Cribroheros alfari – Pastel Cichlid

Cribroheros alfari can vary in body length, height, caudal and dorsal fin length, lateralline, markings and in color. Even within one area, the fish can occur in various forms.


Cribroheros alfari – Pastel Cichlid

Cribroheros alfari is found in the most diverse water types. From fast-flowing mountain streams to stagnant water, from hard to soft water, from white to clear and with a temperature tolerance of 20 to 34 degrees Celsius (Werner 1999). You could therefore say that we are dealing with a real opportunist. Yet this is not entirely true. A true opportunist can handle different circumstances with one genotype. This is not the case with the Cribroheros alfari. We have a wide variety of local forms within the name alfari. Adjustments to local circumstances. In essence, these are all different fish. A start of speciation.

Cribroheros alfari can vary in body length, height, caudal and dorsal fin length, lateral line, markings and in color. Even within one area, the fish can occur in various forms. The fish in river basins that flow into the Pacific are generally a bit longer, have an interrupted lateralline and fewer blue dots on cheeks and gill lids.

Characteristics that occur with most forms are a yellow head, pinkish belly, Yellow pectoral fin rays, six crossbands and, just like with Thorichthys, a red dorsal fin hemp. The sexes are not that easy to tell apart. Males are slightly larger, about 22 centimeters and have a somewhat angular head profile. Females usually do not grow larger than 18 centimeters, are somewhat richer in contrast and often have a dark zone between the 7th and 12th dorsal ray.


Cribroheros alfari is named after Anastsio Alfaro (1865-1951) Zoologist, geologist, explorer and later director of the National Museum in Costa Rica. Synonyms: Astatheros alfari, Cichlasoma alfari, Amphilophus alfari, Cichlasoma alfaroi, Cichlosoma lethrinus, Cichlasoma lethrinus, Cichlasoma bouchellei.


Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama.


From the Patuca river in Honduras, North-West to the Rio Guarumo in Panama South-East. Beyond this point, Alfari’s distribution area seamlessly blends into the distribution area of an Astatheros spec discovered not long ago. (Don Danko 1997). This is probably very closely related to Astatheros alfari. In Costa Rica, the fish also occurs in rivers that flow into the Pacific.

Although Astatheros alfari can be found in all kinds of water types, the center of gravity seems to be quite strong flowing water. So upstream and midstream rivers. There is one known location where the species also occurs in standing water. Namely Lake Arenal (Costa Rica), this is an artificial reservoir with the original village of Arenal at the bottom of the lake, but here the species is declining rapidly.


This species, which is small for Central American standards, is not extremely aggressive to other fish, but they can argue with each other. I would therefore rather house them per couple combined with other species, than in a group of their own. Even in nature they do not indicate that they like to breed in colonies. For example, we could combine a flock of these fish with Archocentrus septemfasciatus, Hypsophtys nicaraguensis, Neetroplus nematopus and astynaxes. These are species with which they naturally live together. The fish like to dig a lot.


Benthic omnivore.

Breeding Cribroheros alfari

Parental substrate brooder. In nature, the animals prefer to spawn in a shallow pit in the slower flowing parts of the river. Parents with young can be recognized by the downward-facing yellow-edged pectoral fins. With this they flag their fry and inform when there is danger or when the coast is clear again.


At least 150 centimeters for a couple and 180 centimeters combined with other fish. Rounded rocks combined with a sandy bottom in connection with excavation needs. Hardy plants (eg Echinodorus) are possible, if properly anchored. Good filtering with overcapacity, varied feeding. Take into account its omnivorous dietary habits, not only in the form of frozen mysis, artemia, krill, but also vegetable, such as cooked and crushed peas and spirulina. Dry food is of course also fine. Water, from soft to medium hard. pH Neutral to alkaline. Temperature from 23 to 27 Celsius.



Rene Beerlink – NVC

Copyright images



Seth Eugene Meek 1907. “Notes on Fresh-water fishes from Mexico and Central America”.


Hans A. Baensch, Dr Rüdiger Riehl 1985. Aquarien Atlas band 2, blz 861.

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