Herichthys tepehua

Herichthys tepehua is a Cichlid that appeals to the imagination, whose status and distribution has occupied the minds for a long time, may already have died out in the wild. And that, before anything is known about the lifestyle of this fish.

Herichthys tepehua

This highly appealing Cichlid, whose status and distribution has occupied the minds for a long time, may already have died out in the wild. And that, before anything is known about the lifestyle of this fish. The variant from the Rio Cazones is in any case almost completely supplanted by Thorichthys maculipinnis, which has taken over the habitat of Herichthys tepehua as an invasive exotic species. After a long treasure hunt, Mauricio de la Maza-Benignos could only find the species in one of the remaining pools along the main river. Moreover, these animals were in terrible condition. According to Mauricio, remaining populations have withdrawn to the most isolated tributaries with turbid water, where limited visibility protects them from local spear fishing. Unfortunately, Herichthys tepehua has not yet been evaluated by the IUCN for a position on the red list. The species is already on the CARES-list, a consciousness and conservation initiative of Claudia Dickinson.

Don Danko called this fish “Turquoise” , during a catch trip in Central Mexico which he made together with Willem Heijns. And further “The beauty of this fish is breathtaking”. It was 1989 when both men drove through the province of Veracruz in search of Herichthys species south of Herichthys carpintis area and it was in this province where they caught the never seen before Turquoise Cichlid. With great difficulty they managed to catch a dozen that day, a few of whom reached Europe alive. Many years later a discussion arose about “where exactly” this special color morph was caught again. Had they stolen the fish in the town of Alamo, or was it the river that flows through the town of Poza Rica? Mauricio, who had lived in this area for a long time, finally came up with the redeeming answer. Both the Pantepec River, which flows through the town of Alamo, and the Cazones River, which winds through Poza Rica, feature a “Turquoise” Herichthys. Years later, the same Mauricio described this fish as Herichthys tepehua.

Geographic varieties

There are different variants of Herichthys tepehua, geographically distributed over the areas in which they occur. Basic color olive-green to Persian turquoise, where Mauricio indicates that this basic color is by no means visible to all individuals and that this is probably due to dominance. Young animals often show more yellow tones. The basic color of the Tenixtepec variant is more brownish, with a lighter belly zone. Herichthys tepehua also shows a red stripe pattern on the head and cheeks. With the Pantepec variant, the two stripes between the eye and the upper lip are particularly striking. With the Cazone, Tenixtepec, Tecolutla and Solteros variants these lines are interrupted. A black spot, or dark zone, in the middle of the dorsal fin can occur in both female and males. Sometimes also a pink spot on the operculum. The scales, golden yellow in the center, diamond-shaped bordered by turquoise, give the flanks a net-like appearance. Dorsal and anal fins have the same color as the body. Length maximum 18 centimeters for females and 23 centimeters for males.

There is no consensus about the status of this fish. Mauricio de la Maza-Benignos acknowledges that Herichthys tepehua has a strong affinity with Herichthys deppii. The differences he mentions: a longer head, narrower anal fin base, larger eyes and two striking lines under the eyes, are therefore very brief and, apart from the lines, can only be observed with measuring instruments. The color is also not a strong diagnostic tool. Turquoise is also found in Herichthys deppii, see the pictures of Lee Nuttall in the description of Herichthys deppii. Colors may also have to do with external factors such as nutrition or the presence of certain minerals in the water.

Others, such as Pérez-Miranda 2017, therefore go one step further and use genetic arguments in particular to further undermine Mauricio’s minimal distinction. Serious consideration should therefore be given to the possibility that H. tepuha appears to be a color morph of H. deppii. The future will hopefully reveal this, but then habitat loss, pollution and overfishing must be brought to an end quickly and local authorities should take environmental protection seriously. An endemic species would then come in handy.


Because of the exceptional blue-green color, this fish was known for a long time under the name Herichthys sp. Turquoise. In 2014 it was described by Mauricio de la Maza-Benignos as Herichthys Tepehua. Referring to the ethnic minority the “Tepehua Indians” in Eastern Mexico. The Indians call this fish Mojarra azul criolla.




Most northerly in the upper reaches of the río Tuxapan, the Pantepec río. This is also where the holotype comes from. The upper parts of the río Pantepec are in some places less than 4 kilometers from the Rio Cazones. This is the next river in southern direction where Herichthys tepehua is supposed to occur, but where it appears to have been replaced by Thorichthys maculipinnis. Further to the South, its original range extends into the Tenixtepec and Tecolutla regions. The southernmost location is the Solteros River, which is connected to the Nautla River, where Herichthys deppii distribution area begins. The different geographical variants are, if not extinct, extremely rare everywhere.


Studies or reports on the natural behavior of Herichthys tepehua are missing.


Nothing is known about the foraging behavior in nature, but in the aquarium it behaves like an omnivore.


An exceptionally beautiful fish for the aquarium. Yet the fish is not kept much. There is therefore little information available about aquarium care. Adult dominant males turn completely turquoise after a yellow-green spotted transition phase. Females usually stay in this transition phase. Given the high intra-specific aggression, keeping together as a couple with other large Central American cichlids is perhaps the best option. The water quality is probably more important than the water composition. Temperature 24 – 28 degrees Celsius.

Breeding Herichthys tepehua

As mentioned, this fish is on the CARES list. It is therefore advisable to breed this fish in an organized context: Cares fish preservation program. This can be used to try to preserve the species (at least ex-situ). Breeding Herichthys tepehua makes no special demands on grower or setup and is comparable to other Herichthys species. Don Danko achieved great success with tanks of less than 300 liters. In this setup the species was bred in pairs. The breeding colors consist of accentuation of crossbands on the back half of the body and a black chin and belly. This contrasts with a whitish front half of the body. The approximately 500 eggs are preferably laid on a horizontal surface. The incubation is like other Herichthys species. Fry are dragged from pit to pit by both parents. On a diet of artemia, (later cyclops) and spirulina, the fry grow like cabbage. With sufficient water change, they can grow to three centimeters in eight weeks.


Rene Beerlink – NVCweb

Copyright images

Herichthys molango – Creative Commons – Attribution – Share Alike


De la Maza-Benignos M. et al. 2014. Phylogeographic analysis of genus Herichthys Perciformes Cichlidae with descriptions of Nosferatu new genus and H. tepehua n. sp.


— Cichlid Room. 2005. Herichthys ID (Pantepec and Poza Rica) By Willem Heijns.
— Danko D. 2002. Collecting, Maintaining and Spawning the Turquoise Herichthys
— De la Maza Benignos M. et al. 2014. Phylogeographic analysis of genus Herichthys Perciformes Cichlidae with descriptions of Nosferatu new genus and H tepehua n. sp.
— De la Maza Benignos, Mauricio. 2005. Where the Huasteca Meets Totonacapan, Uncovering the missed out Herichthys.
— Heijns W. 1991. “Cichlasoma” sp. “Pantepec” Het Cichliden jaarboek Volume 1. blz 72
commentaar red., de foto van C. sp. “Pantepec” is verwisseld met die van C. sp. “Poza Rica”.
— Heijns W. 1991. “Cichlasoma” sp. “Poza Rica” Het Cichliden jaarboek Volume 1. blz 73
commentaar red., de foto van C. sp. “Poza Rica” is verwisseld met die van C. sp. “Pantepec”.
— Pérez-Miranda F. et al. 2017. Phylogeny and species diversity of the genus Herichthys.

Additional information


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Social Behaviour

Breeding behaviour




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Minimum aquarium length in cm

Length maximum in cm

Temperature minimum

Temperature maximum


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