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Maximum size : 17 cm

Rainbow Cichlid - Herotilapia multispinosa : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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Rainbow Cichlids are relatively peaceful especially compared to other Central American Cichlids. However, as their common name implies, Rainbow Cichlids can be very colourful fish in good condition and are popular because of their manageable size and calm nature. It would be best if you kept these Cichlids with other easygoing Cichlids that are of similar size as well as other reasonably peaceable fish such as medium-sized, deep-bodied Tetras, medium-sized Barbs and Robust Livebearers. You can also keep these fish with doradids and Suckermouth Catfish. The aquarium will need to be at least 3ft long for a pair of these fish and larger if you maintain them in a group. In addition, these fish prefer a muddy substrate, so it is best to choose sand rather than gravel as a substrate in the aquarium. These Cichlids will also appreciate shelter in the form of driftwood, smooth rocky caves, pipes, flower pots, and some areas of robust planting for additional cover. Filtration should be efficient, with a moderate amount of water flow, but make sure you create some calmer areas using the decor. These Cichlids require clean water, so be sure to carry out partial water changes regularly so that nitrate is kept to a minimum. Rainbow Cichlids generally have a golden to orange body colour with an irregular black horizontal bar that runs from behind the eye on the gill cover back to the caudal fin. The eyes are orange, and they have orange in most of the fins. The exceptions are the pelvic fins which are bright blue, and the anal fins, which are a mix of the two colours, with more blue towards the front and the last third being all orange. In addition, their dorsal fin is orange with this same blue at the tips. As an individual's mood and environment change, they can adjust their colouration between dark brown and bright yellow. They can either have a connected line of spots, a black horizontal stripe or vertical stripes that span across the top and front of the fish. These colour changes occur over a few seconds, which is unusual in freshwater fish.

Rainbow Cichlid Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

It is pretty challenging to differentiate between male and female Rainbow Cichlids; however, mature males are usually larger and develop elongated or more pointed dorsal and anal fins.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameHerotilapia multispinosa
Year Described1903
Other NamesNone
OriginsCosta Rica Honduras Nicaragua
Max Size17 cm
Aquarium LevelAll Levels
Best kept asPairs
Lifespan7 - 10 years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
PH7.0 - 8.0
GH5 - 20
72 - 82
22.2 - 27.8

Natural habitat

Rainbow Cichlids are native to both the Atlantic and Pacific slopes of Central America, ranging from Costa Rica to Honduras and Nicaragua. It is most commonly found in turbid and shallow waters such as the weedy margins of lakes and streams or small ponds periodically flooded by nearby rivers. However, an introduced population has also established itself in a hot spring at Hévíz in Hungary.

How to breed the Rainbow Cichlid

Rainbow Cichlids are pair-bonded substrate brooders, meaning the male and female mate monogamously, and the eggs are laid on a substrate to which they stick rather than brooded inside the mouth. After an initial courtship phase, the male and female form a pair and establish a territory centred on the future laying substrate, such as rocks. Territory defence is mainly by the male, excluding all other fish, especially males. Aggression with other territorial neighbours is intense at first but soon settles down. Females also engage in territorial defence, but typically less than males. The preferred egg-laying substrate is a vertical surface, ideally as part of a cave or tunnel. Lines of eggs are deposited in multiple runs. Spawning can take two hours and produce 500 to 1500 eggs. The eggs are then aggressively defended, most closely by the female, while the male patrols the territory borders. The male may be actively excluded from the nest by the female. The parents also fan the eggs, but most often, the female. They swim on the spot, either broadside or facing the egg batch about 2 cm away from it, thus creating a flow of water that brings oxygen to the eggs. Fanning is also performed at night; the parent slowly swims along the egg batch, its body at a 90° angle with the surface, its snout or throat slightly touching the eggs. This peculiar way of fanning the eggs, also seen during the day sometimes, has been called "rocking" or "skim-fanning". Eggs typically hatch two days after spawning. The young fry, commonly called "wrigglers", is immediately moved by the parents to a pit they have previously dug inside the territory. The parents suck a few wrigglers at a time into their mouths and spit them into the hole. The pit is guarded against other fish. Sometimes, the wrigglers are spit onto a vertical surface rather than a pit. The young adhere to the surface because of adhesive mucus-producing glands on the top of their heads. If they fall off, they are retaken by the parents and spit back into position. This use of vertical surfaces is most commonly seen when oxygen levels are low; the parents then spit the wrigglers onto aquatic plants near the water surface. Proximity to the surface and oxygen-producing photosynthesizing plants ensures that the wrigglers get more oxygen. After a few days, wrigglers become free-swimming fry. They venture away from the pit but remain together and are still protected by both parents. The parents retrieve them into the pit every evening. Fry care can last four weeks or more, after which the young disperse.

Diet & feeding

In the home aquarium, Rainbow Cichlids will readily accept good-quality dried foods such as granules, flakes and sinking pellets. These modern food products have been developed to provide all adequate nutrition to maintain your fish's health and dietary requirements. Providing additional foodstuffs such as live, frozen, and freeze-dried meals such as bloodworm, daphnia, and tubifex once or twice a week will provide other benefits to your fish's health and well-being but is not a must for this fish. It should be noted that bloodworms should only be given as an occasional treat and should not be used as the staple diet as they are difficult for fish to digest and can potentially cause blockages. This fish is an omnivore in the wild, meaning it will consume some vegetable matter. Although most modern fish foods take this into account and include them in their products, you can still supplement your fish's diet with blanched vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and zucchini. Ensure you do not overfeed your fish and remove any leftovers the following day.

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