Thorichthys aureum is a Central American cichlid commonly referred to as Blue aureum, Green aureum or Gold aureum. It is a close relative of the popular Firemouth cichlid (Thorichthys meeki) and they share plenty of physical characteristics. There are at least two different color variations of Thorichthys aureum, Blue/Green and Gold.
Thorichthys aureum if found along the Central American Atlantic coast, from Golden Creek in Belize to the Montagua River in Honduras. Its favorite habitat is lower and middle section rivers, but you can also find it in warm lakes and lagoons. There are also a few populations in the upper river sections.
Thorichthys aureum can reach a size of 18 cm, and this naturally makes its vibrant coloration very attention-grabbing compared to tiny cichlids. Just like all the other members of the Thorichthys genus, Thorichthys aureum displays a distinct black spot on the operculum. Females will also have a dark spot on the dorsal fin, which makes it easy to sex adult specimens.
The Blue aureum (also known as the Green aureum due to its turquoise color) is truly an eye-catching fish. The body sports bronzed scales and intense shades of turquoise, the fins are decorated with bright blue streaks, and the dorsal fin has a strong red edging. The caudal fin filaments are very long.
The Gold aureum is less flamboyant and more stylish with steel blue scales and a golden coloration. Just like the Blue aureum, the Golden aureum has blue streaked fins, red edging of the dorsal fin and elongated caudal fin filaments.
When a Thorichthys aureum gets stressed or agitated, it can display a black horizontal line from the operculum to the base of the caudal fin. When the fish feels more at ease, it will instead show broad vertical barring. You may also be able to see a black blotch below the lateral line halfway back on the body.
During the breeding period, the coloration of Thorichthys aureum will become even more brilliant than normally.
For a breeding couple, a 30 gallon aquarium will be large enough if you include a lot of suitable hiding spots. If you want to keep a small group of Thorichthys aureum, housing them in at least 40-55 gallons of water is recommended. Compared to cichlids such as those from the Amphilophus and Nandopsis genera, Thorichthys aureum is not a very aggressive species in captivity.
The general recommendations for keeping Thorichthys aureum is a water temperature of 25-26 degrees C, a pH around 7.5-7.8 and water hardiness within the dH 2-15 range. These factors can then be altered to induce breeding. If your tap water is soft, pick a substrate that will help you make it alkaline. Provide your fish with great hiding spots in the aquarium, e.g. by using chunk rocks and caves. Carry out a 50% water change on a weekly basis.
Thorichthys aureum will accept almost any type of food, from live food to pellets. You can for instance give it a combination of cichlid pellets and frozen worms. Since wild Thorichthys aureum fish are substrate filters, they prefer food that sinks to bottom of the aquarium. Be strict when feeding your Thorichthys aureum. Begging is not the same thing as being hungry. A lot of fish from this species have died of bloat caused by over-feeding.
Coaxing Thorichthys aureum to breed
You know that your fish is starting to become interested in breeding when a female starts following a male fish around in the aquarium. The fish can also become more territorial than before, and the dominant couple will often chase away any other Thorichthys aureum from their part of the aquarium. Gill flaring is common, while actual injuries are rare.
When you fish begin to show an interested in spawning, it is time to provide them with plenty of food to get them into excellent spawning condition. More food than normal can also serve as a trigger. Give your fish earthworms or similar for at least one week and wait for them to fatten up.
A large water change with a subsequent drop in water temperature is known to trigger spawning in Thorichthys aureum and should therefore be carried out. Turn the water temperature up to at least 27 degrees C before you exchange as much as 80-85% of the water for 24 degrees C water.
Thorichthys aureum will appreciate having a spawning slate in the aquarium, and providing them with one is therefore a good idea if you want them to breed. Both the male and the female will visit the spawning slate and clean it vigorously prior to spawning. Thorichthys aureum is believed to prefer dawn (and possibly dusk) for spawning, and aquarists have met with great success by mimicking such conditions in the aquarium instead of simply letting the timer switch from well lit to pitch black.
Directly after spawning, the exhausted couple will normally loose their vibrant breeding colors and look really drab for a while. Once you have managed to get a Thorichthys aureum couple to spawn for the first time, they will often continue to spawn regularly. Balancing between sufficient amounts of food and over-feeding can be tricky.
Rearing of offspring
Both the male and the female can be kept in the aquarium since they are both devoted parents. The eggs will hatch within a few days, but is can take up to 6 days before the fry is free swimming. The parents will dig a pit in the substrate and move the fry from the spawning site to it, in order to keep them more protected. If there are any other adult fish in the aquarium, the parents will chase them away from the pit to avoid predation. As the fry grow older, you should however remove all adult fish except for the parents, because as the fry gets bolder and bolder, the risk of predation increases. It is impossible for the parents to watch their fry all the time when the fry starts making their own little excursions.
Young Thorichthys aureum fry can be fed crushed fry food and newly hatched brine shrimp. Ideally feed them at least 3-4 times a day instead of just once or twice.
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