These cichlids are warm-water fish, so a
heater is essential. An efficient biological
filter that will also remove any suspended
particles is also necessary, as the fish are
sensitive to elevated levels of metabolites.
Retroculus dig quite vigorously in the
substrate and might even bury themselves
in it when faced with a threat.
Long, powerful pelvic fins are also a
distinguishing trait of both genera. When
keeping Teleocichla or Retroculus, you are sure
to observe them propped up on those well-
developed fins while resting on the bottom
or on a piece of structure. Some hobbyists
who keep these fish install a powerhead with
a diffuser to imitate brisk currents and aim it
at a stone or other decoration on which the
species like to perch. The diffuser will also
thoroughly oxygenate the water, which is
helpful in the maintenance of these cichlids.
Both genera thrive in soft and slightly acidic
water with a temperature of about 82°F
( 28°C). I use a reverse osmosis (RO) filter to
prepare their water.
Care and Feeding
Small crustaceans, such as Cyclops or
adult Artemia, should make up the bulk of
the diet for these cichlids. They can also
be provided glassworms, bloodworms, or
mosquito larvae. Augment the menu with
Spirulina or vitamin-enriched granulated
foods that fall to the bottom. Note that
it is easy to overfeed these fish, as they
have a good appetite. Retroculus have thick,
massive lips, which they use to take up
food together with the substrate. They then
separate the organic matter and eject the
inedible bits through their gills. By contrast,
the Teleocichla, with the conical snouts and
protruding lower jaws typical of predatory
fish, take food found on the bottom.
Teleocichla are territorial, so in their case,
a large bottom area with numerous hiding
places is ideal for their maintenance. As far
as reproduction is concerned, Teleocichla can
be monogamous or polygamous, and they
usually breed in caves or other hideouts.
Retroculus, on the other hand, have a
highly specific reproductive strategy. In their
natural environment, the fish dig a hole in
the substrate that can be more than a foot
(a few dozen centimeters) in diameter. They
then carry stones in their mouths over quite
long distances and place them around these
craters, building a nest of sorts in which
reproduction can take place.
A Few Parting Notes
Teleocichla and Retroculus species are best
kept in groups of six to eight specimens. On
the whole, they are not excessively aggressive
when young, but as they mature—and
especially when engaged in reproduction—
their aggression does increase. As happens
in the world of cichlids, there are also some
solitary and aggressive older specimens,
especially among the Teleocichla, that tend
to chase other fish into corners and harass
them to death. So in this respect, they are
These fish are rarely bred in aquaria.
However, if you enjoy a good challenge,
maintaining an environment that promotes
their reproduction would surely be a great
achievement for any hobbyist. D
54 www.tfhmagazine.com Jul/Aug 2017
Retroculus should be provided a sandy substrate that they can sift through for food items.
A Teleocichla pair—female left, male right.