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Written by: Dan Colodney

Archocentrus centrarchus - Flier cichlid

Flier cichlid point map


Flier cichlid
Photo from Cichlids forever
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First described by Gill and Bransford in 1877 as Heros centrarchus, it would be over one hundred years before 'Cichlasoma' archocentrus made its first appearance in the hobby in Europe. Today, classified as Archocentrus centrarchus, it is still a rare occurence in hobbyists tanks.

Link to Fish base information

This species occurs along the Atlantic and Pacific slopes of Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua in rivers and streams that run to the Caribbean. Distribution is from the Rio Choluteca in SW Honduras to the Rio Zapote, an effluent of Lago de Nicaragua in NW Costa Rica and on the Atlantic slope of central Nicaragua from the Rio Grande to the Rio Matina in Costa Rica. The habitat of Archocentrus centrarchus in these areas has a pH which ranges from 6.5-7.2, GH: 1-4, KH: 2-4 and a temperature of 78-96°F. Predominantly found in the shallow waters and swampy areas of lakes and rivers. Also found in the many oxbow lakes, ponds, roadside ditches and remnant pools of floodplanes where vegetation is thick. They prefer warm temperatures and thrive in stagnant waters which are low in oxygen with no problem. This is one tough fish.

Sexual dimorphism in this species is less obvious than in other Archocentrus species. Males have somewhat longer and more pointed soft dorsal fin rays and anal fins than do females, and usually display more metallic green coloration on the flanks. Male Archocentrus centrarchus grow to about 6 inches while females are smaller at about 4-5 inches maximum. Normally, both males and females have a metallic greenish yellow undercolor with some speckling or striping that shows orange, red and yellow.

Photo link to Ark Pet & Aquatics

In the aquarium, breeding is very similar to Archocentrus nigrofasciatus, the Convict cichlid. Pairs will form and select a spawning site which is usually some type of cave. The pair will clean a flat surface to lay the eggs on; The female will guard the eggs while the male patrols the outer area to ward off predators. This is interesting behaviour since in the wild, Archocentrus centrarchus is an open water spawner and females lay their eggs in highly vegetated, shallow water, theoretically to minimize predation. During breeding, this fish will become much more aggressive than normal. Also, during courtship and breeding, this fish's colors will change quite drastically from the normally light yellow base color to a darker color.

Link to photo by Rick Borstein

A pair can produce up to 1000 oval shaped, beige eggs. As with many cichlasomines, It is not unusual for a pair to eat their first few clutches. Have patience grasshopper and you will see them settle down to competent and responsible parenthood. While both parents share in hygienic behavior, i.e egg fanning and substrate maintainance found with many cichlasomines, this seems rather poorly developed in Archocentrus centrarchus and undertaken only by females.

The eggs hatch 72 hours postspawning at a temperature of 80°F. Some literature suggests that wrigglers are then moved by their parents to pits previously dug by the male. I didn't find this to be the case. Larvae were 'hung' on roots and leaves of aquatic vegetation, a behaviour more in keeping with their native habitat. Fry begin to swim freely about the tank four days after hatching, closely guarded by both parents, and have no trouble consuming newly hatched brine shrimp and finely powdered prepared foods. As with all cichlids, the growing fry are extremely sensitive to dissolved metabolic wastes.

Archocentrus centrarchus is best kept as a member of an established and compatible pair in a species tank, or as a single individual in a community tank. Conspecific aggression is very high. In other words, don't even think about putting more than a pair of these fish in a tank.

This is a cichlid that exhibits fascinating behaviours and can be maintained in medium sized tanks due to its relatively small size and long term pair bonding. I recommend it highly to all cichlidophiles.


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