Sam Borstein's Cichlid Page

Archocentrus panamensis
(Meek & Hildebrand, 1913)

Panama Cichlid
Synonyms: Cichlasoma panamensis, Cryptoheros panamensis, Neetroplus panamensis

Archocentrus panamensis
Above: A male Archocentrus panamensis. Photo by Sam Borstein.


Genus- Arch= anus (Greek), kentron= sting (Greek), Referring to the anal fin spines.
Species- panamensis= from Panama.


Archocentrus panamensis is a very pretty, small growing C. American, endemic to Panama. This fish, typed by Meek and Hildebrand in 1913, is not the most popular member of Archocentrus, but is definitely one of the more colorful and aggressive species.

This fish has been thrown around when it comes to phylogenetics. It was thought to be a member on Neetroplus for a while, but after looking at teeth and jaw structure it was moved to Archocentrus and then later to Cryptoheros by Allgayer in 2001. The placement into Neetroplus is understood if one ever took a look at the type specimen. The type is a large fish and the mouth structure on it is quite similar to that of Neetroplus. It is debated by some taxonomists if the genus Cryptoheros is valid or not as the description is poorly done. I therefore leave it as a member of Archocentrus for the time being. Schmitter-Soto described a subgenus for this fish, Panamius (2007). I personally think that this could be raised to a full generic level as I believe this fish belongs to an as of yet described genus.


Archocentrus panamensis is only found in Panama. There seems to be a fair amount of color variation in this species depending on where it is caught. This may be something for taxonomists to look at in the future.

Size, Maturity, and Sexual Dimorphism:

Size: Males- 6 inches, Females- 4 inches
Maturity: 1 inch
Sexual Dimorphism: Males are larger than females and attain trailers to the anal and dorsal fin. Males also possess a steeper cranial profile. Females take on a black and white breeding dress.

Archocentrus panamensis female
Above: A female Archocentrus panamensis. Photo by Sam Borstein.


Archocentrus panamensis is an easy fish to keep although they are extremely aggressive. A large tank is needed. Archocentrus panamensis seems to be mostly aggressive within its own species, but will go after other fish. If you want to keep them with something, look for a fast fish that can take a beating. Aggression between individuals, especially males is extreme and they will eventually whittle down to a pair. Males can also turn on females rather quickly. I'd recommend a minimum tank size of 55 gallons.

Archocentrus panamensis is a hearty fish and really needs no special treatment. They will do great if you can do water changes once a week. Their color will be far more intense and in my experience, they will be more likely to spawn.


Archocentrus panamensis is an omnivore and will accept almost any food offered. A mixed diet of a high quality flake and pellet should be fed. I'd recommend feeding these fish a fair amount of fibrous food and a good spirulina flake should suffice.


Archocentrus panamensis is easy to breed. They will breed young and small, my female was about an inch and my male 1.5 inches when they first bred! These fish once started won't stop. If I pulled eggs or fry my pair would spawn again within 10 days.

Before spawning the female changes color drastically. Instead of having the mottled red color, they turn a mottled black and white.

Archocentrus panamensis female defending fry
Above: A female Archocentrus panamensis in breeding color. Photo by Sam Borstein.

Archocentrus panamensis make great parents. Like many Central American, the female stays over and fans the spawn while the male defends the territory. In My experience with Archocentrus panamensis, the female does all the work. She is relentless towards any other fish, even the male. She had all the other fish in a 3 foot tank pinned in the corners, except for the male who was on the other side. Once free swimming, the female allowed the male into the territory. Together they raised the fry for about 1 month until I pulled them.

Fry are easy to raise and grow quickly. They do great at first on baby brine shrimp and then on crushed flake. The pose no issues and are easy to raise.


Archocentrus panamensis is one of my favorite Centrals. They are nasty, pretty, and easy to keep. If you like members of the convict like fishes you will love these guys. I do recommend keeping an easier species similar to convicts first, because these can be difficult to deal with. Don't expect to find these at a pet shop. These fish are available from hobbyists though and are relatively inexpensive.