|Hundreds of young arrow cichlids (Amphilophus zaliosus) are only perhaps sixty days from hatching. Although they have been abandoned by their parents, they continue to school at a nesting site. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
We often get asked what can be seen while SCUBA diving in Laguna de Apoyo. Nicaragua has lots of lakes and rives, but most tropical freshwater sites here and elsewhere have low visibility. Lake Apoyo visibility is almost always 5-12 meters at the locations where we dive.
The fish of Lake Apoyo are special, too. The most commonly seen fish are members of the Midas cichlid species complex. Six species in this group have been discovered in Lake Apoyo, all of which evolved in the lake and inhabit only this lake. The first to be discovered was the arrow cichlid (Amphilophus zaliosus) in 1976 by a professor at University of California-Berkeley, George W. Barlow. Most of these six endemic species can be seen while scuba diving.
Arrow cichlids, like all the other members of the Midas cichlid species complex in Lake Apoyo, nest in rocky reefs, but they also nest often over sandy bottoms in water from 4 to 8 m depth. All the fish in this species complex, which is found throughout the San Juan River watershed and a few rivers to the north and south, provide parental care to their fry for several weeks after hatching. Here is a photo of the arrow cichlid fry after the parents have abandoned them. These fish are no longer defended from predation by the parental units.
|These arrow cichlids have not yet dispersed but are no longer receiving parental care. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|Life is good after a dive. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|The Bigmouth Sleeper (Gobiomorus dormitor) is a dangerous predator. It was introduced into Lake Apoyo in 1991. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|Gold form Midas cichlids are relatively common in some lakes, but not in Lake Apoyo. Fish such as the one in this photo are exceedingly rare. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|Some Midas cichlids show|
|This breeding, gold form Midas cichlid stays near the nesting hole. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|The gold-normal breeding pair linger near the nesting cavity. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|The Bigmouth Sleeper has occupied Lake Apoyo only two decades, but is now very common. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|Filamentous algae forms a carpet on the lake bottom where Chara macroalgae was once abundant, placing much of the life in the lake at risk. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|A Bigmouth Sleeper (Gobiomorus dormitor) pair in courtship in Laguna de Apoyo. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|These Midas cichlid fry must share their nest space with garbage left by humans. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|Juvenile Amphilophus cichlids in Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|A blind Amphilophus astorquii in Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|Amphilophus chancho defending fry in a nesting hole in Lake Apoyo. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|Amphilophus fishes near a hole beneath a rock in Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|An adult bigmouth sleeper uses a hole beneath a rock as a hiding spot, from which to hunt. Photo by Martin Cabrera.|
|Jaguar cichlid (Parachromis managuensis) fry are feeding in open water outside their nest cavity in Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua. A small clump of Chara vegetation can be seen in the lower left.|
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