Archocentrus sajica (T-Bar Cichlid)

Jack Dempsey

T-Bar Cichlid
Archocentrus sajica

Also Known As
Cichlasoma sajica

Pacific slope of Costa Rica

Water Requirements
Not sensitive.  I have bred these fish in soft, slightly alkaline tap water with no problems.

Flexible in temperature, but breeds in the upper 70s.  May not breed at all below around 78 degrees.  Will inhabit a room temperature tank with no problems.

Life Span
Don't know, but probably same as similar Cichlids which is 10 years or more.

Up to 5 inches.

Males are usually quite a bit larger than females, with slightly longer fins.  Mature females that are ready to spawn have a beautiful golden yellow color on their dorsal and anal fins.  This is the easiest method for sexing in the fish I have have.  The fish in the above picture is a male.  I find it easier to sex fish by behavior, shape, size and color than by shape, size and color, alone.

Not picky, my fish ate primarily a variety of dry processed foods.  For some reason, they would not eat Hikara brand foods, though.  I have spiced up the diet with earthworms and the occasional ant or other insect, in the summer months.

My fish would develop a rich dark color  with vertical stripes and blue eyes when guarding a spawn.  This color would gradually change at spawning time reaching maximum effect once the fry become free swimming.  The females golden yellow color becomes very muted during these periods.  It appears that only the dominate female ready to breed displays the golden yellow color on here fins.  Submissive females look very similar to males.  The T-bar for which the fish is named, is not always obvious in my fish, though it can be seen in the photo at the top of this page.  It is made up of the combination of two lines.  One from behind the head going back to mid body.  The other is vertical near the end of the first bar.

Behavior (not breeding)
Sajica's are fairly peaceful for Cichlids, at least until breeding time.  Males will nip and harass smaller males and females they are not interested in, but if there is a small school in the tank, this aggression will be spread out enough that no fish's life is threatened.  I have never seen them  lock jaws at any time.  They do dig quite a bit.  I found that my fish were not timid at all and swam freely throughout an aquarium, even when only two were housed alone in a 55 gallon aquarium that was located in a busy room in the house.  They would swim to the top waiting to be fed any time someone moved around in this room.

Breeding Behavior
These fish exhibits a version of Cichlid cave spawning behavior.  I recommend a temperature of around 78 degrees for spawning.  They may not spawn at lower temperatures.  The males can be really tough on a female that is not ready to spawn, to the point where he may kill her.  Once a pair reaches spawning readiness, all other fish in the tank will be extensively harassed, probably resulting in death at some point.  It is probably best to remove other fish from the tank when spawning behavior becomes evident.    The females ovipositor becomes visible a day or two before the actual spawning occurs.  My Sajica's have spawned in two locations.  One was inside a cave they dug under a large rock.  The other was on the underside of a medium sized live plant leaf.  This leaf was right outside of a cave that was later used to house the hatched fry.  Spawn size in my fish seemed to be a couple of hundred eggs and hatch in 3 to 4 days at 78 degrees.  They become free swimming in another 7 days or so.  Once the spawn hatch, the parents keep the fry in a cave dug under rock until they are free swimming.   This cave has a very narrow clearance so that the female has to swim on her side to reach the fry inside.  Even after they are free swimming the female will move the fry back  to the cave if she feels that they are threatened.   The male is not very active in the care of the young, primarily patrolling the general area.  I have left the fry with a single male parent (the female was killed by him) well past maturity, though they do become nippy toward each other.  Note, that in my experience, the male will be ready to breed within about 2 weeks after the fry become free swimming.  At that point one of two things will happen.  The female is ready to spawn and that is what they will do.  The existing fry will be driven away or killed.  The female is not ready to spawn and the the male will most likely kill her, if they are not immediately separated.

Overall Recommendation
I am very pleased with these fish, as they are not as aggressive as some other Cichlids, but still show interesting spawning behavior.  I think they make a far better selections that Jack Dempseys and Convicts for beginning Cichlid breeders.  Their color is very pleasing, if not brilliant and they rarely hide from view.

1: Aquarium Atlas, Volume 2,  H. A. Baensch, Dr Rudiger Riehl

Photo Gallery
female sajica

male JD sparing
Males and female making courting displays.
more sparing
Except for the digging,  my experience is that Sajica don't harm plants.
locking jaws
Frontal view of a female Sajica.  Note the yellowish color in the dorsal and anal fins, which is an indication of a female fish.
locking jaws 2
This female is laying eggs on the underside of a plant.  After they hatched, she moved the fry to a nearby cave that she had prepared.
Male tending the eggs
The parents and young.