Jaguar Cichlid: Size, Types, Tank Mates, Food & More

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The Jaguar cichlid is a natively Central American cichlid that is a great recommendation only for the experienced aquarist. Jaguar cichlids are known for their huge bursts of aggression, and they can grow up to 2 feet in the wild, making them feisty beasts to tame.

Also known as the managuense cichlids, the jaguars are among the most attractive fish you can have in your tank setup. They come in a range of shimmers and colors, including some gold jaguar cichlids as well as silver-toned jaguars.

jaguar cichlid

Read on to learn why we recommend the jaguar cichlids to experienced aquarists only. Please get to know their behaviors, feeding habits, breeding practices, and how to care for such massive fish in a tank aquarium properly.

Jaguar Cichlid Overview

Names Jaguar cichlids

Also known as managuense cichlid, managua cichid, spotted guapote, jaguar guapote, Aztec cichlid, guapote tigre.

Scientific Name Parachromis managuensis
Origins and Reginal Distribution Originated from Central American regions, particularly Nicaragua, River Matina in Costa Rica, and River Ulua in the Republic of Honduras.

It is widely distributed across many American regions, including USA & Hawaii, due to its popularity in the aquarium industry and as a food source.

Tank Size 30 – 70 gallons minimum for juveniles

100 – 125 gallons minimum for a single adult

180 gallons minimum for more adults and breeding purposes

Water Hardness Conditions 10 to 15 dGH
Ideal Tank Mates  Semi-aggressive, equal sized fish.
Average Size Typically, 14 – 16 inches, over 19 inches in the ideal environment
Colors Jaguar-like color patterns with black dots on its goldish-silver base color
Breeding Oviparous, maternal pair-bonding
Lifespan Typically, 12 – 15 years, but can live up to 18 years in the ideal environment
Lighting Conditions Wide Range
Diet Predominantly carnivorous
Optimal pH levels 7.0 – 8.7
Optimal Temperature 75 – 97 degrees Fahrenheit

Known as the guapote tigre in Costa Rica, the jaguar cichlid is seen as many as a great source of protein since it is a food fish. It is popular in the aquarium trade markets mostly because of its colors and massive size.

Its carnivorous nature and highly predatory tendencies make it a harder species to care for but also a formidable hunter in the wild. It can endure very hot temperatures, unlike many other cichlids in its class, making it an easy find in hot tropical climates in eutrophic lakes with little oxygen concentration.

The natural habitats include heavily-silted waters with soft substrates and lots of smaller fish populations on which they can prey.

All in all, the jaguar is a big carnivorous cichlid that will be territorial and aggressive in any tank environment.


Jaguar cichlids typically have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years, but it is not odd to find a jaguar cichlid that is 18 years or older in the most ideal tank environments.

The length of life is dependent on the highest water conditions, feeding habits, stress, tank mates, and stable tank conditions.

Appearance: Types, Colors, & Size

Jaguar Cichlid Appearance
Source: @sj_cichlids

The jaguar cichlid size is typically between 14 and 16 inches, but the fish can grow taller than 19 inches in the ideal environment. Wild jaguar cichlids are known to be 24 to 26 inches tall and about 3.5 pounds in weight.

The jaguar cichlid growth rate is incredibly fast, with young juveniles reaching their full adult length in about one and a half years. In fact, juveniles reach breeding maturity in under two months when they are about 4 to 6 inches.

There is only one type of jaguar cichlid, but some aquarists crossbreed them with other fish to make incredibly attractive hybrids.

An example is the royal blue jaguar cichlid or the electric blue jaguar cichlid hybrid. The royal blue jaguar cichlid is a crossbreed of Jack Dempsey and the Jaguar cichlid.

Real jaguar cichlids have an interesting color hue that changes as the fish grows up.

Young jaguars have black spots all over their body with a base color that is bronze, golden, or silver-like. On top of the black spots is a set of black stripes/bands surrounding the fish’s upper side, ending at the lateral line on either side. These black bands tend to disperse and disappear as the fish gets older and longer.

Adult jaguars feature a bronze, goldish, to silver-like base color with fewer black bands and more black spots/patches that look like the black patches on the land Jaguar. These black patches are spread throughout the fish from the end of their mouths to the end of the tails and fins.

And if you look keenly, you will notice that the black patches maintain a horizontal lateral line running from the head to the tail.

Jaguar cichlid or Aztec cichlid has a large mouth with a longer lower lip that helps the mouth open wider than 90% of its original size. From the ferocious cichlid’s large mouth, you can get to see the sharp jaguar cichlid teeth used to devour its prey.

The jaguar cichlid teeth include about four sharp incisors and sets of pharyngeal teeth that can be seen at the back of the mouth around its throat. All of these make the jaguar a successful predator in the wild. It is also a bad tank mate to small fish that can fit into its mouth or easily prey on with its mighty set of teeth.

So, what about differentiating jaguar cichlid male vs. female? You can tell whether the jaguar is male or female from its size and color. Females are smaller compared to males. Female jaguar cichlids also have more black bands that end at the lateral line when compared to their male counterparts.

Another easy way to differentiate the male from the female is the larger, more elongated dorsal and anal fins of the males. Females also have more laterally spaced black bands, while males tend to lose their black bands as they get older and bigger.


Jaguar cichlids are aggressive and territorial by nature.

They are ranked in aggression next to the likes of Jack Dempsey and the Oscars. They are also fairly intelligent, making them very involved maternal caregivers to their young ones, active swimmers, active diggers, and territorial to their own space.

There is no way you can acclimate them to be less aggressive; most of the time they may end up becoming more aggressive if you do not know how to properly care for them. Their aggression can be increased if they are breeding, caring for their young ones, or the temperatures & other tank conditions are not optimal.

Aztec cichlids are also easily excitable, making them a jovial bunch to have in your aquarium. Their feeding habits of opening their large mouths can be very exciting to watch and a sight to behold for novice watchers.

As aggressive types, you can already tell that the Aztec cichlids won’t get along with many small, less-aggressive tank mates. It is advisable to put the jaguar cichlids in their own tanks, but if you want a community tank, then your best bet is to stay away from any smaller fish; more on that later on in this article.

Jaguar Cichlid Care

Jaguar Cichlid Care

Jaguar cichlids are as hardy as many African and Central American cichlids; some may say even more. Did you know that jaguar cichlids can survive in waters that are as high as 97 degrees Fahrenheit hot?

These tropical fish are accustomed to a wide range of climates and weather that Central American regions are known for. The relatively warm atmosphere makes them ideal freshwater tank fish that are easy to care for, provided you cater to their temperament, tank size, and tank mates.

Tank Size & Tank Mates

Jaguar Cichlid Tank
Source: @fishrescue.68

Jaguars do not play well with others and are better suited for their own tank setup, where they do not have to fight for resources with other animals.

They can get along with other fish, provided you have hiding spots for the less aggressive tank mates and have enough space that minimizes their interactions.

A lot of beginners in the jaguar cichlid spaces ask if you jaguar cichlid can live with Oscars. Yes, you can pair up the jaguar cichlid with Oscars since both fish are very aggressive, similarly sized, and can go fin to fin with each other.

They are also great tank mates with other aggressive & excitable fish, including the Jack Dempsey and the insatiable wolf cichlid.

Avoid anything smaller than the jaguar cichlid.

You may also think that jaguar cichlids get along with their own kind without any problems, but that is not the case. It is best to raise a bonded pair or set of juveniles from a young age to reduce the aggression amongst themselves as they get older.

Jaguar Cichlid Tank Mates
Source: @fishrescue.68

Here is a list of some of the best tank mates for the jaguar cichlids:

  • Oscar
  • Jack Dempsey
  • Flowerhorn cichlid
  • Green terror cichlid
  • Bala shark
  • Sailfin pleco and other large plecos
  • Blue Acara cichlid
  • Wolf cichlid
  • Large catfish
  • Texas cichlid
  • Red Devil cichlid and other large cichlids, including the convict cichlid.

Apart from the tank mates, you also have to consider the substrate. Jaguar cichlids love to dwell at the bottom, actively digging into the substrate for food and fun. Sandy substrate is preferred in this case since they are active diggers who will get injured with rocky or gravel-based substrates.

Aztec cichlids are aggressive active swimmers that will uproot many plants in your tank. Consider safely planting vegetation with string roots or remove them entirely from the tank.

It would be best if you also considered floating plants and décor since the cichlids have a habit of hanging out at the bottom-most of the time, leaving your floating plants to save and sound.

Select a sizeable selection of rocks and cave decors for the jaguar cichlids to hide since they have an unfriendly and solitary personality.

Regular tank cleanup is a must when caring for Aztec cichlids since they produce a huge amount of waste. A great filtering equipment system is recommended for such a species to help reduce the tedious nature of the job.

Last but not least, consider adding a heater system to your setup. Jaguar cichlids prefer warmer temperatures. A heater will ensure you have reliable and stable warmer degrees even in the coldest of months.

Water Quality & Water Parameters

As tropical fish, you can expect the jaguars to be fairly flexible with their water parameters, from the pH to water hardness. pH levels are okay if you keep them stable, plus or minus five from the recommended levels.

Even though they can live in higher-temperature water, it is important to note that they get more aggressive when the temperatures go past 85 – 89 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the temperature on the cooler side to help alleviate rampant aggression.

Consider sticking to these recommended water parameters to ensure your cichlids thrive:

  • Water Temperature: 75 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH level: 0 – 8.7
  • Water hardness: 10 – 15 dGH
  • Ammonia, nitrite levels: 0 PPM

Jaguar Cichlid Feeding

Jaguar cichlids prefer a predominantly carnivorous diet with lots of protein-based foods. This means that they can survive on pellets and fish flakes if you feed them from a young age, but they will always do better on a highly carnivorous diet filled with meaty options and small fish prey.

The high-protein diet ensures that you maintain the jaguar cichlid’s high energy levels and vigor. If you notice that your jaguar is becoming less aggressive, looks weak and demotivated, and unhealthy, then the first thing you should check is the food you are feeding it.

Even though they love meaty foods, the jaguar cichlids aren’t picky about their diet. They will feed on small fish and invertebrates that can get into their mouths.

Some of the best foods for jaguar cichlids include:

  • Crickets
  • Frozen bloodworms or earthworms
  • Small insects
  • Feeder fish
  • Frozen krill
  • Brine shrimp
  • Prawns

As big protein feeders, it is more important to keep an eye on their waste production since it will be larger than what herbivores produce. This will help reduce nitrate levels and make the water quality more suitable.


Jaguar cichlids produce by a breeding process called oviparous. This means that the female lays eggs on the water’s surface, and the male then fertilizes the eggs, which are left in the open to hatch after several days. Everything from fertilization to embryo development takes place outside of the mother’s body.

Female jaguar cichlids are prolific breeders that can breed up to twice every month and lay up to 3000 eggs in a single spawn period. These are 3000 fries that can potentially grow up to 2 feet in size. Do you think you are up for it?

Many aquarists choose not to pair their jaguar cichlids since the fries are harder to care for and require a huge tank to thrive. If you do not want to breed them or get rid of the born fries, then it is best not to get a jaguar cichlid. Or you can choose to keep just one.

The jaguars get more aggressive and territorial during the breeding period. Ensure you have just one pair (male and female) in one tank, or things might get too heated in the tank due to competition.

Also, the parents tend to eat the fries once they have hatched. A good practice is to separate the parents from the fries to protect them. Please remember that female jaguar cichlids are more maternal and territorial and won’t take it kindly that you are separating them from their children.

Also, having the most optimal water conditions will ensure you get many juveniles and reduce the spawning period aggression, follow our guide for best water parameters below.

The best parameters for jaguar cichlids to breed include the following:

  • Temperature: above 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Diet: High-protein diet
  • Water pH levels: Above 7.8

It is a good practice also to separate the breeding pairs into different tanks. Go for a bigger tank size (at least 180 gallons) since the jaguar cichlids grow at an exceptional rate, and it will only be a matter of time before they occupy the entire space.

You should also provide the tank mates with plenty of live foods to increase their energy and reduce stress.

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Final Thoughts

So, can you keep a jaguar cichlid? To know if you are capable of taking care of these big monsters then, you have to ensure you check these boxes:

  • A huge tank of at least 100 gallons (for single adults) with lots of space to move about.
  • Able to feed them their highly carnivorous diet.
  • You host them in their own tanks or with the recommended compatible tank mates.
  • Experience in caring for huge aggressive tropical fish.

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