Salvin's Cichlid Care Guide
Salvin's Cichlid ('Cichlasoma' salvini) is among the most colorful and aggressive of the South/Central American Cichlids. This fish is also commonly known as the yellow belly cichlid, despite typically sporting red on its ventral side. Having both a robust hardiness and temperament, this fish is ideally suited to medium or large aquaria featuring other animals which can withstand substantial abuse. Like many other South/Central American cichlids, it has been placed into an astonishingly large number of genera in the past.
Being native to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, this cichlid is unusual in that it is commonly reported to swim mid river in the quicker flowing areas. However, it is equally comfortable in the more docile flows of the banks. We recommend an aquarium that is decorated sparsly to give this fish ample room to swim. Care must be taken, however, to ensure that lines of sight are broken up to help establish territory against other cichlids. In my experience, having kept multiple specimens, I have found that this fish prefers sandy substrates and can be often found in grotto or cave structures. It is also not uncommon to see this fish digging through rock or sand at the bottom of the tank.
Care of this wonderful animal is decidedly not difficult, with little attention needed to specific water parameters. I have personally kept these in a range of water ranging from a pH of 7 – 8.4 without losses or other health issues. Additionally, it would appear that this species is markedly resilient to most diseases, although infection is possible due to nipping from other animals being kept with it. This species is also highly dimorphic among the sexes, with females being generally more colorful and only attaining about 2/3rd the size of males. Breeding is easy and similar to other cichlids. It is generally best to start out with a small group and let pairs develop as the fish age. After which time they will generally care for their fry without much intervention needed. This can be a particularly neat facet of keeping cichlids, as it is like having National Geographic in your living room. Considering its relatively small size (for a New World Cichlid), it also makes a great entry level cichlid for the budding monster fish keeper.
Feeding is very easy, with almost all specimens eagerly accepting frozen, pellet and when smaller, flake foods. Being mostly carnivorous, care should be taken to avoid food items with high fiber or vegetable matter. Feeding too much of this can cause bloat and other nutritional issues in the long run. The Salvin's Cichlid will also likely consume live foods and other small fish; however, we cannot recommend this as it provides a vector for disease unless raised specifically by the hobbyist. As always, we recommend feeding a variety of food to ensure complete nutritional needs.
The Salvini Cichlid is rated as Least Concern by IUCN and is not CITES protected, with its population listed as stable. Although this animal occurs naturally in some protected regions, it is unlikely to face any major threats at this time. However, wild caught animals should be purchased only by breeders for genetic diversity. Because this species is easy to breed, very few, if any, specimens are wild-caught. I do recommend ensuring that you are receiving captive-bred animals if possible, however. These specimens will be hardier and more resilient to disease than their wild-caught counterparts.