Scientific Name: Heros Severus, Heros Appendiculatus, Cichlasoma Severum
Distribution:South America (Amazon Basin)
Size: Generally to 10", although larger have been recorded
Common Names: Severum, Banded Cichlid, Eye-spot Cichlid
Temperature: 73 to 77 degrees
pH: 6 to 7 (although softer, more acidic water is prefered for breeding)
Silly, scatty and generally all-round hairbrained are all words I've heard used by people who own severums to describe their babies. All in all, they are right, but despite their occasional personality problems, these fish didn't take long to surpass Oscars as my favourite South American cichlid. Despite being a little on the quirky side, Severums are usually fairly mild mannered for a medium/large cichlid, but still able to hold their own against larger fish. There are two major colour morphs, Green and Gold. Green Severums are sometimes considered a little on the boring side colourwise, but there is nothing more dramatic than a Green Severum female in full spawning colours, her drab, olive-brown base colour highlighted by intense orange on her belly and anal fins and brilliant red eyes. Gold Severums are the more spectacular of the two, with a base colour ranging from a creamy white through to a true gold. Both colour morphs are the same species and require identical care and feeding
Aquarium Set Up
Severums are considered to be medium to large on the scale of South American cichlids, growing to around 10 to 12" for males and 8 to 9" for females. This means that tank size is a big consideration when deciding to buy a Severum. The minimum tank size for a pair is 55 gallons, with bigger always being better. Severums inhabit the lakes and rivers of the Amazon Basin, and tanks should be set up with this in mind. Either fine gravel or sand can be used as substrate as Severums are not quite in the same league excavation-wise as many similar sized cichlids. Clean water is essential for good health and growth, and as these guys are cichlids, and therefore messy eaters, good filtration is important. Severums do like ot have cover in their tanks which can pose a bit of a problem as they will tend to munch on any live plants in the tank, so well-secured fake plants should be considered. A cave of some kind is also appreciated, as Severums like to have somewhere to retreat to when the mood strikes them
Severums natural food is much like any other cichlid their size from South American. It mainly consists of insects, small crustaceans and some vegetable matter. They do well on a varied diet, including crickets, earthworms, mealworms, good quality pellets and home-made food. I feed mine with a variation on the beefheart recipe, which includes heart, liver, shrimp, zuchinni, spinach and a high level of vitamins. Severums can be prone to Hole in The Head, due to in-breeding, so a high quality and varied diet is essential.
Severums can be hard fish to find suitable tankmates for sometimes. As with most larger cichlids, individual personality plays a large role in what fish you can add to your tank. Severums can be either placid and easy-going or bed-tempered and territorial as the mood strikes them, so any fish added should be able to defend itself when necessary. Oscars are generally considered to be good tankmates for severums, along with firemouths and convicts from the smaller end of the scale. Other fish such as Green Terrors and Jack Dempsey's have also been mentioned as good tank mates, but with such aggressive and territorial fish, you should be ready to remove one or the other if things do get out of hand. Severums usually co-exist in relative harmony with armoured catfish, so many plecostumus species can be considered. Severums will generally not bother smaller, non-cichlid species such as tetra's and usually will not consider these fish to be much of a threat. Spawning time for Severums is always interesting, as they can get quite aggressive. Often tankmates that have been tolerated in the past will suddenly be viewed as the enemy.
Breeding severums is very similar to breeding other South American cichlids. The only small problem is that is often takes Severums longer than usual to pair up. Often rasing severl juveniles together is the best way to ensure you get a mated pair. At around 4 to 5" it is generally fairly easy to tell male from female, with males having very defined and numerous facial squiggles. They require a flat area, usually a rock, on which to lay their eggs. Once the eggs are layed and have been fertalized, they should hatch in around 3 to 5 days, depending on tank ph level and temperature. Fertalized eggs are light brown, and any eggs that were missed by the male will usually turn white within 24 to 36 hours. Once the wigglers have hatched, mom and dad will transfer them to a pre-dug pit or other safe area, where they will continue to patrol and protect the wigglers. At this time the parents will be at their most aggressive, so be careful to keep a close eye on tankmates just in case either parent decides they are no longer going to be tolerated. It has been my experience and the experience of many Severum keepers that I have spoken to that it can take these fish a very, very long time to sort things out when it comes to breeding. Don't be at all surprised if the first 10 to 20 spawnings are eaten at various stages. They will eventually get it right.
I have kept two pairs of Green Severums for a little over a year now and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. As ditsy as they can be sometimes, they have great personalities and my four are usually very friendly. One pair have their own 55 gallon tank that they share with a Raphael Catfish and the other pair live in relative harmony in my 180 gallon tank with my two Oscars, my Firemouth pair and my several pairs of Convicts. The pair in the 55 gallon tank were moved there nearly 2 months ago and they have spawned almost on a weekly basis since then. Each spawn gets us a little closer to fry, with my last two batches of wigglers lasting almost 36 hours before the parents panicked and ate them. These fish are great fun to keep and I would thoroughly recommend them to anyone who is looking to get into larger South American cichlids.