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Family: Cichlidae, Subfamily Geophaginae

Scientific Name: Dicrossus filamentosus -

Origin and Habitat: Relatively widespread in areas of the Rio Orinoco system (Columbia and Venezuela) and portions of the Rio ***** system (Brazil)--[see comments under Description]. Occurs in quiet rivers and streams, frequently found in riparian bays and pools, and flooded forest in shallow water. Remains close to the substrate.

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.

Lyretail 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 4 inches, females 3 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length for a pair.

Water parameters for Lyretail Checkerboard Cichlid

Very soft (1 dGH) and acidic (pH 4.5 to 5.8) water, temperature 24-27C/75-81F. The fish may tolerate slightly higher hardness and pH but if spawning should occur the eggs will not hatch; 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.


A strikingly beautiful dwarf cichlid, but unfortunately rather uncommon in the hobby. Males can be distinguished by the elongated caudal fin (the lyretail) and brighter colour, in addition to being slightly larger than females. The species is not difficult to breed, provided 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 rather 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. And if available, dried leaves are ideal; this fish will frequently lift leaves in search of food. Leaves are required for breeding, as the female deposits her eggs on a leaf she has cleaned, and the fry remain under cover of the leaf after hatching.

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; in the subject species this is sometimesw more evident on females which have a more distinct "chessboard" patterning. 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 and 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.

There is a variation in the colour and pattern between the population occurring in the Rio Orinoco and that in the Rio *****. On the male fish, the Rio ***** population has a narrow wedge of speckles in the fork of the caudal fin; this wedge is wider in males from the Rio Orinoco. Females of the Rio ***** population develop vivid red ventral fins after their first spawning, while females of the Rio Orinoco population remain the same (no red ventral fins). The pair in the second photo below are from the Rio *****.

The species was originally described by W. Ladiges in 1958 as Crenicara filamentosa; Ladiges used the genus erected by Steindachner in 1875 for Crenicara elegans [this species name was subsequently determined to be a synonym for what then became Crenicara punctulatum]. Steindachner had also erected the genus Dicrossus in 1875 when he described D. maculatus, a closely-related species. 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).

The name 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 is derived from the Latin noun crena [=notch] and the Tupi-Guarani native word acara [=cichlid].


Kullander, S.O. (1990), "Mazarunia mazarunii (Teleostei: Cichlidae), a new genus and species from Guyana, South America," Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 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.

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