|Genus & Species: Amatitlania Nigrofasciata|
|Common Names: Gold Convict Cichlid|
|Temperature: 75 – 84ºF (24 – 29ºC)|
|pH: 6.6 – 7.8|
|GH: 5.0 – 12 dGH|
|Max Size: 10 – 12 cm (4 – 4.7 inches) in length|
|Lifespan: 10 years|
|Depth Preference: Bottom dweller|
|Tank Size: 40 gallons|
Through selective breeding, the gold convict cichlid was bred due to a genetically mutated color caused by an autosomal recessively inherited gene. This phenotype lacks the dark black stripes that their wild counterparts display.
Origin & Habitat
Gold convict cichlids are a freshwater species of fish endemic to Honduras, El Salvador, and Panama on the western coast of Central America and Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala on its eastern coast.
Several other countries, including the USA, Australia, Réunion, Japan, Taiwan, Colombia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Peru, Slovakia, Indonesia, Iran, Philippines, Brazil and Mexico to name a few, have found introduced populations as a result of their prolific breeding and popularity within the aquarium industry.
Their natural habitat includes a wide range of diverse settings, such as lakes, ponds, and rivers. They usually inhabit areas under cover, such as rocks, submerged branches, or overhanging plants, and they tend to prefer moving water.
Gold Convict Cichlid Care
When compared to other cichlid species, this one is very hardy and adapts well to a variety of water conditions. Which has caused a significant amount of people to suggest them as excellent fish for those entering the aquarium hobby.
However, there are a few factors to consider before deciding whether to keep a pair of gold convict cichlids. Every two weeks, a male and female pair can spawn, making them incredibly prolific breeders.
Due to the gold convict cichlids’ prolific breeding in captivity and the incredibly low demand for their fry, one can quickly discover that their tank has become invaded by an inbreeding population without any options for adoption.
In light of this, it is advised to have a large enough aquarium with a wide variety of predatory species of fish that can control the number of gold convict cichlids.
A decent volume of water and space is needed for each pair of gold convict cichlids because when a male and female establish a territory, they will constantly chase away any intruders. A tank that is too small will prevent other fish from finding peaceful areas and merely increase hostility levels.
Multiple pairs of gold convict cichlids will be able to establish territories if they are given the opportunity to do so by using rocks, driftwood, and a variety of other decorations to create potential spawning sites. Breaking the line of sight between each zone is intended to lessen hostility.
Alternately, if you believe they are too aggressive, you may prevent them from establishing a territory by designing an open water aquascape with fewer caves and crevices, which would also lessen aggression and spawning.
Undergravel filtration systems are not advised due to this species’ inclination to dig and sift through the substrate. Additionally, substrates should have a soft, sandy-like texture; otherwise, larger stones could cause injuries when they try to sift through it.
All things considered, gold convict cichlids are highly intelligent and full of personality, as well as an active and enjoyable species to keep. They do, however, necessitate some work in order to provide a setting that is safe for all of the aquarium’s inhabitants, not just them.
Gold Convict Cichlid Diet & Feeding
Gold convict cichlids are opportunistic omnivores that mostly consume plants, algae, and a variety of food, such as small fish, crustaceans, invertebrates, and insects in the wild.
Since this species frequently consumes plant matter, it would be recommended to either keep fake plants or to grow hardy aquatic plants such as java fern, dwarf sagittaria, and water sprite if you intend to keep any plants.
They generally aren’t picky eaters and will readily accept the majority of commercially available foods that you provide. They will remain healthy and retain their color if you feed them a balanced diet that includes both algae and protein-based foods.
Blood worms, brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, insect larvae, and other microworms are the best sources of food for the gold convict cichlid that is high in protein, whether they are live or frozen. On occasion, rotate between premium tropical flake food or pellets made specifically for cichlids that also include spirulina or other kinds of algae.
Tank Mates & Temperament
Gold convict cichlids are an aggressive species of fish known to establish a territory of their choosing, and will tenaciously defend it. When they are breeding, their aggression toward fish that dare to approach their territory considerably rises. They are easily able to drive away fish that are many times their own size, and they frequently become the dominant ranking fish in most aquariums.
Any intruder that enters the territory of a pair of gold convict cichlids will typically be attacked simultaneously, especially if they are defending eggs or fry. Their typical attack range is often restricted to around 12 inches in either direction, depending on the size of the aquarium and each individual temperament.
Consequently, you don’t need to be concerned with them constantly bothering other fish unless they are confined in a small aquarium that encourages species to continually swim through their territory. It’s important to provide each pair with adequate space.
Female gold convict cichlids often act aggressively toward other females when in competition for the a male mate; those with more brightly colored orange ventral fins are targeted more frequently than those with duller colorations. Females with brightly colored ventral fins display lesser aggression towards other females.
Gold convict cichlids are more aggressive at higher temperatures which may be related to the fact that they prefer warmer temperatures to breed; temperatures in their lower range will reduce aggression.
Dominant gold convict cichlids develop far more quickly than subordinates, and the decreased development rate is due to inferior social status rather than individual fish variations. Their digestion may be impacted by inferior social status and the stress that comes with it can cause them to eventually lose their coloration.
In order to prevent their colors from tarnishing, tank mates must display the ideal balance of aggression, being able to compete without entirely dominating them.
Ideal tank mates for a gold convict cichlid are other similar species of hardy Central American cichlids including t-bar cichlids, honduran red points, green terrors, flowerhorn, jewel cichlids, jack dempsey, pictus catfish, salvini, plecos, and other gold convict cichlids.
Additionally, very active and robust schooling species such as giant danios, tiger barbs, and denison barbs make great dither fish. Just make sure that they are mixed together in sizable schools with very little size disparity; these schools will help lessen hostility toward any particular fish.
However, fish smaller than 2 – 3 inches in size should not be introduced to them since they will consume any fish that is capable of fitting in their mouth.
Male & Female Differences
Younger species do not exhibit sexual dimorphism until they reach sexual maturity, which can occur as early as 16 to 24 weeks of age.
Female gold convict cichlids, typically display orange ventral colorations of varying degrees which males do not. A female gold convict is also more colorful than the male, which is not frequently seen in fish and has darker black stripes running across it.
Males are larger than females and like most other species of cichlids, older males develop nuchal humps, which is a large hump on their head that becomes more prominent as they age. The dorsal, ventral, and anal fins of a male are all pointed and frequently divide into separate strands at the base of each fin.
Breeding & Spawning
Gold convict cichlids are prolific breeders that will typically begin to spawn in most established aquariums with no human intervention. Warmer temperatures frequently promote reproduction, while cooler temperatures have been observed to inhibit spawning.
A male and female can develop a pair bond before they jointly establish a territory, or they can each establish a territory beforehand. The male and female build monogamous bonds and parental coordination develops by constantly adapting to changing environments, in order to increase the chance that their young will survive.
Normally, the male and female divide the parental roles and carry them out individually. However, if a male or female is ever separated from each other, they are both capable of carrying out both roles.
Once a spawning site has been selected, the pair will dig caverns by sifting through the substrate beneath stones. The female then will attach a batch of eggs to the cave’s walls or foundation.
The parents fan the eggs by circulating water over the eggs with their pelvic fins to increase oxygenation. Throughout the day and at night, they will continue to fan the eggs and they can use their keen sense of smell to identify each other, their eggs, and potential predators during the night.
Approximately 72 hours after fertilization, the eggs begin to hatch. The parents show parental care for both the eggs and the free-swimming fry by defending their territory and driving out any intruders and potential predators. After hatching, the larvae require an additional 72 hours to digest their yolk sacs and develop their fins before they become free-swimming.
The fry will forage for food during the day in large schools and return to the spawning site just before dark. Similar to other cichlid species, the parents will return their young back to the spawning site just before night by using their mouth to collect a few at a time. The fry will readily accept infusoria, baby brine shrimp, and crushed flake food.
Following the collection of samples in Central America by Frederick DuCane Godman and Osbert Salvin, Albert Günther first described the species in 1867.
In 2007, based on Juan Schmitter-Soto’s analysis of Archocentrus species, the gold convict cichlid was transferred from the genus Archocentrus to a new genus, Amatitlania.
The species has seen substantial color diversity throughout its range thanks to selective breeding, and it has also produced a genetically mutated strain that lacks the dark black stripes of the wild variety. These are also known as “white convicts,” “pink convicts,” and “gold convicts.” The genetically mutated color is caused by an autosomal recessively inherited gene.
Juliane Lukas, Jonas Jourdan, Gregor Kalinkat, Sebastian Emde, Friedrich Wilhelm Miesen, Hannah Jüngling, Berardino Cocchiararo, and David Bierbach. On the occurrence of three non-native cichlid species including the first record of a feral population of Pelmatolapia (Tilapia) mariae (Boulenger, 1899) in Europe. 2017
Rodney Duffy, Chris Bird, and Mike Snow. The convict cichlid Amatitlania nigrofasciata Gunther 1867 (Cichlidae): first record of this non-native species in Western Australian waterbodies. 2013
Ali Reza Radkhah and Soheil Eagderi. Investigation on the Global Distribution of Invasive Fish Species, Convict Cichlid Amatitlania Nigrofasciata (Perciformes, Cichlidae) Over the Past Years with Emphasis on Iranian Inland Waters. 2020
Gavin Lee, James Grant, and Perry Comolli. Dominant convict cichlids (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) grow faster than subordinates when fed an equal ration. 2011
Ronaldo Gurgel-Lourenço, Leonardo Pinto, Luis Bezerra, and Jorge Sánchez-Botero. Has a non-native cichlid of the genus Amatitlania (Actinopterygii, Cichlidae) adapted to the headwaters in Brazilian semi-arid? 2019
Jennifer Snekser and Murray Itzkowitz. Convict cichlid parents that stay with the same mate develop unique and consistent divisions of roles. 2020
Simon Beeching, Steven Gross, Evangelos Hariatis, and Halle Bretz. Sexual dichromatism in convict cichlids: the ethological significance of female ventral coloration. 1998
Topi Lehtonen. Convict cichlids benefit from close proximity to another species of cichlid fish. 2008
Theresa Marlin, Jennifer Snekser, and Joseph Leese. Juvenile convict cichlids shoaling decisions in relation to shoal size and age. 2019