The Malawi Eye-Biter
Don't let this odd looking cichlid fool you! This fish is a stalker! This fish is a hunter! And this fish is on the prowl for eyeballs!?! However, this fish isn't just a predator! It's also a lover!?! Don't look now, but straight from Africa it's the stalking, hunting, eyeball eating playboy called the Eye Biter!
The eye biter is definitely one odd looking fish! Some hobbyists insist that this fish is so ugly that it's pretty! Sure the eye biter is a beautifully colored fish, but it is the fish's physical features that prompts many hobbyists to call this fish "ugly." The eye biter is an elongated, slender fish. In fact, the eye biter's scientific name, Dimidiochromis compressiceps, is derived from its compressed body. The eye biter has a large triangle shaped head. At the bottom of this head is a large mouth with a protruding bottom jaw! The eye biter is kind of the Jay Leno of the fish world, without the sense of humor! The eye biter's big mouth is no laughing matter! This big mouth is used for catching and hurting prey!
You can probably guess how the eye biter earned its name, and you would probably be right. Eye biters get their name from the fact that they like to eat the eyes out of other fish! And the eye biter's aggression isn't limited to just one type of fish! The eye biter will attack any smaller fish, including other cichlids! In fact, in the wild some of the eye biter's favorite prey is other cichlids!
Many hobbyists have wondered just why the eye biter eats the eyes out of other fish. Actually, this eyeball eating is a true feeding habit of wild fish! There are numerous theories as to why the eye biters eat other fishes' eyes. Some believe the eye biter does this in an attempt to blind its prey. Others believe the eyeballs are actually considered a delicacy to the eye biter! And some believe the eye biter does this simple because there is a lack of food! Whatever the reason, the eye biter doesn't eat the eyes out of fish in a home aquarium as much as they would in the wild. In fact, many hobbyists have never had an instance to witness the eye biter do what it does best!
The carnivorous eye biter is a notorious predator fish. In fact, the eye biter has a unique claim to fame. The eye biter is the only known predator in the world that eats its prey tail first! Despite the fact that the eye biter will eat the eyes out of its prey, the fish will still swallow its prey tail first! The eye biter will even use its slender body to its advantage when stalking its prey. The eye biter will lurk in a head down position, often among some type of plants. With its slender body outline facing the eye biter's prey, visibility is greatly minimized. When its prey is sighted, the eye biter will quickly dart out and grab it! It's at that moment when hobbyists truly see how quick the eye biter is. And once the eye biter catches its prey, it's not a pretty picture. The eye biter is often very cruel to its prey. The eye biter is notorious for catching, crippling and leaving its prey to die!
With such a terrifying reputation, many hobbyists might be afraid to keep an eye biter in the home aquarium. However, it is all just a matter of the eye biter's tank mates and tank setup. The eye biter should not be kept with smaller fish, not even smaller cichlids. The eye biter should only be housed with fish of equal or greater size, and fish that can fend for themselves. The eye biter is an African cichlid, which tend to be more aggressive. Other large African cichlids make ideal tank mates for the eye biter. Other tank mates can also include certain catfish. As long as the fish is able to fend for itself, and it is too large to be swallowed, it should be safe with the eye biter provided there is plenty of room in the tank for all of the tank's inhabitants.
The eye biter will need a home aquarium that closely reflects its natural habitat. The eye biter is a native of Lake Malawi in eastern Africa. In the wild, the eye biter inhabits thickets of plants that grow from a sandy substrate. In the home aquarium, the eye biter will need a sandy substrate with thickets of tall plants. Unlike some other cichlids, the carnivorous eye biter will rarely if ever bother any live plants. The eye biter will also need lots rocky hiding places to stake out as their territory.
An adult eye biter will reach a length between 6 to 10 inches long. Because of this, the eye biter will need a somewhat large tank. An ideal tank for the eye biter would be a 50 gallon aquarium. The eye biter appreciates large tanks with plenty of open swimming space.
The water in the eye biter's aquarium should have a pH between 8.0 and 8.5, with a temperature between 72 and 80 degrees. While the eye biter's water will need to have good filtration, a filter that causes little or no current should be used.
Feeding the eye biter should be as simple as feeding most other cichlids. In many instances, the eye biter won't eat anything that isn't alive. However, once the eye biter becomes acclimated to its home aquarium, that will soon change. Eye biters will readily accept food such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, krill, crickets, mealworms, glassworms, tubifex worms, some vegetables, cichlid pellets, tablet foods, flake foods and mussels. Just make sure the eye biter has plenty to eat, or the other fish in its tank may suffer the consequences!
With such a fearsome reputation, perhaps the most surprising fact about the eye biter is that it is one of the easiest fish to breed in the home aquarium! In fact, this fish breeds so easily, that it is also called the playboy cichlid! It's not just a fighter, it's a lover! If you are wanting to try your hand at breeding the eye biter in the home aquarium, it is suggested that you keep one male eye biter with several females. It's quite easy to distinguish between the sexes. The male eye biters are a shiny blue-green in color, while the females have a gold head. The male eye biter will also have clearly marked blue and white egg-spots on the anal fin.
Once the eye biters have spawned, the female will usually lay between 40 to 50 eggs. Since eye biters are mouthbreeders, the female will take this eggs into her mouth. The fry will be incubated for about three weeks. After that period, the fry will emerge.
If you are fortunate enough to find an eye biter for sale, it may be listed under the names Malawi Eye Biter or Playboy Cichlid. Mainly because of their bad reputation, the eye biter is not a commonly found cichlid at most pet stores. Because of this, the eye biter may be somewhat on the expensive side. I have personally found eye biters for sale anywhere from the affordable $8.00 all the way up to $34.00 apiece! That's a pretty big chunk of change for a playboy that stalks, hunts and mutilates its prey! Just imagine what Hollywood could do with a character like that! Michael Myers, Jason and Freddy would be yesterday's news!