It's name sounds like some kind of magician! And maybe it is! This Central American cichlid will magically add color to any freshwater aquarium! And if you aren't careful, this little fish might make some of your smaller fish magically disappear! No hocus pocus here! No Houdini! It's the amazing salvini!
The salvini is a rather new addition to one of my many freshwater aquariums. Until just a few months ago, I hadn't even heard of this fish, much less owned one. However, the salvini isn't a newly discovered fish. It's been around for over a century!
The salvini was first introduced to the freshwater aquarium in 1912. Surprisingly, it was not introduced first in America. The salvini made it's freshwater hobby debut in Germany! Aquarists visiting Mexico brought this colorful fish back to Germany. It wasn't until many years later that the salvini appeared in aquariums in the United States. It wasn't until just recently that the salvini has been observed in aquariums in other parts of the world.
The first salvini was described by taxonomist and author Albert Gunther way back in 1862. The name "salvini" originates from the English explorer O. Salvin. Salvin had formed part of an expedition that had retrieved an extensive collection of Central American fauna for the British museum. The salvini was among the species found.
The salvini is a native of rivers and lagoons of the Atlantic slope in northern Central America. The salvini is found in Atlantic drainage rivers throughout Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. Not only does the salvini inhabit these rivers, it also lives in freshwater lagoons like those found in the southern Yucatan peninsula. Throughout these locations, the salvini is found in the jungle or tropical forest areas. Vegetation and huge trees provide plenty of shade at the edges of the rivers and lagoons, and the bottom is usually covered with tree branches and leaves. The salvini prefers to inhabit these areas that are filled with adequate cover and protection. This becomes necessary because of the salvini's vibrant coloration.
The salvini prefers to hide out around aquatic vegetation and driftwood to protect it from larger predator fish and fish eating birds. Due to the salvini's bright colors, the fish could be an easy taget for predators. The salvini could very well be one of the most colorful cichlids in the freshwater hobby. Both the male and the female salvinis are colorful, but the female's colors are a bit brighter. The females have the brightest colors in the ventral and dorsal areas. These areas are decorated with a bright red color. In contrast, the males' belly color just shows a hint of this red color. Both the male and the female salvini have a bright yellow base coloration. The males will have blue highlights on the back above the lateral line and some blue streaks on the head. You can easily differentiate the females from the males by the blue edged blotch on the middle part of the female's dorsal fin. Another quick way to tell the males from the females is looking at their fins. The anal and dorsal fins of the male end in a point.
Before you rush out and buy a pair of salvinis, keep in mind one of the reasons why most people haven't heard of these fish. They aren't a popular aquarium fish because they are so aggressive. They're not only aggressive with other fish, but they tend to be even more aggressive with their own species! I bought a male and female salvini and placed them in a 20 gallon tank. Within a matter of minutes, it became obvious that these fish would have to be separated before the male killed the female. In fact, the female had been injured so badly, that even after separating the two, the female died. Forget trying to breed these fish! It's highly recommended that you keep one adult per tank. The only way you might successfully breed a pair of salvinis is if they are raised together to adulthood.
There are a few things you can try to curb the salvini's aggressiveness. The salvini will not act aggressive toward fish that are too big to eat. It is suggested that these bigger fish be other cichlids. In other words, a species that won't tolerate bullying. A species that can take it and dish it out! Believe it or not, because of the salvini's bright coloration, the fish is actually a shy fish. With no smaller fish or other salvinis to bully, the salvini will find a place to hide until feeding time. I keep a male salvini with a blood parrot, an albino oscar, a long tail albino oscar and two plecos. The only aggression in this tank comes from the blood parrot, the smallest fish in the tank! Whenever the blood parrot catches the salvini out in the open, it will chase it back to it's hiding spot. The salvini seems content to hide behind some tank decorations until it's feeding time.
A salvini doesn't need a large tank, because this fish isn't a big fish. A full grown male salvini will usually reach a maximum length of 6 inches. The females usually grow to around 5 ½ inches. With a minimum of one adult salvini per tank, you can place a salvini in a 20 gallon or larger tank. The water will need to be on the alkaline side, with the pH from 7.5 to 8.0. The water temperature will need to range from 75 to 84 degrees. The salvini will also need some decorations or driftwood to claim as it's territory and hiding place. Unlike other cichlids, the salvini will not uproot plants or move gravel around.
Feeding the salvini is like feeding nearly any other cichlid: it's probably easier to list what they won't eat! The salvini will accept flake food, shrimp pellets, beef heart, live fish, brine shrimp, tubifex worms, frozen plankton and my salvini's favorite food, bloodworms. Just keep in mind that you shouldn't keep your salvini in a tank with fish that are small enough to fit in it's mouth. If you do, that little magician will make them disappear!
The salvini may not be a commonly found fish at your local pet store. At my pet store, they usually get a pair in every other week, but only because the salvini is one of the owner's favorite fish. Do a little checking. You might find this fish listed under two other names: Salvin's cichlid or my favorite, the name given to the fish by fisherman from Veracruz: Rooster's Peak! Whatever the name, ask your pet store to order one of these magicians for you, and magically add a lot of color to your freshwater aquarium!