Crenicichla fish are cichlids native to South America, and they are often referred to as Pike Cichlids. The dwarf Crenicichla species are, just like the name indicates, much smaller than normal Crenicichla species. Dwarf Crenicichla species seldom grow larger than 3-4 inches, which can be compared to the average size of a medium Crenicichla – 10 inches. The largest Crenicichla species can grow bigger than 24 inches. Due to their smaller size, dwarf Crenicichlas are easier to house in normal sized aquariums than the larger Crenicichla species. Dwarf Crenicichla species are therefore very popular among aquarists, even though dwarf Crenicichlas are more sensitive and require better water conditions than medium sized Crenicichla species. The smallest dwarf Crenicichla is Crenicichla cf. regain, a fish that grows no larger than 2 inches and that is only found in Rio Xingu. Dwarf species have the same intriguing behaviour as the larger Crenicichla species, but it is much easier to provide a dwarf Crenicichla with an aquarium large enough for the fish to display its natural behaviours.
The aquarium setup can include plants, since dwarf Crenicichlas most likely will leave them alone. All Crenicichla cichlids, regardless of size, have gained a rather bad reputation as overly aggressive species that will violently rearrange all the plants and aquarium decorations. There is of course a grain of truth in this, Crenicichlas can engage in some redecorating, but their reputation is greatly undeserved. If you wish your dwarf Crenicichlas to breed in the aquarium, most species will require soft water with a very low pH. When you choose aquarium plants you should therefore ideally chose plants that will thrive in this type of water. Dwarf Crenicichla species appreciate aquarium decorations that provide them with places to shelter, such as driftwood. Driftwood and similar is common in the native environment of the dwarf Crenicichla cichlids. If you want to breed your dwarf Crenicichlas, you must give them caves and cavelets, since they are cave spawners. Even if you do not plan to breed dwarf Crenicichlas, caves and cavelets will be highly appreciated by the dwarf Crenicichlas and make them feel less stressed in the aquarium.
The temperament varies a great deal between different dwarf Crenicichla species. If you keep dwarf Crenicichla species instead of larger Crenicichlas, it will be easier to reduce the amount of aggressive behaviour by providing each individual fish with plenty of space in the aquarium. You can also decrease stress and aggressiveness by including several hiding places for each Crenicichla in the aquarium setup.
Dwarf Crenicichla cichlids are very sensitive to poor water quality and will die if you allow the amount of soluble waste to rise even to relatively moderate levels. Frequent water changes must be combined with strong biological filtration. Keep in mind that biological filtration can slow down when the pH is below 6, and large water changes will therefore become even more important. Most dwarf Crenicichla species come from warm areas in South America, and will accordingly do best in warm waters. Keep the water temperature around 80 degrees F if your dwarf Crenicichlas cichlids come from warm regions. As mentioned above, soft and acidic water is ideal, even if dwarf Crenicichlas species can survive in alkaline water as well. There are even examples of dwarf Crenicichla species that have spawned in alkaline aquariums, such as the Crenicichla compressiceps.
You can feed your dwarf Crenicichla live and frozen meaty foods, or adapt them to prepared foods. If you have a dwarf Crenicichla species that feed on invertebrates in the wild, it will appreciated daphnia and brine shrimp. Coaxing your dwarf Crenicichla into eating prepared food is usually easy if you place the dwarf Crenicichla in the same aquarium as other fish that already accept prepared foods. A dwarf Crenicichla should always be kept on a varied diet. If you want to get your dwarf Crenicichla into breeding condition, live foods are very suitable.
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