Jaguar Cichlid – Species Profile & Facts

Jaguar cichlids, or parachromis managuensis, are one of the most interesting cichlid species. With their black and yellowish bodies, they have patterns on their bodies arranged just like a jaguar, leading them to be called jaguar cichlids.

They are beautiful cichlids that have a semi-aggressive temperament and are relatively large in size. However, they make a fun companion to any fish in the tank and for any fish tank owner.

They are meant for slightly more experienced fish tank owners, but almost anyone can learn to keep them easily.

An interesting thing about jaguar cichlids is that they will regularly change their coloration when they age, and their body patterns will likely change throughout their lives.

Younger fish will normally display vertical black bars; when these fish grow up, they will start to appear just like jaguars, and will achieve this distinct look which they are named after.

In the wild, these fish will reach about 2 feet in size, although they are much smaller in aquariums, as they usually don’t have enough space to fully grow. They will reach about 16” in size.

In this article, you’ll learn everything there is to know about jaguar cichlids – how to keep it, breeding, feeding, tank mates, and much more.

Jaguar Cichlid Natural Habitat

Jaguar cichlids have been known to a wide audience since the 19th century, so they are one of the older cichlid fish species. They were discovered in 1867 by Gunther, and they were successfully spread to the west in the following decades.

Normally, these fish are found in Central America. Costa Rica and Honduras are the two main countries where these fish will live in. mostly, they live in warm ponds, lakes, and springs.

However, in some collocations, these fish are surprisingly deemed as pests, so they are actively removed.

They like warm waters and they will mostly swim around the bottom of the tank, as they like muddy bottoms. They prefer low-oxygen environments, and relatively low-light waters.

Another thing is that they are very predatory fish, which is why they are sometimes deemed as pests. They will actively prey on smaller fish and consume them.

You’ll have to be very careful if you’re willing to keep this fish – they can become predators of your smaller fish. As we’ve already said, these fish will grow large, to about 16” in home aquariums, but maybe even larger.

Jaguar Cichlid Tank Requirements

Usually, it’s not recommended for beginners to keep this fish. Although it might take some learning, but the temperament of this fish is such that they are not recommended for beginners.

They will actively prey on smaller fish and will try to eat them, so it’s a big no-no to keep these fish with smaller fish in the tank.

This fish is a large fish. As we’ve mentioned they can exceed sizes of 16”, and they mostly will.

This will mean they will need a very large tank – about 125 gallons will do well for a single fish. However, if you intend to have other fish in the tank, you’ll want to have an even larger one.

There should be clear territorial lines between this fish and other fish species in the tank.

There should be many rocks, caves, and driftwood, which will have to be sturdy, as these large fish can destroy decorative elements quickly. You’ll also want to add large gravel as substrate, which is the best type of gravel for these fish.

Good water movement and filtration is also essential. That’s because these fish produce a lot of waste, and prefer to have a quickly flowing water, too.

There’s a lot to keep an eye on, so again, this fish is not the best for beginners.

Jaguar Cichlid Water Conditions

In terms of water conditions, you’ll want to make sure this fish has the same water conditions as they have in the wild. This means freshwater with relatively high temperatures.

These should be between 75 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. For breeding, you’ll want to ensure at least 82 degrees Fahrenheit, and sometimes even higher than that.

As for PH, these fish will do well in a neutral environment when it comes to acidity, although they will prefer to have slightly higher PH ranges than normal.

Anywhere between 7.0 and 8.7 will do well, and these fish are not the most demanding in this respect. Still, keeping a close eye on how these PH levels develop is key.

The water hardness range should be between 10-15 DGH. But keep in mind that regular water maintenance is the key with these fish; and because there is likely to be a larger tank, you’ll need to do regular water changes, too.

Many aquarists will choose to have a temperature well below 80 degrees – usually even below 77. Which can decrease the aggressiveness of these fish.

Jaguar Cichlid Diet and Feeding

In the wild, jaguar cichlids will actively prey on smaller fish and invertebrates. They are carnivore fish, which means the majority of their diet should be meat-based foods with plenty of proteins.

Live foods should often be fed to these fish, as well as frozen foods and pellets, at times. However, you can consider the main source of food to these fish to be larger chunks of cut fish pieces, but they will also prefer to eat larger pieces of frozen or live foods.

Be careful with meaty foods, though. Don’t feed these fish warm blooded animal meats such as beef heart and other similar foods – these fish are not used to these foods, and these foods will provide too much protein for the fish, which might interrupt their metabolism.

One thing to keep in mind is to not overfeed these fish. Yes, they might be big fish, but you need to keep moderation even if you want to feed them properly.

Usually, it’s best to feed them once a day with a slightly larger meal, although keep that meal in moderation. And some experts will also recommend that you fast this fish at least once a week to prevent obesity.

Jaguar Cichlid Tank Mates

As we’ve already stated, these fish are not community tank fish, and should not be kept with smaller fish at all. If you really want to have another fish next to your jaguar cichlid, then it’s best to add another jaguar cichlid.

The best way to do that is to buy or find juvenile jaguar cichlids and grow them together. This will create a good bond between them, and you will avoid potential problems later on, such as aggressiveness.

However, there are also some other fish species that these fish can be compatible with. Such fish include mostly larger fish species, such as:

  • Oscar fish
  • Green terror cichlid
  • Convict cichlid
  • Red Devil cichlid
  • Flowerhorn cichlid

This has worked for some people, although it might not work for you, too. As these fish are aggressive, it might be hard to find the appropriate tank mates.

Even these fish above might not work for all keepers, and some have found great success by bonding several jaguar cichlids together.

In any case, you should avoid smaller fish at all costs, unless you want to use smaller fish for diet. In that case, you can consider smaller fish, but make sure these fish are properly vetted and free of any potential diseases that can spread to the jaguar cichlid.

Jaguar Cichlid Breeding

Breeding has been done in captivity before, and it’s not particularly hard to breed jaguar cichlids. If you put females and a male together, then half of your work is already done.

One thing to keep in mind is that these fish will be highly protective for their eggs and fry. This is why you should provide a separate, breeding tank to prevent potential aggressiveness towards other fish.

The breeding process can be triggered by raising the temperature slightly to the higher levels for these fish. It’s also desirable to perform water changes 50% more frequently than before, which can increase the likelihood of breeding.

Females will swell up eggs, and will then find a flat surface or a rock to lay the eggs off.

You’ll also want to provide plenty of high-quality live foods to encourage the fish to breed. Female cichlids will usually lay up to 2000 eggs at once. Male will them fertilize these eggs.

It will take up to a week for the eggs to hatch. The female will watch the eggs carefully during this time. the male will protect the eggs aggressively.

The baby fish will not swim freely for a week, after this period, they will be able to take care of themselves.


Jaguar cichlids are perhaps one of the most popular fish species to keep in a tank. They are large cichlid species, which will require you to purchase a relatively large tank.

But, keeping them is recommended for intermediate to expert fish tank owners, as they can be predatory and aggressive towards other species. Hopefully, you now know how to care for the fish better.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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