Hoping to learn from my mistake

DHarris

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I've recently been refocusing my collection. My current set up is a 150 gallon (upgrading in the next month or two) with a focus on plecos. I've had a lot of smaller schooling fish but recently decided to move them out and go for show time fish.

A couple of weeks ago I came across some zebra pikes at a LFS of varying sizes and immediately fell in love. Went home, read up on as much as I could, which is admittedly limited. I'd heard that as far as pikes go, these are relatively well behaved. Reached out to a friend that had them and he confirmed that based on his experience.

Went back a few days later and purchased a beautiful ~8" specimen. Other than some minor chasing between it and my largest Rotkeil severum, I'd seen zero issued.

As most images/videos online show these in pairs or small groups, I decided to add another. Took one home on Saturday of roughly the same size thinking I'd have the best chance of avoiding one beating up the other.
Once acclimated and added to the tank, the first pike immediately killed the new one. I've never seen anything like it!

As this is my first experience owning any Crenicichla, I'm learning as I go.

I'd love to own more than one of these. I know that like a lot of other cichlids aggression can vary from fish to fish but is there anything I could/should do in the future when introducing another to better the odds of things working?
If my specimen is just a mean one, is there anything I can do to mellow it out?

Thanks so much for any help, it's appreciated!
 
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kno4te

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Add some driftwood, plants and decor to block lines of sight. Places of hiding are needed. Can always add other fish that are active swimmers to distract the pike but will need a bigger tank.
 

DHarris

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Because of the plecos I've got a lot of wood, pipes, ect. The severum destroyed any plants I tried but I can give that another shot.
There are roughly 25 diamond tetras in there along with a group of blue acara, which I hoped would work as dithers.

I did recent add one huge piece of thick spider wood and pulled some of my bogwood. I'll try to fit some of them back in as well.

Thanks
 

Goggy

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Most pairs of pikes you see online are a result of a male and female pairing up. People achieve this by keeping a group of young pikes, (which are not hostile when young) letting a pair form naturally and then removing the rest of the crenicichla that did not pair up.

If you were to pair adult pikes you should make sure that both fish are the same size and are opposite gender. Then you can either introduce them into the aquarium at the same time or keep them in an aquarium with a clear divider. Provide an aquarium that is as large as possible; in the wild, breeding pairs of crenicichla defend 6-8ft of water. Remember to have spare aquariums to take in these crenicichla incase things don’t work out

If you introduce them into an aquarium at the same time you should keep a close eye on the fish until zero unprovoked aggression is observed. Make sure you provide lots of cover for both fish so that they can take breaks from each other. Make sure that both fish are new to the tank so no one has established territory. Also larger dither fish can help redirect aggression and lighten the potential hostility between the pikes

If you put them into an aquarium with a clear divider, you can observe the fish and then remove the divider once they get used to each other and show little aggression when seeing each other.

With zebrina sexing is very hard and so this will be a difficult task for you. Most crenicichla are sexually dimorphic in their colors and patterns but zebrina are not and must be vented
 
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DHarris

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There’s one more at the local shop that’s roughly the same size. While I don’t think I cans actually divide the tank as I’ve got some large plecos that need the bottom area, I’m thinking of building a drill acrylic box to hold the second in my tank and observe. I know it’s a big IF and mine but just be mean but IF they are going to adjust, is there any sort of expected timeframe for that to potentially occur?
I’ll be adding more wood and pvc back into the tank as well.

thanks again.
 

Goggy

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There’s one more at the local shop that’s roughly the same size. While I don’t think I cans actually divide the tank as I’ve got some large plecos that need the bottom area, I’m thinking of building a drill acrylic box to hold the second in my tank and observe. I know it’s a big IF and mine but just be mean but IF they are going to adjust, is there any sort of expected timeframe for that to potentially occur?
I’ll be adding more wood and pvc back into the tank as well.

thanks again.
Not sure if the box will work. Pikes are bottom-dwelling fish and most of the territory that they fight over will lie on the substrate. If one pike is in a floating box that doesn't have access to the bottom of the aquarium and the other has its chance to familiarize itself and claim area throughout the entire tank, they might be incompatible as you introduce them to each other. Maybe one very large box enough to keep two pikes that has a divider in between? I would assume that doing this box method will keep the effect of gradual visual exposure to each other, but lose the effect of letting each fish have their own pre-set territory that was provided by the original divider method.

You want get rid of the divider once the fish show ZERO aggression to each other. In the past, I have done this with smaller saxatilis group crenicichla so it was much more handlable in terms of space, but it took me around 2 months to see zero aggression which is when I removed the divider.
This divider method is originally a way of getting snakeheads to pair up, when I paired snakeheads, it took around 4 months.

Please note though, that your pikes could potentially take a really short time to pair or a really long time to pair, and that you should give them the suitable space. A 240 gallon tank is what I would use to pair pikes as both will have around 4 ft of space when the tank is split up.
Also, because zebrina aren't sexually dimorphic, you could be pursuing something futile.

But I do think you are headed in the right direction. With a little luck, I think you can make this happen.
 
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DHarris

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Thank you for that, really appreciate the insight. I went ahead and purchased another Zebrina of roughly the same size on Friday.
Figured I'd give it one more shot and if it doesn't work out, I'll rehome them and go in a different direction.

I tried to figure out ways to divide my tank but with the stock and decor, it just wasn't doable. Purchased an 18"x18"x24" clear rubbermade tub with locking lid. Drilled holes all over it and set it in one side of the tank.

Immediately pike #1 was swimming up to the box, flaring and trying to attack pike #2. It kept this up through Saturday. Yesterday there was some flaring but it ceased trying to attack. For the most part the only real interest was in the live food I'd put in the box for pik. e #2.
As of today, pike #1 seems to be paying pike #2 no attention. Occasionally it'll swim up and they'll just sort of sit there looking at each other.

This give me a bit of hope.

I'm in no rush to let pike #2 loose. I'm thinking I'll continue to observe them for at least a week.
Other than the obvious signs of aggression, are there any other behavioral indicators, positive or negative, that I should keep an eye out for.

If I'm able, I'd be happy to add video of the two in the event there's some behavior between them that I'm missing.

Thanks again.
 

Goggy

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Thank you for that, really appreciate the insight. I went ahead and purchased another Zebrina of roughly the same size on Friday.
Figured I'd give it one more shot and if it doesn't work out, I'll rehome them and go in a different direction.

I tried to figure out ways to divide my tank but with the stock and decor, it just wasn't doable. Purchased an 18"x18"x24" clear rubbermade tub with locking lid. Drilled holes all over it and set it in one side of the tank.

Immediately pike #1 was swimming up to the box, flaring and trying to attack pike #2. It kept this up through Saturday. Yesterday there was some flaring but it ceased trying to attack. For the most part the only real interest was in the live food I'd put in the box for pik. e #2.
As of today, pike #1 seems to be paying pike #2 no attention. Occasionally it'll swim up and they'll just sort of sit there looking at each other.

This give me a bit of hope.

I'm in no rush to let pike #2 loose. I'm thinking I'll continue to observe them for at least a week.
Other than the obvious signs of aggression, are there any other behavioral indicators, positive or negative, that I should keep an eye out for.

If I'm able, I'd be happy to add video of the two in the event there's some behavior between them that I'm missing.

Thanks again.
Sorry I am not really addressing your questions but I would like to explain why the method you are doing has chance of failing

It is extremely difficult for people to introduce new adult pikes into an aquarium with an already existing pike. The reason for this is because one crenicichla would have established territory while the other one would be stressed and in an unfamiliar place. This results in a stressed and trespassing pike, that is usually not welcomed by the other crenicichla that owns the territory.

Introducing both fish into the aquarium at once causes both fish to be in unfamiliar waters, therefore, no established territory.

Putting the crenicichla in dividers allows both pikes to get used to each other and establish equal respective territory. This way, once the divider is removed, both pikes have a sense of familiarity and the pikes will be aware of where each other’s territory is.

The reason I suggested to put both fish in a basket is because the basket allows the fish to get used to each other and when you release them to the aquarium, both fish will be unfamiliar with the area and both fish will be at an equal playing field.

What you are doing is allowing one pike with established territory get used to another pike that has no established territory in your aquarium.
If you release pike #2 into your tank pike #1 will either accept it or kill it. Even if you observe no aggression, there is a chance of pike #2’s demise as pike #2 will be trespassing in pike #1’s territory as it enters the aquarium.

It seems like you have a backup plan, so good luck and hopefully this works out!
 
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Goggy

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As for positive indicators:

pike #1 ignoring pike #2 for long amounts of time is a big one.

Bonded females often develop a red/pink belly

Bonded pikes often swim side by side and like colliding with each other

Athough this is improbable, when pikes are courting each other, the female does a vertical dance.

Other than that, just keep watching their aggression levels
Maybe a whole week of zero aggression and then you can release them
 

Gourami Swami

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Goggy Goggy has hit the nail on the head. Great advice.
Your biggest problem will be that your first pike sees that tank as his territory, and any other pike in his limited territory is an invader who must be killed. Big pikes are really quite mean, and growing up a group of them and getting a bonded pair from young fish is much easier than introducing two adults. Personally I would wait until they spend a good amount of time together through the box while not showing any aggression. Look for breeding behavior as well. Really I am just re-iterating points already stated. Wish you the best of luck with them they are amazing fish!
 
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