Scientific Name: Hypselecara temporalis, Heros temporalis, Cichlasoma temporale
Distribution: South America - Ucayali and Amazon River drainages in Peru, the Amazonas River drainage in Colombia, the Solimôes-Amazon River in Brazil, east to Cametá, also rivers of Amapá, Brazil, and the Oyapock River basin in Brazil.
Size: To 12"/30cm, although females tend to stay smaller
Common Names: Chocolate Cichlid, Emerald Cichlid
Temperature: 77 to 84 degrees (25-29C)
Often overlooked by hobbyists due to their somewhat boring juvenile coloration, the Chocolate Cichlid will reward the patient fish lover with their dramatic olive-green, red and sometimes even purplish mature colors. Peaceful considering their size and bulk, these fish are an ideal choice for a person after a large, owner responsive fish that doesn't come with the aggression so often seen in large cichlids.
With their blunted, "I-ran-into-a-door" face and bulky size, these fish look like a large predatory cichlid, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Dramatic in coloration once mature, with a base color of mustard yellow to olive green, and red beginning on their bellies and travelling up towards their eyes, and a large black spot in the middle of their flanks, males will begin to develop an impressive nuchal hump as they mature.
Aquarium Set Up
A pair of Chocolate Cichlids would require a minimum tank size of 55 gallons, and as always, the bigger you can go the better. These fish inhabit slow moving areas of the various rivers they inhabit, and tanks should be set up with this in mind. A little on the shy side and easily spooked, Chocolates appreciate a heavily planted tank, although care should be taken to select hardy plants as these fish are omnivores and will snack from time to time on the plants in its tank. Floating plants are also a good idea, as this will reduce the stress on the fish and encourage them to come out and about more. Large rocks and driftwood are also good tank decorations. These fish do not constantly patrol their homes like many other large cichlids, and open swimming space will usually be viewed with distrust rather than enthusiasm.
Chocolate Cichlids are very susceptible to concentrations of heavy metals and other chemicals in their tanks, therefore a great deal of care should be taken with filtration and water dechlorination to prevent these fish from developing erosion diseases such as Hole in the Head. They prefer softer, more acidic water and long term exposure to too high a pH can also lead to problems such as HITH. Many people advocate the use of peat in filters for Chocolate Cichlid tanks and this addition will also help if you are considering breeding these fish. Filtration is important, as these fish require very clean water to stay happy and healthy.
Another thing to note with these fish are the reports that they will sometimes jump to catch low-flying insects in their natural habitat. This means that your tanks lids should be very well secured, and possibly even weighted down to prevent a potential tragedy.
Chocolates are omnivores and will eat pretty much anything that is offered to them. A good balanced diet is essential for good growth and color development. The beefheart recipe is an excellent staple food for these fish, along with treats of live foods such as crickets, shrimp and earthworms, and frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp and krill. They will occasionally snack on any plants in their tanks, but vegetable matter should be included in their diet even if you see them munching on your plants. They have also been known to snack on the occasional smaller tankmate, but this is an irregular occurrence. These guys are not hunters by any stretch of the imagination.
Due to their peaceful nature, Chocolates can be kept with a variety of other fish, as long as they are not small enough to fit in their mouths. Instances on hunting are rare, but not unheard of. They are excellent tankmates for other large, peaceful cichlids such as Uaru, Discus, Angelfish and Severums, anything that shares their preference for softer, more acidic water conditions. They have been known to be a little aggressive towards their own kind, but with enough space and good cover, it is not to difficult to keep more than a single pair in a tank of 100 gallons or more.
Dither fish are generally a good idea for Chocolate Cichlid tank, as these fish can be somewhat shy and nervous about coming out into view. Larger sized Tetra's and Barbs make good dithers for these fish and providing your tank is large enough, generous sized schools of these dithers can be used. They are also quite comfortable with various species of catfish, particularly Armored Catfish, such as Plecostomus's and Doradid's such as Raphael Catfish.
Breeding Chocolate Cichlids can be a bit of a hit and miss situation. They are not the worlds greatest parents, so don't be surprised if it takes more than a few spawns for your pair to get it right. They also tend to "forget" about their fry once they are free swimming and don't always take care of them with the sort of dedication most people associate with cichlids.
Eggs are laid on a flat surface in the tank that the parents have cleaned before hand. Several hundred eggs can be laid at a time, which is probably a good thing considering the lack of parenting that can go on. The fertilized eggs with hatch in approximately 3 to 5 days and the parents will move the wrigglers to pre-dug pits around the tank. The fry should be free-swimming around a week after hatching and this is when the parenting skills of the Chocolate Cichlid tend to disappear.
The parents will often split after spawning has occurred and it is possible that you might see some aggression between them at this time.