Blue acara Aequidens pulcher

Blue acara (Aequidens pulcher) for long period of time was one of the most popular South America cichlid fishes kept in a tank for many generations of aquarists.

There is a good reason that its name (pulcher) from Latin – means beautiful.

Blue acara is often mistaken for another related species – Andinoacara rivulatus (Green terror cichlid). But these fishes differ sufficiently.

Green terror cichlid is larger and in the wild its max size can be 25-30 (10-12 in) cm when Blue acara is just about 20 cm (8 in) long.

Green terror fish male when it becomes reproductive develops a pronounced hump on its head, while blue acara cichlid hump is less pronounced.

Acara cichlid is a great fish for the aquarists willing to have their first cichlid in a tank.

Blue acara care is rather easy – it’s necessary just to control water parameters and give the fish qualitative feed. Blue acaras are good and caring parents and they spawn easy enough.

Habitat in the wild

Blue acara Aequidens pulcher was first described in 1858. The fish inhabits in Central and South America: Columbia, Venezuela, Trinidad.

Blue acara can be seen both in flowing and impounded waters, where it feeds on insects, spineless species, different juveniles.


Blue acara cichlid has an oval shaped stocky body with sharpened proctal and dorsal fins. This is a middle sized cichlid which max size in the wild is about 20 cm (8 in), but in a tank blue acara size is about 15 cm (6 in).

Blue acara lifespan can be about 7-10 years. The fish becomes reproductive when its body is about 6-6.5 cm long and blue acara breeding starts when the fish body length is 10 cm.

The name of the fish says about its color. The body color is gray and blue with several vertical black bands and blue sparkles scattered over the body.

Nowadays a new color of this fish becomes more and more popular – electric blue acara cichlid (Nannacara sp. Neon blue).

The whole body of the fish is blue and it reminds the coloring of flower horn Thai silk. Electric blue acara has just appeared on the market and it’s almost unavailable for sale. It’s still not clear if it’s blue acara hybrid or some different kind of fish not described until now.

Difficulties in keeping

The blue acara isn’t demanding therefore it’s good for beginners unlike Green cichlid fish.

Since Blue acara doesn’t grow that big as other cichlid fishes do, therefore it requires significantly smaller tanks.

The fish also isn’t demanding as for the feed or breeding. The only thing to be controlled carefully is water parameters and purity.


Blue acara are carnivorous feeders, but first of all and the fish requires feed with high protein content. In the nature neon blue acara feeds on worms, larvas, spineless species.

In a tank the fish eagerly feeds on blood worm, tubifex, white worms, brine shrimp. Frozen feed is also good for blue acara diet – brine shrimp, cyclops and artificial feed – tablets and flakes.

It’s better to feed the fish twice a day with small portions of feed changing its types in the morning and in the evening.

Fish keeping in a tank

A tank of 30 gallons capacity is needed for blue acara fish couple. Fine river sand is better to be used as a tank bottom because electric blue cichlid fish likes digging it.

Therefore, it’s better to put large plants in flowerpots in the tank. Also it’s necessary to create some covers where the fish can hide when it’s stressed.

Dry fallen Indian Almond Leaves and beech can be put on the tank bottom.

Besides the fact that they create water parameters close to the ones where acara fish lives in the wild, they are also source of feed for blue acara juveniles.

Scientific NameAequidens pulcher
Common NameBlue acara
Tank size30 gallons (115L) and more
Temperature 22–30 °C (72–86 °F)
Size 20 cm (7.9 in)

It’s important to renew water and siphonate the tank bottom regularly. Apart from clean water blue acara cichlid also likes water flows and it’s better to use good filter for the blue acara cichlid tank. The fish adapts to water parameters rather good, but the ideal water parameters for it are the following: water temperature 22-30С, ph: 6.5-7,5 , 3 – 20 dGH.

Green terror and Blue acara

Blue acara compatibility with other fishes

This acara fish is more good-tempered then other cichlid fishes, even more then green terror cichlid.

It’s middle sized and peaceful fish, so other cichlid fishes can be blue acara tank mates as well as catfishes and fishes of the same size.

Remember, that it’s still a cichlid fish and don’t keep it in a tank together with small fishes (like neon tetra) and shrimps. Blue acara cichlid should be kept only with the fishes of close size or larger.

Although the fish isn’t aggressive, they guard their territory, especially during the spawning period. Also they like digging the tank bottom and they dig out plants.

Blue acara best tank mates are: meeki chichlid, angel fish, convict cichlid, Jack Dempsey cichlid, managuense cichlid и different catfishes: leopard pleco, plecostomus, bristlenose pleco.

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Sex differences

Acara fish males are more colorful and they are larger then females. Also they have elongated fins end.

Both male and female dark vertical bands become even more dark when breeding and especially when caring for their juveniles.


Blue acara cichlids live rather friendly together and they form couples. Usually they don’t attack other fishes and they scare away their tank mates only if they trespass their territory or during the spawning period.

However, they can spawn each two weeks at the condition that the eggs are taken away right after spawning.

Blue acara fish becomes reproductive at the age of 9-11 month. It can spawn in a community tank, but sure it’s better to use a spawning pond for this purpose.

A tank of 100 liters capacity with good aeration will do. It should have some plants. Coarse sand should be used as a tank bottom with big flat rocks, snags on it which lately serve as a substrate for spawning. Water parameters for breeding are: hardness 6-20°, рН 6,5-7,0, temperature 25-28°С.

Spawning can be stimulated by frequent water renew, high aeration and water temperature increase by 2-3°С. As it was mentioned above, big flat rocks, flowerpots, snags and pits in the sand (which the fish digs itself) can become a substrate for breeding. During their spawning period blue acara fish becomes aggressive and they intensely guard their territory from tank mates intrusion.

Blue acara female can lay from 400 to 1000 eggs. Sometimes, the fishes eat their first breed, but later they stop doing it.

Incubation period lasts from 3 to 7 days (depending on the water temperature). After the ich fry appears its parents move it in their mouth into the pits in the sand prepared in advance.

In another 3-4 days the juveniles start swimming and feeding. Start feed for juveniles is: freshly hatched brine shrimp, rotifers, nematodes.