American Cichlids – Gold Severum (Heros severus)

Updated on January 30, 2021 by

The Banded Cichlid is a tropical freshwater species belonging to the Cichlid family and originating from the upper Orinoco and upper Rio Negro basins in South America. Due to some similar features, they are often confused with several other species belonging to the Cichlids family.

Quick stats – Banded Cichlid

OriginSouth America
Max size8” / 20 cm
AquariumMin 50 gallon / 200 liters
Water75-84° F / 24-29° C

KH 1-5, pH 6.0-7.0

Care levelModerate
ColorsGold, brown, red spots

Banded Cichlid description

Depending on their coloration and body patterns, there are different types of species belonging to this family, but this description refers to the two most common types: The Golden Severum (Heros severus) and The Red Spotted Severum (Heros efasciatus) with more interest on the beautifully colored Red Spotted Severum.

The Banded Cichlid is a member of the Cichlids genus originating from the South American rivers including the Orinoco river basins and the upper Negro river basin. Just like the Discus fish, the Severum Cichlid has a high body, laterally compressed with pointed anal and dorsal fins.

The original Severum Cichlid has a greenish body with a yellowish gold belly. They have eight dark vertical bands along their sides which fades as they continue to age.  They owe their name ‘Banded Cichlids’ to these peculiar body bands.

Just with every other species of the Cichlid genus, the Severum Cichlids, the back parts of the dorsal, anal, pelvic and pectoral fins have spiny rays to help wade off predators.

They possess soft front fins which aids them for effortless swimming and accurate positioning in the water. They also possess one nostril on each side.

However, to produce many color varieties, they have been bred in tank captivity producing the brown, green, gold and turquoise severum.

The Gold or Golden Severum and Red Spotted Severum are both a variety of the captive breed of the Severum Cichlids.

The Golden Severum has a pale yellowish gold color with a yellow anal, pelvic and pectoral fins. The tail and dorsal fins are whitish with yellow spots. The eyes are also yellow in color.

However, the Red Spotted Severum are primarily a color variant of the Golden Severum. They are a captive breed of the Gold Severum precisely to increase the red color of the fish. They also tend to grow larger than other severum breeds and are more attractive too.

They possess bright orange-red color on their bellies, anal and pelvic fins with an intense and bright red eyes.

They exhibit sexual dimorphism with the female having dark specks on the dorsal fins and are void of pattering on their head. The male has a ponted anal and dorsal fins and can even develop a nuchal hump if they are properly fed.

Banded Cichlid in the natural habitat

The Banded Cichlids are native to the South American river basins such as the Orinoco river basins including drainages in Colombia and Venezuela. They are also found in the Amazon river basins and the upper Negro river.

They are found in moderate moving water with a slight acidic pH level of 6.0-6.5, water hardness ranging from 4-6 dGH and a temperature of 23.3-28.9˚C.

Sand substrate makes up their natural habitat, and they thrive well in areas with dense vegetations. As omnivores, in the wild, they feed on plants, algae and smaller live prey.

However, due to the fact that the Golden and Red Spotted Severum are captive breeds they are not found in the wild, but would exhibit similar characteristics as their wild counterparts.

Banded Cichlid in the ideal aquarium

Gold Severum Cichlid

Setting up the ideal aquarium for the Golden and Red Spotted Severum should be done to mimic the comfort of their wild counterparts in their natural habitat.

This would require a well-filtered and moderate moving 50 gallon tank having a slightly acidic pH level of 6.0-6.5, water hardness ranging from 4-6 dGH and a temperature of 23.3-28.9˚C, so getting a heater is something you should definitely consider. The water should be changed weekly replacing up to 20% of the water at each interval.

They are social species and can be kept in schools of 4-6. But as soon as they start to grow, a larger tank should be sought for because they can grow to an exceeding size of 20 cm. Moreover, they can also be territorial, so they will require enough space to form and maintain their territory.

A fine sand substrate would be perfect. Lots of rocks and sunken driftwoods can be used to provide caves and alleyways which allow for hiding places, a hunting spot for prey, a breeding spot and also help them to create territorial boundaries. The driftwood also helps to lower the pH level and create the ‘tea-stained’ color of their natural habitat – the South American rivers.

To mimic the dense vegetation area of their natural habitat, the tank can be decorated with both live and plastic plants. Plants such as the Anacharis, Anubias, Cabomba, and Hornwort will create a natural home feel for the Golden and Red Spotted Severum. Some of these plants can be deeply planted in the substrate as these species tend to dig the substrate or floating, as they enjoy playing amongst their leaves and will also help to diffuse light and provide shades too.

As social species, they can be kept with other species, but this will require a larger tank of 100 gallon or more. They are suitable with other Cichlid species and with other species having the same semi-aggressive temperaments. They can also be kept with peaceful species.

Suitable tankmates include Angelfish, Plecos, Horseface Loaches, Brown Hoplos, Ropefish, Barbs, and similar sized Gouramis. Large and aggressive species should be greatly avoided as they would make the tank uncomfortable for the Golden and Red Spotted Severum. Also little, peaceful and slow moving species, should also be avoided as the Golden and Red Spotted Severum can prey on these little ones.

Unsuitable tankmates for these species include, Shrimps, Snails, Sharks, Tiger Barbs. However, the Golden and Red Spotted Severum are best kept in a singular tank, or most suitably with pairs of the same kind.

Banded Cichlid feeding

Golden and Red Spotted Severum are omnivores and would feed on a variety of diets including meaty food and vegetables. In the wild they would primarily feed on live foods including small prey.

Shrimp, Earthworms, bloodworms, mealworms, small insect larvae, marine crustaceans and smaller live prey including fishes are meaty live food enjoyed by these species. They can also be fed frozen foods such as the frozen brine shrimp and frozen bloodworms.

They should also be fed with vegetables. They tend to prefer vegetables to most of their meaty foods. Preferred vegetables would include lettuce, peas, zucchini and cucumber.

They also have a craving appetite for flakes, pellets, tablets and other processed food and feeding them with these will certainly make the day for these lovely species. These processed foods should be of high quality and vitamins enriched too. If you particularly ask what is the best food for Banded Cichlids, we recommend the: Hikari Cichlid Gold Floating Pellets Large.

Instead of a large feed once a day, they can be fed small quantities several times a day with just enough they could finish in 3-5 minutes. Every leftover should be removed as soon as they are done eating.

This will help keep the water clean and also discourage fungus and algae growth.

Banded Cichlid breeding

For efficient breeding, a breeding tank should be set up with slightly acidic water pH of 6.0-6.5, hardness of 4-6 dH and a temperature of 26-28˚C subject to frequent water changing.

A group of 4-6 juveniles male and female can be introduced into the tank. With time they will naturally pair up and select breeding mates. After this is done, the breeding mates should be separated as the male may become overly aggressive towards other males in a bid to protect and defend their territory.

The male and female should be properly fed to induce breeding. Also increasing the water temperature will encourage breeding. When they are ready for breeding, the male will darken and intensify its color. They will lock their lips and tail slap before the actual spawning process.

The male and female will then clean a rock top or dig into the substrate to prepare a place for their eggs. Also a chunk of wood would provide a good spot for spawning.

Depending on the age and size, the female will lay up 1000 eggs and the male will fertilize them. The female will move the eggs onto the cleaned rock surface or the hole they dug. Then both parents will then defend and protect their eggs until they hatch. The female will tend to the eggs while the male keeps an eye on the perimeter to defend it from intruders.

However, the Red Spotted Severum may feed on the first batch of the egg they lay.

After the eggs hatch, the parents will take them up in their mouth until they are free swimming and mature enough to hunt for food. The fry can be fed with baby brine shrimp, crushed flake or pellet foods, micro worms and daphnia.

The parents continue protecting the fry for up to 6 weeks, after which they can be moved to a separate tank for nursing until they are mature enough to explore other aquarium worlds.

To conclude

The Banded Cichlids are lovely species with great personalities and exhibit colors and patterns to lighten up the tank and bring decor to the room.

Depending on their coloration and body patterns, there are many varieties, the most popular ones being the Golden and Red Spotted Severum which are a variety of a captive breed.

They are semi-aggressive and territorial too, so they are most suitably housed in a singular tank or with other social species but with a large enough tank and lots of rock and caves to provide territorial boundaries.

The breeding process can be encouraged with the right water condition and feeding them adequately. The parents have strong parental instincts and will both tend to their eggs until they hatch and are free swimming.

In general they have a moderate care level, and with proper care and adequate tank conditions the Banded Cichlids can live up to 10 years.

Banded Cichlid FAQs

How long do Banded Cichlids live?

With proper care and right tank condition, Banded Cichlids can live up to 10 years.

What is the maximum size of Banded Cichlids?

Banded Cichlids can grow up to 20 cm long.

What are the suitable tank mates for Banded Cichlids?

Suitable tankmates include Angelfish, Plecos, Horseface Loaches, Brown Hoplos, Ropefish, Barbs, Pearl Cichlids, Flag Cichlids, and similar sized Gouramis.

What is the best food for Banded Cichlids?

Banded Cichlids are omnivores, and can be fed with small live and frozen foods. They also have a craving for vegetables and processed foods. Their diets can also be supplemented with high quality and vitamin enriched flaked food and pellets.