The Caquetaia myersi was first described by American ichthyologist Leonard Peter Schultz in 1944 and placed under the genus Caquetaia, which got its name after the Rio Caqueta river in Colombia, South America. There are currently four recognized species in genus Caquetaia: C. kraussii, C. spectabilis, C. umbrifera, and C. myersi.

Cichlids from this genus are not very popular in the Philippines because they are hardly available in our local fish stores. My first encounter with a C. myersi was back in 2003, when I saw a few specimens for sale at a cichlid specialty store, Exotic Aquatics in Quezon City.

Since I didn’t know much about it, I went home to do some research before purchasing some. But when I returned a week later, they were sold out, and it was only after a few years that I obtained some. They are still hard to come by.

The C. myersi is not as widespread in the Amazon compared to other cichlids and may be collected in the Rio Caqueta, Rio Quebrada Mochilero, Rio Quebrada Aguas Calientes, Rio Quebrada Montanita, and Rio Quebrada la Granada, and the Putumayo and Napo River basins. Some stocks available in the international market may be captive bred in breeding farms but they, too, do not produce much.

Characteristics

C. myersi are large predatory cichlids; adults reach over a foot in length. In general, males grow larger than females. Sexual dimorphism is not very obvious and it is difficult to determine their gender. Size is one factor, but of course, that is not an accurate way of determining sex.

In general, the body color of the C. myersi is silver grey to golden yellow. Juvenile specimens have a silverish color and mature specimens turn golden in body color with a slight green or blue sheen on the upper part of the body. Some vertical dark bandings may be observed on the flanks. The size of the bandings varies per specimen and they usually have two bandings, but not always. The dorsal and anal fins are tinged with turquoise speckles that seem to glow when the fins are moved. Some redness may be seen in the ventral and pectoral fins in some specimens. The head is triangular-shaped, and a black band passes across its red-rimmed eyes.

The C. myersi has a protractible mouth—which means the mouth can extend quickly to create a vacuum, allowing it to “inhale” prey fish. This indicates that the C. myersi is piscivorous, and its main diet is fish. This particular shape of the C. myersi has confused other fish hobbyists who are not familiar with this fish. When I posted a picture of this fish, I had numerous inquiries as to whether this was a new species of a Datnioides Tigerfish. While there may be some resemblance physically in term of looks, the South American C. myersi is totally different from the Asian Datnioides. I suspect the comparison was biased in favor of the tigerfish.

Among the four species, onlu C. kraussii has ever been bred locally, so some stocks may be obtained from a few local stores. The other three are only available on rare occasions, when these are imported into the country; in my experience, this occurs, at most, once a year.

Just as with a majority of chichlids, other traits you may look for to determine sex are the color and fins. Males are more brightly colored than the females, and have more pointed fin extensions. If you are to vent the fish, females have a broader triangula genital papilla than males, like most chiclids do.

Tips for Keeping C. Myersi

The C. myersi is quite hardy and does best in a pH range of 6.5 – 8.5. Water softness is not critical so long as extremes are avoided. They should be comfortable in temperature of 22°C – 30°C. Water parameters for successfully keeping C. myersi are not difficult to achieve.

If you have kept other South American cichlids successfully, surely you will not find keeping C. myersi much of a challenge. Since this fish grows to be a foot in length, a tank 75 gallons or bigger would be required. Driftwood should provide nice decoration and may help acidify the water a bit.

As with large cichlids, C. myersi tend to be aggressive, but they may be kept with other cichlids, tetras, and catfishes so long as they are not too small. I have not bred C. myersi but based on the experiences of others, they breed much the same as most South American cichlids do.

However, others agree C. myersi is not the easiest cichlid to breed; if they were, then we should have small ones available in our fish stores year-round. Breeding notes available say they breed on the rock on the substrate that the pair has cleaned out. The female lays eggs on the chosen surface and the male follows after fertilizing the eggs.

Reports claim C. myersi lay from 300 to 1,000 eggs per brood. I suppose the big difference in number is because of the size of the breeding pairs. Naturally, younger pairs are smaller in size and will thus lay a smaller number; older pairs are bigger in size and will lay more eggs. Both parents tend to the clutch of eggs but the female spends more time fanning the eggs and the male spends more time defending the territory. Eggs hatch after 3 days and the pair will guard the brood. When free swimming, they may be fed newly hatched brine shrimp as the fry are quite large in size.

This appeared in Animal Scene’s July 2015 issue.