12-04-2006, 02:31 PM
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I did some intense research for you here, and focused on the specific species you had named in your last post. The info I'm about to quote comes from Aqualog and also from Tropical Cichlids by Tetra Press.
Mesonauta festivus grows to be 6 - 8 inches for male and 5 - 6+ inches for female. They are an omnivorous fish and natural habitat is Guianas, Orinoco Amazon Basins. The big difference between male/female, besides size is that the male has a longer nose. Most commercially available Mesonauta festivus are now captive bred in Asia and Florida. Wild fishes are now usually from Guyana. I also found info in another book that says natural habitats are now restricted to Paraguay & Bolivian Amazon Basins, & Jio Jamari & Lower Rio Tapajos
Mesonauta insignis grows to 6 - 8 inches and is native to the upper Rio Begro and Rio Orinoco
Mesonauta egregius grows to 8 - 10 inches and is native to the Columbian Orinoco Basin
Mesonauta mirificus grows to 4 - 5 inches and is native to the Peruvian Amazon
Overall, these fish are all directly related but there is some variation in sizes and colorations/markings. In a 55 gallon tank, I wouldn't keep more than 1 of anything over 6 inches simply due to waste issues, messy eating habits, and although these are more peaceful than some of the other Central American Cichlids, they will still get quite aggressive if feeling crowded or spawning. For anything over 8 inches, I wouldn't put them into anything less than 75 gallons for 1 fish... 125 gallons for 2 - 3 fish.
For the smaller species, such as the mirificus, I still would limit to 3 or 4 of them if all the same species (in 55 gallons), for the same reasons as noted above.
Good filtration and regular weekly water exchanges are a must for keeping these fish healthy. These fish are prone to heximita (hole in the head disease) if the nitrate level remains above 60 for any length of time, and this is not always easily treated because the medication can be difficult to find in some places and it can't be used until the water quality is cleaned up to allow nitrate levels of below 40 and zero for both ammonia and nitrite.
The different species ARE compatible with each other if space/tank size allows for it.
One note for everyone, these fish are not to be confused with the Cichlasoma Festae... aka... Red Terror. As the name "terror" suggests, these are quite nasty fish, grow to be 18 inches for males, and about 12 inches for females. They are native to the Pacific slope of Equador. In a 55 gallon, this fish is not suggested at all.
I hope this has helped, let me know if there is more I can do.