This week’s Fish of the Week is a true oddity in the world of cichlids and is highly regarded by many fishkeepers. The Canara pearlspot (Etroplus canarensis) is a small growing cichlid that originates from India. Yes - an Asian Cichlid! There are in fact at least three species in the Etroplus genus that all come from the India and Sri-Lanka. The other two known species are the green chromide and orange chromide. This group of ancient cichlids, together with the Paraetroplus cichlids from Madagascar, form the subfamily Etroplinae - the earliest breakaway lineage in the family Cichlidae. Some scientists even believe chromide cichlids are more closely related to marine damsel fish than they are to cichlids.
The Canara pearlspot cichlid inhabits only freshwater habitats. The other chromide species are much more widespread and can inhabit both freshwater and brackish conditions. The Canara pearlspot is found only in a small area of South India. This is perhaps why they have never evolved euryhaline tendencies like their cousins. It is also the smallest growing species, reaching up to 12cm as adults. They enjoy their own company, so aim for a group (minimum of six to reduce quarrelling) in a reasonably sized aquarium. This smaller size, along with less demanding water requirements, makes it the most suitable chromide for the home aquarium. Unfortunately, it is also the rarest in the hobby, and the most expensive. Captive breeding efforts are underway to increase availability and lower prices. For now, however, this species is confined to aquatic stores specialising in the more unusual fish.
If you’re looking for a rarity that bucks the trend for cichlids - the Canara pearlspot is certainly a great catch!