Checkerboard cichlids - Dicrossus filamentosa

Checkerboard cichlids - Dicrossus filamentosa

The Checkerboard cichlid (Dicrossus filamentosa) is a dwarf cichlid native to the northern regions of the South American continent where it can be found in small and shallow waters. Earlier, this species was known as Crenicara filamentosa.  We know of two distinct populations of Dicrossus filamentosa: one inhabits the headwaters of Rio Orinoco while the other one lives in Rio Negro. The male members of the Rio Negro population have a narrow wedge of speckles in the deep fork of the lyre-tailed caudal fin, and the females will develop vividly red ventral fins after their first spawning. If you look at a male specimen and notice a wide speckled area instead of a narrow one, you are looking at a Checkerboard cichlid from Rio Orinoco. The females from this population will also look the same after spawning and never develop the attractive red ventral fins.


An aquarium with a large bottom area is recommended and the aquarium should be well decorated with plenty of hiding spots. You can for instance use Java moss and Java fern. Floating plants are greatly appreciated by Checkerboard cichlids, but there must also be room for free swimming. If you plan on breeding Checkerboard cichlids, you must include at least one plant with broad leaves since broad leaves will be used as breeding sites. Java fern is one good choice.


The water should ideally be acidic and extremely soft in the aquarium, especially if you want to try breeding checkerboard cichlids. These fishes may spawn in moderately hard water, but the eggs will not hatch. If you have hard tap water, you can for instance use rain water and/or filter water through peat moss. The pH-value should be brought down to 5.5-6.0. The recommended water temperature is 80-82 degrees F. If you want to induce breeding, try adding slightly cooler water, i.e. water of a temperature around 70-72 degrees F.

Dicrossus filamentosus
Dicrossus filamentosus
Picture added to article by Ac tropical fish. Copyright

Feeding Checkerboard cichlids

Provide your Checkerboard cichlids with a varied diet that contains plenty of live food. You can for instance combine high-quality flakes or pellets with brine shrimp, bloodworms and mosquito larvae.

Breeding Checkerboard cichlids

As a part of the courting ritual, female Checkerboard cichlids have been seen standing on their head in the aquarium in front of the male. During spawning, the female will choose a broad leaf, clean it and deposit her eggs there. Clean, healthy and broad leaves located near the bottom seem to be especially desirable as breeding sites. When the eggs have been deposited and fertilized, the female will stay around to protect them. Her normal checkerboard pattern will vanish and she will instead show a sold black lateral stripe. (The male can also lose his checkerboard pattern and display this solid black stripe.) Since she has eggs to defend, she will become really aggressive and can even attack the father if he comes to near.

When the fry hatches, they will stay under the leaf for several days. If you look closely, you can see that each fry is actually attached to the underside of the leaf by a tiny suction cup on top of the head. After a while, the female will remove them from the leaf and move them to a pit in the substrate. She will then continue to move them around to new pits every other day. She can also decide to put them back under the leaf. When the fry has consumed the yolk sac you can start feeding liquid-fry. Soon, they will be large enough to eat newly hatched brine shrimp.

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