Neetroplus Nematopus

Synonyms: Neetroplus fluviatilis

Common Names: Poor Man's Tropheus, Pygmy Green-eyed Cichlid (picaculo is the common name in Nicaragua)

Neetroplus literally means "new Etroplus.  Etroplus refers to the heavily spined anal fin.   Nematopus means "thread-foot" and refers the long extensions of the ventral fins of the males.

Family: Cichlidae

Order: Perciformes (perch-likes)

Class:  Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)

Distribution:  Neets are found in Central America: Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It is found in both lakes and rivers. The rivers can be quite fast flowing.

Type Locality: Lake Managua, Nicaragua.

First described: Günther 1867

Described in more detail in Günther 1868:470, Pl. 74 (fig. 4) [ref. 1944]. (Bussing 1987:226 [ref. 22927], Conkel 1993:184 [ref. 22949], Kullander & Hartel 1997:195 [ref. 22732]).  Also appeared in Günther (15 Sept.) 1868:469 [ref. 1994].

Current Status: valid

Size:  Up to 11 cm ( inches) for males and 8 cm ( inches) for females.

Water Temp.: 24-27 °C (75-80 F)

Water pH: 7.0-8.5

Food: In the wild these fish eat algae and scrape it off rocks and submerged tree roots.  They've been known to act as a cleaner fish to other fish.  They will algae in an aquarium but seem to prefer flakes and pellets over the algae.  They are not picky eaters and accepted any food that they were ever offered.

Description: Basically this is a grey fish with a vertical black line in the middle of its body.  Males will get larger then females.  The really interesting thing about this fish is what happens after it breeds.  Right after the female lays her eggs she changes colours completely.  She basically reverses her colouration to become a black fish with a white vertical line in the middle.  The male will also adopt this colouration after the fry are freeswimming and need defending.

Behaviour: They seem to be more aggressive to conspecifics then to other fish species.  However this changes when they have bred.  They will attack fish much larger then themselves and defend it as well as a large cichlid.  Both sexes will attack any intruding fish.

Breeding: Is a cave spawner. Can lay up to over 100 eggs but normally does around 40 or so.  The eggs hatch after approximately 1 day, and the fry will come out of the 'cave' after 5 days.  They are guarded by their parents for a long time, much longer then alot of other Central American cichlids.  The parents do not seem to breed again til the are gone or are no longer under parental control.
 

I first obtained a group of 6 young fry from a fellow hobbyist.  They were placed into a 20 gallon tank along with several kinds of Rift Lake cichlid fry of approximately the same size.  The pH is around 7.8.  The temperature runs about 78 F.   There is no substrate at all in this tank for the purposes of keeping the tank easier to maintain.  It is filtered by a sponge filter and is lighted by a double row of flourescent lights.  Eventually the Rift Lake cichlids (especially some N. christyi) started picking on the Neets.  I moved them out and left only the 6 Neets in there by themselves.  They seemed somewhat quarrelsome on their own so I added several shells for them to hide out in.  These were taken over very quickly.  Several months later and I noticed that 3 of the Neets seemed to be getting bigger then the others.  I figured these were the males.  One day one of the smaller Neets started showing an ovipositor and was hanging around the largest of the other Neets.    They took over the largest shell in the tank.  The next day when I saw them I observed that the small Neet had completely changed colours and I knew they had spawned.  I was excited.  This pair started keeping all the other Neets away from the shell.  Approximately 6-7 days later I saw some fry swimming carefully near the edge of the shell.  I figured there was maybe 20 fry there.  They were fed some baby brine shrimp.  I had an empty 5 gallon tank so I set it up and prepared it for the Neet fry.  I stole most of the fry from the parents.  I placed them into this tank.  However they did not seem to do too well there.  I eventually lost all but 2 of those.  The parents lost control of the remaining fry very quickly and I assume that the other Neets ate the fry as I didn't see anymore in that tank.  The Neets spawned several times (I assumed by the colour change of the female and seeing her ovipositor) but I never saw any more fry from them.  I did not pay much attention to this tank much anymore but to feed and clean it.  For a long time, several months at least, I saw no spawning activity.  Then one day I saw the female again having her ovipositor showing and again changing colours.  This time she got very violent to the other Neets she came across, as did the male.  So to save their lives the best I could (I no longer had any free tanks to place the other 4 Neets in) I jammed the tank as full of Java Moss as I could.  The other Neets spent a lot of time hiding in their shells and avoiding all attentions from the pair.  This time when I saw how well they were defending the fry when they showed up; I left them with the parents.  There was 15 fry swimming around.  They generally hung around the shell but soon moved to hang around the sponge filter.  The parents did not restrain the young in any way.  They would just defend the area the fry decided to go to.   They seemed to picking stuff off the filter and would stay quite fat.  They also got fed baby brine shrimp.  As far as I could see the parents did not lose any of the fry.  They also seemed to grow quite quick.  And right now they look like miniatures of their parents.  They have graduated to eating the same flakes that their parents eat.  Also I had one other slight benefit to adding Java Moss to this tank.  I had one Australian Rainbowfish hatch in this tank and grow rather quickly too.  I would have given them more growing space for 6 adult Neets but since I saw no major damage on them and had no larger open tanks, I left them.  They got water changes of 30% weekly.

These are fascinating cichlids.  Their colouration does not exactly make you want to go out to get them until you see the complete colouration change you get by both sexes after spawning.   I found it fascinating that they could defend their fry in such a good manner in a well stocked tank like I had seen at a friends house.  I have enjoyed these feisty Central American cichlids.
 

© Copyright 1999-2003 Lisa Boorman
All Rights Reserved

Suggested Reading:

The Cichlid Aquarium by Dr. Paul Loiselle

Dr. Axelrod's Atlas of Freshwater Aquarium Fishes by Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod and Dr. Warren E. Burgess

Baensch Aquarium Atlas Vol. 2 by Dr. Rüdiger Riehl & Hans A. Baensch

To see more references on cichlids:

Cichlid Book List

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