As with most Neotropical cichlids, a breeding pair of Mayan cichlids should be kept on their own to avoid injuring other fish, as well as to avoid stressing the parents to the point of turning on each other or their brood. The only reason to keep a breeding pair in the company of others is so that they have "target fish" on which to focus their aggression, which can help strengthen the pair bond and increase the motivation to protect the territory and the babies. As with other territorial fishes, one way to keep the aggressive parents in the same tank as other fish is to separate them with a plastic screen or mesh, such as egg crate. The fish can see one another, and even smell and taste one another through the mesh, but are unable to injure each other. However, this latter arrangement is more appropriate for introducing belligerent breeding partners, or for separating incompatible community tank mates, than it is for housing a breeding pair. This is because the baby fish are likely to swim to the other side of the barrier and get eaten, and the parents might still get too nervous. A safer approach is to house the parents in an aquarium right next to the aquarium that contains the other fish. Although unable to smell or taste their opponents, the parents will still see these other fish and perceive them as a threat like any other target fish. A barrier to vision, such as a piece of cardboard, can be placed between the tanks to give the parents a break from aggressively defending their territory from time to time. Another way to achieve this illusion of a community is to hold a mirror up to the parents' aquarium for short periods. The pair will perceive their reflections as strangers and will feel like "teaming up" to protect their young, but will do no harm to anyone and will not get so stressed out that their pair bond breaks down.
As in most substrate-spawning cichlids, the adults are excellent parents, mouthing the eggs to keep them free of fungi, and then caring for the babies diligently. The young can be reared in much the same way as those of other substrate spawners. They are typically born in broods numbering from about 100-500. They must be given frequent feedings of brine shrimp Artemia nauplii, hard-boiled egg yolk, or infusoria for their first week of life. After that they can be given finely powdered flake food and frozen food along with their parents. The parents will often guard the babies for a month, after which time the babies can be removed from their parents' care and placed in their own separate aquarium. They can remain there until they reach about 2 inches (5 cm), at which time they will be ready to be kept with other fish of similar temperament.
Whether kept for breeding or viewing, the Mayan cichlid is an interesting fish. It sports beautiful colors and patterns, and has complex behavior for the aquarist to observe, admire, and study. However, because of its special requirements, it is not suitable for the novice aquarist. But when kept with plenty of space, a good diet, and compatible tank mates, the Mayan cichlid can provide years of enjoyment for its human keepers.
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