Tropical Fish

Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources » Tropical Fish Profiles » Spadetailed Checkerboard Cichlid

Discuss the Spadetailed Checkerboard Cichlid in our Cichlids forum.

Spadetailed Checkerboard Cichlid

Scientific Name: Dicrossus maculatus
Family: Cichlidae, Subfamily Geophaginae

About the Spadetailed Checkerboard Cichlid

Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Category: Cichlids

Care Level: Moderate. May tolerate only a narrow range of water parameters, have specific dietary requirements including frozen or even live foods, may have behaviors that severely limit potential tankmates or may require a specialized aquarium setup.

Origin: Amazon basin in the Rio Tapajos system, Rio Maues, and near Parintins, Brazil.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful; males are territorial with each other and this species does well as a pair (male/female) with other non-aggressive soft water fish such as small characins [cardinal and rummynose tetras are ideal], pencilfish, hatchetfish, Corydoras, Farlowella, etc.


A strikingly beautiful dwarf cichlid, but unfortunately very rarely seen in the hobby. Males can be distinguished by the more intense colouration [in the above photos, the male is in the left and the female in the right]. During spawning, the female's ventral fins turn bright yellow with a black border, possibly a better signal to the fry. In this species, the caudal fin is rounded, hence the common name "spadetail checkerboard" as opposed to the elongated lyretail of males in the sister species D. filamentosus. The species is not difficult to breed, provided strict attention is paid to the water parameters (mandatory) and live foods are offered. Available fish are often from local breeders.

The aquarium should be well-planted, and the water must be soft and acidic as noted under the water parameters below. Other fish in the aquarium will make this very shy and otherwise retiring cichlid feel more at ease. Plenty of wood and branches will replicate their natural habitat and provide hiding spots to further the fish's sense of security.

The common name "checkerboard" which is applied to the species in Dicrossus and also to the two species in Crenicara comes from the pattern of black squares on the sides of the fish. The checkerboard cichlids are within the Crenicarine clade of the subfamily Geophaginae and contain the species in Crenicara [2 valid species, C. punctulatum and C. lamincularium], Dicrossus [currently 3 valid species, D. filamentosus, D. maculatus and D. gladicauda erected in 2008 by Schindler & Staeck, and possibly 2 undescribed species (Schindler & Staeck, 2008)] and Mazarunia. The latter genus was erected by Kullander in 1990 for the new single (and type) species M. mazarunii.

This species was described by F. Steindachner in 1875 and named Dicrossus maculatus. Regan (1905) regarded the genus Dicrossus as a synonym of Crenicara, a view held by others until Kullander in 1990 determined that Dicrossus and Crenicara are distinct enough to be treated as separate taxa and he re-validated Dicrossus for the two species D. filamentosus and D. maculatus. Work by Lopez-Fernandez in 2005 agrees, further showing the two genera as sister taxa sharing a serrated posterior margin of the preopercule, a conspicuous and relatively rare character state in SA cichlids according to Kullander (1990).

Dicrossus comes from the Greek di [two] and krossoi [aspergillum, an instrument such as a brush or a perforated container used for sprinkling holy water]. Crenicara comes from the Latin noun crena [notch] and the Tupi-Guarani native word acara [cichlid].

In 1936, E. Ahl described the species Crenicara praetoriusi, but this was determined by Kullander to be the same species and the name is now a synonym (invalid) for the subject species.


Kullander, S.O. (1990), "Mazarunia mazarunii (Teleostei: Cichlidae), a new genus and species from Guyana, South America," Ichthyol. Explor. Freshwat. 1(1), pp. 3-14.

Schindler, Ingo & W. Staeck (2008), "Dicrossus gladicauda sp.n.--a new species of crenicarine dwarf cichlids (Teleostei: Perciformes: Cichlidae) from Colombia, South America," Vertebrate Zoology 58(1), pp. 67-73.

Spadetailed Checkerboard Cichlid Diet

Naturally feeds on small organisms found under leaf litter. Live blackworms, daphnia and artemia are recommended as most available fish will be wild-caught; frozen bloodworms, daphnia and brine shrimp may be offered, and possibly prepared dry foods such as sinking cichlid pellets. Live foods are likely essential for spawning.


Males attain up to 9 cm (3+ inches) [Fisbase gives 5.3 inches], females 5 cm (2 inches).

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length

Ideal water parameters for Spadetailed Checkerboard Cichlid

Soft (1-5 dGH) and acidic (pH 5 to 6.8) water, temperature 24-27C/75-81F. This species may tolerate slightly higher hardness and pH better than D. filamentosus but long-term health is more assured in very soft and acidic water. The temperature range is based on observations in their habitat, but most authorities recommend warm temperatures around 26.5C/80F for aquaria.

Return to top
Spadetailed Checkerboard Cichlid 1
Return to top
Spadetailed Checkerboard Cichlid 2

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 06:50 AM.