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FAQs on Severum Cichlid Behavior

Related Articles: Severums, Red Devils, Texas Cichlids, Firemouths, Oscars, Neotropical Cichlids, African Cichlids, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes in GeneralCichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,

Related FAQs: Severums in General, Severum Identification, Severum Compatibility, Severum Selection, Severum Systems, Severum Feeding, Severum Disease, Severum Reproduction, Neotropical Cichlids 1, Cichlids of the World,

Social species

red spotted Severum hiding? Reading?     1/17/14
I have had my 2 spotted Severum together since I got them both I think are at an adult size but not fully grown, I have struggled to sex these but I do no
<... are you a non-native speaker of English?>
 we have a female as we have had eggs ( the bigger one being the one to chase everything away even the small Severum so I'm thinking she is the female... don't no if I'm right but both been in the my Oscars and pec from day one and have been fine, but the last few days the smaller on had decided that it does not want to come out of the corner of the tank except for food and when it does the bigger one chases it right back to the corner? I don't understand what's happening,
<Need to separate, or put a separation between>
 nothing has changed in the tank and all my tests have come up fine, I'm really worried about it as I love my little fish lol :D by the way also another thing, I was told that the females have shorted dorset fins than the male and the female has a lack of color or squiggles on the nose part of the face but with my 2 it is  confusing as the big one has marking on its face (fully covered) where as my smaller one has the missing part on its nose but has longer fins going past the dorsal fin... so what would be the best way to sex them? ive  never vented a fish before and to be truthful I don't no if I would no how to, I no about the holes but is it easy to tell them apart of do you need practise? please help xxx
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/severumreprofaq.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Gold Severum Behavioral & Eye Color Change  3/26/09
Hi Guys,
I recently moved to PA from NY. My Gold Severum (about 3 years old) took the move alright, but after about 6 months I've noticed some changes I can't make sense of.
Problem: She has begun acting "twitchy" and attacking anything in the tank (thermometer, rocks, plants, etc.). She has always been fairly mellow for a cichlid.
<The cichlids we call Severums (likely a Heros hybrid) are generally peaceful but like most large cichlids have the potential to throw their weight around. Indeed, Severums have a reputation for changeability, and while not common, occasionally you do come across specimens that decide to take over the aquarium.>
Also her eyes have turned a light to medium orange from a bright red.
<Again, could easily be accounted for by heightened aggression and territoriality.>
She's had two clutches of eggs at about 1 year and again at about 1 1/2 years, then none since.
I don't see any specific signs of sickness aside from the changes noted above.
<Nothing here is obviously "sickness". Perhaps something has changed in terms of tankmates (other Severums, perhaps, or other large cichlids?). Or else you've altered the diet, temperature, water chemistry, or some other factor that has encouraged her to go into spawning mode.>
Facts: The water here is far more alkaline than in NY. PH is about 7.3 vs. 6.8 in NY. It's also very hard.
<Not a problem for Severums; they tolerate hard water well, though they do prefer somewhat soft to moderately hard water.>
When I moved in, I began a water treatment service, which includes a water softener.
<Just make sure you NEVER use water from the domestic water softener in your aquarium. Water softeners do not soften water in the way aquarists mean in; all they do is replace temporary hardness salts (the ones that create lime scale but also buffer pH) with sodium salts. The net result is water that is very bad for fish. Most water softener companies tell you this when installing the machine, and your doctor will similarly tell you not to drink from the softened water, but from the non-softened water tap in the kitchen.>
I haven't found any scaling or other indications that the softener is not doing its job.
<Fine; just keep the water out of the aquarium. If domestic water softeners worked for fishkeeping, why do you think people would spend all that money on reverse-osmosis units? Or set up water butts to collect rainwater? The reason is simply: domestic water softeners are not suitable for fishkeeping, and long term exposure to sodium salts can (will) cause all
kinds of problems for freshwater fish.>
I'm not positive why, but I'm having a hard time getting the PH below about 7.0,despite adding a dry chemical PH reducer designed to bring water to exactly 6.8.
<As I've written elsewhere on WWM, do not alter the pH. Understand this: fish do not care about pH, and focusing on changing pH is a very common mistake that beginners make. All fish care about is that the pH is stable.  If you go visit Fishbase for example, you'll see that Corydoras are happy between pH 6 and 8. That's a wide range! But that doesn't mean you can keep them in a tank where the pH bounces between 6 and 8. It has to be steady at some value between those extremes. So what do fish care about? Essentially the "total dissolved solids", how much "stuff" there is in the water.
General hardness affects their osmoregulation processes, while carbonate hardness affects pH stability. So both of these things are important. Grab at the very least a carbonate hardness test kit; you (non-softened) tap water should have a carbonate hardness around 3-10 degrees KH for Severums.  Anywhere in this range will be acceptable to them, but a middling value will be optimal in terms of balancing osmoregulation against pH
I just did a water change and it is clear and clean. The only thing I did differently is the addition of Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, "Amazon Extract" which adds humic acids, tannins and organics that are supposed to make the
water more like that in the natural habitat.
<It doesn't really do anything other than colour the water, and if you have carbon in the filter (unnecessary, but some people like the stuff) then the carbon will suck the stuff straight out again.>
In Sum: My Gold Severum has suddenly become significantly more aggressive with no changes in tank decor or other fish (one Raphael cat and on rubber lipped Pleco). What concerns me more is the stark change in eye color.
Any insight or advise?
Thanks much,
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Gold Severums Not Gold 2/26/2009 Hi there, I recently bought two golden Severums and they seem to be changing colour. They are going like a grey colour the fins have gone dark grey and the body is going like a mottled grey with a bit of darker banding towards the rear of the fish. I phoned the aquarium shop in which I bought them and they started on with the normal excuse that the water condition are not right. I know there is nothing wrong with my water as I have fish that breed every month. They said that the fish are stressed due to water quality. Although the fish are swimming round happily and feeding very well. Could this be where the colour variation or the green coming through in these fish? My aquarium is very well established and has no disease or anything like that in it. Please can you try to advise me as I am fed up of these aquarium shops picking on the fact of the water condition and just following a text book as they really do not know a lot about the fish and their environment. I was told not to put an Oscar into a community tank, I did do this and he swims happily with my baby kribensis without attempting to eat them. How good is that? I also have a butterfly fish in with all my other fish and he is doing great. I would be very grateful if you could help me on this. Many thanks. Regards. Kellie p.s I love the site < Thank you for your kind words. Two things to consider is diet and genetics. Some foods that are suppose to increase color just make the fish darker and add pigment. Consider changing the diet. Another consideration is genetics. A gold Severum is a line bred fish to enhance the golden color. As demand for these fish diminishes the pedigrees are not as pure as they should be.-Chuck>

Golden Severum Question, beh.  10/6/08
Hi from the Land Down Under!
I have a beautiful Golden Severum which I think is a male (although I could be wrong!). I've had him for about 8 months or so after purchasing him only an inch or so long and is now an impressive size.
<Indeed, these are lovely fish, but fast growing!>
He has been fine in our community aquarium until about a week ago. He has started lying on the bottom of the tank and hiding, and it seems he is being bullied a bit by my Synodontis although they previously have gotten along fine.
<Does happen: at least some Synodontis become increasingly territorial and aggressive as they mature. Smaller species (such as Synodontis nigriventris) tend to be very good community fish, as are, when kept with tankmates of suitable size, the "pussy cats" of the genus like Synodontis decorus and Synodontis eupterus. But there are some really bullies as well, notably Synodontis nigrita and Synodontis schall.>
I haven't changed anything in the aquarium - although we may be due for some new plants.
<You realise Severums are herbivores? Do choose plants carefully...>
Over the last two days though he has literally started digging himself a hole!! He picks up the gravel in his mouth and spits is out at the front of the tank. There is a huge hole where he now lays (and continues to excavate!), and a huge pile of gravel at the front of the aquarium.....
<Not uncommon cichlid behaviour; may simply be becoming sexually mature, and if its a male fish, he's making a spawning pit to impress any female that swims by.>
Can you tell me why this might be happening. I really hope he is not sick, because he has just grown to a beautiful size and normally fits in quite well with the other fish.
<Do watch the catfish, and choose hardy plants. I'd recommend epiphytes (Java fern, Anubias, Bolbitis, etc.) so any digging wouldn't upset them. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Golden Severum Question  10/7/08
Thanks so much, I feel a lot better now (except that the aquarium is looking quite a mess!).
<Oh dear.>
Will it upset him too much if I tidy it up and ruin all of his good work?!
<He's a fish, and you outrank him anyway! <<Heeeee! RMF>>  On the other hand, while he will get some entertainment rebuilding his spawning pits, that might be annoying for you!>
I did notice him/her checking out his reflection last night, so I suppose it now makes perfect sense.
Yes, I was aware that they are quick growing, which was the reason I purchased him/her in the first place. I also am aware that they are herbivores, exactly the reason we are in need of new plants!! He eats everything... even the Anubias!
<Have you tried Java fern? In any event, Severums may destroy plants they don't actually eat, and I'd assume that's the case with Anubias and Java fern, because neither is particularly palatable. Moving the plants outside his line of sight may help. Floating plants are the obvious solution, and there are some floating plants that grow downwards quite a way, and these do double duty as nitrate removers as well as being decorative. Indian Fern is one of the best; though edible, it should grow fast enough not to be completely wiped out.>
Donny (my catfish) is a Synodontis Eupterus and I've had him/her the longest, for just over a year. I have been watching him a bit lately as have been minding a friends Pleco (of about the same size) for a few months and he has been quite aggressive towards him, but I did expect that he would be territorial towards another large newcomer. He usually leaves my Severum alone, as it was tiny when I added it and has grown up with Donny ruling the roost! Maybe it is because the Severum is now spending most of his time on the bottom of the aquarium which is usually Donny's domain?!
<Synodontis eupterus is almost always an excellent community fish. But as with any Synodontis, it will return any aggression back tenfold. That's why they work well in cichlid tanks! My guess here is the Synodontis is getting snappy because he's been pushed against by the territorial cichlid; arranging caves and other hiding places could relieve the tension.>
Anyway, I won't take up any more of your valuable time. Thanks so much for your help!
<Would keep watching, but suspect this tank will settle down in time, particularly if you can find a way to keep the catfish and the cichlid at opposite ends of the tank. Cheers, Neale.>

Severum question, comp., beh.     1/3/08 We currently own a 55 gallon tank that holds a 3 year old cat fish, 2 year old Pleco, 2 year old red parrot fish, and a pair of yellow Severums (bought together two years ago when they were about 2 inches big. We also bought another male Severum who was rather young about a year and a half ago. All of our fish have lived together in the same tank, and we actually transferred them in buckets from Florida to Michigan when we moved last year. <Bet that was fun!> The younger Severum is the now the size of the larger adults (about 6-7 inches long), and a problem has arisen. The two males (our males have more defined orange tracks on their noses) are constantly picking on the female (who lacks any orange spots on her nose-so we are guessing she has been a female). <Certainly females tend to be smaller and have fewer markings, but this isn't a sure-fire thing. Part of the problem is commercial Severums are hybrids of at least two different Heros species, and so the colour markings on any one fish will not match perfectly those of wild-type examples of the two parent species. Two fish that "bond" are likely to be a pair, and the only sure-fire way to sex them is to look at the shape of the genital papillae; the female's will be short and stubby, and males narrower and often a bit pointy. Do also look at the dorsal/anal fins (the ends are longer and more pointy on males) and the abdomen (fuller and more rounded on females).> Neither one of them has tried mating before, even though they are mature, but it doesn't seem like that is what is happening. <Cichlids generally will attempt to mate, and Severums can be quite aggressive when this happens.> They chase her around the tank and pick at her, never each other or any of the other fish. She hides in our fake plants most of the time now, and only comes out when it is time to eat, or the males are resting. We can't figure out why after all this time there is a problem in our tank. We don't want to see her die, but she is getting attacked. Do you have any idea of what is going on here, and how we can help her out. Any info you have would be great. Thanks <Does sound as if you have a pair planning on mating. They will like need to be moved to their own tank if you want to rear the fry. Cheers, Neale.>

Turquoise Severums New Severums Just Sitting On The Bottom - 11/26/07 I just bought 5 small turquoise Severums on Saturday. They are staying at the bottom of the tank. Is this normal? I have them in a 30 gallon tank. < You new fish should be alert and active. The water temp should be around 80 F. Look closely for ich.-Chuck>

Golden Severum lying on side  9/27/07 Hi Please Help. Our male golden Severum has been lying on his side for a week or so. He will swim normally sometimes but just go back to lying on his side. It also looks like he is slightly paralyzed at times at his bottom fins and tail but occasionally he swims normally. Not too interested in food. 1 and a half years old. Could this be his swim bladder? We are novices. We are going away for 5 days and have someone else to look after them. What do you suggest we do please help. Also what do you suggest to feed them. There is also a large female golden Severum in the tank. Rob <Hi Rob. Loss of balance when swimming can be caused by a wide range of things. There really isn't a single "swim bladder disease". That said, there are a small number of things that are believe to be common causes. The first is environment. Fish often lose their balance when conditions suddenly become poor. So check the aquarium: temperature, water quality, and water chemistry. Severums want something around 25C, pH 6.5-7.5, and hardness around 5-20 degrees dH. Second is diet. Severums are, as I hope you know, primarily herbivores. A lot of their diet should be plant material. Say, 50%. Sushi Nori, algae-based flakes and pellets, and soft vegetables such as spinach and tinned peas are all ideal. They will of course eat soft aquarium plants like Cabomba and Elodea, and there's a good argument for putting these in the aquarium to give them something to graze on. The worst thing you can do to a Severum (or any other herbivorous cichlid) is give it a diet based on animal protein, i.e., mostly standard flake, prawns, fish, etc. Low protein meaty foods, like bloodworms, are an excellent alternative and will be greedily accepted. Failure to give herbivores a plant-based diet leads to constipation as well as damage to the internal organs, and one of the classic symptoms of this is loss of balance. Finally, bacterial infections can cause loss of balance, usually once the infection has progressed to an advanced degree. In terms of first aid, raising the water temperature 5 degrees C can help, and some vets recommend adding aquarium salt at a dose of up to 1 gramme per litre. If you do decide to add salt, do so in stages. While Severum cichlids do occur in brackish water and have a high tolerance of salt, your filter bacteria will not appreciate a sudden change in salinity! Switching to some high-fibre foods will help clear out the gut, if constipation is a problem. Tinned peas seem to work well for this, and most cichlids enjoy them (especially if they're hungry!). Using an anti-internal bacteria medication, like Erythromycin, might be helpful, but this is a scattergun approach and shouldn't be done as your sole response, because there's no guarantee that this is a bacterial infection at all. Hope this helps, Neale>

Re: Golden Severum lying on side 9/27/07 That is wonderful information. Thank you so much Neale. I will let you know how they go. He looks a tad better this morning. <Good luck, and hope he recovers soon. Severums are simply lovely cichlids, sadly overlooked in these days of blood parrots and the like, but still among my very favourites. Cheers, Neale>

New Severum Cichlid  10/06/06 Hello, I have tank of one Severum, Keyhole & Bolivian Butterflies. I just bought another golden Severum today and the green Severum is chasing it all over the tank. It is bumping it with its Fins? Is this a sign of aggression? < Severums are cichlids. Cichlids are territorial. The old Severum had a pecking order worked out with all the other fish. The new fish is viewed as a threat so the old fish needs to let him know who is the boss.> Please help as I am fairly new to this. I have driftwood and plants for it too hide but it does not seem to want too? <Hiding places will help. Try to lower the water temp and rearrange the tank to establish new territories.-Chuck> Please help Fish lover down under

Hello I have a bully, (Neotropical Cichlid) I have recently bought two golden Severums one of which bullies the other. However no damage is caused to the bullied fish, but it is in fear. I have isolated the bully fish I was wondering if you knew of a way of getting the  bully out of it. Also there has been damage to a few of my other fish which seems to happen during the night. I have two catfish which come out at night, Doradids, I was wondering whether these or the golden Severums were to blame for it. Thanks a lot <If there was no damage before, and you recently added the Severums, I would guess it was the Severums, or the tank is getting too crowded and some one is getting upset.  What size tank are we dealing with, and what are the other inhabitants?  Bullying in a new tank is not uncommon among cichlids, they need to establish territory and dominance. -Gage>

Gold Severum Hi, I have a Gold Severum that is a part of a community tank from work. He's gotten along well w/ the others ( large angel, a Gourami a large Pleco and some neon's) but as he has grown he's gotten to be quite a pig. He's not quite a full-on bully, but he does chase the angel and the Gourami away from the food at the feeding time to have more for himself. Recently, I had to prepare the office for a hurricane and I ended up just catching the fish and brining them home to my tank which only had a catfish. The Severum would take the pleco's algae tablet away from him and try to eat it himself. No matter what strategy I tried, I could not get the Pleco to stick w/ it. The weather has cleared up and the fish made it bag to work, but I kept the Severum here in my tank since he was keeping nearly everyone from eating. Now, he's all bummed out and stays near the bottom nearly motionless. I don't think I am going to put him back w/ the others because there are just too many instances when pigs all the food and the tank is some distance from my office. I would like to get a female Severum and see if I can breed them and to see if this will perk him up. Any other ideas of how to perk him up. He's definitely NOT sick! < Sometimes South American fish act very lethargic when things have been moved around and they are not quite sure what to do. So they just sit for awhile. Uarus and discus are like this too. Try and get his attention with some washed earthworms. You could always try putting a mirror next to him and see if his reflection perks him up. A mate might be just the trick to get him up and going but pairing adult fish can be somewhat tricky. If the female is not ready to mate the male may kill her. If you really want to try the place the pair side by side in two different aquariums where they can see each other. If the female begins to fatten up and you see some displaying between the two then you can try to put the male in the females tank. Stay with them for some time because things could turn tragic very suddenly. IF they are compatible then you should see a spawning within a week.-Chuck> Thanks! D

Green Severum in the Land of the Long White Cloud Hi Bob Can you please email me back a reply as no one in New Zealand can help me and I'm worried. Recently I purchased a green Severum about 5cm in length. Let him settle in and them purchased another 4 yellows which were 4cm in length - waited for them to pair off and then sold the non paired ones back to the fish shop. I have attached a picture of the yellow one below - sorry about the picture quality its a large beveled tank so its was hard to get a good shot - also its sunset so the sunset was bouncing onto the back of the aquarium - my waters not actually that colour :) My problem is that the little yellow Severum is now hanging around the back of the filter and will only move down the tank or explore very partially when the lights are off. I realize that it will take her along time to get used to this environment especially as they all had a disruptive time before the pairing - but she hangs with her head down never up like normal Severums - also the other fish which is only slightly larges flares at her - swims up changes colour drastically - stripes appear he shimmies in front of her then pecks at her face and chest.  She does not seem to swim away instead she just floats up and goes limp till he's finished and then goes on with hanging behind the filter. Also with them both been juvies she had like grey speckles over her body like she rolled on a pencil lead - this seems to have spread quite considerably and now the grey is almost covering her body. Her eyes are bright - finnage is growing back after the disruption and she's eating well feeding bloodworm, krill, whole shrimp, brine shrimp and peas. ( don't forget the algae tabs that they steal from the red spotted pale. ) Ammonia is 0ppm Nitrate 0ppm Nitrite 0ppm ph 6.8 KH 9dkh Temp 78-79 44 gallons. Filter that cycles the tank 4.5 times and hour. Is this fish sick? or is it just a juvie and is still growing and discovering its colours? the others in the tank had varying degrees of the grey colouration also - but they seem to have grown out of it - where as she's growing into it - Pet shop has not treated them for anything and the Pet shop guy says its just the way that they look. Fish is active at night she's looking at me now and eating the peas but if I turn the light on back behind the filter. Is the male fish going to be ok with her am I right this is a breeding pair right? So many questions Please help as I said no one in NZ knows!!! < These color forms are not normally found in nature. Depending on the original source I have seen all kinds of genetic variations form all orange to lemon yellow with all kinds of dots and markings. It does not appear that your fish is sick. Just a little reluctant to join the others for now. They will probably change as he grows older.-Chuck> Thanks Stephanie

Gold Severums Losing Their Luster  8/30/05 Hi there team, Just a little query. I have two golden Severums (juveniles at about 2 inches) currently living quite happily in a community tank. However they are losing there colour and one has a very definite vertical banding forming along it's flank, such as is typical in many cichlids. The other fish lacks this banding, but is a little greyer than normal. Amongst their tank mates are a pair of juvenile Firemouths (of a similar size and age). Is it bound the realms of possibility that the presence of the Firemouths is effecting the colouration of the golden Severums? Or is there another reason? I checked back at the shop I purchased them from and the others from the same batch are maintaining their colour. BTW my water is PH 7, Ammo 0ppm, Nitrite 0ppm, nitrate 10ppm and has been stable for a long time.(50 gallon tank with filtration system capable of handling almost double this) The only of event of consequence was an outbreak of whitespot about a month ago when new stock became ill (the fish at the shop also became ill at the same time and they white spot had been brought in from the shop. This has been treated and no whitespot has been evident for 3 weeks. Thanks for your thoughts, John Read < Check the diet and lighting. Good food like Spectrum will bring their colors to their fullest. Cheap poor quality food gives you cheap looking fish. Lighting makes a big difference. Go back to the shop and see what lights they are using. Typical shop lights from the hardware store don't do anything for a fishes color. Try ZooMed FloraSun bulbs. Genetics play a part in it too. To look their best they need to be the dominant fish in the tank. -Chuck>

Severums of a Different Color  9/17/05 Hi - quick question ~ is it normal for Green Severums to change colors.  Mine (Sam) has been changing from his normal color to yellow and then  back to his green! He has gotten a little aggressive too! He is alone in his  tank - we lost our Gold Severum (Charlie) during hurricane Ivan - it was a  very sad day. He is eating but just acting weird. Thanks for any ideas! <As cichlids grow and mature they change from their juvenile stripped pattern to adult coloration. As adults they are more inclined to stake out a territory and display to others that they are not wanted. This display would include color changes, flared fins and gill covers.-Chuck.>  

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