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Cryptoheros panamensis

The Panama Cichlid
Synonyms: Cichlasoma panamense, Neetroplus panamense

Below: A male C. panamensis. Photo by Rick Borstein

Meaning of Name:

Genus- crypto= refers to breeding habits of fish (Greek), heros= original type genus (Greek).

Species- panamensis= from Panama, where this fish occurs.


Cryptoheros panamensis is a very pretty, small growing C. American, endemic to Panama. This fish, typed by Meek and Hildebrand in 1913 is not the most popular member of cryptoheros, but is definitely one of the more colorful and aggressive.

This fish has been thrown around when it comes to phylogenetics. It was thought to be a member on Neetroplus for a while, but after looking at teeth and jaw structure, it was moved to Archocentrus, and then to Cryptoheros. It remains in Cryptoheros even after the Schmitter-Soto paper, but is now in a monotypic sub-species panamius.


Cryptoheros spilurus is only found in Panama.

Size-Maturity-Sexual Dimorphism:

Size: Males-4.5 inches, Females-3.5inches
Maturity: 1 inch
Sexual Dimorphism: Males are larger than females, and attain trailers to the anal and dorsal fin. Females also take on a black and white breeding dress.


Cryptoheros panamensis is an easy fish to keep. They are extremely aggressivefor a member of their genus, so a large tank is needed. C. panamensis seems to be only very aggressive within its own species, but will go after other fish. If you want to keep them with something, look for a fast fish that can take a beating. Aggression between individuals, especially males is extreme, and they will eventually whittle down to a pair. I've heard males can be rough on females. This was not my experience.

C. panamensis is a hearty fish, and really needs no special treatment. They do great if you can do water changes once a week. their color will show more, and in my experience, be more likely to spawn.


Cryptoheros panamensis is an omnivore, and will accept almost any food offered.


C. panamensis is easy to breed. They will breed young and small, my female was about an inch, my male 1.5 inches when they first bred. These fish once started won't stop. If I pulled eggs or fry, my pair would spawn again within 10 days.

Before spawning, the female changes color drastically. Instead of having the mottled red color, they turn a mottled black and white. The change reminded me of both Neetroplus neematopus, and Hericthys carpintis.

Below: A female C. panamensis in breeding dress. Photo by Sam Borstein.

C. panamesis are great parents. Of course, like most other cichlids, the first spawn may fail, which was my case, but after that, they were marvelous parents. Like many Central Americans, the female stays over and fans the spawn, while the male defends the territory. In C. panamensis, my experience is that the female does all the work. She is relentless towards any other fish, even the male. She had all the other fish in a 3 foot tank pinned in the corners, except for the male, who was on the other side. Once free swimming, the female allowed the male into the male in the territory. Together they raised the fry for about 1 month until I pulled the fry.

Fry are easy to raise, and grow quickly. They do great at first on baby brine shrimp, and then on crushed flake.


C. panamensis is one of my favorite Centrals. They are nasty, pretty, and easy to keep. If you like members of the convict like fishes, you will love these guys. I do recommend keeping an easier species similar to convicts first, because these can be difficult to deal with. Don't expect to find these at a pet shop. These fish are available from hobbyists though, and are relatively inexpensive.