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Mini Dovii | How I Successfully Kept Them Alive!

Mini Dovii is a small attractive freshwater fish that is less known compared to other Cichlid species. The species Cichlasoma grammodes commonly called by many names such as Grammodes Cichlid, Mini Dovii and sieve Cichlids.

Mini Dovii is a rather uncommon Mexican species that have red spotting across its entire body, even as a juvenile.

Mini Dovii earns its reputation as a beautiful and colorful fish and has great potential to be a centerpiece fish in an aquarium. 

As the name suggests it is actually a miniature Dovii Cichlid. Although common Cichlids are neotropical fish Mini Dovii is a Mexican species spread all over central America across Mexico to Guatemala. 

Mini Dovii

How to identify them

Mini Dovii has a large head and ample red spotting across its head and the entire body.

Although they are hardy and undemanding in the aquarium, tank mates should be chosen carefully due to their aggressive nature. However, they are often compatible with other large durable fish. 

Scientific background

Mini Dovii belong to the family of Cichlidae ,order of Perciformes and the class of Actinopterygii.

Although their commonly known scientific name is Cichlasoma grammodes there are another two synonyms to this species; Herichthys grammodes,Nandopsis grammodes.

Their scientific background is still being studied and not clarified yet. In literature this species is classified as one of the “Grammodes complex” which also includes C. beani and C. istlanum.

However, These 3 species are currently classified as exCichlasoma until further study and classification is done

How big do Mini Dovii get?

As the name implies Mini Dovii is a small version of Dovii Cichlid and instead of growing 25+inches like Dovii Cichlids, they will only reach up to 12 inches (30 cm). Their average purchase size is 2 inches (5 cm)

Is Mini Dovii aggressive?

Mini Dovii are aggressive fish and they become even more aggressive during the breeding season.

However, they are only aggressive towards individuals of the same species and rarely battle with other types of fish.

Mini Dovii behavior

Mini Dovii is aggressive fish and at the same time, they show a territorial behavior. Therefore, they are considered as one of the most territorial cichlids.

Specially females of this species sometimes guard their turf with their lives. They are very fast fish and often swim in the aquarium here and there. Some aquarists reported they fly out of the water to get a piece of food. 

They are avid piscivores in nature hence tend to feed on small fish.

Mini Dovii is a very skilled fighter and they often try to hit the eyes and throats of their enemies. The enemies merely get dead or severely injured after fighting with these little monsters.

They swim incredibly fast. They do well during any battle with their enemies for the sake of their fast swimming ability. 

Because Mini Dovii becomes more aggressive during breeding season, they are more likely to exhibit violent behavior when living in a tank with another fish of the same species. The opportunity for mating will bring out the mini dovii’s hostile activity.

Mini Dovii is diurnal animals and hence can be enjoyed for their attractive colors and fast swimming style during day time.

They like to dwell nearly all over the tank particularly in the middle of the water column, bottom and middle -bottom of the water column too. 

They show strong territorial behavior especially at their peak during spawning and precautions should be taken to avoid unnecessary battles. 

How long do Mini Dovii s live?

They have a fairly long life span. It will be 20-25 years if they are carefully maintained. 

One look Care guide

Scientific nameCichlasoma grammodes
Herichthys grammodes
Nandopsis grammodes
Common nameMini Dovii
Sieve Cichlids 
Grammodes Cichlid
Care levelIntermediate 
Native toAmerica – Central; Mexico to Guatemala
Type Carnivore
Color Mainly silver color with black line and red spots 
Tank size75 gallons for a single adult
Prefered temperatureTemp:     76-82F
Other water parameters (ammonia ,ect)pH: 6.5 – 7.8
Temp: 76-82F
Ammonia: 0ppm
Nitrite: 0ppm
Nitrate: <30ppm
Prefered salinity6.5 – 7.8
Size 30.48 cm (12”) at maturity
Growth rateVery slow
Temperament Aggressive 
Recommended tank matesOther types of large cichlidsplecosCatfishSilver dollar species 
Prefered foodCichlid pellet
shrimp pellet
krill pellet 
veggie pellet
live prey
frozen or freeze-dried blood worms
brine shrimp
beef heart 
Feeding frequencyTwo to three times a day
breedingNot commonly spawned.
But can be spawned easily.

Mini Dovii care

Mini Dovii size

Both males and females reach the size of 30.48 cm (12”) at maturity but most of the time males are larger than females.

Mini Dovii tank size

The minimum tank size for Mini Dovii is 75 gallons for a single adult. It is estimated 125+ gallons capacity will be needed for a pair. 

How many Mini Dovii should be kept together?

Since they are aggressive towards individuals of the same type of species it is better not to put even a pair of them together.

However, they can be put in the same tank until they reach the size of 4-6 inches and when they reach the above size range, they should be separated.

Some aquarists suggest growing a group of juveniles together and allowing them to pair off naturally, then giving each pair its own tank is better than pairing them artificially. 

Tank setup

The Mini Dovii cichlid likes to have sandy substrate and plenty of refuges such as clay pots, driftwood, and rock formations.

Since they do a fair amount of digging, carpet plants are not suitable and floating plants that attach to rockwork and driftwood are recommended.

They typically will not eat ornamental plants and therefore almost all aquaculture plants can be used to decor the tank. 

If the aquarium is used for spawning purposes, flat surfaces such as flat surface slate should be included. Adding caves is also a good suggestion as they lay eggs in the walls of such caves too. 

Regular water changes and maintenance are important due to their size and high waste production. Further aquarists recommend a heavy-duty filter to the aquarium of Mini Dovii.

Water quality condition

Since they are found in fast to moderate flowing rivers and streams in their natural environment they prefer high pH ranges ranging from 7 to 8.

Their preferred temperature ranges from 22°C to 27° C. While they have been found surviving in temperatures that are both colder and warmer than this range, it is not advisable to keep them in temperatures outside of the optimal range for prolonged periods.

When the fish are not placed in optimal temperatures, it can cause increased stress and decrease immunity to diseases.

Higher temperature will enhance their metabolism, thus increasing their eating rate and boosting their growth.

Higher temperatures are also helpful in deterring the attack of parasites, like the ich. Lower temperatures stall all aspects of the Dovii, including their immunity, rendering them more vulnerable to disease.

Nonetheless, there are rumors that replacing aquarium water with a little colder water would imitate rainfall, which in the wild is an excellent time for the dovii to breed.

Therefore colder water could likely trigger their spawning action. The hardness of the water in the aquarium should be in the range of 10 dH to 30 dH. It is good to do 50% water change twice a week to keep suitable water conditions. 

Both the ammonia and nitrite concentration should be at 0 ppm while the nitrate concentration should be at <30 ppm. 

However, Mini Dovii is a very sturdy fish and can withstand different water parameters.

Mini Dovii breeding 

Mini Dovii male or female identification

It is very difficult to determine the gender of this species because they look the same at a glance.

However, if there is a group of six or more individuals it becomes a little bit easy to identify them by observing their spot pattern.

Males will have a large number of red spots all over the body while the female will have very fewif any, red spots below the mid-lateral line.Further, in many cases, males will grow larger.

The development of the nuchal hump in males is also a definite factor to identify the gender of Mini Dovii. 

Identify pregnant Mini Dovii and Mini Dovii pregnancy stages

When the female Mini Dovii is pregnant they tend to stay away from other fish, particularly they try to hide in aquarium plants or other distinct places all day. 

Mini Dovii breeding

Mini Dovii is not a more commonly available species and as such, it is also not commonly spawned. However, spawning is not that hard.

When they become mature (when they reach to the size somewhere 4 – 6 inches ) aquarists should do the pair formation and it is always better to remove the formed pair from the tank.

The female lays eggs after cleaning a flat surface which can be either the walls of a cave or a flat piece of slate.

The male guards the territory while the female lays eggs. After laying eggs the female guards the eggs until fry comes out from the eggs.

However, special care must be taken to ensure that the male Sieve Cichlid does not bully or kill the female.

Some aquarists stated that lowering temperature will trigger the spawning as they breed during the rainy season in their natural environment. 

After, the spawning as soon as they came out of the eggs and removal of parents is needed as they tend to eat their own fry. 

How many babies does Mini Dovii have?

Though they lay large amounts of eggs, in the wild most Cichlid eggs and fry get eaten by the many predators that lurk in the waters.

Therefore, the average cichlid fry survival rate is only a little about 20%. However, when breeding in tanks the survival rate will be higher as their natural enemies are not present in the tank.

Further, when breeding in a tank if the aquarist takes necessary arrangements to remove the parents from the tank as soon as the spawning takes place the survival rate of fry also gets high in percentage. 

Mini Dovii fry care

In practice, it is always advised to keep cichlid fry separately as soon as they hatch to avoid being eaten by their parents.

It is always recommended to use a good filter because this species generates more waste. For smaller fry aquarists recommend using sponge filters to avoid them stuck in the filter.

Further, equipping the grow-out tank with adequate heating and lighting and filtration to ensure water circulation and a stable water temperature is important.

For the first few days, they’ll need to eat newly hatched brine shrimp, or a specialized liquid or powdered fry food.

No matter what food you provide, make sure the fiber percentage of the food is higher than the protein percentage.

After around a week, they should be fine eating mashed-up pellet or flake food. Usually, Cichlid fry needs food 2-3 times a day.

One of the downside factors of this species is their growth rate because they grow extremely slowly.

Feeding behavior of Mini Dovii 

What do they eat  

They are carnivores at the same time they are avid predators too. A large portion of their natural diet is live fish when they are in their natural environment.

Therefore, to meet their natural food requirements aquarists advise feeding them with tank-raised feeders preferably no more than once a week.

Apart from them, they prefer cichlid pellet, shrimp pellet, krill pellet and even the occasional spirulina or veggie pellet.

A variety of high-quality foods will ensure that they get a balanced diet. Further, frozen or freeze-dried treats of blood worms, brine shrimp, Beefheart, or krill also can be included for their feed. 

However, wild-caught specimens can be finicky and may require live foods at first. But they will accept the frozen and dry foods with the time and need to patiently wait for them. 

Overfeeding is not good for the health of the Mini Dovii as well as the water quality of the aquarium. Hence, make sure to feed them with little but enough food portions.

When should you feed (time of the day)

As Mini Dovii are diurnal they love to eat during day time . it is better to feed two to three times a day with little portions. 

How long they can go without food

Mini Dovii can go two to three days without food but after 2-3 days they become inactive and tend to die by starvation.

Sometimes Mini Doviis which are newly introduced to the aquarium will be reluctant to get their meals and after they get used to the tank they begin to take their usual meals. 

What fish can live with Mini Dovii?

Since Mini Dovii are rather aggressive, particularly when breeding, they cannot keep with a group of mature Mini Dovii in one tank.

However, they do well with other large cichlids, plecos, catfish, and other large, durable species in a very large tank as long as there is plenty of cover with decor to create broken lines of sight.

Even Though they do well with other species stated above the tank should be large enough to minimize the conflicts.

You cannot keep invertebrates such as Dwarf shrimp with Mini Doviis as they tend to eat them.As a rule, as long as there are no other Mini Cichlids they live in harmony with other fish as they do not trigger their breeding behavior. 

Can Mini Dovii live in a pond?

As long as the water quality of the pond keeps constant they can live in ponds too.

But as they are beautiful and attractive fish, no use in keeping them in a pond because no one can see their real beauty if at least one end of the tank is made of glass. 

Credit to : Aquarium Fish Enthusiasts
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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.