via Nautilus Tropical Fish Wholesale
by Joe Hiduke
Retroculus lapidifer is a rarely-imported rheophilic cichlid from Brazil. These fish live in fast-moving water and have a tendency to hop around on the bottom, almost like a goby. Superficially similar to the eartheaters (although phylogenetically distant), they have rows of iridescent blue spots on their sides. “Retroclus” refers to the posteror position of the eyes, well back from the snout, while “lapidifer” denotes their stone-carrying habits.)
Retroculus spp. need clean water and relatively high temps, and they appreciate a lot of current and high dissolved oxygen levels. Like eartheaters, they dig in the substrate for food (fine sand is ideal), and quickly take to frozen bloodworms, mosquito larvae, or other similar foods.
Fishbase lists a max size of 23 cm (9 inches) for R. lapidifer. These fish definitely work out a pecking order in a tank, but given plenty of room and plenty of structure, they don’t seem to damage each other. They’re likely to be more confident if kept with dither fish.
R. lapidifer is a Belem export, originating in Rio Tocantins. The closely related Retroculus xinguensis from Rio Xingu also occasionally shows up in the trade. Both species are seasonally available. Their scarcity in the hobby is mostly related to a relatively high price point. Freight from Belem is relatively high, and these fish are too sensitive to pack at high densities; both factors lead to a high landed price. They are growing in popularity among specialty retailers, and once acclimated have proven to be fairly hardy captives. They certainly have a reputation for being touchy, but as Belem exporters have improved holding and shipping techniques, the fish available recently have done exceptionally well. Most aquarists keeping them successfully recommend strong water flow from a propeller-type pump to ensure that water is always highly oxygenated.
For more on Retroculus cichlids, check your personal library for these AMAZONAS Magazine back issues:
- AMAZONAS Magazine’s March/April 2016 issue, with news of the recently described Retroculus acherontos from the upper Rio Tocantins, starting on page 12.
- AMAZONAS Magazine’s March/April 2015 Eartheater feature issue, with husbandry tips for the genus starting on page 34.