The Chocolate Cichlid or Emerald Cichlid, scientifically known as Hypselecara temporalis, is a large species of fish from the family Cichlidae and is native to South America.
It is usually found in the calm, deep, and slow-moving waters of the Amazon River Basin, specifically the Solimôes-Amazon River and Oyapock River basin in Brazil, the Amazonas drainage in Colombia, and the Rio Ucayali drainage in Peru.
These exquisite fish can make for an excellent centerpiece in the community aquariums because of their elegant colors and simple care guides. If you want to learn more about how to take care of them and raise them well, keep on reading this article.
Chocolate Cichlid Stats
Here is some quick information about these fish that will help you understand them better in a flash:
|Scientific name||Hypselecara temporalis|
|Other names||Emerald Cichlid|
|Minimum tank size||75 gallons|
|Maximum size||12 inches (30cm)|
What Is Chocolate Cichlid?
The chocolate cichlid is another stunning fish from the Cichlidae family that is not only easy to take care of, but also adds a colorful dimension to your tank. Moreover, the coloration of this fish is what makes it absolutely unique!
Chocolate Cichlid Care
You should try to give them a biologically mature and spacious aquarium with a soft sand substrate. Make sure the filtration is efficient, but the water movement should not be too vigorous, since they come from slow-moving turbid rivers. What’s more, the water changes should be moderately frequent to keep the nitrate levels to a minimum.
Chocolate cichlids prefer warm, soft, acidic water with slow to moderate currents. You might need a heater to keep the water warm. To ensure the temperature of the water is as constant as possible, use a thermometer to measure it often.
You should also get a water pH testing kit to perform regular checks on your water’s acidity and hardness. This is to ensure adequate and stable living conditions for the fish.
Cichlids are one of the most prominent freshwater fish families, so all kinds of cichlids are susceptible to freshwater diseases as well as aquarium diseases.
Some of the most common ones among them for chocolate cichlids are the swim bladder disease, cotton wool disease, Malawi bloat, tuberculosis, ich, gill flukes, and hole in the head.
The best way to prevent these is to ensure the highest quality water within the tank because many of these diseases are born from bacterial attacks. It’s important to remain aware of the symptoms so that you can detect them quickly and get them treated as soon as possible.
Chocolate cichlids, like most other cichlid species, are omnivores. In the wild, they usually feed on an array of invertebrates as well as algae and other plant matters in the rivers of South America. But if you are keeping them in an aquarium, they will be satisfied with almost any kind of fish food you give them.
They would quite readily gobble up fish flakes or pellets. However, to meet the protein requirements of a full grown chocolate cichlid, live and frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, white mosquito larvae, krill, Mysis, chopped prawns, and such foods can be given.
You can also keep plants in your aquarium for them to eat, since a wide range of foods will keep them more healthy and active.
As mentioned before, chocolate cichlids tend to grow quite large, and their average size is bigger than the regular cichlid. A full-grown chocolate cichlid can be up to 12 inches in size. That is, of course, considering that they have been given the proper diet with adequate amounts of food.
Male and female cichlids grow up to be approximately the same size. However, the male cichlids will show a nuchal hump, elongated dorsal fins, as well as elongated anal fins, which females won’t have.
The lifespan of just about any kind of fish that is raised outside of their natural habitat depends on how well they have been taken care of. If you manage to provide your chocolate cichlid with a suitable environment with appropriate water conditions and give it a proper and diverse diet, then you can expect the cichlid to live for over 10 years.
It is actually quite common for chocolate cichlids to easily live up to 10 years, but if they get attacked by diseases or have low immunity, their life expectancy may reduce.
Now let’s talk about how you can ensure the best living conditions for your chocolate cichlids. They are not schooling fish, but because of their massive size, they will require at least 75 gallons of water for each. So if you plan to buy more than one chocolate cichlid, make sure the tank is spacious enough for a couple of hundred gallons.
Again, if you want to keep the chocolate cichlid in a community tank, the tank should be way bigger than 75 gallons. The bigger it is, the better it will be for the fish living inside it.
– Tank Temperature
As you know already, the natural habitat of these cichlids is a warm, tropical climate, so the water parameters of the tank should also be that way. Make sure the temperature remains between 76 F to 86 F. They further prefer moderately acidic water, so the pH level should remain somewhere between 5.0 to 7.0 to provide the most ideal setting.
The recommended water hardness is 6 to 16 N, but before that, you should add aquarium sand at the bottom of the tank so that the chocolate cichlids can feel like they’re home.
They will mostly spend their time scavenging through the sand for food, so you should avoid any kind of substrate with sharp edges at all costs. The substrate must be soft and sandy for their comfort.
– Tank Decorations
They also need plenty of hiding places or visual barriers inside the aquarium, which you can create by using driftwood and rocky caves. They do tend to rip up live plants, so if you do get some, it’s best to choose robust planting such as Java Fern or Anubias sp. for the decor.
These plants will not only serve as hiding places but also remove excess nitrates and nutrients from the water.
– Tank Requirements for Fry
Once the fry is matured enough, a 10-gallon aquarium will suffice to begin with. Adding some live plants will help the fry feel comfortable and also provide them with microorganisms to eat.
– Tank Cleaning Requirements
To keep the water calm and water quality high, a simple sponge filter can be used. However, you have to change the water at times regardless of the filter.
Chocolate Cichlid Behavior & Temperament
One of the things that makes chocolate cichlids so easy to take care of is the fact that they are relatively peaceful. They don’t dominate over other fish or act aggressively for no reason despite their large size. However, there are some scenarios where a chocolate cichlid may display aggressive behavior towards tank mates.
One of those cases is when the tank isn’t spacious enough for the fish to move freely without trouble. The cichlid will feel claustrophobic and irritable and thus engage in aggressive behavior towards the other fish.
Chocolate cichlids are also not too fond of interspecies companionship. In other words, they don’t easily like to befriend fellow chocolate cichlids. This is why they might act hostile towards other chocolate cichlids and it’s best to not keep more than one of the same in the same tank.
The individual personalities of your chocolate cichlids will also determine their aggression, which makes them seem a lot like humans in a way.
Some chocolate cichlids might just be aggressive by nature and won’t get along with certain other fish seemingly without any special reason. But still, on a large scale, most chocolate cichlids are peaceful and sociable with other large fish.
These gentle giants are friendly and will generally get along with other fish of similar size, peaceful temperament, and those that enjoy the same kind of environmental parameters.
In other words, any fish that is of the same size as a chocolate cichlid, owns the same temperament, and requires the same water parameters can be considered as potential tank mates for it.
Chocolate cichlids also need to establish their own territory, so overly active fish that move all around the tank might not be the ideal tank mate. However, bottom dwellers and other peaceful cichlids can work. The best choice for tank mates will be other prominent South or Central American fish.
Moreover, some examples of the best tank mates are:
- Severum cichlids
- Oscar fish
- Electric blue acaras
- Silver dollars
- Large armored catfish
- Most Geophagus species
Though chocolate cichlids are peaceful, as mentioned earlier, they don’t get along with fellow chocolate cichlids. So if you buy more than one chocolate cichlid at once, you should put them in separate tanks. You also shouldn’t put them in the same tank as small-sized fish, since they are omnivores and might eat end up eating each other.
If you already have some experience with breeding fish, then chocolate cichlid breeding shouldn’t be too difficult for you. The process is more or less straightforward.
As a pre-breeding measure, you should make sure to keep the light inside the aquarium dim so that they can see the eggs and not accidentally eat them up.
Breeding Step 1: Courtship & Tips
During the breeding cycle, the courtship will begin. They will begin to display intensified coloration in their bodies, and that is how you will know they are getting ready to court. You will see them flash their fins, lock their lips, flare their gills, and do a lot of shimmying as well.
Chocolate cichlids are substrate spawners. If they breed in a community setting, they might show severe aggression towards all other fish of the tank during the breeding period, even with the fish they are normally very friendly with.
But this aggression will be minimized to a great extent if the tank is voluminous enough and they get adequate space for themselves.
Breeding Step 2: Spawning & Egg Hatching
When it’s time to lay eggs, the fish will clear a flat piece of rock or slate to create a spawning site and excavate some pits in the substrate. You will see the female cichlid swim a few times over the spawning site in the beginning, and then she will finally start laying eggs in small batches.
The male will stay around the whole time, and once the eggs are laid, will start working on fertilizing them.
The spawning will last about an hour, and then they will start guarding the eggs and fanning them with their fins. After a few days, the parents will dig a pit in the substrate, move the eggs there, and resume guarding.
Let some more days pass and the eggs will be hatched. After another three days, you will start seeing the fry free swimming around the pit.
Chocolate Cichlid Fry Care
Once the fry starts the free-swimming, you can give them baby brine shrimp and crushed fish flakes, which will help them grow faster. For about two to three weeks after the fry begins to free swim, the parents will continue to look after them. After that, you can start taking care of them like the other fish.
One thing you should keep in mind is that there are some cases when the parents fail to fully grasp the concept of parenting. In such cases, they would try to eat their eggs or even their fry. If you notice that, you should set up a separate tank for the eggs as soon as they are fertilized.
And if you think that you can’t afford to arrange a separate aquarium, then you can do something else: you can add some coarse gravel substrate to the parent aquarium. This will allow the newly hatched fry to fall between the crevices and hide from their parents. But it’s still not as reliable of a solution as the separate aquarium.
Chocolate cichlids are not only beautiful and peaceful but also easy to care for, so choosing them for your tank shouldn’t be a hard decision. In fact, they will make a wonderful addition, especially to community aquariums.
Now that you know everything about how to raise them, let’s take another look at all the important points:
- Chocolate cichlids are South American species of cichlids
- They are often sold under the name of Emerald Cichlids as well
- The male can be distinguished from the female through the nuchal hump on their foreheads
- They have a peaceful temperament with other fish despite their large size
- The filtration within the tank should be such that the water movement is not too fast
- Because of their massive size, at least a 75-gallon tank is needed for each – more if it’s a community tank
- They don’t get along well with other chocolate cichlids and might show aggression towards them, so it’s best to not put them in the same tank
- If the parents start eating their own eggs or fry, it’s best to separate the eggs after fertilization
Now that you know all the required information about chocolate cichlids, you should have no trouble being a fish parent to them!
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