Severum Cichlid Species Profile: Size, Care, Tank Mates & Lifespan

Author: Hasty Fish

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Welcome, fellow aquarium enthusiasts, to this comprehensive Severum Cichlid species profile!

If you’ve been captivated by the vibrant beauty and captivating behavior of cichlids, particularly the Severum Cichlid, you’ve come to the right place.

In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating world of Severum Cichlids, exploring their origins, physical characteristics, behavior, care requirements, and much more.

Severum Cichlid Stats
OriginSouth America
Lifespan5-10 years
Size7-12 inches
Minimum Tank Size45 gallons
Ease of CareEasy
Water Temperature75°F to 85°F (24-29°C)
Water Hardness4-15 dGH

Severum Cichlid Species Overview

Severum Cichlid

The Severum Cichlid, scientifically known as Heros Severus, is a resilient aquatic species fondly referred to by other names such as the “poor man’s discus” or the “banded cichlid.” Irrespective of its alias, nurturing this freshwater fish in a home aquarium can be a delightful experience.

Contrary to some members of the Cichlid family that are renowned for their aggressive demeanor, Severum Cichlids exhibit a rather calm disposition. They can indeed demonstrate territorial behavior and a hint of aggression under certain circumstances. However, largely, they are tranquil fish, perfectly content in solitude.

The relatively serene nature of the Severum Cichlid opens up greater flexibility when planning a community aquarium. These fish are equally at ease living alone or sharing their habitat with other species, granting you complete freedom in setting up your tank.

Originating from South America, Severum Cichlids are natives to the Upper Occhino and Rio Negro Basins in the wild. Their usual dwelling places are the lush, slow-moving rivers brimming with vegetation.


On average, a Severum Cichlid can live up to five years. Nonetheless, under exceptional care and pristine conditions, these captivating aquatic creatures have been reported to enjoy a lifespan of up to ten years.

The longevity of Severum Cichlids, like any other living being, cannot be precisely predetermined. It is influenced by various factors, including genetic makeup and the risk of diseases. Still, as an aquarist, you have significant control over their health and lifespan.

By providing optimal care and a well-maintained habitat, you can ensure the well-being of your Severum Cichlids, promoting a longer, healthier life. In turn, these mesmerizing fish will reward you with years of pleasure and companionship.

Appearance, Colors, & Markings

When the term “Severum Cichlids” is used, it’s generally referring to the species classified as Heros Severus. However, it’s worth noting that there are several distinct species that fall under the Severum Cichlid classification.

The exact species of your fish could exhibit a range of striking color contrasts. Some may feature prominent, vertical black stripes, while others might display contrasting dots that beautifully highlight the yellow-gold base color. You might even encounter specimens showcasing hints of green or blue. Some of the color variations you will find include:

  • Gold Severum Cichlid
  • Green Severum Cichlid
  • Turquoise Severum Cichlid
  • Red Shoulder/ Rotkeil Severum Cichlid
  • Red-Spotted Severum Cichlid
  • Blue Severum Cichlid
  • White Severum Cichlid

The classic or most common Severum Cichlid species (Heros severus) has several distinctive features. Its color is predominantly yellow-gold, subtly accentuated with warm orange tones. Interestingly, these orange spots often intensify as the fish ages.

With such significant variation in color and appearance, this species understandably catches the eye of aquarium collectors and hobbyists alike. Regardless of their color differences, all Severum Cichlids share certain unmistakable traits. Their body shape, in particular, is most conspicuous.

Severum Cichlids possess a sleek, compressed body, appearing somewhat like squashed cichlids, with a distinct vertical roundness. This unique form sets them apart from other South American and African cichlids, adding to their appeal. One look at a Severum Cichlid explains their nickname as the “poor man’s discus.” Their oval body shape mirrors the iconic profile of the more expensive Discus fish.

In addition to their body shape, Severum Cichlids also boast pointed dorsal, anal, and pectoral fins. These fins taper into an elegant point, often extending beyond the caudal fin and contributing to a distinctive circular form.

Severum Cichlid Size

Typically, an adult Severum Cichlid measures about 7 inches in length.

Bear in mind this is just an average size. Occasionally, these fish may grow larger under certain circumstances, with some Severum Cichlids reportedly reaching up to twelve inches in length.

Habitat & Care

Heros Severus

Severum Cichlids are a resilient species that are notably easy to maintain. In their natural habitat, they exhibit an impressive ability to acclimate to tough conditions, which could otherwise be harmful or even lethal to other fish. This robust nature is carried forward even when they are bred in captivity.

Despite their hardiness, these fish still require a properly set-up aquarium and consistent maintenance to thrive. Adequate care not only ensures their health but also reduces their susceptibility to various diseases.

1. Recommended Tank Size

Severum Cichlids, while not the largest freshwater fish, do require a substantial amount of space for a healthy and active life. Given their active nature throughout the day, a tight aquarium could disrupt their usual behavior, potentially causing undue stress and negatively impacting their health.

Moreover, the size of the tank plays a crucial role in managing aggression. A smaller tank might trigger aggressive behavior in your fish. Although Severum Cichlids are typically more serene compared to other Cichlid species, they need ample space to display this peaceful demeanor.

I recommend using a minimum of 45 gallons of space for a Severum Cichlid. And, of course, if you can provide an even larger tank, that’s even better.

2. Ideal Water Parameters

The robust nature of Severum Cichlids makes them an ideal choice for aquariums that receive only minimal maintenance. While this is not an excuse to neglect regular upkeep, it does mean that these cichlids demand less work to keep them alive and flourishing.

And so, what’s the ideal environment for Severum Cichlids? The best approach is to mimic their natural habitat.

In their native South American waters, which are generally acidic, rivers meander through lush jungles and are often lined with trees. The falling fruits, leaves, and branches decompose in the water, releasing tannins that acidify the water and create a familiar environment for local fish.

These equatorial rivers also possess warm temperatures. While Severum Cichlids are impressively adaptable and can prosper in a range of conditions, following the parameters below will yield the best results.

  • Water temperature: 75°F to 85°F (24-29°C)
  • Water hardness: 4-15 dGH
  • pH levels: 6.0-7.5

Also, you’ll want to keep the water free from toxic substances. Thus, maintaining ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels at zero is crucial.

3. What To Put In Their Tank

Severum Cichlids are known for their propensity to dig and alter the landscape, forming hills, pits, and other structures, so you’ll want to use fine sand as your substrate.

You can also consider incorporating Indian almond leaves over the sand, which, while optional, can improve water conditions by releasing beneficial tannins, much like the vegetation found in South American rivers. If leaves aren’t your preference, small clumps of peat moss serve a similar function.

You can then enhance the tank with larger decorative elements like rock structures and driftwood, which not only contribute to the rich environment but also offer plenty of exploration opportunities for your fish. Ensure these items are securely anchored to prevent accidental disruption by the digging habits of Severum Cichlids.

Next, you want to add lush vegetation to your tank. A densely vegetated tank is preferred as these fish love navigating through plants, so don’t hold back on the decor. One thing, though, is they may potentially uproot them. To avoid this, you can opt for silk plants or provide enough distractions to deter the fish from uprooting live ones.

Choose a variety of plant species like Amazon sword, water wisteria, anubias, hornwort, and others that thrive in warm, acidic conditions preferred by these fish. Arrange these plants primarily around the edges, leaving ample space in the center for swimming.

Lastly, given that cichlids generate a significant bioload, standard hang-on-back filters might not be sufficient. Opt for a suitable canister filter capable of cycling the water multiple times an hour. Also, ensure the outlet tubes are positioned correctly, as Severum Cichlids aren’t fans of swift water currents, so diffusing the outflow from filter outlets is crucial.

4. Common Severum Cichlid Diseases: What To Look Out For

While Severum cichlids are hardy fish, they can be prone to some diseases. The most common ones are Ich, which is a highly contagious disease. It typically occurs when fish are kept in unsuitable conditions, such as incorrect water parameters or elevated levels of ammonia and nitrate.

When these conditions arise, the fish becomes stressed, which weakens their immune system. Consequently, external protozoan parasites take advantage of this weakened state and inflict damage on the fish’s body, resulting in the formation of small white dots resembling chicken pox.

Ich can spread rapidly in closed aquarium ecosystems, and if left untreated, it can be fatal. The good news is that over-the-counter medications are available to address this issue, along with the implementation of proper quarantine procedures.

While treating the affected fish, it is crucial to identify and rectify any underlying environmental issues that are causing stress. By doing so, you can effectively restore your fish’s health.

In addition to Ich, Severum cichlids may also encounter bacterial conditions like fin rot. Fin rot specifically affects the fins of these fish, and fish with larger and pointed fins are more susceptible to this problem. When the bacteria take hold, they gradually erode the fins, resulting in a frayed appearance.

Another bacterial condition that commonly affects cichlids, including Severums, is Hole-in-the-head disease. This disease causes physical pits to form on the fish’s body, rendering them more susceptible to further bacterial complications.

The good news is that both fin rot and hole-in-the-head disease can be treated with antibiotics.

Diet of the Severum Cichlid

These remarkable fish have an omnivorous appetite, making their feeding preferences a delight for hobbyists.

Severum cichlids possess a versatile palate, readily accepting a wide range of fish foods. From vegetables to worms, flakes, pellets, algae wafers, and other aquatic fare, these cichlids are not picky eaters.

When it comes to greens, Severum cichlids particularly enjoy cucumber and zucchini. Additionally, freeze-dried worms serve as a fantastic meal for these omnivores, as they are packed with essential vitamins and proteins. For a nutrient-rich diet, consider incorporating earthworms, mealworms, crickets, and brine shrimps into their feeding routine.

Although Severum cichlids appreciate a diverse menu, they also have a carnivorous side. They eagerly consume meaty foods such as shrimps, aquatic insects, aquatic animal eggs, smaller snails, and worms. Red-spotted Severums, in particular, have been known to feed on smaller fish like tetras.

On the other hand, some Severums lean towards a vegetarian diet, showing a preference for lettuce and peas. To keep their herbivorous needs met, consider introducing edible water plants into the aquarium. Species like Canadian waterweed and Brazilian elodea are highly appreciated by Severums.

As with other fish species, it’s crucial to avoid overfeeding Severum cichlids. Feeding them two to four times a day is sufficient. Providing more than necessary can lead to excess tank waste and water toxicity, negatively impacting water parameters and overall water quality.

And to ensure appropriate portion sizes, feed the Severums meals that can be consumed within five minutes. This approach guarantees you’re offering them the right amount of food for each feeding session, promoting their health and preventing waste accumulation.

Temperament & Behavior

Severum cichlids are generally peaceful and well-behaved, coexisting harmoniously with compatible tank mates. However, their behavior changes during the breeding season, when they become more protective of their eggs, females, and young juveniles.

But other than that, Severum cichlids exhibit a lively and active nature, and you’ll, in fact, find them constantly exploring their environment throughout the day. They engage in various activities, utilizing the entire water column as they search for food and seek enrichment.

A notable behavior of Severum cichlids is their affinity for digging through the sandy substrate. This fascinating activity results in the creation of impressive hills and valleys within the aquarium, which they often revisit and reshape according to their preferences. Watching their playful and energetic antics can provide endless entertainment for aquarium enthusiasts.

Severum Cichlid Tank Mates

Banded Cichlid

When it comes to choosing tank mates for your Severum cichlids, you have a variety of options to consider. While cichlids are typically challenging to incorporate into a community tank due to their aggressive nature, Severum cichlids are a unique exception.

Generally, you’ll want to avoid adding fish that are either significantly larger or smaller than the Severum cichlids. Larger fish can display aggression towards the Severums, while smaller creatures may be seen as potential prey.

For optimal compatibility, consider selecting fish of similar size and peaceful temperament as tank mates for your Severums.

In some cases, you can even pair them with other more aggressive cichlid species. However, it is essential to ensure that your tank is well-decorated, providing ample hiding spots and territories to minimize any potential conflicts.

Here are a few tank mates that are worth considering for your Severum cichlids:

Breeding Severum Cichlid

When it comes to breeding Severum cichlids, it’s a good idea to use juvenile fish rather than adult cichlids, as that will maximize the chances of success. When juvenile Severums grow together, they naturally form pairs and develop a strong bond suitable for breeding.

Once paired and ready to mate, you’ll notice the male’s colors become more vibrant and darker, and that’s when you want to transfer the breeding pair to a separate breeding tank. The male will start to pursue the female, engage in behaviors like lip-locking and tail-slapping, and establish a breeding territory. Together, they will search for flat rocky surfaces within the aquarium.

The female will lay her eggs on these flat rocks then the male will fertilize them. The eggs typically take three to five days to hatch. Severums exhibit excellent parental instincts. During this time, the male becomes highly protective and aggressively defends both the mother and the eggs.

Once the fry hatch, they can be fed with highly nutritious baby food such as micro worms and brine shrimp. Considering their small mouths, it is crucial to offer food that the tiny fish can easily consume within a few minutes.

Differences Between Male & Female Severum Cichlid

Distinguishing between male and female Severum cichlids is relatively straightforward.

Female Severums possess a distinct dark spot on their dorsal fin, which is absent in male Severums. This unique marking serves as a reliable visual cue to identify female individuals.

Meanwhile, male Severums exhibit a nuchal hump extended to their anal and dorsal fins, causing their fins to have a more pointed appearance compared to females. In addition to this characteristic, male Severums are generally larger in size and display more prominent gill structures than their female counterparts.

Wrapping Up

Caring for Severum Cichlids is a rewarding journey that can offer great joy to both novice and experienced aquarists. From understanding their natural habitat and distinctive physical attributes to meeting their dietary needs and maintaining optimal tank conditions, proper Severum Cichlid care involves a comprehensive approach.

And armed with the right knowledge, you can offer them an environment that closely mirrors their natural home, ultimately keeping your fish healthy and happy, and the result is a thriving aquarium that provides endless enjoyment.