Vieja synspilum growth rate requires several years to develop
This robust representative of the subgenus Vieja can grow to 12 inches in length. It is native to the basin of the Rio Usumacinta in southeastern Mexico and northern Guatemala and to coastal rivers in neighboring Belize. Like most Vieja, this species is slow-growing and requires several years to develop its full color pattern.
Unlike most other Middle American cichlids, it is characterized by a remarkable degree of individual variability in coloration. Specimens differ tremendously among themselves in the amount and arrangement of dark red, metallic orange, black and iridescent blue-green coloration they display in their color pattern. In fact, they differ to such an extent that no two individuals are alike in this regard.
The redheaded cichlid
prefers slightly alkaline (pH 7.2 to 7.6), moderately hard (to 100 parts per million total dissolved solids) water, and will prosper over a temperature range of 70 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Softer, less alkaline conditions are acceptable. This species does not tolerate poor nitrogen cycle management. A program of frequent partial water changes is thus essential.
Vieja feed extensively upon vegetation in nature. This behavior carries over in captivity, making H. synspilus a very poor candidate for a planted aquarium. Fortunately, this species is not a picky eater and will greedily consume all of the usually available live and prepared foods. In my experience, freeze-dried krill
and live earthworms are particular favorites. The quetzal cichlid benefits from offerings of fresh vegetable foods, such as romaine lettuce or thinly sliced zucchini.
The red and orange elements of its color pattern are greatly enhanced by regular offerings of such items. Like other representatives of the subgenus, H. synspilus is much more tolerant of other cichlids than it is of members of its own species. With the passage of time, you will find your specimen growing more assertive in its interactions with other fish, but it should always be a good neighbor to any tankmates too large to conveniently swallow.
Quick facts on Vieja synspilum:
: Redheaded cichlid
: Vieja synspilum
: Central America, including Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras
: Up to 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) when fully mature
: Moderately challenging due to territorial and aggressive tendencies
: Aggressive, especially during breeding and territorial disputes
: Omnivorous, accepting a varied diet of pellets, live/frozen foods, and plant matter
Minimum Tank Size
: Recommended 75 gallons or larger for a single Vieja synspilum
: 75°F to 82°F (24°C to 28°C)
: 7.0 to 8.0 (Slightly alkaline to neutral)
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