This species originates from the northern part of the Amazon basin and Guyana. They are a gentle peaceful species and do not burrow. When spawning they will become aggressive and territorial.

Heros severus

The male can be distinguished from the female because it is mottled with red-brown dots all over the body and worm-like markings on the head. The female is lighter in colour and has a shorter dorsal and anal fin. There can be a dark patch on her dorsal fin as well.



This species will pair off and choose their own mates. A strong bond will be established between compatible fish. This bond formation may involve a display of snapping, jaw-locking and other forms of belligerent behaviour. I have read that it is the female that will choose her own mate, as I later observed!

Severums are open spawners and lay their eggs on flat stones or flat surfaces. Generally both parents clean the spawning site of all debris. The end of the genitalia (genital papal) can be seen on both parents a day or more before spawning begins. The female’s is blunt and the male’s is fine and curved. Spawning may vary from 100 to 1000 eggs depending on the age of the parents. After spawning their territory is vigorously defended. When the fry hatch, which can be in three to five days, they are generally moved by the parents to a new pit. I found it was better to remove the eggs and apply artificial incubation for the first and second spawn so that you make sure you have all the fry you want without the chance of the parents eating them.

My spawning of the severums was not planned, it just happened! I have a fifty gallon tank holding six large brown severums. The tank is in my living room so I can watch them swimming around in the evenings. One evening two of the fish began locking jaws. This surprised me but I let them be, and the next evening the same performance occurred again. Those two severums ended up in the corner of the tank so I inserted a plastic tank divider because it was obvious they had paired off.

They both had ample room and a stone to spawn on. After two weeks nothing happened so I took the divider out and sent them on their way. After a week the same two started locking jaws again, but to my surprise another large female interrupted this activity and locked jaws with the male and dragged him across the tank into the other corner. She held him there so I put the divider in.

This time I was prepared, as I already had a 30 gallon tank set up with a gravel bottom, three flat stones, and outside filter and an air stone. The temperature was about 78F. The next morning the pair were transferred into the 30 gallon.

After one week they spawned. A large stone was covered with eggs, well over 600. Because I had read that they are good parents I left the eggs in the tank, but after five days all the eggs disappeared. Another week went by and then they spawned again. This time I siphoned about 100 eggs into a 10 gallon tank containing water from the parents’ tank, a fry filter and air stone. The temperature was 80F and I added methylene blue and completely covered the tank. After five days the eggs fungussed and the eggs in the parents’ tank disappeared. Still no fry!!

Try and try again!!! This time I used hard water straight from the tap and let it sit. When the severums spawned again I removed the stone and placed it in the 10 gallon tank and added methylene blue until I could just see the eggs. After three days they were hatching and after another three days I removed the stone allowing the fry to drop to the bottom of the tank. The fry filter was replaced with a filter containing charcoal. All debris and fungussed eggs were siphoned from the bottom. Each day the bottom of the tank was cleaned and wriggling fry swirled around in the clean water that was added. In another five days they were free swimming. They were fed live brine shrimp and in the afternoon they received sifted dry fry food. In the evening the tank bottom was cleaned again and another water change was done. It has been two months and I have about 180 fry.

Meanwhile the parents have spawned again and again. One spawn the eggs fungussed again and the next after that were okay, and I have another fifty fry swimming around. The small amount of fry the last time was due to the fact that not enough time was taken to clean the bottom of the tank. Many small fry before and shortly after they are free swimming will get caught up in the debris on the bottom of the tank and cannot get out, so they die. I lost many this way because I was pressed for time.

If the parents spawn again the eggs will be left in with them to see if eventually they will raise their own. Then they will be retired back to the 50 gallon tank with their friends and then what will be will be. At least now I have had the experience of breeding severums on my own.

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  1. Bruce Jost says:

    There seems to be some confusion here. Your photo is labeled “Heros Severus” and yet your article talks about Heros who are substrate spawners. There is a misdirect here. There are several species of Heros, most of which fall under the title Efasciatus, which is commonly and mistakenly knows as “Severum”. Efasiatus is different from Severus in that Efasciatus is a substrate spawner while Severus is a mouth brooder. In most other ways they are similar.

    I apologize. I don’t mean to be offensive or condescending but this is a pet peeve of mine. There is a distinct difference between the species. If yours substrate brooded, then they have to be effasciatus, probably Peruvian Green.

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