Jaguar Cichlid: Care Tips, Tank Mates, and Appearance




Jaguar Cichlid

Sharing is caring!

The Jaguar cichlid, also known as the Jaguar guapote, Tiger guapote, Guapote tigre, Spotted guapote, Managua cichlid, Managuense cichlid and the Aztec cichlid (Phew, that was a mouthful!) is a large breed of cichlid native to Central America.

Known by so many names, but most commonly as the Jaguar cichlid, its various other names are derived from its scientific name (Cichlasoma managuense) and its place of origin.

These species are known for being big, semi-aggressive juvenile fish. They’re extremely beautiful and make for a popular pet amongst more experienced fishkeepers.

Jaguar Cichlid: Overview

Minimum Tank Size125 gal (473 L)
TemperamentAggressive - Predatory
Temperature75.0 to 82.0° F (23.9 to 27.8° C)


Native to lakes, ponds, and springs in Central America, the Jaguar cichlid can be found in various locations, mainly across Nicaragua and Honduras.

There are also established populations known in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Panama, due to the introduction of the species across the area.

The Jaguar cichlid is commonly found on the Atlantic slope of Central America. Unlike many aquarium fish found in the wild, the Jaguar cichlid is actually large enough to be sought after for human consumption.

It’s commonly eaten in their native lands, with some areas even classing them as ‘pests’ – a beautiful pest nonetheless!

These highly predatory fish feed on large invertebrates and small fish, making them fairly easy to keep if you’re experienced with large carnivorous and somewhat aggressive fish.

Natural Habitat

Jaguar cichlids are commonly found on the Atlantic slope of Central America, ranging from habitats in the Ulua River in Honduras to the Matina River in Costa Rica.

This freshwater fish enjoys bodies of water with muddy bottoms and warm temperatures. As such, they’re commonly found in water with lower oxygen levels, such as springs, ponds, and lakes.


The appearance of the Jaguar cichlid actually changes as this fish ages, hence why the names we discussed before may have been a little confusing.

Referred to as both the ‘Jaguar cichlid’ and the ‘Tiger cichlid,’ you may think that tigers and jaguars have very different patterns, and that’s completely true – so how can both names refer to these feeder fish?

Well, to put it simply, as a juvenile, the Jaguar cichlid shows vertical bars, somewhat resembling a tiger’s stripes.

However, these bars are lost as they age and slowly replaced with a similar spotted pattern to their namesake – the jaguar.

This change in pattern happens to all males. However, some females never lose their stripes, while some lose them and develop the jaguar spots, and some lose them and… well… remain without a pattern.

Most Jaguar cichlids typically have a light tan yellow to deep red coloring on their heads and a silvery, shimmery light blueish green to purple shade on their bodies. If housed in clear waters, the colors of these fish can really pop!

In terms of their shape, they are somewhat oval and have very elongated and large bodies.  They are some of the largest cichlids of South American origin.

As with any other cichlid variant, they possess a well-developed set of pharyngeal teeth located in their throat, alongside their regular teeth, perfect for their predatory lifestyle.

Another feature they have developed through evolution, which makes them excellent predators, is their nostrils. Most fish have two sets of nostrils. However, all cichlids, including the Jaguar, have just one set.

These nostrils help them to “smell” their prey in the water, enabling them to find food by sucking water into their nostrils, smelling it, and then pushing it out again – a bit like the way we smell the air – it just seems a lot stranger when we describe it in the water!

Despite these features making them excellent at hunting, the Jaguar cichlid also has some features which help it deter its own predators.

They have spiny rays on the rear of their anal, dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins, which help to reflect light and discourage predators from approaching.

However, the front parts of these fins are soft, helping them to move effortlessly through the water to avoid predators, enabling sharp turns and precise movements rather than faster-streamlined swimming.

How Big Do Jaguar Cichlids Get?

The Jaguar cichlid is one of the biggest cichlid variants, both in the wild and in the aquarium industry.

When housed in captivity, male Jaguar cichlids will reach about 16” (40cm), and females generally grow to be around 14” (36cm), whereas, in the wild, they have been known to reach over 24” (63cm) and can weigh in at as much as 3.5 lbs!

Needless to say, these are some pretty big fish!

What Are the Biggest Cichlids?

Jaguar Cichlid

The biggest species of cichlid known to exist is the Boulengerochromis microlepis, a species found in lake Tanganyika.

Males are able to reach up to 36” (90cm), and females up to 30” (75cm).

This species is almost impossible to keep in captivity because they are notoriously difficult to breed.

Many housed in captivity have endured miserable lives and shortened lifespans.

Other Large Cichlid Species:

  • Cichlasoma ubriferum
  • Buccochromis lepturus
  • Peacock bass
  • Wolf cichlid
  • Cichlasoma festae
  • Bay snook
  • The Buttie
  • Uaru amphiacanthoides

Care Tips (Grouping & Housemates, Breeding, Diet)

Best Tankmates for Jaguar Cichlids

As with all other larger cichlid species, the key to keeping these guys happy is giving them plenty of space.

Whilst they can be kept alone or in pairs, they commonly exhibit aggressive behavior toward fish of the same species if they’re not raised as a pair.

This means that it can be incredibly risky, for example, when introducing a female into a tank with a male, particularly if the male is larger.

This fish should not be kept in a community tank due to their levels of aggression. However, if you must house it with other fish, you can keep it with other South American cichlids, particularly those bigger than the Jaguar, as they’re a highly territorial species, particularly when spawning.

If breeding these fish, ensure that no other fish are left in the tank with them at this time.

Can a Jaguar Cichlid Live With an Oscar?

These predatory fish may be able to live with some larger species, such as the Oscar.

Housing them together must only be attempted by those with plenty of experience keeping aggressive fish species together.

As I mentioned previously, though, if any of these fish are breeding (spawning), you’ll want to separate them to avoid any fatalities amongst the eggs, fry, or even between your fish when trying to defend their babies from a tank mate they may consider to be a threat.

Breeding Jaguar Cichlids

To avoid the death of a female, you’ll want to avoid attempting to introduce a mature male to a mature female in hopes that they will breed.

This will likely only result in fighting and aggression, particularly on the part of the male.

Instead, raising a group of juveniles together is best, hoping they form pairs naturally.

Still, even lifelong pairs should be housed in a tank of at least 180 gallons in order to prevent any aggressive behavior from the male.

Jaguar cichlids have been bred successfully in captivity for many years and make excellent parents to their young.

If you want to encourage breeding in a pair of mature Jaguar cichlids, keeping them well fed, doing 50% water changes twice a week, and increasing the water temperature slightly to 82° F will aid in initiating a spawning response.

Ensure that any other fish species housed in the aquarium are removed before this process, as they may see the eggs, or even the fry, as a snack, which of course, can be very distressing to both you as an owner and to their parents trying to defend them.

When the time comes to spawn, the male will display for the female and become caring and protective of her. She is the one who will be taking care of the eggs, and so it is mostly down to the male to defend his family and ward off predators.

They will look for a well-covered area, usually behind a large rock or stone, and somewhere that appears sheltered and protected usually makes for a good hatching spot.

Once they agree on somewhere, they dig out an area they have agreed upon, creating a sort of pit to put their eggs in (henceforth referred to as an ‘egg pit’, for lack of a better term).

As they approach the spawning day, the male will become progressively less tolerant of any tank mates remaining in the aquarium and even of your hand at feeding time.

He will be hyper-vigilant, stopping at nothing to protect his female and preparing to protect their babies.

Once laid, the female fans the eggs, protecting them from harm by removing any dirt, debris, or intruders, and as the time for hatching begins to approach, the female gently moves them to the ‘egg pit’ she created. Hence, the fry is able to hatch from their eggs somewhere relatively safe and sheltered.

The eggs will typically hatch within 72 hours at a raised temperature of 82° F, and keeping the temperature high will help prevent the formation of fungus on the eggs.

After the babies hatch, it’s recommended to carry out 20% water changes every other day to help fix the additional disruptions occurring within the tank from feeding once they’ve feasted on their egg yolks.

Once four days have passed, you can begin to feed them Liquifry and baby powder food. It should be around this time that you’ll want to transfer the fry to their own tank, as they grow very quickly.

What To Feed Jaguar Cichlids

Jaguar cichlids thrive on fresh and frozen foods, such as small fish, cut-up chunks of larger fish and crayfish, and sometimes freeze-dried or dry foods.

As with all fish, this species also benefits from vitamins and supplements added to their diet, as no diet they receive in captivity can accurately replicate how they would eat in the wild.

In the wild, they commonly eat small fish and large invertebrates, so the best way of replicating this in an aquarium is by offering goldfish and other small fish species, tadpoles, earthworms, crickets, and some other insect species.

It is also possible to feed them warm-blooded animal meats, such as beef heart, chicken, or turkey. However, despite being a carnivorous species, these should be fed only once in a while and not be made part of their regular diet as they contain high levels of fat, which can lead to various illnesses and problems in your fish.

Your cichlids should be fed daily, once per day. It can be helpful to do this at the same time each day, so you don’t forget if they’ve been fed or not.

It’s also recommended to allow them one day per week to fast, as this can benefit their digestive system (preventing overfeeding and the onset of constipation) and the water quality within their tank.

Tank Setup (Decor, Tank Size, Water Parameters)

What Decor Is Good for a Jaguar Cichlid?

The Jaguar cichlid requires good water movement and a strong and highly efficient filtration system as part of its setup.

A sump-style filter with heaters in the sump is the most highly recommended setup.

You should opt for external tank equipment due to the Jaguar’s tendency to damage internal heating and filtration systems (it is quite a boisterous fish!)

Due to their size, aggression, and ability to accidentally destroy things, you’ll want their decor mostly made up of large rocks, driftwood, and caves, with large gravel being an ideal substrate choice.

In the wild, these fish originate from a very murky-looking habitat, with muddy floors and a general ‘earthy’ feel to the water.

To simulate this for your fish in captivity, adding a handful of dried leaves and some aquarium-safe peat can replicate these conditions quite well.

You’ll want to change these leaves every few weeks as there is no natural ecosystem within the tank, and if left to decompose, they will add to ammonia build-up in the water, which can be very harmful to your fish.

Live and fake plants, ideally, should be avoided altogether. Although they may look pretty and make your fish tank more attractive, this large species will likely destroy them very quickly.

What Size Tank Does a Jaguar Cichlid Need?

When housed alone, a Jaguar cichlid will require a tank of at least 125 gallons. In pairs: 180 gallons.

Keeping them in a spacious aquarium with ample hiding places will prevent them from becoming overly aggressive.

What Water Parameters Does a Jaguar Cichlid Need?

The Jaguar cichlid is a hardy species that can tolerate various temperatures, although it has been suggested that higher temperatures can lead to higher levels of aggression in this species.

With that in mind, it’s recommended to keep the temperature in the aquarium just slightly below 77° F to keep your fish calm and less angsty. The main exception to this is to encourage breeding.

So, if you’re an experienced fish keeper and are ready for a new challenge, then the Jaguar cichlid may just be for you!

Despite its gorgeous appearance, this beautiful fish requires some advanced/expert care, so a good background in fishkeeping is essential. 

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.