long as possible, and as the fish grows, the
size of the aquarium will need to increase
dramatically. Often, extremely dedicated
hobbyists will have two or three specimens
in tanks that measure 8 or 10 feet in length
and 3 or even 4 feet in width. Height does
not matter much, as the tank can never be
deep enough to prevent C. temensis from
trying to knock the lids off of it anyway!
Generally speaking though, an aquarium
of 24 inches in height is a good start, and
one that is 36 inches tall would be better.
Regardless, it’s the length and width of the
aquarium that matters most.
Cichla can be belligerent fishes, and C.
temensis is one of the most aggressive of
the group. However, as juveniles they are
more likely to be bullied rather than do the
bullying themselves. For this reason, most
keepers tend to keep C. temensis alone in
C. temensis can certainly be kept in
community settings as long as care is taken
to choose their tankmates carefully. Of
course, since Cichla have large mouths,
their tankmates should be large enough
so as not to become a meal. On the other
hand, even though C. temensis have huge
mouths, they are often picked on by even
more belligerent fishes, such as those of
the “Cichlasoma” complex (i.e., Nandopsis,
Chuco, Amphilophus, and Parachromis).
Aside from the aggression and the
possibility of tankmates becoming a meal,
hobbyists should be aware of the swimming
room that is required by these large cichlids.
Cichla, in general, are active swimmers that
hunt down prey visually. In nature they
patrol the shallows during daylight hours,
usually in the dawn and dusk (crepuscular)
hours. Cichla are very powerful, efficient
piscivorous predators that require large
aquariums and must be provided with
lots of swimming room if they are to be
expected to thrive in captivity.
Diet and Feeding
C. temensis is a strict carnivore, though
more appropriately classified as a piscivore,
a.k.a. fish-eater. Wild-collected specimens
will need small live fishes offered daily or
every other day. Sub-adults and adults can
be fed less frequently but should still be fed
at least twice a week at minimum.
Even though C. temensis grows to
tankbusting proportions, its diet consists of
comparatively small foodstuffs. In nature,
Cichla temensis, adult male.
most of the fishes that C. temensis feeds on
are characins, a family of fishes to which
such venerable species as the black and
redbelly piranhas belong, as do the peaceful
cardinal and neon tetras, as well as many
In aquariums, the feeding of live fish is
somewhat of a controversial topic, and there
are very few species that absolutely require
live fish as food in order to survive. There is
no doubt that fish sold as feeders are often
in terrible health and have the ability to
transmit diseases to your show fish. Fish
eating fish, however, is a perfectly natural
thing. If you have no objection to the
practice, and if you have a good source for
reliably clean and healthy feeder fish, then
your fish can benefit from this natural food.
In addition to live fish, the use of a high-quality pellet diet is highly recommended.
By using a pellet food, it is easier to provide
a well-balanced diet to C. temensis and other
piscivorous fishes. There are many good
types of pelleted foods available at most
local pet shops. Additionally, many more are
available through specialized sellers online
or by special order. Pellets that are high in
beta-carotenes and omega fatty acids are
best for color enhancement. Those high in
algae and kelp are used to add a touch of
plant matter to the diet, which is beneficial
for all predatory fishes. Pellets marketed for
trout farming and the like all make excellent
dietary supplements for C. temensis. Also,
several popular brands of fish foods offer
jumbo-sized pellets and floating food sticks,
which work equally well.
Other types of foods, such as earthworms,
Cichla temensis is a game fish popular with sport
fishermen in Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia.
crayfish, and seafood (i.e., shrimp, squid,
clam, and chunked fish flesh) work well too,
and should be systematically employed in
the dietary regimen. Shrimp, especially krill,
provide color enhancement for C. temensis.
Many aquarium-kept specimens have
developed strikingly beautiful coloration
when these foods have been incorporated
into their diet on a regular basis.
Often, getting wild-collected Cichla to
accept non-living foods is tricky, and it
will take some time to get them used to
the idea. One technique that seems to
work with some degree of success, at
least for juveniles, is to make sure the
fish are eating well right from the start.
Then withhold food for a few days. After
two or three days with no food offerings,
add a few small dead feeder fish so that
the feeders are blown into the tank via
the filter return. Usually the Cichla will
swallow the fish without any hesitation.
Let a few hours pass and repeat the same
scenario. Do this again for a day or so,
but slowly add some pre-soaked pellets
or small bits of seafood to the mix. After