All Photos by Mark Robinson
A wild-caught specimen in the aquarium
If you think the spelling
of this fish is difficult, just try to pronounce it. The Tahuantinsuyoa
macanzatza or Inca Stone Fish is an
interesting dwarf species from the Peruvian Amazon in South
America. To be perfectly
honest, I knew nothing about these fish when I bought them.
They were listed as a newly imported species and curiosity
got the better of me. However, while I was waiting for them
to arrive, I was able to get some basic information. They
like soft water and they are bi-parental mouth brooders.
The male did most of the holding.
With that abundance of knowledge I was able to get the tank
ready for the six wild-caught beauties I had ordered. I setup
a 55-gallon tank with ½-inch
of silica sand for substrate and filled it with RO water. The
fish would not tell me what temperature they liked to be kept
in so I set the heater at 78 f. as I do for all fish that
don’t speak up. With a name like Inca Stone Fish, I thought
they might like rocks like my African cichlids but since they
come from soft water maybe driftwood would be better. I chose
the scientific approach and put both in the tank so they could
decide for themselves. I wanted to keep the ph between 6.5
and 7.0 but by using pure RO water, the ph was having a tendency
to drop well below 6.0. Using 1/3 tap water and 2/3 RO water,
I was able to keep the ph fairly stable at 6.5 to 6.7.
When I released the Tahuantinsuyoa macanzatza in
the tank, they were very shy and chose to stay completely
out of sight
for at least 20 minutes and then they got over it. I did
not know exactly what to feed them so I started with some
graze flake, which they ate with some reluctance. As time
went on, they seemed to eat just about anything although
they showed the most enthusiasm with plankton, plankton flake,
Over the next few weeks, a pecking order was established
but there were no defined territories or pairs formed. Size
was the only visible factor to use for sexing and I could
only assume that the larger fish were the males. Pairing
did not occur until three of the fish had their vents protruding
in preparation of laying eggs. At this point, one female
became dominant, she paired up with the larger dominant male,
and the rest of the fish were chased to the upper corners
of the tank.
I thought I had provided everything these fish needed for
successful spawning. There was sand, rocks, caves, and driftwood
to offer every conceivable type of surface a fish could possibly
hope to have. This evidently was not enough. I then noticed
the pair making a joint effort to remove some of the large
flat leaves from one of the plastic plants that were in the
tank. This gave me the idea that they may want something
they could move around to their liking. I broke up some slate
with a hammer into thin pieces approximately the size of
small potato chips and placed a pile in the tank. The pair
immediately dismantled the pile and dragged a piece to an
The male hovers above the female while she lays eggs.
They spent the next four days flipping and cleaning that
piece of slate to the point that I was almost expecting it
to shine like chrome. On the fifth day, I came home at Noon
to check my email and I just happened to look in the tank
sitting two feet away. The female was starting to lay eggs and
the male was hovering about two inches above her. She would
lay a few eggs, move away, and the male would swoop down
and fertilize them, then they would repeat the pattern. The
whole process only took about ten minutes. I did not want to
risk losing this spawn so; I removed all the other tank mates
and let the pair guard the eggs in peace. However, I thought
these were mouth brooders! Over the next few days, I witnessed
the eggs turning a whitish color, which I thought was fungus.
I did not know if the eggs were being fanned enough or if
the male just did not get the job done. The female did not
attempt to remove the whitish eggs and more were turning
color by the day. Finally, on the third day, all the whitish
eggs were gone but there were only about eight eggs remaining
and they too were turning color. An hour later, all the eggs
were gone. Oh well, maybe they will do it right the next
time. Wait a minute! The male looks like he has something
in his mouth. Sure enough, I guessed the male finally played
his role and scooped up the remaining six or eight eggs.
The female laid all these eggs in less than ten minutes.
The following week I was kept in painful anticipation. The
male looked like he was holding, but I was not sure. Then
the female would look like she was holding, and again, I
could not be sure. Their pouch would look a little swollen
but not very much. Seven days after the last eggs disappeared,
I was sitting at my computer and saw a little speck move
rapidly behind the piece of driftwood in the tank. When I
moved so I could see better, there they were. Not the six
or eight I was hoping for, but the whole batch of at least
35 fry the size of a caraway seed or smaller. Whoo Hoo!!
The male seemed to be the primary keeper of the fry and he would
not let the female get too close without his gills flaring. When
someone entered the room, he would suck up all the fry and hide
under the driftwood. After a few days, the adventurous little
swimmers needed the attention of both parents and both at any
sign of danger would suck them up.
It was a pleasant surprise to see all these fry swimming.
After two weeks of watching this extraordinary parental
care, I was surprised again. One morning, the female became
very aggressive and took complete control over the entire
batch of fry. At 8:00 a.m., the tank was in harmony and by
Noon, the once proud and dominant male was reduced to a beat
up, ragged-finned target of aggression and fearing for his
life. As soon as the fry were removed from the tank, harmony
The fry seemed to do fine being fed a diet of crushed flake.
They are over six weeks old now and most are over ½-inch
long. I do not even bother crushing the flake anymore.
The Tahuantinsuyoa Macanzatza is a very interesting and
fun fish to have. The males seem to reach a maximum length
of approximately 4 inches and the females may or may not
be slightly smaller. I do not find them to be fragile or
difficult to keep or overly aggressive to other tank mates.
However, they are cichlids and do behave accordingly. As
far as I know, the fry are all alive although some are missing
due to the persuasiveness of a fellow hobbyist. Would I recommend
this species to a cichlid enthusiast? Absolutely!
I have been able to get a fish or two to spawn and I have
read a few books but I do not consider myself an expert.
I just enjoy the hobby and wanted to share this experience.
[Editor Note: I really am not going
to fill this magazine in the future with re-prints but this
article is a bit special for the Tampa Bay Aquarium Society.
It is a prize winning
article for the FAAS (Federation of American Aquarium Society)
to which Tampa Bay Aquarium Society belongs. FAAS is a
club of clubs and they conducted a contest of it's members
and their bulletins.
the Tampa Bay Aquarium Society(TBAS), and while Mark is not
a direct member of TBAS he is now an indirect member because
of this article he gave to me which won it's class in the
FAAS contest representing TBAS. It is a wonderful article
about a not so familiar new fish so I included it in this
www.MTFB.com (#2). My congratulations
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