E. maculatus (BLOCH, 1795)
The orange chromide (E. maculatus) is another species that thrives
in the brackish environment of river estuaries, and it is found along
with the green chromide throughout most of its range. E. maculatus
is the most common Etroplinae species in the aquarium hobby, but
the most available form is the red or gold tank-strain color morph;
the wild-type fish is rarely exported.
The most notable characteristic of the green and orange chromides
is that they thrive in brackish water. One theory suggests that some
species of cichlids with a high salt tolerance may have managed to
make their way across the gap of marine water from the mainland to
what became Madagascar and India after the fracture of Gondwana.
The salt-tolerant green and orange chromides are proof that brackish
cichlids do exist; however, the theory is questionable considering
that there are several cichlid species in the world that can live for
at least some time in marine conditions, but none of those species
are found in a wide range around the world, suggesting that they
cannot cross deep, open ocean.
E. suratensis and E. maculatus are also found living together in the
wild, and there are reports that the smaller orange chromide may act
as a cleaner for the larger green chromide. Another report states that
the orange chromide is an efficient egg predator of their larger cousin’s
spawns, so maybe acting as a cleaner is a sneaky way to get closer to
a better meal. Regardless of the nature of their interactions, keeping
a colony of green and orange chromide cichlids together would make
for an interesting community.
The aquarium would have to be large enough to handle the green
chromides, which can grow up to 12 inches ( 30 cm) and prefer to live
in groups. Though large, the fish is not overly aggressive, and colonies
can live happily alongside other hardy species if there is enough space.
A very large brackish aquarium with green chromides and other Asian
or Indian euryhaline fish can be a spectacular display, but it is seldom
seen outside of zoos and public aquariums.
E. maculatus is the smallest Asian cichlid and grows to a much more
manageable 3 inches ( 7. 5 cm). These fish are gregarious and relatively
peaceful, only becoming territorial when breeding. Unlike their larger
green relatives, the orange chromide has a low tolerance for poor water
quality. The green chromide appears to have mechanisms that allow the
fish to survive in water with very low oxygen content, an adaptation
the orange chromide lacks. To be successful with P. maculatus, an
aquarist must pay careful attention to waste management and install
a robust filter. Since these fish like to live in groups, it would be best
to house six to ten in an aquarium of at least 30 gallons (113 liters).
E. canarensis can grow to 4 inches ( 10 cm), a little larger than the
orange chromide, and is also somewhat gregarious and not overly
aggressive. The banded chromide is limited to freshwater, however, as
it cannot tolerate a brackish environment. The rivers they come from
are rapidly flowing and well oxygenated, conditions that should be
matched in an aquarium with robust filtration to clean the water and
provide aerating current.
All chromides are omnivorous but have a strong preference for
vegetables, since they graze on algae and aufwuchs in the wild.
Aquarium residents will accept a wide variety of prepared foods,
though. Choose formulations with generous amounts of spirulina
for good health and better color. They will eat tender-leaved plants,
but tougher species such as Java fern or Anubias should survive a
Breeding and Fry Care
Chromide cichlids are biparental substrate spawners that form
impermanent pair bonds. Keeping them in groups facilitates
the formation of a pair, which will defend a territory in a quiet
section of the aquarium in which to lay eggs and raise their fry. The
interaction of several fish is important for courtship, and two alone
may never pair up to breed. There are not many visual differences
between the sexes, especially immature specimens, so starting with
several fish gives the best chance of establishing a pair.
A breeding pair will clean a relatively flat surface on which to lay
their adhesive eggs and then sit over the spawn and fan the plaque
to keep the eggs well oxygenated. The eggs hatch after two or three
days, and then the parents will move the larvae to a pit they have
dug in the substrate. The larvae will be moved several times to
different pits until they are free-swimming fry, usually about three
or four days after the eggs hatch.
Newly free-swimming fry will graze on the body slime of their
parents, as well as forage in the detritus of the substrate for very small
foods. Live baby brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii) are small enough
for the fry to eat and will help them to grow quickly. Microworms
and vinegar eels are also good live food choices on which to start
the fry. Powdered flake, pellet, and gel foods can be suspended in
water and fed into the cloud of fry, which works well so long as the
food particles are small enough for them to get into their mouths.
Care should be taken to not overfeed the prepared foods and foul
the water, which is a detriment to the fry and the parents.
The offspring will grow quickly with good nutrition, excellent
water quality, and frequent water changes. The parents will care
for the fry until they are about one month old, and then the pair
will break up and rejoin the community of adults. The older fish in
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