Cryptoheros cutteri is a beautiful Central American cichlid native to Honduras and Guatemala; other references suggest it might also be found in Belize and/or El Salvador. It may be confused with the “other” Blue-eye Cichlid, Cryptoheros spilurus, but is a bit more colorful. Modestly sized, maxing out at 5″ for the largest. We treat their water with Cichlid Salts and Cichlid Buffers to provide the harder water/higher pH they appreciate (our water out of the tap is extremely soft here, 43 TDS!).
Vaguely similar to a “Convict” Cichlid, there is a subtle suffusion of colors in shades of blue and gold when at rest. The real show begins when they are breeding. Starting at spawning, the female transitions to a high contrast white and black pattern. Once the fry become free swimming, the male adopts this coloration as well. This nuptial coloration is what first caught my eye several years ago. Once they cease guarding fy, they return to their default coloration.
The first time we obtained “Cutter’s” Cichlids, it turns out we were simply given juvenile convicts. This time around the fish we received were young adults without location information, simply “aquarium strain”. I have two actively spawning pairs in a 55-gallon aquarium, mixed with other cichlids, and the offspring we offer here are mixed between the two parental pairs.
Cutteri cichlids are devout parents and are able to defend their offspring even in a tank full of competitors, although their fins certainly take a beating. They are also prolific, even young parents produce clutches of over 100 offspring. We have successfully kept and spawned them here with other semi-aggressive small cichlids from the African continent that appreciate similar water chemistry, including Turkana Jewels (Hemichromis exsul) and Melon Haps (Lipochromis melapterus).
For someone who wants easy spawning cichlids with great broodcare behavior, I highly recommend them, although be aware they are easy to overproduce. Excess offspring could make great home-grown feeder fish for temperamental piscivores.