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Venezuela Pike Cichlid
(Crenicichla sp. "Venezuela")
Quick Care FactsCare Level: Expert
Temperament: Aggressive
Maximum Size: 20"
Minimum Tank Size: 90 gallons
Water Conditions: 76-86° F, pH 5.0-6.8, dH 4-10
Diet: Piscivore
Origin: Amazon Basin, South America
Family: Cichlidae
Species: Pikes
Aquarium Type: Cichlid-New-World
Species Information
The Venezuela Pike Cichlid is the largest member of the Lugubris group (the largest members of the Crenicichla genus). They are native to the Rio Orinoco and its Amazon tributaries in Venezuela and Columbia, South America. As juveniles the Venezuela Pike Cichlids have multiple dark spots on their cheeks, heads and operculum; they also display a prominent lateral band of varied intensity and often have a red hue along the top of their entire dorsal fin.
Once they reach maturity the Venezuela Pike Cichlid will experience an ontogenic color change and will lose most of their juvenile coloration and markings, eventually ending up with a solid, pale gray-blue coloration, bright red eyes, a faint darkened area instead of a humeral blotch and a prominent, black ocellus spot at the beginning of their caudal fin; in addition, once out of their juvenile stage this species will completely lose its manners and will start to become increasingly aggressive as it approaches its full size.
The juveniles and adults are both very attractive and although the Venezuela Pike Cichlid is a popular species in the hobby, they are rarely found among local retailers; the best method to acquire a specimen is through online auctions and vendors.
Aquarium Care
Venezuela Pike Cichlids are the largest of their species and are extremely fast and powerful; they require a 90 gallon aquarium with a tight fitting lid. 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.
Venezuela 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 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 also require adequate open space for hunting and swimming. Venezuela Pike Cichlids should be considered 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 medium to large Pleco species, true Parrot Cichlids, Lima Shovelnose Catfish, larger Oscars, and Peacock Bass.
Feeding & Nutrition
Venezuela 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.
They 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 Venezuela Pike Cichlids with a varied and well balanced diet.
Additional Photos