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Severums; The Gentle Giants of the Aquarium

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Fish Aficionado
Apr 22, 2004
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Hi guys,
This article explains the rudiments of keeping Severums

Tank and Fish Size
Severums grow to a maximum size of 12 inches/30 centimetres (a foot long), sometimes even more in the wild but are rarely seen passing that length. The Severum is usually sold as a small fish around 2 inches at your fish shop. This often misleads people into buying these giants to be. They can also grow deep in size (like a discus), so therefore, a large tank is needed.
Only one Severums may be squeezed into a 55 gallon tank, but with that you don't have many options open for tank mates, In a 55 gallon tank you could probably have a pleco as a tank mate, but that wouldn't be interesting would it? So you would be aiming to go to the next step, a 75 gallon tank. With the extra space, you could add another Severum, but they should be upgraded later in their life.

Tank Mates
Severums are usually peaceful but, keep this in mind, large. So therefore you could get a large range of tank mates for them.
  • Large Tetras(Such as the Black Widow etc) Large Danios (Giant Danios),Rainbow Fish, Hatchet Fish etc etc
    (though when selecting these fish make sure they're at or near their maximum size and get a large school (6-10), But fish such as Rasboras are small but fast, and since the Severum is a slow swimmer, these should be fine.
  • Other cichlids that could possibly be kept with sevs include: convicts, blue Acara, oscar, Chocolate cichlid, Festivums etc(these fish are not to be kept with fish with large open mouths as they are the smallest of the bunch) But beware, these fish should not be kept in pairs as they will breed and get territorial and cause havoc in the tank. Also remember that when keeping an oscar with a Severum, the tank must be 125 gallons minimum.
  • Pleco catfish
  • Open mouthed catfish (Syno's etc)
Please ensure that if you are going to get Tetras , Barbs and Danios, don’t get the semi aggressive cichlids as the tetras will get nipped at. The more cichlids, the more terror for the Tetras, so tetras + other cichlids = one big no no!

Water Chemistry
PH: Severums aren't to picky when it comes to PH, they will mind sudden changes, but is easily avoided with regular tank maintance. They can be fine in anything up to 8, sometimes higher, but nothing too low.
Temperature: Like most cichlids, they like it around 80°F, they wont mind it a bit colder at 75 but nothing too cold or too hot.
Water Hardness: Severums prefer it soft and are more comfortable in that situation. But again, are pretty hardy so don’t mind a change, but not too much.

Breeding is very hard in the home Aquarium for people just starting out and it takes a few years before mating even begins. It’s very hard to get a pair so when buying Severums and planning on breeding, buy a group of 4 –6 and let them pair up by themselves
Eggs are laid on a flat rock, so if you're planning on breeding them, put slate in. The parents take excellent care of the fry. But in most cases the fry wont even make it past wriggler stage. But if they do, once the fry are free swimming, you can separate them if you want and feed them baby brine shrimp and crushed up flakes.
Good water conditions are needed and they get highly aggressive when breeding, it is said it is best to remove them and put them in their own tank when they're ready to breed.

Severums LOVE plants and vegetation. So plants in the tank is a no no as they will eat them. Feed them foods like cucumber, lettuce and crushed peas, they also take flakes, pellets and live/frozen/freeze dried food.

Names, Origin and Color Morphs
Severums are often sold in the hobby as Hero Severus. This is incorrect. Hero Severus is a very rare type of Severum and are hard to find in the trade. The ones you see and have are currently the Heros efasciatus. They come in many different colour morphs and the most common ones seen today are the Green and Gold.
There are other very nice looking colour morphs, such as the;
  • Albino
  • Turquoise
  • the White
  • and the"Super Red", which is really a colour variant of the Gold Severum
Now there are different types of Hero efasciatus that come from different places in the Amazon (where they live) such as the;
  • Heros Sp. "French Guyana" Severum
  • Rio Negro Severum
  • and the Ucayali Severum
In Conclusion, Severums are very easy and nice to keep for new comers in the New World Cichlid world. I hope you enjoyed this article and Good Luck with them.

I would also like to thanks members, Dwarfs, Freddyk and Juanveldez for their input and their help to put this together
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