3  

North & Central American cichlid keeping

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