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Heros Carpintis

Written by Russell McAndrews

Heros carpintis is an attractive mid- to large-sized cichlid which is widely spread throughout Mexico’s Atlantic slope.  The similarity of this species to the more common “Texas Cichlid”, H. cyanoguttatus, has led to the titles “Green Texas or Emerald Texas Cichlid”.  Despite the closeness of these two fish, they are different and should be maintained separately to avoid the possibility of interbreeding.  H. carpintis is slightly smaller and more brightly marked than its northern relation with blue-green versus blue coloration.  Overall size can depend on many, many variables but the largest individuals that I have seen were 8”TL.  Like the “Texas Cichlid”, H. carpintis is a high bodied cichlid with a somewhat sloped nose.  The background color of the body is gray to black with approximately half the fish’s body being blue-green blotches.  Unlike the “Texas Cichlid”, this fish is so heavily colored that it could be described as a blue-green fish with an irregular gray net thrown over it.  I have found that when this fish is kept outside the sunlight seems to enflame the spots of color and the gray, interspatial lines all but disappear.   This species also exhibits one of the most interesting spawning, or defensive color patterns.  The fish’s face remains as described above but the remaining three quarters of the body turns black.  A horizontal line from the mouth to a mid-flank position with a vertical line from there to the dorsal fin divides the blue-green spangled face from the black body.  When in good condition, the males exhibit slightly more finnage than the females which in turn are smaller and plumper.

In order to be assured of ending up with a least one pair, it’s generally much better to obtain groups of fry or young adults if you can afford them.  This fish is as promiscuous as they come and is capable of spawning at only 2”TL.  Be sure and buy a mixture of sizes since quite often the larger individuals are males.  I purchased 8 H. carpintis 2-2.5”TL from a local dealer.  Within three months time I was “blessed” with three pairs and two extra females.  By this time the fish were about 4”TL and growing.  At least one of these pairs had been spawning for a couple of months.  Two of the three pairs had spawned and the third was getting ready to.  If you’ve seen the number of eggs these fish can lay you know why I had to do something in a hurry.  Luckily, along came the “86 ACA Convention during which 2 pairs were transferred to fellow cichlidiots.  This lessened my work load considerably.  The remaining pair was determined to see to the continuation of their species and regularly laid about 1,000 eggs per month.  With a survival rate close to 75% it didn’t take long before I had them everywhere, tanks, wading pools, and even plywood boxes lined with plastic sheeting.

In an attempt to get the parents to stop spawning, I left the fry in with them in a 100 gallon tank.  As it turned out, this was a mistake.  The female came into condition and spawned as usual however, due no doubt to the overcrowding, she ate the eggs.  The male responded by beating the daylights out of her.  Successful reintroduction was accomplished after one month’s recuperation by simultaneously placing both parents into an entirely different, crowded tank.

Although these fish will spawn right on the glass in a bare aquarium, when offered a choice of sites, my pair seemed to prefer a cave-like structure to anything else.  In this case, the cave was a 9” inverted clay pot which had been modified such that the bottom hole was large enough for both parents to enter.

In closing, I’ve found H. carpintis to be slightly aggressive and extremely hardy as compared to other cichlids.  Spawning behavior, as with any cichlid, will bring aggression into focus as it dominates the fish’s behavior.  This fish tolerates cold better than most other species in its genus.  While living in Arizona, I left some fry outside year round.  The pool they were in contained 2,600 gallons and so therefore, daily temperature fluctuations did not take place.   Still, eventually the temperature fell to a low of 52oF.  The H. carpintis fry were unscathed.  One species of Seratheradon and one species of Tilapia also survived with minor casualties.  I’m not recommending that you keep this fish outside year round, but, that you utilize this fish’s tolerance to cold in arranging your fish room inventory.


I would like to caution the reader as I have in the past that written articles are not gospel, they are in fact the opinion of the person who took the time to write it down.  Along this line, I would challenge anyone with a different opinion to voice it, or better yet, print it.  One doesn’t need to be a scientist, just a serious hobbyist.

P.S.  The editor can do wonders for your grammar.