Orange Pike Cichlid Aquarium Care, Feeding and Native Habitat Information
Commonly referred to in the hobby as a Xingu I (Roman numeral 1 signifying it as the first variant discovered and collected in the area; first exported to the U.S. in the late 1980s), the Orange Pike Cichlid gets its name from the river of its native environment as it is endemic to the Rio Xingu of the Amazon Basin in South America. The Orange Pike Cichlid is one of the more colorful members of the Crenicichla genus and is a proud member of the Lugubris group (the largest members of the Crenicichla genus). As a juvenile, they have a bright orange coloration and are noticeably very active, curious, and peaceful; because of these traits the Orange Pike Cichlid is has gained immense popularity over the years. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the changes that take place once they reach maturity; Both sexes of the species will retain their red to bright orange fins, but will lose their bright orange body coloration and take on a dull tan-green color; although females will develop a pale red to bright orange belly that can be very attractive and vibrant if well fed on a varied diet. At maturity the species becomes very aggressive and the males will quickly reach a much larger size. Maturity-induced changes in Orange Pike Cichlids can be quite a surprise to the inexperienced hobbyist that thought they had a smaller, peaceful fish with vivid colors in an average size aquarium.
Orange Pike Cichlids are among the largest of their species and are extremely fast and powerful; it's recommended that they be kept in nothing less than a 75 gallon aquarium with a tight fitting lid (just incase). Provide a sandy to small gravel substrate, at least one large piece of driftwood (preferably with some sort of natural cave) along with several smaller pieces, possibly some rock structure, and a decent amount of live plants ranging in size from micro to large Amazon swords. Orange Pike Cichlids can tolerate the light intensity needed for the larger plants (around 3 watts per gallon), but does prefer to have shaded areas via floating vegetation or cave-like structures of driftwood or rock. They also prefer "blackwater" conditions and tend to thrive in the higher end of their temperature threshold (84°F makes them happy); they also tend to prefer a lower pH (approximately 5.5) as well as soft water and pristine conditions are in high demand. Because they are large, fast, and powerful, they require adequate open space for hunting and swimming; because of this a 90 gallon minimum tank size is recommended for a single male or one male and one female. Orange Pike Cichlids can be extremely aggressive and territorial, therefore potential tank mates should be considered carefully and planned out in advance; it's recommended that tank mates actually be added before the pike specimen itself, or at the very least... at the same time. Some suggested tank mates include large Geophagus species, medium to large Pleco species, true Parrot Cichlids, Lima Shovelnose Catfish, larger Oscars, and similar sized Peacock Bass.
Orange Pike Cichlids are Piscivorous and will initially only prey upon live fish. Fish are their main food source in their natural habitat, but once in the aquarium, they learn quickly and they also learn from other fish; they can be trained to accept a few other live foods (e.g., ghost shrimp and earthworms) and may eventually be trained to accept frozen or fresh, prepared meaty foods such as chopped krill, vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, and chopped pieces of fish; some specimens may eventually be trained to accept freeze-dried or other prepared food items, but it doesn't always work out. That's not too much of a problem as ghost shrimp and some of the other food items mentioned can be "gut-loaded" and vitamin-enriched in order to provide the Orange Pike Cichlids with a varied and well balanced diet.