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Pikes: a little something for everyone

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juanveldez

helping big fish eat little fish everyday
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Pikes: A Little Something For Everyone



Pikes are one of the most diverse groups of cichlid available to the common aquarist to date. It can easily be said that there is a pike for every one.
To start out with pikes you must first know a couple things.

1. There are several groups of pikes. Dwarfs( which most of them fall into the Wallaci group), Saxatilis( the most commonly available to the hobbyist), Reticulata ( or frog head pikes, they very in size and most inhabit very fast flowing rivers), and Lugubris( these are the monsters of the pike world)

2. Pikes are very very aggressive towards their own kind, and anything that even looks like a pike. For that reason alone it is impairtive that you only keep one species of pike per tank with no other fish that have a cylindrical body shape.

General Husbandry of a Crenicichla Species Pike


Pikes are some of the easiest and most rewarding fish that I have ever owned. While everybody’s experiences will differ, mine has been that they are active swimmers at all levels of the aquarium and accepting any food that is thrown their way. But there are some foods that are more suitable for them than the standard fair fish flake.

A good cichlid pellet is key part of the diet of any cichlid, pikes are no different. Many people have had a hard time getting their pikes to accept pellets, but I have found that if a pike is bought at a young age, about an inch to two inches, and kept in an aquarium alone with no other pressure from other fish, I have found that they will take pellets. In addition to pellets, a wide variety of frozen and meaty foods should be kept on hand.

Tank care of these guys is pretty much the same as with any other cichlid change the water at least once a week. Tank set up is easy too, based on what group of pike you are looking at or have the one common denominator is that they like to have a cave of some form.


The Groups of Pikes


I will try to break down the pike groups as best as I can. I can’t guarantee the info as I am still working to get a species from each of the groups. 3 down only a couple more to go. Keeping this as general as possible these are the most commonly seen groups.



Wallaci


This group is often referred to as dwarf pikes. Most of them don’t reach a size of over 4” but are also some of the most territorial. They have been called the mini terrors of the pike world, and for that reason breeding shouldn’t be tried by the common hobbyist. They are also most often found in the black water leaf litter amongst Apistogramma species, Some of the more notable and avalible species of this group are:


Crenicichla Compresscips
Crenicichla Regani




Saxatilis


Also known as the spangled pikes, these fish are most notable for their spangling ranging from white to gold. Females of this group often have a post orbital stripe which may or may not be edged in another color such as white. The average size for this group of pike is 8-10 inches and they are also some of the easiest to spawn in the home aquarium given enough room. I personally would start off with a group of at least 6-8 juvies and then let them pair off either selling the rest or finding them other tanks. Once the pair bond has formed they will produce large amounts of fry. The other part is to give lots of room to the pair. These fish inhabit the area covering most of the Amazon basin and one of the pikes of this group Crenicichla Frenata is even found on the island of Trinidad.

The most commonly available Saxatilis pikes are:

Crenicichla Saxatilis(Type Species)
Crenicichla Sveni




Reticulata


Also known as Frog headed pikes this group exhibits a short snout, large eyes placed high on their head. These are strong swimmers in habiting some of the fastest flowing rivers in the basin. They eat a variety of foods from small fish to aquatic insects. In the home aquaria they should be fed as all pikes. Again being ignorant of other pikes and similarly shaped fish. Reticulatas are a mixed bag as far as sizes, some stay small in the neighborhood of 5 or 6 inches and then there are a couple that get 10 or more inches. What seems to make them so attractive is the fact that they are rarely seen in some places. Drab in color these are for the hardcore pike collector. Some of the more commonly seen reticulata pikes are:

Crenicichla Sp. Belly Crawler
Crenicichla Semifascita
Crenicichla Reticulata (Type Species)



Lugubris


Again these are the monsters of the pike world, reaching adult sizes of over 10 inches easily. They are also the most commonly bought pikes due to the interesting behaviors and markings of the young. As juveniles Lugubris pikes are marked in highly contrasting spots and lines. The fry and young juvies are also very gregarious often gathering in large squirming balls. According to Vinny Kutty, they seem to need the physical contact as young. But as they grow older the markings fade and they become the terrors that pikes are known to be. This is also where they enter their “Ugly Duckling” Stage. They are transforming between their interesting juvie state and their astounding adult state. Being intolerant and ugly many people get rid of them not wanting to wait till they become brilliantly colored. I can easily see why these guys are called the most colorful of the pikes. Again according to Vinny Kutty, these fish have been spawned a handful of times, probably due to their aggressive nature. But on the other hand once the pair bond is formed they are about as gentle as can be to each other, where as subdominant fish will be put through the ringer more than a few times. These fish aren’t imported often but when they are the most commonly seen are:

Crenicichla sp Xingu I
Crenicichla Marmorata
Crenicichla Strigata



Final Thoughts


Yes pikes are both at the same time a difficult and easily rewarding fish to keep. Difficult due to their aggression level. And rewarding due to their outward and owner responsive personalities. There are about 80 described and about 100 different known species of pike. So somewhere out there is a pike that will fit into every notch. Its just a matter of getting them. As stated a lot of people get the colorful pikes and find out that they become a huge monster and don’t have the room to fit the 75 gallon tank or larger to fit these pikes in but with this knowledge in hand it should be easier to find the pike that is right for you. Highly rewarding these are easily some of the most owner responsive fish that I have ever owned not even my oscars could compare to them.

I would also like to thank Vinny Kutty IMO one of the most knowlegable people as far as pikes go for his kind permission to reference him and his work in this article, without him I wouldn't have even known half of what I have learned in the process of writting this article.

Vinny Kutty's works can be found at mostly cichlids:
http://www.geocities.com/NapaValley/5491/index.html
 
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