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Spawning Theraps wesseli

This secretive cichlid will breed in aquaria — but watch out, as they spawn in a violent fashion.

By Dan Woodland |

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After my second trip to Honduras, I was lucky enough to bring home six adult specimens of Theraps wesseli from the Rio Jutiapa, Jutiapa, Honduras. This cichlid was described by the late Robert Rush Miller, Ph.D., at the University of Michigan, who named it after Rusty Wessel, the man who discovered it. Miller was instrumental in describing several fish of Central America and Mexico. His book Freshwater Fishes of Mexico, which was published posthumously in 2005, describes many types of Mexican fish.

Theraps wesseli are extremely secretive, which makes them difficult to catch, photograph and film. Their visual acuity is very good, allowing them to take flight long before you enter their comfort zone. Great patience is needed to watch these fish in their natural habitat and in the aquarium. The only way to see them up close in the wild is to move slowly toward them, much like a lion stalking its prey — and that does not always work. Although they are tough to even view in the wild, the local fisherman are adept at catching them. We were lucky enough to have Rusty Wessel with us on our trip because he remembered one of these uniquely qualified fishermen, who agreed to help us find some wild specimens.

Want to read the full story? Pick up the February 2011 issue of Aquarium Fish International today.

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