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Hemichromis stellifer – The Red Jewel Cichlid
Hemichromis stellifer, often affectionately referred to as the Red Jewel Cichlid, stands as a captivating representative of the West African cichlid family. Explore the remarkable traits that define this species and make it a sought-after addition to aquariums:
A Jewel in Red: The Red Jewel Cichlid earns its name from the dazzling transformation of the males. When they enter a dominant mood, these males undergo a remarkable color shift, turning an intense and vibrant shade of red. This captivating display adds a striking visual spectacle to your aquarium.
Compatibility: While technically classified as a West African cichlid, Red Jewel Cichlids have displayed remarkable compatibility with a variety of cichlid species. They often thrive alongside mbuna, peacocks, and hap cichlids, forging harmonious communities within the tank.
Size and Sex Dimorphism: Male Red Jewel Cichlids typically grow to approximately 10 cm, slightly larger than their female counterparts. Males tend to exhibit a more robust head and, during their dominant phases, showcase their stunning bright red coloration.
Habitat and Distribution: Red Jewel Cichlids are native to the middle and lower Congo River basin, inhabiting a range of environments, from small creeks to larger rivers. They tend to avoid swift-flowing sections of the Congo rapids. These cichlids thrive in shallow waters, often near vegetation, submerged wood, or other hiding spots. They are highly adaptable to water conditions, preferring soft to very soft water with a pH range of 4.5 to 7.8 and temperatures between 24°C to 27°C. In Gabon, they may represent a distinct species due to variations in coloration.
Conservation Status: Red Jewel Cichlids are currently listed as “Least Concern” (LC) on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, indicating a stable population.
Feeding Habits: As omnivores, Red Jewel Cichlids display fewer predatory tendencies than some of their cichlid relatives. However, it’s essential to avoid housing them with smaller fish to prevent potential aggression.
Breeding Behavior: These cichlids may engage in year-round breeding, typically as monogamous, pair-bonding open substratum spawners. Stable pair bonds are a hallmark of their breeding behavior. A typical brood consists of around 100-300 fry, occasionally reaching up to 500. The tiny fry are easily nourished, readily accepting the smallest flake foods from their early days.
Aquarium Care: To accommodate Red Jewel Cichlids, a minimum tank size of approximately 100 liters is recommended. They display remarkable tolerance for diverse water parameters, adapting well to both soft and very hard water conditions. While they readily accept aquatic plants, they may dig small pits for larvae around the roots. Brood care can extend for about two months. They are often less aggressive and somewhat shy compared to their cichlid relatives. Their adaptable feeding habits make them easy to condition for breeding, and they readily consume various foods available in the aquarium hobby.
Final Thoughts: Red Jewel Cichlids, with their captivating color transformations and peaceful disposition, have earned their place as cherished gems in the aquarium world. Their compatibility with various cichlid species and their relatively straightforward breeding habits make them a prized choice among aquarists. As ongoing research explores the distinction between Congo and Gabon populations, the Red Jewel Cichlid promises to remain a captivating and sought-after addition to your aquatic community.