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Severum Cichlid: A Helpful Care Guide To Keep In An Aquarium

A beautiful, spade-shaped species of South American Cichlid, Severum is a highly desirable freshwater fish in the hobby. These magnificent giants come in a wide range of colors, displaying a striking appearance, a peaceful demeanor, and a ton of personality.

If you are planning to add Severums to your aquarium and have questions about owning or caring for these majestic Cichlids, this is the only guide you need. Whether you want to know how to set up and maintain a Severum tank, what to feed, the breeding process, or what fish to put with Severums in a community aquarium, the subsequent sections have it all covered.

Get To Know Your Fish – Severum Cichlid

severum cichlid
Severum, also known as Banded Cichlid, is a South American species primarily found in Brazil, Peru, and Columbia. Before you bring home these beautiful ornamental fish, here is what you should know about them:

How Big Does Severum Get?

In captivity, male Severum usually gets to a length of 8-10 inches; some even max out at 12″. Whereas female grows up to 6-8 inches at most.

Keep in mind, Severums aren’t just long but also quite taller and have a pretty massive overall size.

Like any Cichlids, Severum grows quickly in the early years, and after that, the growth slows down considerably. The average growth rate of Severum varies based on the individual fish and the quality of living.

Factors that majorly influence how fast/slow a fish grows include water quality, diet, and stress. For instance, a shy Severum kept with aggressive tankmates may feel less secure and under stress, negatively impacting its growth.

How Long Does Severum Live?

Severums are among the longer-lived aquarium fish expected to live over ten years.

Of course, the quality of living conditions will ultimately determine the lifespan of your Severum.

Are Severum Cichlid Aggressive?

Severums are famously known to be gentle giants. However, as always, there are several instances of aggressive individuals.

To claim Severum Cichlid is a docile species would be a blanket statement because it depends on the temperament of the individual fish.

For the most part, Severums are relatively mild-mannered but don’t get surprised if yours come out as mean and aggressive.

Fish from the same species can possess different personalities – some can be mellow, others nasty.

Besides individual temperament, Severums can be fairly aggressive during spawning or when two males are in a tank.

Is Severum a Decent Option For Beginners?

Severum Cichlids are relatively hardy and easy to keep fish. But due to their size, they need a sizeable aquarium (at least 75 gallons for a single adult) which most new fishkeepers may not want to invest in.

If providing a larger tank isn’t an issue for you, we don’t see any other reason for you to hold back from owning the magnificent Severums.

Popular Severum Cichlids In The Hobby

There are different types of Severum, following are some of the most popular ones you may want to choose from:

Red Spotted Severum (isn’t found in the wild and has been selectively bred)

severum cichlid

Red Spotted Severum

Rotkeil Severum/Red Shoulder

severum cichlid

Red Shoulder Severum

Red Tiger Severum

severum cichlid

Red Tiger Severum

Turquoise Severum

severum cichlid

Turquoise Severum

Green Severum

severum cichlid

Green Severum

Gold Severum

severum cichlid

Gold Severum

Inirida Severum

severum cichlid

Inirida Severum

Severum Tank Setup – A Detailed Guide

Suitable Tank Size

severum cichlid
For a single adult Severum, you need a minimum of a 75-gallon aquarium.

If you lurk around the fish forums on the internet, you will find people suggesting standard 55-gallon tanks for Severums. Although your fish might survive in this absolute bare minimum tank, turning around in a 13 inches wide aquarium will be a bit of a squeeze.

If you keep a pair of Severums, don’t house them in anything less than 90 gallons. Preferably, go for a 125-gallon aquarium – your Severums will love it.

Remember, the bigger is always the better.

Favorable Water Parameters

Temperature: 75-84°F (standard tropical range)

Water pH and Hardness: Being a South American Cichlid, Severum does better in softer water with lower pH. However, they are hardy and can even adapt to harder water with higher pH.

Optimally, we suggest keeping the tank’s pH value between 6.0 to 7.5 (slightly acidic to just over neutral) and a hardness of 4-15 dGH.

Clean water: Do you know the water quality isn’t determined by how clear it looks but whether it is toxin-free? To have a thriving aquarium, you should aim to keep ammonia and nitrite at 0 ppm and nitrates at around 20 ppm or less.

Necessary Equipment

Adequate filtration: Severum are messy eaters and can produce a lot of waste. You need an effective filtration system to keep your aquarium water clean and detritus-free. It’s best to equip your tank with a HOB or a canister filter rated slightly higher for your tank’s capacity.

Heater: Severum is a warm water fish and requires a stable tropical temperature between 75 to 84°F. If you reside in colder regions, you should get a heater (with a thermometer) to ensure your aquarium doesn’t get too cold and that the temperature stays steady at all times.

Air pump: The purpose of an air stone is to provide water surface movement and get oxygen flowing throughout the aquarium. You don’t need an air pump as long as your tank has a powerhead or maintains adequate water circulation and surface agitation.

Also, keep in mind that Severum prefers mild water currents.

Lighting: Who doesn’t like their display tank to be brightly lit? However, it is not just about your preference.

You must also consider your fish’s liking to ensure you aren’t stressing the little aquatic creatures in your captivity. So, when it comes to Severum Cichlid, they prefer a setup with subdued lighting.

Decor Items Severum Likes In Their Aquarium

Severum resides in South American rivers and basins that offer plenty of plants, driftwood, and rocks with sand bottoms. You need all these things in your tank to create an ideal aquascape replicating their natural habitat.

Severums dig like crazy and love burrowing giant pits, so that’s another reason to give them a soft substrate like sand. Driftwood and rock formations provide hiding spots for the fish and make them feel safe during stressful situations.

If you are going to keep Severums, unfortunately, it would be difficult to sustain a planted aquarium (more details in the later section.) If you must have some greenery in your tank, you have to settle for plastic/silk plants.

NOTE: You can have as many ornamental items as you want, but it is best to keep fewer so your fish can have enough swimming space.

Tips on Tank Maintenance

Severum is a low-maintenance Cichlid; all they need is basic fish care to be happy and healthy.

Apart from maintaining adequate filtration, you must perform the following practices to keep your aquarium clean and disease-free.

Water changes: Performing periodic water changes are crucial to control nitrate levels. The amount and the frequency of the water changes will depend on the nitrates production of your tank.

The higher the bioload, the more nitrate will build up. Thus, more water needs to be replaced. To maintain a healthy, stress-free environment, keep the nitrate levels below 20 ppm.

The most effective and accurate way to determine how much water you should change (and how often) is to track the amount of nitrate produced by your aquarium and create a water change schedule tailored to your requirements.

If it’s a hassle for you to make these calculations, you can simply follow the general guidelines. Such as, a moderately stocked aquarium does fine on a 30% water change carried out weekly.

Substrate vacuuming: No matter how robust your aquarium filter is, some fish poop and/or uneaten food particles will find a hiding spot on the substrate bed. If you let the organic matter stays there, it will eventually rot and release ammonia, a toxic compound for the fish.

By vacuuming your aquarium substrate, you effectively remove the tiny particulates, which helps reduce the water’s ammonia levels, ultimately decreasing the nitrate levels.

Filter media cleaning: An aquarium’s mechanical filter removes solid wastes and is susceptible to getting clogged up. Therefore, the filter media must be cleaned and sometimes replaced periodically to maintain efficiency.

What Do Severum Cichlid Eats?

severum cichlid
Severum are omnivorous fish that require a mixed diet of plant matter and protein-rich meaty foods. For optimal health, you should feed them high-quality Cichlid pellets/flakes supplemented with fresh vegetables and occasional treats of meaty items.

Severums are not fussy eaters and will happily eat whatever you bring to them, including:

  • Lettuce, broccoli, peas, cucumber, zucchini, spinach, and carrots.
  • Freeze-dried krill, frozen bloodworms, frozen brine shrimp, earthworms, superworms, and mealworms.

Offering a variety of food will make your Severum grow faster and enhance its colors.

How Often To Feed (And How Much)?

Ideally, adult Severum can be fed one or two times a day, whereas fry or baby fish requires 3-5 smaller meals throughout the day.

There is no rule for how much you should feed your fish. Understandably, larger individuals need more food than smaller ones.

You must experiment with different portion sizes to determine the right amount of food. We’d suggest offering smaller amounts until your Severum has a slightly rounded abdomen.

Initially, it will be difficult to judge, but with trial and error, you will know how much food your fish needs to have a full stomach.

If your Severum gets a swollen belly after a meal, you are feeding too much and are required to cut down on the portion. Other signs of overfeeding include fish producing a lot of poop and a pile of uneaten food at the bottom of the tank.

Can You Have a Planted Tank With Severums?

Your planted aquarium is nothing more than a salad bowl to Severums. Being primarily herbivorous species, they love feasting upon plant matter and occasionally dig out roots, destroying the plantation.

severum cichlid
Due to the Severum’s never-ending love for greens, many aquarists have accepted their fate and have given up the desire to have a lush planted aquarium.

But is there anything you can do to stop or limit Severums from snacking on plants or decimating them?

Tips to Stop a Severum From Eating Plants

After several failed experiments, see have found success growing plants with Severums. And here is what we did:

  • Get selective with the plant species: there are certain plants that taste awful, and as a result, most fish don’t eat them. Many people have luck with hardy plants like Java Fern, Crinum Calamistratum, Mellon swords, Amazon swords, Green Tiger Lotus, and Crytp. Anubias might survive if you don’t mind Severum nipping on its young, tender leaves.
  • Feed vegetables: if you regularly offer vegetables (such as lettuce, peas, zucchini, or other greens) to your fish, they may quit eating the plants as they don’t taste nearly as good.
  • Don’t let them be hungry: feeding Severum more frequently and providing them with a varied diet could potentially deter these fish from nipping at plants.
  • Anchor your plants: if Severums don’t bother eating the plants, they may uproot them. Therefore, to keep the stems intact, you must plant them in a pot or several inches in the substrate with heavy pebbles or rocks covering the base.

NOTE: After implementing the above practices, there are higher chances that your planted aquarium will withstand Severums, but it’s not guaranteed. You have to carry out an experiment to the best of your ability, and time will tell whether your fish have mercy on you.

How To Choose Severum Tankmates?

severum cichlid
Severum is an excellent addition to community aquariums with other similarly-sized, mild-mannered fish.

Severums are peaceful for the most part, but they can hold onto their own with aggressive fish. However, if you are a newbie, it would be wise to stick to what commonly works.

Remember, every fish has a different personality, and how they behave in a group or with certain fish species varies greatly.

Compatible Choices: Recommended Fish Species

  • Mild-mannered Cichlids, such as Angelfish, Festivum, Uaru, Electric Blue Acara, and Geophagus species, work well with Severums.
  • You can keep Tetras and Barbs that are not large or too small for Severum.
  • Any non-aggressive catfish makes good tankmates with Severums, including Bristlenose Pleco, Rafael catfish, and Cory catfish.
  • Severums can go with South and Central American dwarf cichlids such as Apistogramma, Keyhole cichlid, T Bar cichlid and Cryptoheros nanoluteus.
  • Other suitable companions for the Severum community tank include Bala Sharks, Plecos, Firemouth, Convicts, and Loaches.

NOTE: Whatever fish combination you are working on for your community tank, make sure you have a backup plan. In case it doesn’t work out, you will have the option to rehome the troublemaker.

Incompatible Choices: Fish to Avoid

  • Avoid keeping smaller fish like tetras, platies, or swordtails, as they might end up becoming a snack for your adult Severums.
  • Don’t put small Severum with much larger or fully grown tankmates. It’s best to have similar-sized fish in a community aquarium.
  • Although Severum can hold on its own with aggressive cichlids, chances are a shy individual may get bullied. So stay away from terrorizing cichlids like Jack Dempsey, Texas cichlid, Oscars, Green Terror, and Red Devil.

How To Cure Diseases In Severums?

Like any other aquarium fish, Severum is also susceptible to certain diseases. One must learn about these common ailments because it gives you the upper hand over early detection and timely prevention.


Ich, also written as Ick, is caused by an external parasite that appears as tiny white spots (resembling white grains of salt or sugar) spread throughout the fish’s body.

An ich-infested Severum can be seen flashing or rubbing against the objects, hiding or refusing to eat.

How to treat a Severum with Ich?

  • As soon as you identify Ich on your fish, do a 50% water change.
  • Next, add 4-5 tablespoons of pre-dissolved salt per 5 gallons of water. You can either use aquarium salt or non-iodized table salt with no additives. But keep in mind salt will kill your plants.

NOTE: Increasing water temperature is a commonly recommended treatment against Ich. But since heat can also trigger secondary infection, we won’t suggest the inexperienced aquarist go down this route.

  • Dose your aquarium with Ich-X. It is one of the most effective medications for treating Ich. Before using it, make sure to remove any carbon from your filter.
  • Perform 50% water change daily combined with a gravel vacuum.
  • Redose your tank every time you do a water change to compensate for the loss of the medicine.
  • Continue the treatment until the white spots aren’t visible for 5 consecutive days.

Hole In The Head (HITH)

Accurate to its name, this disease manifests by forming holes on the Severum’s head. Although HITH is an easily treatable condition, the tiny holes will lead to larger pits if left unattended.

Hole-in-the-head is primarily a result of poor tank conditions, inadequate diet, and stress.

Treating HITH in Severum:

  • Test your water parameters using API Masterkit to see what’s happening with the water quality. Ideally, ammonia/nitrite should be at 0 ppm and nitrates below 20 ppm. If your test kit measures high levels of toxins, you aren’t changing adequate water.
  • You have to make at least 50% water change daily until the sores are healed.
  • Long-term nutrient deficiency can also lead to hole-in-the-head, so review your Severum’s diet and make improvements if required.

Fin Rot

White cottony growth on the fins or edges looking frayed and uneven are the symptoms of the onset of fin rot. It can be caused by bacterial infection, but usually, it is attributed to poor water conditions.

How to tackle fin rot?

  • Most of the time, providing clean water will clear up the fin rot issues. Simply make larger water changes. But if that doesn’t improve the condition, treat your Severum with Melafix.
  • Also, check your water for ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite. It will give you a better idea of where you currently stand.
  • If you haven’t cleaned your filter for a prolonged period, use this opportunity to do it. Rinse the filter media in a bucket of tank water to get rid of any gunk accumulated over time.

NOTE: If your Severum seems to have recurring fin rot, it could be due to inadequate filtration.

How To Breed Severum Cichlids?

Sexing Severums is fairly easy when you know how to do it the right way. Following is a detailed guide to the breeding process.

Get a Breeding Pair: Identifying Males from Females

The best way to form a breeding pair is to raise a group of 6 baby Severums and let them pair off on their own.

severum cichlid
Distinguishing males from females can be a little tricky for new breeders. Here are some of the signs you should look at:

  • Male Severum are usually bigger and broader than females of the same age.
  • The dorsal fins of the males are considerably longer-flowing and have pointed tips than females.
  • Males of the Severum species usually have more patterns on their gill plate.
  • Some say males have more colors on their faces than females, but females can also be as colorful.

It’s much easier to distinguish when Severums are matured.

Courting Ritual and Spawning

After moving the breeding pair to their separate tank, raise the temperature to 30°C for optimal conditions and offer them a nutritious diet.

Once you start noticing lip-locking and tail-slapping, know that the spawn is about to occur at any moment.

Like all Cichlids, Severum usually lays eggs on flat surfaces like a rock, driftwood, or a broad-leafed plant.

Eggs Fertilization and Hatching

Shortly after the eggs are laid, the next is the job of the daddy Severum to fertilize them.

Once the eggs have been fertilized, they should hatch within 2 to 3 days, depending on the tank’s pH and temperature.

You will know when it happens as you will see a swarm of wigglers guided by the parents to different areas.

Raising Fry: Feeding and Caring for Babies

Once the fry becomes free swimming, scoop them out to a grow-out tank, where you will raise them for the next stage of life.

Severum fry can be fed newly hatched brine shrimp, finely crushed flakes, and microworms.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to bring out the best colors of Severum?

Provide adequate swimming space, maintain clean water in your aquarium, and feed your fish a varied diet of vegetables and meaty foods. Besides, healthy living conditions, aquarium lighting, substrate color, and background significantly impact the colors of Severum.

Is it common for Severums to change color?

Severums are known for changing colors based on their moods. It’s a common behavior displayed by several Cichlid species.

Wrapping Up

Severum is an attractive fish that add colors and activity to any aquarium. For a cichlid, they are very calm, low maintenance, and easier to get along with different types of tankmates.

With the end of this comprehensive guide, we hope you feel confident bringing home these majestic cichlids, having learned the nitty-gritty of setting up and maintaining a Severum aquarium with ease.