Pike Cichlid (Crenicichla lepidota): Ultimate Care Guide

Crenicichla lepidota, more commonly known as pike cichlid, is a striking warm water fish native to South America. Its most distinctive characteristic is the dark stripe running along the side of its long, thin body, although different types may have variations in their pattern. Some have more stripes or spots along their head, for example.

Don’t be fooled by their attractive appearance though. Due to their aggressive nature, Pike Cichlids are not recommended for beginners. Despite their challenges, however, more experienced aquarists should be able to handle them just fine, providing you thoroughly research their needs.

In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know to take good care of your Pike Cichlids and help you to figure out whether they are right for your aquarium.

Pike Cichlid Care

Pike Cichlids are moderately hardy, though this can depend on the type as some are more sensitive to changes in conditions than others. For the most part they should thrive in most treated tap water. However, dwarf pikes require better water quality with powerful filtration and nitrogen levels kept low to keep them from dying off.


The ideal temperature for most Pike Cichlids is between 75°F-81°F/24°C-27°C, as in the wild they can be found in warm waters. Some types may prefer lower temperatures, such as the Argentinian Crenicichla lacustris and the Uruguayan Crenicichla scotti.

Water pH

As a general rule, Pike Cichlids need a slight acidic pH ranging from around 5 to 6 and softer water up to 12° dH. These conditions are especially important if you hope to breed your pikes, since they usually won’t do this in harder conditions.

Pike Cichlid (Crenicichla lepidota)
Pike Cichlid (Crenicichla lepidota)

Pike Cichlid Size

The size of Pike Cichlids can vary greatly depending on the type, but most medium-sized pikes will grow to around 7 inches in length. The dwarf pikes won’t exceed 3-4 inches – on the other hand, lunkers can reach 18-24 inches in size!

Food & Diet

Pike Cichlids are carnivorous and they should be fed live food, although you can gradually wean them onto meaty frozen foods such as bloodworm, brineshrimp and white mosquito larvae. You should feed them once or twice a day depending on their age.

Adults will enjoy feeder goldfish whereas guppies and blackworms are examples of more suitable food for smaller pikes. With some training you may be able to get them to feed on pellets or flake, particularly if you start young. As with all fish they will also benefit from added supplements and vitamins in their food, as well as a varied diet. Mineral deficiencies could cause hole-in-the-head disease or other health issues.

Be mindful of the importance of good filtration in your tank if you own pikes. The water is prone to get dirty very quickly due to their diet so you’ll need to stay on top of cleaning. A high-quality canister filter would be best, keeping a moderate water flow, as well as weekly partial water changes and thoroughly cleaning the substrate with an aquarium vacuum or similar tool.

Pike Cichlid Lifespan

A healthy Pike Cichlid will have a lifespan of up to 10 years. You can give them the best chance of survival by feeding them well, providing supplements, and ensuring they have the optimal environment to keep them fit and happy.

Pike Cichlid Tank Size

It’s important to provide Pike Cichlids with a tank size of at least 30 gallons, or over 100 gallons in a community tank. This is because of their size and also their aggressive nature – pikes will be even more inclined to attack other smaller fish if there isn’t adequate space.

Tank Setup

The best tank setup for Pike Cichlids should include plenty of hiding places, as young pikes are known to get stressed in open water. Wood, rocks, and floating plants are good examples of tank décor which provide lots of nooks and crannies for your pikes to claim.

Low lighting is preferred as well as a sandy substrate. Finally, ensure the lid is tightly fit. Pikes might be bottom-dwelling but they are known to jump!

Pike Cichlid Breeding

When breeding Pike Cichlids, you should select a naturally bonded breeding pair. A good way to achieve this is to keep six or more juveniles together for a few months to allow pairs to form. Pikes are considered moderately difficult to breed.

Dark rock caves can help to mimic habitats in the wild where female pikes prefer to lay their eggs, so make sure you have a suitable nesting area in your tank.

It is recommended to have a separate dedicated spawning tank, particularly if your aim is to introduce your pikes to a community tank. This allows them to provide more protection for their young and reduce stress from defending them. It also enables you to more closely control the environment to maintain ideal breeding conditions. This includes a temperature of 79°F/26°C and pH of 6.

Once laid, eggs will take 3-5 days to hatch, then a further few days before the juveniles become free-swimming. At this point you can feed them small, protein-rich food such as baby brineshrimp.

You will need to closely supervise the newly hatched pikes as the species is known to be cannibalistic. To protect them, you should separate the young by their size to avoid the larger fish from preying on the smaller ones.

Before transferring the young pikes to another tank, ensure they have had plenty of time to mature. Males tend to do so at around 7 inches and females at 5-5.5 inches.

Pike Cichlid Male or Female

To tell the difference between male and female Pike Cichlids, look at their size and markings. Males are slightly bigger, have a darker colored back, longer fins and an absence of white on their dorsal fins. Females also have a belly which appears pale red or orange, as well as more of a metallic green sheen.

Pike Cichlid Disease

Pike Cichlids can be afflicted by a number of common fish diseases, including white spot disease, flukes, and fungal infections. The best way to avoid these is to keep the water clean and ensure your pikes are fed well with a varied diet.

Don’t worry if you do notice any health problems in your pikes – it’s usually possible to treat theme effectively and get them back to full health.

White Spot Disease

How to spot: Initial symptoms include fish flicking or rubbing themselves against solid surfaces. In later stages of illness, the characteristic tiny white spots appear across the gills, fins, and body.

Possible causes: White Spot is caused by a parasite known as ich (short for Ichthyophirius).

Treatment: Increase the water temperature to 82°F/28°C and use ich medication in the water. This can be easily found at your local fish or pet store.

Hole-In-The-Head Disease

How to spot: Loss of weight and appetite, and a tell-tale depression on the top of the head, giving the disease its name.

Possible causes: There are a few potential causes, including vitamin or mineral deficiencies, poor water quality, or the Hexamita parasite.

Treatment: You will need to isolate any affected fish. You should then check the water conditions to ensure they are up to standard, as well as making sure their diet is suitable. If changes in food and water show no signs of improvement then you may need to treat the water with metronidazole to remove any parasites present.

Bacterial Infections

How to spot: The appearance of red patches, ulcers or sores indicate a bacterial infection.

Possible causes: Stressed or injured fish are more vulnerable to be infected by naturally occurring bacteria in the tank.

Treatment: You can use an antibacterial treatment from your local fish or pet store.

Fungal Infections

How to spot: If your fish has a fungal infection, you will notice a fluffy growth on their gills, fins and/or body.

Possible causes: Likely causes of fungal infections include poor water quality, infected food or open wounds.

Treatment: An anti-fungal treatment should suffice, which you can find at your local fish or pet store.


How to spot: Infected fish rub themselves against the substrate or tank décor. You may also see an excess of mucus on their bodies.

Possible causes: Flukes are parasites which latch onto the body and gills of their host. The name is an umbrella term for a number of different species.

Treatment: Use antiparasitic medication; this can be easily found at your local fish or pet store.

General preventative methods include quarantining new fish for 7-10 days before introducing them to your tank, and thoroughly washing new plants or other décor with water and an antibacterial treatment. You can also avoid health problems with good filtration and regular water changes.

Pike Cichlid Tank Mates

It’s often a good idea to avoid having tank mates for your Pike Cichlids as they are quite aggressive. Even other pikes are vulnerable to be attacked. However, you can reduce this risk by ensuring they are a similar size, as they like to pick on smaller fish.

If you wish to introduce other species of fish, take care to make sure they are compatible. Possible options include large South American cichlids, scavengers, and Silver Dollars. Take care when introducing other aggressive species though as they might attack your pikes. You should avoid smaller tank mates like shrimp or crabs. bodies. Remember that the best way to minimize aggression is to have plenty of space in your tank!

A trick you can use if all else fails is to add sections of PVC tube wide enough to house your pikes. They provide an excellent hiding spot and reportedly go a long way in reducing aggression. Hollow driftwood might also work as a substitute.

That concludes our guide to Pike Cichlids! If you found it helpful, be sure to check out our other articles to help make your aquarium the best it can be.

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