Wolf Cichlid

Dovii Cichlid, Guapote, Dow's Cichlid, Rainbow Bass

Family: Cichlidae Wolf Cichlid, Parachromis dovii, Dovii Cichlid, Guapote, Dow's CichlidParachromis doviiPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Ken Childs
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The Wolf Cichlid is a predatory and beautiful fish that really captures the spirit and majesty of its namesake!

The Wolf Cichlid Parachromis dovii (previously Cichlasoma dovii) is very intelligent and has so much personality that its territory usually extends beyond the tank. They will investigate any goings on in the room and can bond with their owners on a level that the smaller cichlids don't. They are also the epitome of a predatory fish and will be the dominate 

A beautiful deep bodied muscular fish, it can reach just over 28 inches (72 cm) in length. The mature male has a rich golden yellow to silvery background speckled with blue, black, and purple. It has green and red on the head and the base of the dorsal fin, with blue-green fins and tail. The females are almost entirely yellow. It is also known as the Dovii Cichlid, Guapote, Dow's Cichlid, and Rainbow Bass.

Though they grow large, they are a rewarding pet as long as you are able to care for their needs. A tank that is 120 gallons or more is needed for their long term care. They will require a large open swimming area but will also appreciate caves to hide in and rocks and other decor to swim around.Provide them with a sandy substrate for them to burrow in and be sure any live plants are either floating or well anchored into the substrate (otherwise the fish will dig up their roots).It's also a good idea to firmly plant large, heavy rocks onto the actual bottom of the tank and even to glue formations together so as to prevent the cichlid from knocking them down. That said, leave some smaller rocks and other "toys" such as ping pong balls for them to play with or they might get bored!

Being a very easy to keep fish, the Wolf Cichlid is a great beginner fish for the aquarist who wants a large water pet. They are not demanding and can tolerate a wide range of pH, though it must be kept stable. However, their big teeth show this is a voracious predator that needs to be respected. Remember this when they have fry and you are thinking about putting your hand in the tank! 

The Wolf Cichlid needs appropriate tank mates and is in no way a community fish. They are predators and will eat smaller fish and invertebrates. Many do not tolerate any other fish in their tank unless they are a male/female pair, and even then the male may attack and kill a female. If kept singly you may be able to keep with them other fish, but hundreds of gallons are needed with divided territories. They become more aggressive when they are in breeding mode and all other fish should be removed at that time.

They can live well over 30 years with proper care.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care

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Geographic Distribution
Parachromis dovii
Data provided by GBIF.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Genus: Parachromis
  • Species: dovii
Wolf Cichlid - Parachromis Dovii

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Gorgeous Wolf Cichlid enjoying its tank.

Showing a nice sized and healthy looking Wolf Cichlid lazily hovering inside it tanks. You can see it notice the camera and take an active interest in the device as well as the person filming.

Wolf Cichlid - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of fish - inches: 28.0 inches (71.12 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 120 gal (454 L)
  • Temperament: Large Aggressive - Predatory
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 82.0° F (23.9 to 27.8° C)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Wolf Cichlid Parachromis dovii (previously Cichlasoma dovii) was described by Gunther in 1864. They are found in Central America on the Atlantic slope from the Aguan River in Honduras to the Moin River in Costa Rica, and on the Pacific slope from the Yeguare River in Honduras to the Bebedero River in Costa Rica. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List. Other common names or different spellings these fish are known by are Dovii Cichlid, Guapote, Dow's Cichlid, and Rainbow Bass.

They like lower and middle river valley areas, where they dig caverns. They primarily eat fish, but will eat crustaceans and insects as well. Growing up to 28 inches (72 cm)  and resembling bass fish, these fish are used as a food source by the locals in the native waters.

  • Scientific Name: Parachromis dovii
  • Social Grouping: Solitary
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed

Description

The Wolf Cichlid is a large deep-bodied fish reaching up to just over 28" (72 cm) in length. This cichlid has a large mouth and big teeth that show this is a voracious predator. They can have a life span of well over 30 years with proper care.

The mature male has a rich golden yellow to silvery background speckled with blue, black, and purple while the females are primarily yellow. Both sexes have green and red on the head and on the base of the dorsal fin, with blue-green fins and tail. They have large eyes with a bronze iris. The juveniles present a silver body coloring with a horizontal black stripe through the body. As they grow, their horizontal black stripe becomes thicker and their body coloring turns to the standard adult golden yellow.

Several color morphs are available as well as the normal form. Some orange-red specimens are known from Lake Nicaragua and Rio Puerto Viejo. 

All cichlids and some saltwater fish such as wrasses and parrotfish share a common feature of a well-developed pharyngeal set of teeth located in the throat, along with their regular teeth. Cichlids have spiny rays in the back parts of the anal, dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins to help discourage predators. The front part of these fins are soft and perfect for precise positions and effortless movements in the water as opposed to fast swimming.

Cichlids have one nostril on each side while other fish have 2 sets. To sense "smells" in the water, they suck water in and expel the water right back out after being "sampled" for a short or longer time, depending on how much the cichlid needs to "smell" the water. This feature is shared by saltwater damselfish and cichlids are thought to be closely related.

  • Size of fish - inches: 28.0 inches (71.12 cm)
  • Lifespan: 30 years

Fish Keeping Difficulty

While generally easy to care for, the Wolf Cichlid may not be the best choice for a beginner aquarist. They are very large, very long lived fish and will require an extremely large tank, even larger if you hope to keep them with other fish. They will also need quite a bit of proper decor. They are not overly sensitive to water conditions but cannot be kept with almost any other fish, even as a mated pair. They are perhaps the most aggressive known cichlid and will even attack their keeper during routine aquarium maintenance. Since these are predatory fish they are only truly content eating expensive meaty foods, though they will accept pellet based foods. 

However, these fish can be properly kept by just about anyone, no matter their experience level. If a dedicated and adequately prepared (in terms of space, time, and money) beginner thinks this is the fish for them, go for it! Just be aware of its limitations. 

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate - These are very large and aggressive fish, so only those who are well prepared for them and understand what the fish will require should keep them.

Foods and Feeding

The Wolf Cichlid or Dovii Cichlid is a carnivore, a predator that feeds primarily on smaller fish, along with crustaceans and insects in the wild. In the aquarium they can have a pellet base for food, but must be supplemented with fish, shrimp, earthworms, and other meaty foods.

They prefer floating foods according to one fish keeper. Consider only feeding them frozen, since live fish can carry disease, unless you are willing to grow feeders on your own. Keep in mind that feeding them live foods and allowing them to pursue their predatory tendencies can result in increasing their natural aggression. Fed them a few times a day and then have them go without food for 2 - 3 days once in a while. This will keep the water quality higher over a longer time. All fish benefit from vitamins and supplements added to their foods.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Flake Food: No
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Most of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Unknown
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Daily

Aquarium Care

The Uaru Cichlid requires water changes of 20 - 40% up to twice a week, give or take depending on your water quality. These fish are large messy eaters and special attention is needed when cleaning the substrate to make sure all waste is removed (a substrate vacuum will work best). Prior to vacuuming the substrate be sure to clean the viewing panes of algae with an algae brush or magnet. Be wary when cleaning as these fish are known attack their keepers during maintenance!

It is recommended to check the chemical levels and water conditions of the tank at least once a week, more often if you are experiencing unexplained fluctuations or your fish is acting oddly. 

  • Water Changes: Weekly - Large water changes twice a week.

Aquarium Setup

This is a big cichlid that requires a lot of free swimming space and a tank of over 120 gallons is suggested for their long term care. Ideally 150 gallons for a female and 200 gallons for a male should be provided, and over 300 gallons if you attempt to breed them. They need good water movement along with strong and efficient filtration. They have been found in water that is 70 - 99° F (21 - 37° C) but it is not recommended to house them at those extremes. Instead keep them at around 75 - 82° F (24 - 28° C)

If keeping a breeding pair, it's likely the female will need plenty of hiding places. Provide lots of rocks, bog wood and tunnels to dig under with sandy or fine gravel substrate. Put large heavy rocks on the glass, not on the substrate because they dig under everything and falling rocks can crack your glass aquarium and scratch your acrylic tank. Glue desired rock formations together or your Wolf Cichlid will have other plans for your perfectly placed rock tower, just leave some rocks and stuff for them to move. Decorating with tough plants is also possible, though strong light levels can cause algae growth.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 120 gal (454 L)
  • Substrate Type: Sand
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 82.0° F (23.9 to 27.8° C)
  • Range ph: 6.0-8.0
  • Hardness Range: 5 - 20 dGH
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All

Social Behaviors

This is not a community fish, it is a predator that is territorial and aggressive and even more aggressive when spawning. The Wolf Cichlid can be kept alone or as a mated pair. Other Wolf Cichlids in the tank will be killed by the dominant male.

This fish can only be kept with larger fish that have the same temperament and cannot be swallowed. Even large and peaceful fish are not safe with a Wolf Cichlid as the cichlid will likely bite and nip the larger fish until it is torn to pieces. If you want to keep a Wolf Cichlid with other fish, the aquarium must be hundreds of gallons with rocks used to form natural territory borders and lots of hiding places for the other fish. It is not suggested to house them with any other fish and they are best served in a species specific tank. If you live in a warm area, they can be kept in a pond.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Large Aggressive - Predatory
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes - In a large enough tank a male and female can survive together.
    • Peaceful fish (): Threat
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Monitor
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat - is aggressive
    • Plants: Threat

Sex: Sexual differences

Males are larger, and the females are mostly yellow.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Wolf Cichlid or Dovii Cichlid has been bred in captivity. They are substrate spawners and both parents will care for the young.For the best chances of forming a mated pair, it is recommended to house 6 to 8 juveniles together and let them pair off naturally. Be aware that often times a male will excessively beat up on the female. In this case a divider with the bottom open just large enough to let the eggs be fertilized would be needed.

The female will lay over 1,000 of eggs that hatch in 5 days. The fry are free swimming in a few more days. The young can eat baby brine and other meaty preparations, and offer larger sized foods as they grow. Sort the fry by size as they grow as well, or the larger siblings will eat the smaller ones. The Wolf Cichlid is sexually mature at 10 to 14 months and will spawn about every 4 weeks. See more about cichlid breeding in: Breeding Freshwater Fish: Cichlids.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Fish Diseases

They are subject to infections as well as other diseases that ail all freshwater fish. One common problem is Ich. It can be treated with the elevation of the tank temperature to 86° F (30° C) for 3 days. If that does not cure the Ich, then the fish needs to be treated with copper (remove any water conditioners). Several copper based fish medications are available for Ich. Copper use must be kept within the proper levels, so be sure to follow the manufacturers suggestions. A copper test can be used to keep the proper levels. You can also combine increasing the temperature with an Ich medication treatment. Intestinal disease can be treated with metronidazol.

Large American cichlids are also prone to Head and Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE), which use to be called "hole-in-the-head" disease. It is common with poor water conditions. This looks like cavities or pits on the head and face. It is believed this may be a nutritional deficiency of one or more of: Vitamin C, Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus. It is thought to be caused by a poor diet or lack of variety, lack of partial water changes, or over filtration with chemical media such as activated carbon.

As with most fish the Dovii Cichlids need good monitoring. Though very durable its a good idea to keep an eye out for skin flukes and other parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), fungal infections, and bacterial infections. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

Remember anything you add to your tank can bring disease to your tank. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria and harmful chemicals. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance.

Availability

The Wolf Cichlid or Dovii Cichlid are usually available online and sometimes in fish stores. They are moderately priced as juveniles, more for adults.

References

Author: Carrie McBirney, Clarice Brough CFS
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Yellow Wolf Cichlid Parachromis Dovii Xsmall Juvenile Yellow Wolf Cichlid Parachromis Dovii Xsmall Juvenile
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