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Amatitlania Myrnae – The Topaz Cichlid – An endangered Cichlid

cryptoheros myrnae topaz cichlid 1

Amatitlania Myrae, Topaz Cichlids or Crytoheros Myrnae are fairly rare in the hobby. They are endangered in the wild and often overlooked in aquarium shops. Myrnae are fascinating and beautiful little fish that deserves to be far more popular. Here is an introduction to our breeding group of Amatitlania Myrnae.

Amatitlania Myrnae – The Topaz Cichlid

The Amatitlania Myrnae or Topaz Cichlid has been on my wish list for quite some time now and I was recently amazed to find a group of 4 on offer at Scope Aquatics.

It is often referred to as the Amatitlania Myrnae, Cryptoheros Myrnae, The Topaz Cichlid or the Blue-eyed Cichlid.

Topaz Cichlids are quite rare in the hobby and these are the first group I have seen on offer in a local shop, so needless to say, I snapped them up.

Amatitlania Myrnae originates in Costa Rica and Panama in the rivers of the Atlantic slope. In the wild, they are listed as endangered and are on the IUCN Red List. This may well be a reason for their rarity in the trade.

It seems that in the wild, the Topaz Cichlid faces many threats, including pollution and agriculture. Yet, there seem to be no plans in place to save this beautiful little Cichlid from extinction.

I feel that as hobbyists, we have a part to play in the conservation of endangered species which still exist in the aquarium trade, we can help by keeping a population alive within our aquariums.

This means that if the worst should happen in their natural environment that a population will still exist, even if is spread across the world in various glass containers.

So, I was delighted when I saw that this group of 4 comprised of two males and two females, two potential breeding pairs.


cryptoheros myrnae topaz cichlid 2


Topaz Cichlid – Appearance

Cryptoheros Myrnae or Topaz Cichlids are quite small in comparison to many other Central American species. Reports vary on their maximum potential size but it seems that 10cm is a good estimate. The four I now have are not yet fully grown and currently range between 4 and 6cm in length.

The fish is similar in shape to other Cryptoheros and Amatitlania species, somewhat resembling the shape of a Convict Cichlid.

The fish displays a beautiful yellow colouration with stand-out blue eyes developing blue hues in the fins as they grow. Females have an obvious dark blotch in the dorsal fin and when in breeding condition develop a dark colouration on the underside of the body.


cryptoheros myrnae topaz cichlid 3

(Amatitlania Myrnae/Topaz Cichlid – Male)

cryptoheros myrnae topaz cichlid 1

(Amatitlania Myrnae/Topaz Cichlid – Female)


Topaz Cichlid – Behavior

The Amatitlania Myrnae is quite an interesting little character. Very much like the Convict Cichlid, they have a lot of attitude packed into them for their small size.

I have had my little group for around two months now and after an adjustment period while they settled into their new environment, they have now become quite confident and become more so every day.

Whenever I walk into the room I will have 8 eyes on me, all loitering at the glass waiting for me to drop some food in. Quite sociable, seemingly, they react to my movements as I move around the room.

Topaz Cichlids, despite their small size, are not well suited to a community aquarium. They can be fairly aggressive, particularly to each other. Tankmates need to be large enough to defend themselves or quick enough to get away if needed.

My group are currently living with my elderly pair of Hoplo Catfish, despite how bulletproof Hoplo’s are, I feel I may need to move them if/when the Cryptoheros start breeding.

The Topaz Cichlid is a very interesting fish to watch. They are constantly looking for food, digging, or having a squabble, there’s never a dull moment.


Topaz Cichlid – Diet

The Amatitlania Myrnae is omnivorous but I was informed by Oly at Scope Aquatics that they can be fussy eaters.

They seem to prefer meaty foods such as bloodworm and prawn and will occasionally ignore, or spit out, pellet food.

Luckily, Oly had done a great job of pellet training these four and they have accepted most pellet feeds since I’ve had them, so they can be weened.

I am currently feeding them on a mix of Northfin and Betta pellets with regular feedings of bloodworm and shrimp.

Prior to purchasing these, I was using the tank as a snail breeding project. Since adding these four little terrors I seem to have nothing but empty shells in the tank, so snails are definitely on the menu for these little guys.


Topaz Cichlid РAquarium setup

Like many Central American Cichlids, Topaz Cichlids can be aggressive, particularly towards each other.

Their set up needs to provide refuge for any fish that may be picked on to escape to. So lots of hiding places are essential.

It’s a good idea, I find, to make multiple ‘obvious’ territories within the tank. This can be done by splitting the tank up using decor, wood and plants.

I have used a combination of man-made caves and natural wood to spit the aquarium into two fairly obvious areas, with many holes and hiding spots within piles of wood and a few plants to help break lines of sight.

This seems to be working well so far and it would seem the two males have chosen a side each.


Topaz Cichlid tank


Topaz Cichlid – Breeding

As yet, I do not have personal experience of these guys breeding, however, After a little research and speaking to someone who has bred these in the past, it seems that they will breed fairly easily in the aquarium.

(See updates below for my own breeding experience – this happened after writing this article)

From watching mine closely, it seems that they are a bit more selective of partners than some other CA cichlids would be. Convicts for example can almost be guaranteed to breed if there is a male and a female in the same aquarium.

The Amaititliana Myrnae seem to be a bit more choosy. But luckily two of my four seem to have paired.

I spoke to someone who had bred these in the past and was told that “once they get going, they breed like Convicts”. According to them, once the fish had paired they bred regularly.

Their breeding habits are similar to other Central American Cichlid species and they are egg layers. Often laying eggs on a flat surface and tending to fry in a pit that they dig in the substrate.

Amatitlania Myrnae can lay up to 200 eggs in a single spawn and are said to have excellent parenting skills.

While breeding though it is essential to watch out for their increased aggression levels. Any other fish that ventures into their territory may well be attacked. So, if they are breeding, it may well be advisable to give them their own tank.

I have had my group for two months now and they have already dug several pits in the sand. The larger female is now beginning to show some breeding colours too, so fingers crossed I will be increasing their captive population soon.



Just a week after writing this post I noticed that one of my females had taken up residence in a cave in the aquarium and was defending it quite aggressively, even from her partner.

I was pretty confident that she had laid eggs in there as I had seen both her and the male passing their bellies over the area inside the cave, but to be sure I had a look.

Sure enough, there is a large clutch of eggs laid on the inside wall of the cave. Reports vary online as to how many days it takes before the eggs hatch, so I will be keeping a close eye on them.

I believe that yesterday was day three since the eggs were laid, so I would expect there to be some wrigglers very soon!


The night after writing the last breeding update on these I got home to no eggs in the cave, this, I believe was day 4 after the eggs had been laid.

I had a quick look into the cave and initially saw nothing, no eggs! I thought they had been eaten, until I noticed some wiggling in the bottom of the cave, Wrigglers!! Lots of them! It has been 2 days since then and I haven’t seen any free swimming yet.

My plan for this weekend is to move the fry into their own little tank until they are large enough to fend for themselves.


After moving the fry, they spent the next couple of days wiggling away until the first of them began to swim.

This was 3 – 4 days after they hatched. By the end of the day, I would estimate that there are around 50 of them free swimming and roughly the same number still wiggling on the bottom of the tank.

From here they will be fed on Vinegar Eels until they are large enough to start on prepared foods. Fingers crossed we will have a good number that reaches adulthood!


Here are the first to ‘take to the water’:


vinegar eels fish fry


During breeding, the female became rather aggressive. She even took a few chunks out of her partner in her protective rage. This means that it is a good idea to keep a close eye on them and separate them if necessary.

Up until I removed the fry from the main tank, the female had shown excellent parenting skills. Protecting her fry well and tending to them constantly. The only reason I removed them was that I had 2 other Myrnae in the tank, which may have easily picked them off once free-swimming.

My plan is to re-arrange the tank a little, moving their selected cave from the centre to the end of the tank. I hope that will mean that there is enough space between the breeding pair (in the cave) and the other two who seem to have selected the other end of the tank as their territory.

Once I have done that, I intend to see how they do on their own with the next batch of baby Myrnae.


Around a week after removing the fry, the pair have started digging out the cave again, so it may not be very long until we have some more eggs in there.


Topaz Cichlid – Summary

The Topaz Cichlid, Cryptoheros Myrnae or Amatilania Myrnae is a beautiful little fish with a lot of character.

If they do “breed like Convicts” then it is a wonder to me how they remain so rare in the aquarium hobby. I can only imagine that this is due to their duller colouration as juveniles.

For anyone not looking specifically for them, they could easily go unnoticed in a shop filled with larger, more colourful fish.

I am hoping that this article will raise some level of awareness of them, maybe after reading this you may spot some in your local aquatics shop. If so my advice would be to snap them up.

I’ll be posting regularly on Instagram on our group’s journey, so if you’re interested and not yet following us, you can find our Instagram profile HERE, you will also find the posts in our Instagram Gallery.

You can find a short care guide in our Knowledge Base, HERE.




IUCN Red list

Fish base

Scope Aquatics



About the author

James @Seriously Fishy

I am a fish keeping enthusiast with over 20 years experience. I currently keep American Cichlids (CA) which are my favourite fish to keep so far. I started Seriously Fishy as I noticed a large volume of people on various web pages looking for help with Aquarium basics. I created the first Seriously Fishy book to solve the issue in 28 pages, that led to the Seriously Fishy UK fish forum and blog.

Leave a Comment


  • Hi James,
    I had a pair of these many years ago and as you say rarely seen nowadays so well done on finding these. If possible I would love to have some again and hope that you may be able to sell me some if you are able to post as I am in Somerset. My intention would be to breed them and put them back out into the hobby as not only are they rare but striking fish to keep, particularly the females when coloured up.
    Here’s hoping.
    Pete Singleton

      • Absolutely James,
        so I would be most grateful if you would consider my request to buy some from you. I had viewed a video on YouTube about these rare cichlids which happened to be myrnae so I did a search on FaceBook and found your posts and was chuffed to find someone in this country with these lovely fish.
        Cheers again,