Green Terror Cichlid Feeding, Breeding, Diseases, Aquarium Care Guide

Introduction

When you bring colorful freshwater fishes into your home tank, you can notice that the visual appeal of your tank will go up by several notches. The Green Terror Cichlid, too, is one such fish that can bring life to your tank by just being present in them. As you would have guessed, these beautiful fishes come in bright green shade (sometimes blue as well), which is why they are named this way.

The scientific name of the Green Terror Cichlid is Andinoacararivulatus. They belong to the cichlid family and are commonly found in the South American regions. The Peruvian Tumbes River and the Ecuadorian Esmeraldas River are the places where these fishes originate from. It is believed that these fishes have been in existence since 1860 onwards.

These large green terror cichlids exhibit aggressive behavior at times, but they are very easy to care for. If you are an aquarist, it is highly recommended that you get the green terrors to your home tank, only if you have considerable experience in handling them.

 The rivers from where the green terrors originate from are tropical freshwaters that are very clear. These rivers have sand or soft substrate and there are ample spaces in these rivers for the green terror cichlids to swim about and to create their hiding spots.

You have to keep these points in mind when you are creating the ideal ambiance for these fishes in your home tank. Let us see more about how to care for the green terrors and what sort of behavior you can expect from them in the following sections.

Physical characteristics

The green terrors are very colorful and quite large as well. In the wild, they can grow as long as 12 inches, but in captivity, they don’t grow more than 8 inches. The body of these fishes is not always green. They have a combination of metallic blue and green shades. The edges of the caudal and dorsal fins have a bright orange line running along with them.

The face of the green terrors has stripes in interesting patterns, whereas its body is covered in blue and green spots all over. Their dorsal and pectoral fins are long and distinct.

A striking feature that you can notice in the green terrors is a huge hump on its head. This hump, made of fatty tissues, is visible only in the males, which makes it very easy for you to identify the sex of the green terrors. In their original South American habitat, male green terrors develop this hump only during the breeding season. However, in home tanks, they develop this hump permanently.

Apart from the hump, the intensity of their body color is also a good way to identify the sex.  The green and blue metallic shades are very bright on the male green terrors. The females have a dull shade of green and blue all over.

Also, the orange line that decorates the edges of the caudal and dorsal fins is almost absent in the females. Even if this line is present, it is not very bright or obvious. Sometimes, the female green terrors also have pink, red, or electric blue lines instead of the orange line.

You will notice that the color changes as the green terrors grow. Juvenile green terrors have a silvery blue body, which changes into metallic blue or green as they grow. The fins of the juveniles are short, whereas those of the adult green terrors are quite long.

Feeding

Though they are carnivores in the wild, green terrors become omnivores in captivity. The good thing about these fishes is that they are not fussy at all about their diet. You can feed them a wide range of diverse foods that comprise of the following:

  • Shrimps
  • Earthworms
  • Mussel Meat
  • Crickets
  • Fish Fillets
  • Pellets
  • Tubeworms
  • Bloodworms
  • White Worms
  • Gammarus
  • Prawns
  • Feeder fishes (Goldfish is a good choice)
  • Cooked vegetables (spinach and peas are good options)
  • Frozen foods and artificial flakes

There is a reason why we have mentioned frozen foods and artificial flakes as the last choice. You should give these foods the least priority and resort to them only if you aren’t able to find any live foods that we have suggested in the above list. These live foods have the nutrients to keep the green terrors healthy. This way, you can ensure that they lead a healthy life throughout their lifetime, which is around 7 to 10 years.

As the green terrors keep growing larger, you can start feeding them larger sizes of pellets and fish fillets. It is enough if you feed your adult green terrors twice a day. Juveniles may require feeding for about thrice a day. Regardless of the foods you feed the green terrors you should ensure that you stay away from high-protein foods.  Foods rich in proteins can result in digestive issues for the green terrors.

Breeding

Unlike some of the other species, the green terrors don’t require any special treatment for breeding. You can buy several juveniles and encourage them to mate naturally, or you can buy an already bred and established pair from the market. We already told you that the green terrors could be quite aggressive, didn’t we? During spawning, the aggressiveness of these large fishes only increases. So, you need to be prepared for the same.

Though there are not many prerequisites that you have to take care of, when you are attempting to breed the green terrors, you could consider the following parameters for a good success rate:

  • Ensure that the water is slightly acidic in nature with the pH levels set to 6.5.
  • The temperature should be set at around 77 to 80 degrees F, which makes the water warm and ideal for the spawning process.

When you buy green terrors as a pair, you should be careful that you don’t place them with other fishes during the spawning process. This is because the males get very aggressive and they could kill their tank mates, when they display this behavior.

We assume that your tank is already spacious with enough space to swim about and hide for the male & female green terrors. Just before the breeding process starts, you will notice that the couple starts cleaning up the substrate very well. The male and female fishes will do everything they can to ensure that the substrate is clean and safe enough to lay eggs on it.

During the breeding phase, the green terrors become more colorful than before. After cleaning the substrate, they dig well into the substrate to create holes so that they can hide the fry there at a later point. The green terrors follow the external fertilization method, in which, the females first deposit their eggs in a safe place in the substrate and the males fertilize them in the open waters.

The spawning process usually happens during the evening or in the first few hours of the day. When the female lays her eggs, her trajectory resembles the digit, 8. The males will immediately follow the females to begin the fertilization process. A female will lay around anywhere between 200 and 600 eggs after one breeding session. If it is a huge female fish, you can expect a mega group of 1000 eggs, too!

How do you know if these eggs are healthy? By their physical appearance, of course! If the eggs are yellow in color and semi-transparent in consistency, you can be happy that your female green terrors have laid healthy eggs. These eggs start hatching within 3 to 4 days. Until they learn how to swim, the fry is kept safe inside sand pits that the green terrors have dug inside the substrate.

When most of the other fishes present you with many challenges during breeding, the green terrors come with an interesting challenge for you – your ability to stop the frequency of spawning! Yes, you heard that right. Try decreasing the frequency with which the females lay their eggs, and you have a tough job on hands.

After hatching, the ich fry takes around 2 to 4 days more for germination. After this stage, they are ready to be fed healthy foods such as brine shrimp, egg yolk, microplankton and the like. All these foods make the juveniles fit and healthy soon. The only thing you need to remember is that there shouldn’t be any other fishes or aquatic beings in the tank along with the green terrors during the breeding season.

Care

The green terrors are large fishes, which are not very difficult to maintain. They are not too fussy about their environment. They need space in their tank to swim about and they need to have soft substrate, so that they can carry out one of their favorite hobbies – digging.

They also need quite a reasonable amount of hiding spots inside the tank to mimic their natural habitat. They are apt for experienced aquarists because the green terrors can get quite aggressive at times.  Here are some requirements that you have to keep in mind while caring for your green terrors:

  • Your tank should be big enough to hold at least 35 gallons of water, if you plan to get one green terror. If you plan to get a pair, ensure that you get a tank that can hold at least 75 gallons of water.
  • The temperature inside the tank should be maintained at around 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, while the pH levels should be around 6.5 to 8. It is highly recommended to keep the water hardness level in the range between 5 and 20 dGH.
  • Unlike some of other species, green terrors are not very fussy about the lighting that you set up inside the tanks. However, it is recommended that you choose lights that are neither too dim nor too bright.
  • Sand, driftwood and rocks broken into small pieces are good choices for the substrate of your tank. While you can choose any soft substrate, you should remember to keep away from large-sized gravel. This is because these large pieces could accidentally go inside the mouths of the green terrors while they ferociously dig the substrate. This leads to digestive problems in them.
  • The green terrors love to dig; therefore, you should take extreme care while choosing the plants to be kept in the aquarium along with them. Rooted plants may add visual appeal to your tank, but they will be easily uprooted and removed when the green terror cichlids dig through them. Hence, floating plants are good choices to keep in the tanks with them. Java Fern and Anubias are good floating plants that you can consider.
  • You have to remember to renew a minimum of 20% of the tank water once in every two weeks, if you don’t want the green terror cichlids to fall sick because of the bad water quality.
  • Using a high-performance external filter is very important (though not mandatory) to remove the excessive nitrates and ammonia accumulated in the bottom of the tank.

Diseases

Though you don’t have to be scared of any major illnesses, you must be aware of some of the common ailments that your green terror cichlids can be inflicted with.  The most common disease that could affect these fishes is infections. Parasitic infections, skin ailments due to infections and HLLE (hole in the head) are some diseases that the green terrors are prone to.

Don’t get worried about the fancy names of these ailments; they can be easily treated when you take care of the water quality in the tank. More often than not, fishes are diagnosed with these affections when the water hardness levels are more than the required parameters. When the fishes stay in hard water for a long time, it is common for them to get infected with these ailments.

Another common ailment that is found among green terror cichlids is the lymphocystis disease. This condition is usually found among most of the tropical fishes. The connective tissue cells of the fishes are affected in this condition. You can know that the green terror is suffering from this ailment, when you spot small, white lesions appearing all over its body, even on their mouth and gills at times.

One of the most important reasons for the lymphocystis disease among the green terrors is stress. The fishes get distressed when the water quality is not great and when it is not properly oxygenated. Once you take care of these basic factors, you will have healthy green terror cichlids floating freely in your tank.

Here is an important tip for you to know if your green terrors are healthy or not. You might already know that these fishes come in a bright blue & green shade. The color not only makes the fishes unique, but is also an indication of their health. When you notice the color fading slightly, it should ring an alarm bell in your mind that the cichlids may be suffering from an internal ailment.

Behavior

The Green Terror Cichlids fall in the category of benthopelagic fishes. These are fishes that don’t settle in one layer of the tank. Some fishes stay on top of the tank while some love to settle down at the bottom. Not the green terrors, though! They love to swim about the full length and breadth of the tank.

They love it when their food is diverse and they love it more when you feed them live food. They are huge, attractive and colorful. However, they can surprise you with their super-aggressive behavior, especially during the breeding phase. They need a tank that is big and covered with an ample number of hiding spots.

When you plan to get more species of fishes along with the green terrors, you should remember to get a really big tank so that these cichlids don’t feel threatened or claustrophobic.

Aquarium Mates

The female green terror cichlids are more aggressive than their male counterparts. The male and female green terrors are also very territorial in nature. Therefore, you should always choose bigger or similar-sized fishes as the aquarium mates for the green terrors. Never make the mistake of putting them along with the small fishes. Some of the ideal tank mates for the green terrors are the large characins, Silver Dollars, Pacus, huge cichlids (such as firemouth, flowerhorns, Managuenese Cichlids and Jack Dempseys) and gars.

When you buy a mated pair of green terrors, you should keep them in a separate tank for spawning as these fishes are highly aggressive during this time. They can eat their fellow tank mates, if you aren’t too careful.

While small-sized fishes such as African Cichlids should be avoided as they can be eaten by the huge green terrors, the dangerous Coryodoras should be avoided because the spines of these fishes can cause fatal injuries to the green terrors by penetrating deep into their mouths.

Arindom Ghosh
 

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