A pair of dwarf pike cichlids Crenicichla regani, male above, female below.
The cars zip past us as we stand in front of a very busy road in Manaus, Brazil. We cross the street and after three
minutes we arrive at a local fish store,
where beautiful Jack Dempseys swim to
and fro in one of the show tanks and tiny
baby angelfish dart hither and thither. But
these were not what I wanted—I eventually
spotted one of the fish I was looking for,
a red-tailed black shark Epalzeorhynchos
bicolor, for an appealingly good price. But
there was one more pet shop I had wanted
to try out. We walked another five minutes
to the other fish store, and I looked around
for a bit, but didn’t find too much.
As I was leaving, out of the corner of
my eye I saw a 3-inch fish with a black
horizontal band from its mouth to the
beginning of its black-spotted tail. The
area below the band was pearly white,
and above the band was a mossy green.
The dorsal fin was long, and edged in a
slight red. I asked for the name of the
fish. “Jacundá,” the shop owner said. The
Portuguese name didn’t mean anything
to me at the time, but I knew I had heard
of it before, and I had also seen that fish
somewhere in a book.
Expecting the price to be outrageously
high, I was pleasantly surprised when the
clerk said “ 5 reais” (about US$3). After
thinking it over a great deal, I decided to
buy it, even though the clerk warned me
about its aggressiveness.
Once home, I immediately fell upon
my books, and the beautiful world of
cichlids opened before me in a whole
new way. I had my very own pike cichlid!
I was smitten. With my pike cichlid in its
new home, I needed to identify it. First
I thought it was a Crenicichla proteus,
but a couple of hobbyists suggested
that it was a C. lucius or C. regani. After
further research, I determined that it
was C. regani, the dwarf pike. I was very
relieved that I wouldn’t have an 8-inch
fish to deal with!
My pike’s new home was a custom-made, 70-cm (27-inch) tank. Its other
tankmates were a young Aequidens diadema,
an unidentified 4-inch catfish, not to
mention some otos Otocinclus macrospilus,
barbs Puntius arulius, and cories Corydoras
schwartzi. I also had a 3-gallon tank, and a
little later I got a 10-gallon tank. Now I have
six tanks, mostly small ones.
The pike was not quite the first cichlid
I have had. I used to have some Dicrossus
filamentosus, a species that is rarely the first
cichlid a newbie comes across (but they
are fairly easy to come by in the Amazon).
Because of my growing fascination with
cichlids, I began to look for more information
on these wonderful creatures. I later found an
Acarichthys heckelli in a store, and I bought
it knowing nothing about it. I liked it a lot,
but after an accident with baking soda, the
pH shot up to about 7! Luckily, that was the
only fish that died. By that point I had found
out how large it could grow and avoided