Article by David Midgley
Species: Hypselecara temporalis (Gunther, 1862)
Synoma: Acara crassa, Heros goeldii, H. crassa, Cichlasoma hellabrunni, Cichlasoma temporalis
Common name: Chocolate cichlid
Origin: South America
Localities/Morphs: widespread, Amazon river drainages. Some variation does exist in populations along the length of the Amazon.
Maximum size: 20-30cm
Natural habitat: stagnant, generally in white water 0.5 - 2.0m deep. The species has, however, also been found in black and clear water habitats. In almost all cases the species is found under floating plant cover in dim light.
Natural foods/prey: omnivorous in the wild - will graze water plants as well as consuming small invertebrates which it catches at the waters surface. Some reports claim the fish can also feed on flying insects, catching them by jumping out of the water.
Water chemistry in the wild: pH 6.0 - 7.2; gH - < 1 degree; kH - < 1 degree; conductivity 127 microsemens (@26 C)
Predators: larger fish, other large predatory vertebrates.
Brood size: 400-800 eggs
Breeding method: Open spawner.
Minimum tank size: for a single pair 4' (18" deep)
Sex ratio: 1m:1f
Tolerance of conspecifics: Pairs will bully other individuals if hiding places are not provided.
Tolerance of heterospecifics: Good. H. temporalis is a relatively peaceful cichlid.
Water chemistry in aquaria: Soft, slightly acid water seems ideal.
Temperature range: 25 C.
Foods accepted: Unfussy feeder - will accept flake, pelletted, frozen and or live foods. Also provide some vegetable content.
Special requirements: Water should be low in metal ions. More below.
- The chocolate cichlid is another of South Americas underrated species. This is a large cichlid which is quite gentle natured, despite its size. This, however, should not suggest that they should be housed with small fishes such as neon tetras - which they will readily consume.
- The tank should be well planted with tough indigestible species, such as java fern and anubias. If possible, plants should be placed such that the tank can only be viewed from one side, this helps to reduce the stress the cichlid feels at being "exposed" to predators. In addition the tank should be furnished with wood, dark substrate and floating plants. The dark substrate and floating plant cover help further to calm this nervous cichlid.
- As described early there are some reports that this fish will leap out of the water to catch flying insects - as such tight fitting (and adequately thick) tank lids are required.
- The species is reasonably sensitive to dissolved metal ions (from pipes) and as such peat filtration may be helpful in chelating some of these free ions. The species is known to fall ill to a variety of "pitting" diseases when metal ion concentrations are too high.
- Having kept a number of chocolate cichlids I can happily recommend this cichlid to anyone who is interested in keeping a 4x18x18 tank with something quite different.