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Tiger Severum – Heros serverus

Tiger Severum - Heros serverus

Cichlids are a very ancient and extensive classification of fishes dating back millions of years before, for example, dinosaurs. Cichlids probably originated around 550 million years ago (give or take a month or two 😀) and there are somewhere in the region of 2,000 to 3,000 different species, of which around 1,700 have been classified (at the time of writing).

Cichlids can make excellent community fish but you should take care because not all Cichlids are good community fish and may devastate an established aquarium, treating their tankmates as food, so before choosing a Cichlid, please ensure that you know whether or not your choice will be appropriate to your needs.

Is Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) a good community fish? Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) should be considered to be an excellent community fish assuming that the community is one of non-aggressive, non-predatory species. Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) is suitable for all community aquariums although it can be somewhat territorial during breeding. 

Key Facts about Tiger Severum (Heros serverus)

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)Tiger Severum Cichlid – also known as:
Banded Severum
Banded Cichlid
Curare Severum
Eye-Spot Cichlid
Hero Severum
Hero Cichlid
Scientific nameHeros serverus
Originate fromUpper reaches of the Rio Negro in Colombia, near the town of San Felipe in South America
Care requiredEasy to care for and very beautiful
TemperamentRelatively placid fish but territorial during spawning
Colour & FormGourami-shaped body with very elegant finnage
LifespanUp to 10 years
Adult size10 inches – Male larger than female
DietOmnivorous – eats Daphnia, Bloodworm, Tubifex worms and pellet food in the aquarium.
Aquarium size48 inches in length or greater
Compatible withMost other Tetras, Barbs, Danios, Guppies and other livebearers, dwarf cichlids, smaller Gouramis, catfish and loaches that live in fairly neutral, soft water
Avoid keeping withAggressive species in too small an aquarium
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Water temp75 – 84 Fahrenheit
Water pH6.0 to 7.5
Water hardness (dGH or dH)4 to 12 dGH

Origins of Tiger Severum (Heros serverus)

Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) is found in the upper reaches of the Rio Negro in Colombia, near the town of San Felipe in South America. 

It is usually found in nature in soft, acidic, flowing water and is one of the most recent “severus” species, having been formerly classified in 2015. Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) is also cited as being the “true “ severus.

Basic Characteristics of Tiger Severum (Heros serverus)

Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) will grow up to around 10 inches in length in the aquarium (and more than that in the wild). The male will tend to be the larger of the adults. In young fish, it is difficult (pretty impossible) to distinguish between the sexes so if you are purchasing young fish then buy half-a-dozen or more and you should have a mix of the sexes. When you find that two of the group have paired off then the remaining fish should be moved to a different tank, as the male can be particularly territorial whilst breeding.

There is very little if anything to distinguish the male from the female but, you will see that the adult male’s dorsal fin comes to a point at the upper rear whilst that of the female has a rounded end to her dorsal fin. Similarly, in adults, the anal fin of the male tends to be more pointed at the rear.

In shape, Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) resembles a Gourami, with its relatively tall and slender body and long dorsal fin.

The Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) has evolved to make the best use of its environment and is omnivorous, will eat plants (pulling them up in the process) and, it seems, they enjoy lettuce and peas.

The lifespan of Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) is around ten years but this can vary enormously depending on tank conditions and general health.

Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) prefers neutral to slightly hard, alkaline water, with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5 in and a temperature range between 75 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit and 4 to 12 dGH. Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) will be comfortable with other species of similar size that prefer this type of water chemistry.

Tiger Severum (Heros serverus), being a Cichlid, is a very gentle species but will become very territorial whilst mating and the male, in particular, will chase other fish to the other end of its territory, should they come close. Because territorial behavior varies widely amongst individual fish, you may find that yours may chase other fish away whilst another may launch a full-on attack so you need to be particularly vigilant at spawning times.

Tiger Severum (Heros serverus), whilst being a relatively large fish has a relatively small mouth so it is usually quite safe to keep it in company with much smaller species, though, due to its size, a larger aquarium is strongly advised.

The Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) gets on well with pretty well all other fishes (that are not reputed to be predatory) and is generally an excellent community species.

Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) will generally dwell near the bottom of the water column and will enjoy a fine substrate, and plenty of rocks, as the female will spawn either on the substrate or on rocks which the breeding pair will prepare for the purpose.

The physical appearance of Tiger Severum (Heros serverus)

Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) has a slim body, tall in height rather like a Gourami. The body is a pale gold or dark silver in color with seven wide, vertical, black, stripes running top to bottom starting behind the head and extending to the caudal peduncle. The black stripes are around the same width as the underlying body color. The tip of the caudal peduncle also has a thin black strip run up its length

The body color spans the head, which is mottled with dark grey, the body, the leading edge of the dorsal, ventral and anal fins.

A few more characteristics may be described as follows:

  • The dorsal fin is shallow, with spiny rays which flares up above the caudal peduncle.
  • The dorsal and anal fins of the adult male tends to be more extended at the rear than that of the female and ends in a point, whilst that of the female is more rounded.
  • The adult male tends to be larger than the adult female
  • The dorsal and anal fin has a long, black leading-edge, is gold along the front half but clear (hyaline) at the rear third, ending in a point.
  • The mouth is relatively small for the overall size of the fish so it is safe to keep with smaller species.
  • The eyes have a beautiful, orange iris.

The living environment for Tiger Severum (Heros serverus)

Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) enjoys being in and around rocks and caves. Only one adult pair from a single generation should be kept in the aquarium unless the aquarium is of sufficient size to facilitate two (or more) territories.

Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) will appreciate a soft substrate, as they will tend to make new hollows into which they may lay their eggs.

Note that Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) is biparental will generally make good parents for any brood that they are rearing. They are not, however, monogamous for life.

It is recommended that Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) are kept as a small shoal only until two of the adults have paired up, after which, the remainder of the shoal should be relocated to a different aquarium. The male, in particular, can be very territorial (but does not appear to launch a physical attack, merely chasing away “trespassers”) but setting up the tank so that sightlines are broken up will mitigate the risks of territorial behavior in general. 

When purchasing Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) it is generally recommended to buy around six fish. It will be impossible to sex the fish when purchasing them as immature specimens but, in due course, they will find their own mate and are, from that point, generally both biparental. Remember that this fish will grow to up to ten inches in length so be certain that you have sufficient space in which to house them properly.

Overall, Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) are the most attractive, unusual and elegant addition to your aquarium.

The diet of Tiger Severum (Heros serverus)

Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) is primarily omnivorous but has a preference for plant materials and those keeping them report that they rather enjoy lettuce and peas. It also loves live food, feeding on a range of invertebrates in nature. In the aquarium a diet of live or frozen Artemia, Bloodworm and Daphnia is recommended and Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) will readily eat pelleted food and flake food. That said, they prefer to stay close to the bottom of the water column and browse the rocks and plants. For this reason, a fine substrate is recommended.

Sexual differences in Tiger Severum (Heros serverus)

It is very difficult to distinguish the sex of the Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) until it becomes adult. The adult male is slightly larger, but this is unreliable. The female is also fuller-bodied when viewed from above when carrying eggs (gravid). The best clue is the pointed tip of the adult male’s dorsal and anal fins and the rounded tip of the female’s dorsal fin. 

Aquarium size for Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) 

It is generally advised that the minimum tank size for Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) should be one of at least 48 inches in length or more due to the fact that a shoal of around six per species should be maintained initially and the adult fish are territorial within their own species and within their own genus. This will enable your Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) to find an area of the aquarium which the pair can call home. A smaller tank will be too restrictive (unless it is a breeding tank) and the fish will suffer as a result whilst a larger tank is always to be recommended.

In a community tank, including some floating Java Moss will give smaller fish and any fry a safe haven from larger or more vigorous species and it certainly helps to break up the sightlines in the aquarium. Plenty of rocks are advised for Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) because they have evolved to gather around and amongst them.

There is a predominance of so-called “Nano tanks” available but, being old-fashioned, I prefer my fishes to live in an environment which, at least, attempts to mimic nature, rather than living in what I would liken to a piscine prison cell. The tank should be well-planted but with clear areas where the fish can swim freely. The water should have a certain amount of movement, as Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) enjoy a flow of water.

Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) – Videos

Young, adult Tiger Severum video

Tiger Severum pre-spawning video

Are you keeping tropical fish as a hobbyist or as a breeder?

This is a question too often ignored in my humble opinion. If you are a breeder (either commercially or as a hobbyist who gives away young fish to other hobbyists) then you will need the resources to move fish into breeding tanks in order to maximize the yield of fry that will grow up either for sale or to give them away.

If you are keeping fish for the joy of observing them in something resembling a natural habitat then you may feel that it is appropriate to allow nature to take its course and, as and when different species breed, then many of the eggs (and surviving fry) will be eaten either by their parents or by other fish in your aquarium. This is the natural order of things because this is what will happen in nature. The fittest may well survive to reach adulthood.

Ultimately, the choice is yours to make.

How do Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) breed?

In total, the female Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) could lay between 100 to 1000 eggs during a single spawning. Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) will lay the eggs either on a cleaned rock or slate or on the substrate. The eggs are brown and adhesive.

The female will constantly fan the eggs to ensure that they are getting sufficient oxygen and she will eat any unfertilized eggs. In the meantime, the male will chase away any and all threats to his territory.

Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) eggs will hatch in around three to five days, depending on water temperature and chemistry. At this point the parents may move them to a pre-prepared pit in the substrate. It is not unknown for parents to mess this up and eat the brood so you may wish to consider moving the eggs before they hatch. The fry (or “wrigglers”) will become free-swimming several days later. Again, this is conditional on water temperature and condition.

It is generally true that Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) make really good parents and will not prey on their own young. In general, the male will protect the territory whilst the female will tend to care for the eggs and fry but these roles are interchangeable.

The female will tend to stay close to the eggs, fanning water over them which will remove any unfertilized eggs and thus protect the rest from the risk of fungus.

The male will provide “overwatch” around the broader area, gently warding off potential predators.

The Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) takes responsibility for post-spawning care and may become aggressive if it feels that the brood is threatened. For this reason, if possible, a breeding tank is recommended.

If Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) feels threatened, it will defend its brood.

In a well-planted aquarium with floating Java Moss, the Cichlid will often spawn in the community tank and at least some of the fittest fry will survive to adulthood by hiding in the Java Moss or, with Tiger Severum (Heros serverus), in the caves of the rocks.

In a breeding tank, it is always a good idea to include a few aquatic shrimp, as they will consume any unfertilized or dead eggs but won’t tend to predate on viable eggs.

Breeding tank for Tiger Severum (Heros serverus)

You should prepare a tank of around thirty gallons in size with mature, soft, acidic and flowing water. The water should have a low level of light and broad-leaved plants together with lots of clusters of rocks on which the female will lay her adhesive eggs. 

It is recommended that the substrate consists of a fine substrate (sand) without sharp edges. 

Arrange your tank heating so that you can slowly remove up to half of the tank water and then replace it with collected rainwater (very slightly cooler than the aquarium water – but not so much that White Spot could result) and repeat this daily until the Cichlids spawn. This water and temperature change may encourage spawning, as it mimics nature. The rainwater is most important though some argue that tap water is fine.

Cichlids prefer to spawn where the water is flowing so a decent pump is required to synthesize that flow.

Feed up your Cichlids on bloodworm, which will sink to the bottom and burrow into the substrate. Your Cichlid will love rooting out the bloodworm and it can help to trigger spawning.

You may also wish to introduce baby brine shrimp, mosquito larvae or tubifex worms as an inducement to reproduction and live food will be very much appreciated. This will also tend to divert the attention of the Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) from preying on their own eggs and fry though cannibalism is not characteristic of Tiger Severum (Heros serverus).

Reduce the water movement by turning down the pump once the eggs are laid – only regular aeration is now required. Keep the lights off (or very low) and the tank dark (of fairly dark)  because eggs and fry can be particularly sensitive to the light.

The eggs will hatch typically in three to five days depending on tank temperature and conditions and the fry will become free-swimming after around five days more. 

Keep the tank more-or-less unlit for the first week or so then gradually increase the lighting. Bear in mind that the eggs and fry of a fish as small as the Cichlid will be tiny indeed so you may need to use a magnifier “app” on your smartphone or a macro lens to see anything at all. A collection of eggs is generally easy to spot, as they look like a collection of tiny, brown pearls.

The newly hatched fry will feed firstly on their yolk sac and remain fairly static but, once free-swimming, can be fed infusoria and will also thrive on egg yolk during the first two to four weeks. 

Once the fry are free-swimming and their yolk sacs are depleted, then add baby brine shrimp and/or white worms. Once the fry are sufficient in size not to be treated as a snack then they can be introduced into the community tank where they will join the existing shoal. Before moving the adolescent fish into the community tank ensure that you have balanced the water temperatures to mitigate the risk of White Spot or other diseases being triggered.

Unless you are breeding commercially, you may wish to consider moving the fry into the community tank sooner rather than later. It may seem harsh but the adult fish in the tank will deal with any fry that are unlikely to survive to adulthood in the wild and you are synthesizing, to the best of your ability, a wild environment. The fittest fry will probably survive whilst the rest will be dealt with by the community.

Should your Tiger Severum (Heros serverus) have a special diet for breeding?

Adult Cichlids don’t need any particular inducement to breed. That said, it has been suggested that adding tubifex, bloodworm, or mosquito larva may encourage them, presumably because the addition of a new food may “fool” the fish into thinking that it is breeding time. From my own experience, I would always recommend keeping all of your fish in the best possible condition at all times, as this is good for the wellbeing of your fish.

Mike Wheeler

I started keeping freshwater tropical fish in 1972 and it has been something of a passion ever since. In this website, my aim is to build up an everyman's guide to help the everyday aquarist get the best from this inspiring and entertaining hobby.

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