For our first Fish Spotlight, TFFF is going to introduce you to the Rio Grande Cichlid. It is the fish that we have dedicated 2021 to, with The Year of the Rio! If you haven't checked out the Year of the Rio yet, be sure you do.
Fish Spotlight: Rio Grande Cichlid
|Photograph courtesy of Mike Schlimgen
|Photo courtesy of Odom Wu
Rio's typically spawn in warm, shallow water during the early spring. The fish are typically monogamous, and will both work together to defend their nests and young against predators. They can be aggressive, opportunistic feeders, typically feeding on small fish, insects, crustaceans, and often consume large amounts of the eggs of other fish.
|Painting by Nathan Brown
The Rio Grande Cichlid are the only native member of the cichlid family to Texas (or America for that matter.) They are native only to the lower stretches of the Rio Grande River system and possibly also the Nueces River. They have since been introduced throughout other river systems in Texas and have taken a strong foothold in the Texas Hill Country. Much of this Hill Country population started due the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Fish Cultural Station at San Marcos bringing the fish to the Guadalupe River drainage system in 1928. Rio's were release from there in both 1929 and 1941, and have since increased in numbers in the waters of the Edwards Plateau.
|Photo courtesy of Chris Fleury
The Rio Grande Cichlid has since spread to other areas in Texas. It has also spread to other states where the fish has become a problem invasive species, driving out and out competing local, native fish. Louisiana particularly has seen a problem with the number of Rio's that have taken hold around New Orleans. Rio's are also know as "pioneer" fish, because their introduction can pave the way for other non-native fish to take footholds in areas where they have spread. If you catch a Rio in areas where they have become a problem, don't feel bad keeping them for dinner, they are supposed to be a fine table fare.
|Photo courtesy of Pat Kellner
Head out and catch yourself a uniquely Texas fish, and make sure to check out our Year of the Rio Contests!
|Photo courtesy of Xavier Jaime (from YOTRio2021 Photo Contest)