Amatitlania altoflava

Amatitlania altoflava is an asset to our hobby in several ways. It is one of the few Central Americans that we can rightly call a “dwarf cichlid”.

Amatitlania altoflava

Amatitlania altoflava is an asset to our hobby in several ways. First, it is one of the few Central Americans that we can rightly call a “dwarf cichlid”. Males do not grow larger than 10 centimetres and the females usually do not even reach 8 centimetres. And this fish is also very attractively coloured. Its closely related nephew Cryptoheros nanoluteus is called “The Jewel of Panama” and Amatitlania altoflavus is certainly not inferior to this. In the mating season, Amatitlania altoflava wears a black mask on a golden body that creates a beautiful contrast. Females not only remain smaller but can also be easily recognized by a single or multiple ocellus spot in the dorsal fin.


Alto = high, flavus = yellow. Compared to its closest relative Cryptoheros nanoluteus, this fish is taller and shows more yellow. The genus name “Cryptoheros” is somewhat paradoxical. “Crypto” means “hidden” and “heros” is “hero”. Then you get “a hero hiding”. Freely translated “A hero on socks” ;).

Synonyms: Cryptoheros altoflavus, Archocentrus altoflavus.


Panama (endemic)


Known only from the Rio Cañaveral basin that flows into the Atlantic Ocean just east of Laguna Chiriqui. Here it inhabits medium to fast flowing rivers with a stony bottom. This region is difficult to access and only accessible by boat. As a result, wild-caught has only reached European and American aquarists very little. It is suspected that a large part of the European Cryptoheros nanoluteus actually consists of Amatitlania altoflava (Hanneman 2010), which in turn is rare in America. This would be the result of the first two catching expeditions, one French and one American, in which the American Team failed to reach the Rio Cañaveral.


Relatively peaceful Cichlid that, however, stands her ground in comparison to other species. We call this conspecific aggression.


In nature, they feed on algae, detritus, small crustaceans and invertebrates. They are also omnivores in the aquarium. Mosquito larvae, daphnia, brine shrimp, live or frozen. Dry food is also accepted, but a variety of food keeps them healthy, and that certainly applies to this kind of omnivore. That is why we must not forget to offer them something vegetable every now and then, in the form of spirulina for example.

Breeding Amatitlania altoflava

As the genus name already suggested, we are dealing with a cave brooder. They lay up to 200 eggs in a cave. This lair is heroically defended. After three days the eggs hatch and after another 7 days the fry swim free. The scene that follows is for many the reason that we keep Cichlids and separating the nest and parents is, therefore, a mortal sin. But not just for the enthusiast. You deprive the fish of an important part of behavioural development and an important selection moment. Never take the nest away from the parents. Even if the first clutches fail. Just let them practice.

The species is not on the IUCN list of endangered animals but is included in the C.A.R.E.S. Program. This is an awareness and conservation initiative of the American Cichlid Association ACA.

The Aquarium

Because we are dealing with a small, relatively quiet species here, an aquarium of 100 centimetres in length is sufficient for one couple. However, due to their conspecific temperament, an aquarium of at least 140 centimetres is required for 2 couples.

Water quality takes precedence over water parameters ​​that are around neutral in nature. This means frequent and regular water changes and powerful filtration. Temperature 24-26 Celsius. Planting is possible although the only plants they encounter in nature are the grasses that hang from the bank in the water. (Dan Woodland 2008). If we want to fully appreciate the beauty of this fish we should not keep them together with the larger Central Americans. It is better to accompany them with a group of livebearers or characins.



Rene Beerlink – NVC

Copyright foto’s

Matthijs Meindertsma


Datz: Aquarien Terrarien,Volume 56, Pagina 256

Last Updated on 30 June 2021 by John

Additional information






Archocentrus altoflavus, Cryptoheros altoflavus

Breeding behaviour



Min. aquarium length in cm





Length minimum in cm


Length maximum in cm


Temperature minimum


Temperature maximum



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