The Jaguar Cichlid is arguably one of the most beautiful freshwater fish known in the fish keepers’ community today. With its stunning black-and-white body and its prominent fins, it can easily steal the limelight from other fish in its tank.

However, its reputation for aggression and territoriality can scare off even the most experienced aquarist. In this guide, we take you through everything you need to know about the Jaguar Cichlid: from its origins, physical features, and behavior, as well as its diet, suitable tank mates, and breeding pointers.

Stats and Facts

There’s so much to learn about the Jaguar Cichlid, but the best place to start is with these basic facts and statistics. The information presented in the table below will give you a better idea about the personality and needs of the Jaguar Cichlid, and it should also help you gauge whether or not this fish would be a good fit for your aquarium setup.

Order Cichliformes
Family Cichlidae
Genera Parachromis
Size Up to 12 inches for females and up to 14 inches for males (though there are reports of some fish growing to 16 inches in length)
Lifespan 10 to 15 years
Temperament Aggressive
Color Black-and-white markings
Care Level Needed Moderate
Minimum Experience Level Needed Best for experienced and knowledgeable aquarists
Minimum Tank Size Required 70 to 80 gallons
General Community Behavior Will show aggression towards other, smaller fish

Origins of a Freshwater Hunter

The spirited Jaguar Cichlid was originally found in Lake Managua, a freshwater body located in Nicaragua. This fish can also be found hunting in the waters of Costa Rica and Honduras. The locals call this fish by several names, including Managuense or Managua Cichlid, Guapote Tigre, Aztec Cichlid, and Spotted Guapote. Some fish keepers have taken to calling this fish the Jaguar Managuense Cichlid in recognition of its natural habitat.

In the scientific community, the Jaguar Cichlid is called Parachromis Managuensis. The term parachromis refers to the changing coloration of the Jaguar Cichlid, while the word managuensis is another nod to the fish’s original environment. Scientists acknowledge that Lake Managua is the perfect environment for large hunters like the Jaguar Cichlid due to its rich biodiversity and waters that are conducive to growth.

Notable Physical Features

The Jaguar Cichlid’s physique has enticed a lot of curious aquarists to care for this beast of a fish.

They have an oval-shaped body and well-formed fins, giving them a massive appearance when compared to other freshwater fish. Young Jaguar Cichlids have a pale silver coloration. As they grow, thick black bands will extend from the top of their bodies all the way down to their belly. These black bands then split into irregular blotches as the juvenile Jaguar Cichlids reach maturity.

Aside from its black-and-white markings, this fish exhibits the famous Jaguar Cichlid teeth. Jaguar Cichlids are extremely predatory in nature, and their strong jaws with sharp teeth help them catch any prey that tries to escape. An adult Jaguar Cichlid has a mouth with a lower half that protrudes past the upper half, making it look like an inverted hook.

The fins of Jaguar Cichlids are also worth noting. Male Jaguar Cichlids have extended dorsal and anal fins that taper to a fine point, whereas their female counterparts will have noticeably rounder fins. Unlike other fish in the cichlid family that feature short and stubby fins, the Jaguar Cichlid has well-defined and spiny fins used for movement efficiency when hunting for prey.

Tank and Water Requirements

Your available aquarium size and water parameters are two of the most important things to consider before purchasing Jaguar Cichlids. This is a large fish that requires a lot of space to move and hunt freely. Forcing one or more Jaguar Cichlids to live in anything less than a 70-gallon capacity tank will only result in stunted growth, high-stress levels, and frequent fish fights. That said, the minimum Jaguar Cichlid tank size is 70 to 80 gallons; this can be used to house a single Aztec Cichlid.

If you plan to keep more than one of these particular fish, you need to provide an additional 60 gallons per Jaguar Cichlid. The average adult Jaguar Cichlid size ranges between 10 to 12 inches for females and 14 to 16 inches for males. A good baseline Jaguar Cichlid tank size for a pair of bonded adult fish is the 180-gallon capacity aquarium. As you can see, tank preparations for this fish alone can be quite expensive.

This is one of the reasons why this type of fish is not recommended for novice fish keepers. Below is a summary table with the water parameters you need to maintain if you intend to raise a Jaguar Cichlid at home.

Temperature 73 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
pH Level 7.0 to 8.5
Water Hardness Level 10 to 15 dGH
Light Level Low to Moderate

– Filters, Plants, and Decorative Items

Aside from maintaining the ideal water parameters mentioned above, you will need to consider the type of filter, substrate, plants, and decorative items you include in your Jaguar Cichlid aquarium. Below are some practical tips you can apply when designing the ideal environment for these aggressive hunters.

Use a Powerful Filter

Since Jaguar Cichlids are big fish, they will produce waste at a faster rate than smaller fish or tank members. With that in mind, it would be best to equip your aquarium with a large and powerful filter. You may want to use external canister or sump-style filters to ensure that your Jaguar Cichlids always have clean water.

Include Hardy Plants

You may also want to include a few hardy plants in your aquarium. Just be sure to choose plants that are not easily uprooted or have delicate leaves. Jaguar Cichlids are notorious for digging up poorly-rooted plants and ripping through fauna with soft leaves.

If you do not want to risk any plant life from being destroyed by your Jaguar Cichlids, you can always use floating plants instead. Hornwort and Duckweed are great choices to include in this fish’s aquarium as they are unlikely to be bothered by your Jaguar Cichlids while providing significant shade from harsh lighting.

Use a Sandy Substrate

Jaguar Cichlids will sometimes spend their time at the bottom of the tank, searching for small prey. However, this makes them prone to swallowing small rocks or pebbles. To prevent this from happening, be sure to use a fine sandy substrate in your Jaguar Cichlid tank.

Rocks and Decorative Debris Are Optional

Aside from aquarium fauna, you may also want to place large, flat rocks or medium-sized caves and wood debris in your tank. Place these items sparingly, as the most important thing when designing a Jaguar Cichlid tank is to leave enough free space for the fish to move in.

Providing Proper Jaguar Cichlid Care

Once you have a suitable tank set up for your Jaguar Cichlid, you should learn more about how to care for it. This includes learning about the Aztec Cichlid’s diet, as well as some do’s and don’ts when it comes to caring for this particular fish.

– Diet Guidelines

The Jaguar Cichlid is a predatory fish by nature. This means that it will thrive on a protein-rich and live prey diet. Below is a breakdown of the different types of food Jaguar Cichlids eat and how often you should feed them.

Live Food

You can feed your Jaguar Cichlid with most kinds of feeder fish, live insects, bloodworms, and larvae. Feeding them live food will encourage them to hone their hunting instincts and provide their bodies with the necessary protein to adjust to the remarkably fast Jaguar Cichlid growth rate.

Live food is the ideal type of food for Jaguar Cichlids, but you need to take extra precautions in feeding live prey because they can introduce diseases in your tank. That said, you should only feed this type of food if you are capable of raising feeder fish in a separate aquarium where you can monitor their health and diet or if you have a trusted supplier of feeder fish. Feed this type of food at least five times a week, or have it make up 80 percent of their total diet.

Frozen Food

In the absence of live food, you can also feed your Jaguar Cichlids with frozen food. For instance, you might want to give them frozen and sliced fish or crayfish. This type of food will provide them with the nutrients they need and may also be easier to source and keep in your home.

Frozen food is the best kind of food you can give your Jaguar Cichlids if you do not have access to a reputable source of clean and sustainable feeder fish or if you cannot raise feeder fish or other kinds of live prey by yourself. You can feed frozen food up to five times a week or on the days you need to use it as a substitute for live food.

Commercial Food

If you purchase juvenile Jaguar Cichlids, you can train them to accept commercial pellets and fish flakes. However, you won’t be able to do this if you decide to take home fully mature Jaguar Cichlids originally fed with live or frozen food. Be sure to choose only the highest quality commercial food for your Jaguar Cichlids. In addition, you should only feed this type of food twice a week or up to 20 percent of their total diet.

Other Types of Food

In the absence of live prey, frozen food, or even commercial food, you can feed your Jaguar Cichlids with a host of other types of food. Remember that you should only do this for emergency situations and that the food listed below should be fed sparingly at best. Here are some other types of food that you can feed your Jaguar Cichlids when you find yourself in a pinch: slices of beef heart (without the fatty portions) and frozen prawns.

Feed your Jaguar Cichlids once daily. It would be best if you were able to create a feeding schedule and stick to it as strictly as possible so that your fish also learn when to anticipate the next provision for food.

– Care Tips

Aside from knowing what and how often to feed your Jaguar Cichlids, you need to learn more about what it will take for you to provide them with the proper care and support. Here are some practical tips you might find helpful when caring for your Aztec Cichlids:

Perform Water Changes on Scheduled Basis

One of the most important things you can do to care for your Jaguar Cichlids properly is to schedule regular water changes for your aquarium. Doing this will ensure that your fish have clean water to swim through all the time. This, in turn, will significantly decrease the chances that your Jaguar Cichlids succumb to common sicknesses.

Avoid Overfeeding

Jaguar Cichlids are opportunistic feeders. They will eat most of the things you introduce in their tank, especially if it fits their large mouths. This means that you need to be doubly attentive to how much they are eating. Overfeeding your Jaguar Cichlids can lead to health and weight problems later on and will only make it harder for your fish to thrive in its home.

Prevent Fish Fights

As mentioned previously, the Jaguar Cichlid is a highly aggressive and territorial fish. That said, you need to research well when it comes to pairing them with other tank mates. You also need to ensure that your tank has enough space if you want to care for more than a pair of Jaguar Cichlids. If any of your fish are injured during a fish fight, try to distract the fish and isolate the wounded one as best as you can.

Tank Mates

It can be pretty tricky to find suitable tank mates for Jaguar Cichlids. Any smaller and weaker fish than this species will easily end up as the Jaguar Cichlid’s next meal. In addition, the Jaguar Cichlid is so territorial that it has also been observed to pick fights with fish of the same size.

The easiest tank mate for this kind of fish is the opposite gender of its own species. One male and one female Jaguar Cichlid usually live in harmony with each other without any need for human intervention.

On the other hand, if you are interested in including different kinds of fish in your Jaguar Cichlid aquarium, you need to find ones that are large and peaceful or equally feisty. Here are some of our experts’ best bets when it comes to the ideal tank mates of your Aztec Cichlids:

– Velvet Cichlid

Also known as the Oscar Fish, the Velvet Cichlid will make a good tank mate for your Jaguar Cichlid because it is a similarly large and aggressive fish. This means that the Oscar can undoubtedly hold its own against the predatorial Jaguar Cichlid.

– Convict Cichlid

Similar to the Oscar Fish, the Convict Cichlid is another large and aggressive freshwater fish that can be raised in the same aquarium as the Jaguar Cichlid. Just keep in mind that housing several types of cichlids requires that you provide the largest tank you can afford to purchase and maintain.

– Sailfin Pleco

The Sailfin Pleco is a humongous bottom-dweller fish that has a peaceful nature. Its size will keep it safe from Jaguar Cichlid attacks, and its personality will make it unlikely to bother the Jaguar Cichlid or engage in any kind of fish fight.

– Giant Gourami

This type of fish is another peaceful tank mate that, because of its size, can be paired with the aggressive Jaguar Cichlid.

Breeding Guidelines

Breeding Jaguar Cichlids is a surprisingly easy endeavor. This is mainly because Jaguar Cichlids mate for life, and they are exceptionally good parents as well. Read the step-by-step guide on how to breed your Jaguar Cichlids below.

– Step 1: Move a Bonded Pair Into a Breeding Tank

This step is highly recommended for aquarists who keep their Jaguar Cichlids in a community tank. The parent Jaguar Cichlids will become highly aggressive and territorial towards all of the community tank members once the female lays her eggs. It would be best for every fish to just move the breeding pair into a large tank dedicated to breeding and raising fish fry.

– Step 2: Mimic the Water and Environment of the Breeding Season

Increase the water temperature of the breeding tank by a few degrees, and provide the breeding pair with a lot of protein-rich food. This should trigger the breeding phase to begin. You can also place the breeding tank in a dimly lit or well-shaded area to better mimic the natural environment of breeding Jaguar Cichlids.

– Step 3: Wait for the Female Jaguar Cichlid To Lay Her Eggs

After a few days, you should see the female Jaguar Cichlid lay her eggs. She will do this in a medium-sized rock cave or on a flat and sturdy surface in the tank. The male will then fertilize the eggs and guard them together with the female.

– Step 4: Support the Growth of the Young Jaguar Cichlids

The eggs should hatch after seven days. The male and female Jaguar Cichlids will then protect them well until the fry become free-swimming juveniles. Support the growth of the baby Jaguar Cichlid by providing it with baby Brine Shrimp and Daphnia.


We discussed a lot of things about the Jaguar Cichlid in this article. Here is a rundown of essential points that we covered:

  • The Jaguar Cichlid originated from Lake Managua in Nicaragua.
  • This fish is predatorial, aggressive, and territorial.
  • The Jaguar Cichlid should be fed mostly with live food or frozen protein-rich food.
  • You can pair this fish with other large fish such as Oscars, other Cichlids, and Plecos.
  • The Jaguar Cichlid is easy to breed as they form lifelong bonds with their mates and are capable of defending their young.

As you can see, the Jaguar Cichlid is not so intimidating to raise if you know the basics and you are committed to caring for this fish properly.

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