The Spadetailed Checkerboard Cichlid (Dicrossus Maculatus)


Dicrossus maculatus is a species of aquarium fish native to Orinoco basins in South America and rivers in Brazil. This species is not commonly available in the aquarium hobby. Owing to their rare availability they are generally confused with another common and popular fish, Dicrossus filamentosus.

Their unique appearance is the reason they are also called Spade-tailed checkerboard cichlids.



The black spots scattered in a sequence on its body make it resemble a checkerboard. Females are almost the same size as the male and in some cases, can be larger than the males.

However, the correct way to distinguish the female from the male of Dicrossus Maculatus is to focus on their body design pattern and colors.
Female colors are vague and not very bright. Male Dicrossus Maculatus exhibit some bright blue gloss on gill plates on the side of their heads.
The Max length of the males is 5,3 cm long and the female is 6,0 cm.

Behavior and Compatibility

It is a very peaceful fish and can live with other fish in the same tank without any causing troubles.


The females distinctly show motherhood. After breeding, Maculatus females remain in the company of their breed. They do not spawn until the fry is moved to another tank or left the female (in their natural habitat). The adult Dicrossus Maculatus pair spawn only when they are on their own in the tank without their breed.

Water Parameters

Temperature: 26-30°C
pH: 3,5 – 5,4
Hardness: <=1° dGH

Proper Tank Conditions

Dicrossus Maculatus love a heavily planted setup. They also like plenty of covering and hiding places like caves with tiny entrances. Tree leaves such as catappa and walnut and alder cones are good additions for the bottom of the tank. The plant matters will release tannins into the water and make the water proper for the fish.

For keeping the water quality high, good filtration and water changes are taking the most substantial role. Using high-quality filter media in the filters with large volumes will help to keep the water quality high by providing high biological filtration capacity. Also, feeding the fish with proper amounts of high-quality foods without leaving any excessive food in the tank will prevent water quality issues. In addition to good filtration, water changes with pre-conditioned waters are necessary. Water changes will refresh the water and remove any other unwanted matters that cannot be eliminated by the filtration.


Feeding Dicrossus Maculatus is not a problem because they accept a wide range of foods such as dry frozen and live foods. A variety of high-quality, protein-rich dry foods are also suitable for this species. Aquarists mostly prefer to use frozen food as a staple for these fish. Feeding live foods combined with dry foods will increase egg production, growth and health of the fish.

If the fish are wild-caught, they may not accept dry foods in the first stage. In this case, live foods are necessary to keep fish’s health in good condition for the first acclimation step. Then, they will start accepting dry foods and frozen foods over time and when they are settled better in their new environment.


Dicrossus Maculatus are hard to take care of during the breeding season. The eggs require highly acidic water for hatching. Moreover, the water quality should also be high where it is difficult to maintain at the low pH values ranging between 3,4 and 5,5.


After setting the water parameters properly, a well-conditioned Discrossus Maculatus pair will lay their eggs on the plant leaves, little caves and other flat surfaces such as small stones. Depending on the water temperature, the eggs usually hatch in 3-4 days. After hatching, the parents may carry the fry to a safer place of their choice. In the following 3-4 days time from the hatching, the fry will become free swimming and be ready to graze around in search of food.

While the female caring the fry, it sends commands to the breed with her vivid yellow abdominal fins. It helps the female to easily control and keep the fry close for protection. Opening of the fins orders the fry to come to her and closing means to stop. By this strategy, the female herds her fry around the tank safely and the fry search for micro-organisms and other foods introduced to the tank.

The fry of Dicrossus Maculatus are very tiny but, they can eat newly hatched brine shrimps, powder fish food and micro-worms. Gradually, while the fry grows, they can eat Daphnia Moina, Daphnia Magna, dry fish flakes and granules.

The strict care schedule during the breeding time determines the gender ratio of the fry. The pH and temperature of the water when eggs are laid, eggs hatched and in the first month of the fry‘s life can affect the gender ratio. It is reported that for having an optimum male to female ratio in the spawn (more females), the pH must be increased towards 5,5 and the temperature must be lowered to 24°C. (generally more males at lower pH and higher temperatures).

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