Lyretail Checkerboard Cichlid (Dicrossus filamentosus)

Dicrossus filamentosus, also known as the Lyretail Checkerboard Cichlid, is an attractive and peaceful dwarf fish. It lives in acidic, black-water streams in the Orinoco and Rio Negro basins of Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela, and it is found in shallow waters (such as forest rivers), hidden in or around dense piles of leaves.



Dicrossus filamentosus have a white base color with a checkered pattern on their body and long flowing rays on the tips of their tails. The characteristic pattern is observed in two rows of square black spots, one along the center of their flanks, and the other row below their dorsal fins. Depending on their mood, the central row can expand further and form a long stripe that starts from the tip of their snout and ends at the base of the caudal fin. Meanwhile, the row below the dorsal fin may disappear.


Adult size of males is 4 inches and females’ adult size is 3 inches in females, with an elongated and thin body, a blunt snout, and a small mouth. Males are slightly larger than females and possess the majestic lyre-shaped caudal fin. The females are less colored (they are lac the blue and red spots on their bodies and fins) and the caudal fin is rounded.

Behavior and Compatibility

Dicrossus filamentosus are shy animals, and they are often at the bottom of the tank. On the other hand, are also social in behavior, and they do best in groups of 5 or more, or as pairs. Although peaceful females tend to become aggressive within a small territory to defend their spawning sites, eggs or young.

Once the males hit 5 cm and start to color up, they require a space of their own. It’s better to provide them the necessary space from the beginning with a large size aquarium.

The males of this species tend to display aggressive behavior towards other males. They may also struggle with aggressive tank mates such as Tiger Barbs and Serpae Tetras (fin-nippers) or very active fish like Loaches.

Dicrossus filamentosus will do fine with other peaceful fish such as Cardinal Tetras, Lemon Tetras, Glowlight Tetras, Corydoras and Nannostomus marginatus (they stay towards the top of the tank and have small mouths, being incapable to eat the eggs or fry).

Water Parameters

Temperature: 26-28°C
pH: 4,0 – 7,0
Hardness: 1-5 dGH

Dicrossus filamentosus is not suitable for beginners since they need special water conditions to fulfill their needs.

The general water hardness required must be less than 5 dGH at a pH value between 4 and 7. Perfect water conditions comprise acidic water with pH values ranging between 4.5 and 5.8 accompanied with very low hardness (1-2° dGH or even lower). Lack of proper physical and chemical parameters will harm their health.

Proper Tank Conditions

Adding Terminalia catappa leaves to the tank will benefit the fish since it will not serve only as a place for refuge as they like to hide under leaves but will also have bactericidal and fungicidal properties to support their health. These leaves will help you establish a similar environment to that of the cichlid’s natural environment and will also release compounds into the water that will help to reduce the pH value and stimulate the fish to spawn. Live plants can also be considered, however, they must be of the type to tolerate well the parameters of the water in which they are to grow (Microsorum, Java moss, Amazon swords, etc.)

It is recommended to provide the fish with a spacious tank (at least 60 liters) comprising a great number of hiding places (floating plants are excellent for this purpose, some dried leaves such as catappa, etc). Also, dim lighting should be preferred to establish a safe and comfortable environment.


The mouth of this species is small, therefore food should be of small size. Dicrossus filamentosus feeds on dry food (sinking cichlid pellets), frozen food (daphnia, brine shrimp (Artemia), blood worms, tubifex worms and mosquito larvae), and live food (bloodworms and daphnia). Their diet can be varied by giving them spirulina flakes as a portion of vegetable food.

Independent young (free-swimming) can be fed with freshly hatched Artemia, microworms and powdered dry foods.


Breeding Dicrossus filamentosus is difficult without the proper water and tank conditions. The tank should comprise suitable places to hide with plenty of vegetation or dry leaves and good quality well prepared acidic water.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) water which can be obtained using a simple RO unit is almost a must and mineral salts specifically intended for dwarf cichlids of South America need to be added to form and sustain suitable breeding conditions.

When the pair is ready to spawn, the color of their ventral fins will change: the fin of females will turn into salmon-red, and the males’ fin becomes red-and-blue striped. Observation of these color changes would be an indication of spawning; therefore you should be alerted to make necessary preparations for the incoming fry.

The spawning is initiated by the female and the eggs are laid in hundreds on a hard surface. The female will care for her eggs while the male will defend the territory, but it is better to separate the male because it often tends to eat the brood.

The females’ salmon-red fin will fade in color but it will be regained after her offspring become independent.

The eggs will hatch after 2-3 days at a temperature of 28° to 29°C (82° to 84°F) and then the female will carry them into pre-dug pits in the substrate. After 5 to 8 days, the young become free-swimming and can be fed with fresh or dry food. Live foods such as newly hatched brine shrimp, microworms, vinegar eels are best and suggested to raise healthy fry with less mortality rates.

Image Source:
Photo By : Eduardo A Carvalho

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