The Salvini Cichlid is a very striking Central American species that you may already recognize from aquaria, even if you do not know the name. They have a mixed reputation in terms of easiest for beginners, but either way, they are a very rewarding and interactive fish to take care of.
|Central America including Honduras and Guatemala
|12 – 13 years
|9 inches or up to 18 cm
|Vivid yellow, red, blue, and silver, with touches of other colors
|50 gallons or 227 liters for one
|24-26 C or 76 to 78 F
The striking appearance of the Salvini Cichlid makes them a very popular fish for advanced aquarists. In some ways, they are classic tropical fish, fulfilling the expectations of bright colors and a vivid appearance.
Salvini Cichlid Size And Usual Appearance
The main body color of the Salvini Cichlid is yellow, but they also have black bars and a red belly. They are named the tricolor Cichlid by some aquarists, and it’s not hard to see why!
They have a sharp dorsal fin and a relatively small tail fin in comparison to their body size, which can reach 9 inches or 18 cm, making them a medium cichlid. The black coloration tends to run in two horizontal bars along the length of their body with the red on their underside and a little above the black stripes near the dorsal fin. These bars and stripes may be rimmed with a touch of white.
Salvini Cichlid Color Changes
Salvini Cichlid coloration is not constant throughout life. When the fish are young, the yellow color is dominant. It is only as they grow older and become sexually mature that the red and black colors begin to appear.
In this way, it’s easy not only to tell the rough age of a Salvini Cichlid but also whether or not they are ready to breed.
During breeding, the male and female will display their colors more vividly. The female will also develop a dark spot near her tail and on her gills; this indicates that she is ready to mate
Author’s Note: Did you know you can encourage the coloration of your Cichlids by feeding them foods that are rich in Spirulina? Enriching their diet with spirulina algae flakes promotes the pigments that form the colors in their scales.
Tank Setup And Maintenance
What Is The Natural Habitat of Salvini Cichlids In The Wild?
In their natural habitat, these Cichlids are relatively widespread. They tend to be found in lakes and rivers on the eastern coast of Central America, which has a tropical climate. Thus, they are used to warm water and lush vegetation. These rivers and streams are also relatively fast-flowing.
Ideal Tank Setup
The ideal tank setup for any fish tends to recreate their natural habitat in the wild. This means for the Salvini Cichlid, keeping them in well-filtered water that is between 24-26 C or roughly 76-78 F or 24-26 C is best, with a sand or gravel substrate.
Salvini Cichlid Tank Size, Water Parameters And Filtration
The recommended tank capacity for one of these fish is 50 gallons or 227 liters. However, as with choosing a substrate, you may need to factor in other tankmates to fully calculate the correct tank capacity for your ideal aquarium.
Due to the fact they naturally come from fast-flowing rivers, Salvini Cichlids need a canister or HOB filter that can filter around 10x the tank capacity per hour, keeping the water crystal clear and ensuring it is well-oxygenated.
Salvini Cichlid Tankmates And Plants
Creating the rest of the environment or these fish requires a bit of thought. Salvini Cichlids don’t get on well with all kinds of fish. However, they do like lots of plants, which provide both hiding spots and oxygenation.
Salvini Cichlids may occasionally nibble at plants. However, they are not a species that is known for eating plants, so generally you can choose any species you desire, and boost growth with LED lights. Good ones include Cabomba, guppy grass, Java fern, Java moss, Marimo moss balls, amazon sword, Brazilian pennywort, and floating plants like water wisteria and mosquito fern.
Author’s Note: Many fish, not just Cichlids, benefit from plants to enrich their environment. In fact, this has been observed across a huge number of parts of the animal kingdom.
Best Tankmates For Salvini Cichlids
It’s very hard to keep these fish with their own species! Male fish may fish, defend territory, and occasionally cause serious injury to each other. It’s not recommended unless you are a very advanced fishkeeper who has experience with aggressive Cichlids and if you have a tank that is over 150 gallons (568 liters).
However, you can keep Salvini Cichlids with other aggressive and semi-aggressive Central American species. However, make sure you have a big enough tank, and add the correct capacity for each of these fish to your final total. Some good species include:
- Oscar fish
- Jack Dempsey Cichlids
- Blood parrot Cichlids
- Red devil Cichlids
- Green terror Cichlids
- Firemouth Cichlids
Generally, Cichlid pellet foods are only best as a basis. Individual Cichlid species actually have very different dietary needs. As a result, it’s best to supplement their diet as to whether they are carnivorous, or prefer algae, as some Mbuna Cichlids do.
What Do Salvini Cichlids Eat?
The Salvini Cichlid, as its aggressive temperament may suggest, is one of the carnivorous Cichlid species. This is why its not recommended to keep them with smaller fish that they might see as prey. This includes many common aquarium fish like Atlantic Mollies (Poecilia Mexicana).
In the wild, these fish hunt smaller fish, invertebrates, and crustaceans. As a result, they have actually evolved extendable jaws that they reach out to hunt for prey that is out of reach.
Salvini Cichlid Piscivore
You may be worried that you have to feed these guys live or dead fish! However, don’t be. Unlike some larger Cichlids that require feeder fish as part of their diet, you can get away without feeding live or dead fish to the Salvini Cichlid – although you can add these as part of an enriched diet.
Author’s Note: if you choose to do this, choose small feeder guppies and ensure they are small enough to fish in your fish’s mouth, otherwise your Salvini Cichlid may choke.
Alternatives To Feeding Other Fish
Instead, you can feed the Salvini Cichlid an enriched diet that includes fresh and frozen protein as well as Cichlid flakes and pellets. You can also feed them chopped-up nightcrawler earthworms two to three times per week.
Be warned that with the Salvini as they are larger and have a bigger appetite than fish like guppies and mollies. Thus, you may need to give them a whole block of frozen protein in one go.
Behavior And Temperament
You may have heard a lot about Salvini Cichlid’s behavior. In fact, these fish have a reputation as being one of the most aggressive South and Central American Cichlid species. But is this reputation justified? And how do aquarists quantify fish aggression anyway?
Are Salvini Cichlids Aggressive?
Generally, fish with a predatory or territorial instinct are considered aggressive, although this doesn’t mean they are bad pets. It just increases the likelihood the fish could cause injury to another fish in your tank. Fish that have high levels of predatory and territorial behavior are therefore considered aggressive, and the Salvini Cichlid is one of these.
Apart from this, these guys are a high-energy species that enjoys exploring and stimulation. Therefore, it’s best to create many different areas of the tank with interesting plantings, rocks, and bits of driftwood. Thus, your fish also won’t come into territorial conflict with tankmates, as here they can each stake out their own territories.
Do Salvini Cichlids Mate For Life?
Some Cichlids, such as the firemouth Cichlid, actually mate for life. Even though the slvini Cichlid is considered most closely related to the firemouth, there is unfortunately no such romance going on here. In the wild, Salvini Cichlids only pair up to mate, so your conditions in captivity should replicate this – otherwise, fights break out.
Pests And Diseases
Salvini Cichlids are generally very hardy fish. They don’t catch diseases often, but when they do, these are generally the same as any other tropical freshwater fish species.
1. Fin Rot
Fin rot is a common bacterial infection caused by the dirty water conditions that are explained above. It shows up as sore black, red, and white patches on your fish’s fins and tail. To heal it, put the fish in a quarantine tank and treat it with an antibacterial medication.
2. Swim Bladder Disease
Swim bladder disease is another way bacterial infections from dirty water can manifest and affect the swim bladder, the organ that helps your fish stay upright in the water. It can affect all species.
You will notice it because of symptoms such as:
- Your fish stops eating
- If your fish seems tired or lethargic
- Your fish has trouble staying afloat
- Sometimes, fish may roll from side to side while they swim
- Your fish may struggle to balance
- Fish may hang out near the bottom of the tank
Like other bacteria infections, it’s best to treat with over-the-counter medication, and by quarantining the sick fish in a separate tank while you treat.
Author’s Note: With any bacterial infections, it’s best to give the water a thorough change, removing about a third or even up to half and replacing it with fresh. This is because these diseases come from dirty water. You can also test the water for ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites, as this gives a good indication of its quality. Check your filter is working, and isn’t clogged, as well.
Parasites are a different class of infection and can take many forms. However, they are generally all treated with a saltwater bath, and isolating the sick fish in a separate tank.
Some parasites are:
- Hexamita or Hole in Head
- Gill flukes
- Velvet disease
Most of the time these parasites are visible and by learning them you can identify which one is infecting your fish. Generally, they cause a change of color or unusual appearance on your fish’s skin or around the mouth. For example, velvet disease looks like gold flecks on your fish’s scales.
Breeding Salvini Cichlids is not for the faint-hearted. Generally, you can breed these guys in captivity pretty easily. However, it’s important to introduce them slowly, as both males and females can become aggressive during the breeding period.
1. Color Change
Color change can happen throughout the life of the Salvini Cichlid as their colors grow more vivid with age, but at no time is it more pronounced than during the breeding period.
During breeding the female develops a dark spot on her tail fin and gills, and the red color on the bellies of both sexes becomes extremely pronounced.
2. How Fish Look After The Fry
Their aggressive temperament may suggest otherwise, but with these fish, both sexes actually look after the fry. As a result, you will see them prepare for breeding carefully after they have paired up. The male fish will guard the area, but only after the female has chosen a spot and dug a pit or cleaned it of debris.
Common sites include a large flat rock or similar-shaped leaf. Here the female will lay her eggs and the male will swim over them and fertilise them with his milt.
3. Breeding And Raising The Fry
After mating takes place, the male will guard the female and the fry. Throughout the incubation period, the female will stay close to the eggs and fan them with her fins and tail to keep them clean and maintain freshwater circulation.
Fry hatch with the yolk sacs still attached. This generally happens after 3-5 days. Once born, parents will move the fry into a pit or cleaned area until they have absorbed the yolk sacs. This process can take as little as four days or as long as a week.
After this stage, you can remove the parents, and place the fry in a separate tank (to ensure they are safe from tankmates) before feeding them like any other fish fry on infusoria, crushed pellets, or baby brine shrimps.
The Salvini Cichlid is certainly a challenging fish to look after, but once you have reached this level of expertise, it is definitely worth it. Their astonishing colors make them the star of any mixed Cichlid tank, and once you get to know their requirements, they are no different from any other large, aggressive Cichlid. Overall, they are not one of the most commonly kept fish, and sometimes myths about their temperament may put people off – but in the right hands, they are a rewarding pet that is also highly underrated.