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Spawning Dicrossus maculatus
by Charles Drew (H&DAS)

I first saw this seldom seen Checkerboard cichlid while I was a teenager in the fifties. I had gone to a Western New York fish Show with an older member and his son. From there we visited the home of another young member in the area. In a tank in his room he had a beautiful pair of Spadetail Checkerboards. Ever since that day I have been keeping my eyes open hoping to someday find a pair. After over forty years I finally had success. This spring of 2002 Paul McFarlane and I got a price list from an importer in Montreal. On the list was Dicrossus maculatus. An order was soon placed and few weeks later along with a number of other varieties they arrived safe and in excellent health.

The first thing that I did was check the water in which they came. The water was fairly soft and slightly acid. I duplicated it the best I could filling a ten gallon aquarium. In the tank I put a box filter, a clay flower pot with a hole in the side, a clump of java moss and a small potted radican sword. I left the bottom bare so that it was easy to clean. It did not take me long to discover that these fish are rather timid and would only eat live food. Since I had a good supply of daphnia in a tub in the back yard this was no problem. Weeks went by and the male that is about three inches long started to get a little bit aggressive with the female who is an inch smaller. Most of the time she stayed in the clump of java moss or behind the filter. If she ventured too far out she was quickly chased back to her safe hiding place. He did however allow her to come out to eat.

This went on for a couple of months. I was starting to get a little frustrated with the fact that the female was plump but no spawning had taken place. The water had a PH of 6.6 and my conductivity meter read 180 microseamens. My next move was to make the water even softer. i stsrted doing my water changes with straight RO water. Soon after a couple of water changes things happened. It was now late June and one evening I was surprised and delighted to see the female with her red venteral fins houvering over a clutch of eggs. Two days later however, to my disapointment the eggs were gone. Within two weeks they spawned again. Just like before she had spawned on the radican leaf. There I was torn between taking the eggs and hatching them artificially or taking another chance with mom. After all most first spawnings of eggs are no good anyway. I noticed that things had changed. The female became very aggressive and gave the male a good wack whenever he came too close. On the third day the eggs hatched and there was about seventy-five little wrigglers on the leaf. {I hear that they can lay up to a hundred and fifty.} The next day they were gone. What a disapontment.Not only that but the female had gone into hiding. The following evening however I could hardly believe my eyes the fry were back on the leaf with mom standing guard. Soon the fry were free swimming and followed their mother in a tight little school wherever she went. The male found that it was best if he spent most of his time in the java moss leaving the female and fry most of the tank in which to roam. Each night just before lights out at 11pm she would bed them down for the night on the tank bottom. When they were about five weeks old and a little more than a quarter of an inch long. I decided that seeing that the male was starting to move around too much and the fry were ranging further from the female for her to feel comfortable. And that it was time to move both parents to another tank. The fry I felt were too small and sensative to move. All this time the parents and fry had been living on newly hatched baby brineshrimp with a few white worms for the adults occassionally.

The maculatus fry are not the easiest of fish to raise. They are very sensitive to water changes and conditions and I find them to be slow growers. Now at a inch long and three months old they are starting to spar amongst themselves. Inspite of a few losses I still have about fifty fry and the parents have finally quite sulking and are showing signs that they might spawn again soon.
If you are fortunate enough to come across these fish don,t buy them unless you are an experienced keeper and breeder. It is a great feeling of accomplishment to have any success at all with this little cichlid from Brazil. But it only takes one good pair and lots of good luck.

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