Sajica Cichlid

Sajica Cichlid

I would like to write a few words about my experience breeding wild caught A. Sajica and the surprise these fishes gave me. A surprise that shows these animals fascinating and diverse behaviour.

I got a pair of wild caught A Sajica from a friend that had collected them on a trip. Since I had kept this species before, in fact it was the third cichlid I ever breed, I didn’t expect any surprises. Well, I was wrong.

In shortage of better accommodations I put the 6 cm/2.5 inches long cichlids in a 540 L / 145 gallon aquarium that was already overly crowded. In the aquarium already swam four 20 cm/ 8 inches Texas cichlids, a pair of N. Festae (25 and 20 cm/ 10 and 8 inches), a pair of N. Managuense (about the same size as N. Festae) and four natal cichlids, Mossanbicus Mossanbicus, (20 cm/ 8 inches). The tanked was also inhabited by two convicts (about 4 cm/ 1.5 inches) that had originally been put there as feeders, and finally loads of Ancistrus that just wouldn’t stop breeding. All of the species where breeding regularly in the aquarium. As I said, the aquarium was already very crowded. I knew I was taking a chance putting the small Sajica in with these predators but I didn’t have any choice.

To my great relief the Sajica found themselves loving their company and was left alone by their larger predatory cousins. The aquarium was decorated with two very large roots that reached all the ways to the surface of the aquarium and created three natural territories for the fishes in the aquarium. There where small gaps under the roots that the ancistruses utilized for breeding. The larger cichlids couldn’t get into these spaces. These large roots made the water in this tank very dark and made it look like a black water river aquarium. The water conditions was however harder and the pH level higher than what you might expect to find in a black water river.

When the Sajicas had been in this aquarium for a week, on a diet consisting mainly of Hikary pellets and shrimps, they spawned for the first time. Anyone that kept A Sajica isn’t surprised about this, the surprise would be if they didn’t breed during the first month. However the surprise was how they bred. My experience is that A Sajica are dedicated parents that watches furiously over eggs and fry. But under these conditions this pair choose a different approach. The female laid her eggs on a root halfway to the surface. Her eggs had a much darker tone then A Sajica eggs usually have, and matched the colour of the root almost perfectly. This was something the parents seemed to be aware of, since they didn’t care about protecting their young. They both swam all over the aquarium just as before the egg laying and it wasn’t unusual that the two fishes furthest from the eggs in the entire aquarium was the Sajicas. Occasionally they did chase away some ancistrus. You would think that this strange parental behaviour would mean the end f the eggs in an aquarium where several fishes could eat all eggs in one gulp. This was however not the case and almost all the eggs survived and hatched, at which time the parents moved them (spitted them) under a rot where not even they could get in. They then continued acting as if nothing had happened. When the fry was free-swimming the parents took their young out for expeditions about 1-2 hours each they. The rest of the time they left them under the root where they apparently found food because they grew nicely.

The parents continued to take them on these little expeditions for about a month after which the fry had grown to approximately 1.5 cm /0.75 inch. The impressing thing is that almost all of they fry had survived to this age. After the parents had stop caring for their fry the young quickly became boulder and started swimming around, which lead to that all but two of the fry was eaten one week later. (There were 50-60 fry before that.) These two however did manage to grow up in this aquarium.

The wild caught A Sajica couple spawned many times in this aquarium, once every 2-3 month, and they always to great success used this method. At one point I moved them to another aquarium about half as big as the other and with clear water. They shared this tank with a number of other cichlids, mostly fry from the larger aquarium. In this aquarium they spawned in they way one are used to see A Sajica spawn, e.g. standing guard over their eggs and fry. A little later the couple was moved back to the 540 L /145 gallon aquarium and they then started to “hide” their eggs and fry again.

Out of curiosity I also tried keeping them in an aquarium with clear water and a large pair of N. Managuense as company and the Sajica couple spawned standing guard over their eggs and fry. It seemed like they simply chose another strategy in darker waters. I have kept other pairs of breed A Sajica in the 540 L / 145 Gallon aquarium since then, but none of them have showed this behaviour. I’m hoping that others get to experience this unique behaviour that just goes to shows us that cichlids never stops surprising.

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