Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Crenicichla compressiceps

Dwarf pike cichlid

Dwarf pike cichlid, Crenicichla compressicepsDwarf pike cichlid, Crenicichla compressiceps
Photos by Andy Rapson


Crenicichla: Latin, crenulatus = cut, clipped + Greek, kichle = wrasse

General Notes:

Very difficult to maintain together due to conspecific aggression. Use a large aquarium and provide numerous hiding places or the female could be chased endlessly and eventually harassed to death. The use of target fish will help but make sure that the right species are chosen. Target fish could include other dwarf pike cichlids, cichlids of a different species, larger tetras or barbs which require the same conditions, it is unlikely that these fish will breed without the presence of target fish because the male will simply harass the female all the time.
Decorate the tank using sand as a substrate and stones to form numerous caves, plant thickets should also be used to from extra hiding places. The need for hiding places cannot be over emphasised. Tropical Almond leaves make a useful addition to the tank too if they are scattered over the substrate as they will provide extra hiding places and their anti septic and anti fungal properties will help to protect the eggs when the fish spawn. They will also help to lower the pH making the water slightly more acidic.
Excellent filtration, frequent water changes and nitrate must be kept to a minimum. Their water should be very soft and slightly acidic. Poor conditions will lead to problems with Spironucleus vortens, or hole in the head disease which this fish seems to be quite susceptible to.
Any fish which is much smaller than C. compressiceps will be regarded as food.


C. compressiceps are predators, they require a diet high in protein so use lots of live or frozen food such as blood worms, chopped prawns, krill, small earth worms and some good quality dried food such as granules or micro pellets to ensure a balanced diet. Although they will eat small fish in the aquarium, other fish aren't a natural part of their diet in the wild.


Males are much larger than the females when adult and males have larger more pointed fins while the females fins remain rounded.


Dwarf pike cichlids are cave spawners and are excellent parents. Once a two fish have formed a pair they will claim a territory about 60 cm in diameter from which all other fish will be excluded. The presence of other fish distracts the males aggression from the female while at the same time making him more possessive.
To encourage spawning lower the pH slightly, feed the fish on lots of high protein food, raise the temperature to 28 - 29°C (82 - 84°F) and make extra water changes. An elaborate ritual where the fish adopt a head down stance and shake, precedes spawning. Broods can be quite small and 50 eggs should be considered a very good brood for these fish. After spawning the female will keep cleaning and fanning the eggs while the male keeps other fish well away from them. The fry will be free swimming approximately seven days after the eggs were laid. The fry are large enough to accept micro worms and newly hatched brine shrimps right away and they will grow rapidly. Parental care is much better if target fish are present.

Wild status

Unknown, the wild population of this species has not been evaluated.

Additional information

There are over one hundred species of Crenicichla (Pike cichlids) they all live in tropical fresh water in Central and South America. Size apart they all have a similar elongated appearance and they are all predatory giving them a passing resemblance to the northern pike, Esox lucius from which their common name is taken.

Information at a glance

pH: 5.5 - 6.5
dGH: 2 - 5
Temperature: 24 - 27°C (76 - 80°F)
Diet: Carnivore
Size: 12cm (4.7in)
Min tank size: 250 litres
Difficulty level: Difficult
Aquarium type: Species
Swimming level: Lower

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Dwarf pike cichlid, Crenicichla compressiceps

Origin: South America: Amazon River basin, in the lower Tocantins River basin.

Habitat: Rapid clear water over sand and stones.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genus: Crenicichla
Species: C. compressiceps Ploeg, 1986

Other common names:

Synonyms: None