Amatitlania nigrofasciata (Günther 1867)

Other Names: Convict Cichlid, Zebra Cichlid

A Convict Cichlid, Amatitlania nigrofasciata, from the cooling pond at Hazelwood Power Station, Morwell, Victoria. Source: Andrew Millar / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC BY Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

See 'More Info' tab

Cite this page as:
Martin F. Gomon, Amatitlania nigrofasciata in Fishes of Australia, accessed 09 Dec 2022,

Amatitlania nigrofasciata (Günther 1867)

More Info


Introduced from the Pacific coast of Central America to the Ross River & streams around Townsville (northern Qld), and the Hazelwood Pondage of the Dartmouth Dam, Morwell, VIC. A self-sustaining population occurs in the warm-water effluent pondage for the Hazelwood power station.tropical; usually found in areas where cover is provided by rocks, debris or vegetation.


D XVII–XIX,7–9; A VIII–X, 6–7; P 13-15; LL 25-29; Vert 27–28; GR 7-10 (5-8 on lower limb)
Body deep, 2.0-2.1 in SL, strongly-compressed, ovate; caudal peduncle deep. Head large, 2.6-3.1 in SL, triangular; head profile steep, nearly straight above orbits with convex nape. Single nostril on each side of head. Eye moderate to large, 2.9-4.8 in head length. Mouth terminal, protrusible; maxilla usually not reaching to a vertical at anterior edge of eye; maxilla serrated dorsally; teeth conical, pointed, upper symphysial teeth abruptly larger than adjacent teeth; lower symphysial teeth shorter than adjacent teeth; lips not narrow medially, lower lip often tapering, corner dorsally rounded, ventrally angled.
Scales strongly ctenoid; covering body; cheek with 4–6 rows of scales. Lateral line disjunct; anterior portion longer, higher than posterior portion, more or less following dorsal profile; posterior portion straight. Bases of dorsal and anal fins with 2 rows of scales between rays.
Single, long-based dorsal fin originating above rear edge of operculum, soft portion pointed, posterior rays considerably extended, reaching to distal quarter of caudal fin. Anal fin long-based, soft portion pointed, posterior rays considerably extended. Pectoral fins well forward, large, rounded, reaching beyond 2nd anal-fin spine. Pelvic fins thoracic, large, extending beyond 3rd anal-fin spine. Caudal fin large, slightly rounded to truncate.


Reaches 10 cm SL


Dark grey to bluish dorsally; sides mouse-grey, often with violet sheen; belly pale grey, breast olive; 7 bars on sides, extending to edges of dorsal and anal fins, becoming deep black when breeding; 1st bar clearly Y-shaped, posterior arm discontinuous; middle of 2nd and 3rd bars, and sometimes 1st intensified; 4th bar I-shaped; no black blotch on abdomen of females or longitudinal stripe on body of either sex; distinct vertical bar on head, across opercle and nape, breaking up into spots on opercle; diffuse streak below eye; usually diffuse stripe from snout to eye; eyes bluish-green; cheek lacking speckles and interorbital without bars; no ocellus on spinous dorsal fin in females; last bar on caudal fin, not extending onto caudal peduncle, not ocellated. Fins pale-greenish, with metallic sheen; dorsal and anal fins bordered with red; axil of pectoral fin dark; base of pectoral fin usually distinctly white.


Herbivore - feeds on filamentous green algae, desmids and plant detritus.


Sexually mature at about 80 mm. Adhesive eggs laid on cleared areas of substrate; guarded and fanned by both parents. Between 130 and 400 eggs laid by female; eggs hatchin after 3-4 days. Parents guard larvae; extremely territorial and aggressive during breeding season.


Popular aquarium fish.


Brought to Australia as aquarium fish and readily available in aquarium-fish trade. Very aggressive and incompatible with other fish, including members of their own species. First recorded in Hazelwood pondage in 1978.


Generic name Amatitlania meaning “a place abundant in amate” in the Nahuatl language, “amate” being a rustic paper made from the bark of a fig tree.

Species Citation

Heros nigrofasciatus Günther, 1867, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. 1866(3): 601. Type locality: Lake Amatitlan and Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.


Martin F. Gomon

Amatitlania nigrofasciata (Günther 1867)


Allen, G.R. (1989). Freshwater Fishes of Australia.  Neptune, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 240 pp. pls 1–63 [215].

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. (2002). Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia.  Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp. [369].

Cadwallader, P.L. & Backhouse, G.N. (1983). A Guide to the Freshwater Fish of Victoria.  Melbourne : F.D. Atkinson Government Printer 249 pp. figs [181].

Günther, A. (1867). On the fishes of the states of Central America, founded upon specimens collected in fresh and marine waters of various parts of that country by Messrs. Salvin and Godman and Capt. J. M. Dow. Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. 1866(3): 600–604.

Koehn, J.D. & MacKenzie, R.F. 2004. Priority management actions for alien freshwater fish species in Australia. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 38 (3): 457–472

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. (1984). Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management.  Sydney : J.R. Merrick 409 pp. figs 280 col. figs [347].

Schmitter-Soto, J.J. 2007 A systematic revision of the genus Archocentrus (Perciformes: Cichlidae), with the description of two new genera and six new species. Zootaxa 1603:1-78 [49-51].

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37371003

Fishing:aquarium fish


Max Size:10 cm SL

Native:Introduced noxious fish

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map