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Red Shoulder Severum

(Heros sp. rotkeil)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Moderate   • Temperament: Semi-aggressive   • Maximum Size: 8"
• Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons   • Water Conditions: 72-84° F, pH 6.0-7.5, dH 5-10
• Diet: Omnivore   • Origin: Amazon Basin, South America   • Family: Cichlidae
• Species: Severum   • Aquarium Type: New World Cichlid / Community Aquariums

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Species Information

Red Shoulder Severum native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

The Red Shoulder Severum is very popular as its one of the most peaceful, larger cichlids in the hobby and generally does not bother their tank mates. Red Shoulder Severums are native to lakes and tributaries of the Amazon Basin in South America, which encompasses a wide variety of water ways.

Though not the true mouthbrooding Severum species (Heros Severus), Red Shoulder Severums are very attractive and grow larger than their mouthbrooding relatives; not to mention their remarkable red coloration present on their head, shoulders and on their bellies, anal fins, and pelvic fins in addition to their bright red eyes and beautiful grey bodies with faint vertical bands. Males have extended anal, dorsal, and pelvic fins as well as worm-like markings on their faces and operculum.

The rest of the fishes body closely resembles that of the Green Severum. Due to their popularity and successful breeding, the Red Shoulder Severum is always highly sought after fish at both local retailers and online vendors.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Red Shoulder Severum in the home aquarium.

Red Shoulder Severums require an aquarium of 55 gallons for a pair and the aquarium should be larger (75-90 gallons) if multiple tank mates are added. They should be provided with a fine sand to smooth gravel substrate and a few structures for shelter (driftwood, rocks, and vegetation) and at least one cave.

Live plants are greatly appreciated, but do not always last long unless a prolific species is used (Anacharis, Cabomba, Hornwort); although omnivorous they have a sweet tooth for live plants and vegetables. High quality biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration is recommended (they are cichlids after all) as well as slightly acidic and soft water.

Lighting intensity is not an issue, but some areas of shade are always appreciated (floating plants are great for this as well as caves). Red Shoulder Severums are relatively peaceful Cichlids and usually only become territorial or aggressive when breeding, but it always depends on the individual; they will defend themselves in regards to more aggressive cichlids bullying them.

They can be successful within a community environment, but are more commonly kept in Cichlid or biotope-specific aquariums. Tank mates should be chosen carefully and regardless of a community, species-specific, or cichlid setup, their tank mates should always be comparable in size (Plecos, Geophagus and Parrot Cichlids could be good choices).

Feeding & Nutrition

How to properly feed Red Shoulder Severum and provide a healthy diet.

Red Shoulder Severums are omnivores and eat insects, small crustaceans and vegetable matter in natural habitat. They have a tendency to prefer a lot of vegetable matter and will accept peas, lettuce, chopped zucchini, and chopped cucumber; they should also be supplemented with a variety of meaty and vitamin enriched foods such as live, frozen or freeze-dried ghost shrimp, bloodworms, mealworms, earthworms, crickets, and nutritional cichlid and algae (Spirulina) based pellets. Feed once or twice daily.

Breeding Information

How to successfully breed Red Shoulder Severum in the aquarium environment.

Breeding Red Shoulder Severums is not very difficult, but they can often take quite a while to pair up. The parents will look for a cave or a flat rock surface or section of driftwood and the female will lay between 200-800 eggs; the male will fertilize them and then the female will tend to the eggs while the male patrols the perimeter.

The eggs will hatch in 3-5 days and the fry will be relocated to a pre-dug pit in the substrate. The fry will be free-swimming within a week and then able to accept crushed flake food and baby brine shrimp. It has been reported that Red Shoulder Severum can take an extremely long time to get it right when breeding and it is common for the parents to eat the fry at various stages for the first dozen or so attempts.

They will eventually sort things out and get it right, but the fry could also be removed and raised if continuous failed attempts are excessive.

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