The Blue Acara Aquarium Setup: Providing the Ideal Habitat

Blue acara (lat. Andinoacara 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.

Habitat in the wild

Andinoacara pulcher was first described in 1858. The fish inhabits in Central and South America: Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad. Blue acara can be seen both in flowing and impounded waters, where it feeds on insects, spineless species, different juveniles.

In their natural habitat, blue acaras are found in areas with dense vegetation, submerged tree roots, and rocky formations. They prefer areas with sandy or muddy substrate where they can dig and create burrows for breeding or shelter.

The water in their native habitat is typically warm and ranges from slightly acidic to neutral pH levels. The water hardness can vary, but they generally inhabit waters that are soft to moderately hard. The temperature usually ranges from 75-82°F (24-28°C).

It’s important to note that Blue Acaras have also been introduced to various other regions outside their native range due to their popularity in the aquarium trade. In these introduced populations, they may adapt to different water conditions and habitats.

Scientific NameAndinoacara pulcher
Common NamesBlue Acara, Electric Blue Acara
OriginCentral and South America
Adult Size6-8 inches (15-20 cm) in length
ColorationVibrant metallic blue with golden hues on face and belly
Body ShapeLaterally compressed with a deep oval shape
TemperamentGenerally peaceful, can become territorial during breeding
Aquarium RequirementsSpacious tank, plenty of hiding spots, soft to moderately hard water, temperature range of 75-82°F (24-28°C)
DietOmnivorous, accepts high-quality pellets/flakes, supplemented with live/frozen foods (brine shrimp, bloodworms, small crustaceans)
BreedingMonogamous, pair-forming, choose flat surfaces for spawning, both parents guard and care for fry
CompatibilityGenerally compatible with peaceful community fish, avoid aggressive or territorial species

Blue acara and electric blue acara

Nowadays a new color of this fish becomes more and more popular – electric blue acara (Nannacara sp. “electric blue). The terms “Blue Acara” and “Electric Blue Acara” are often used interchangeably, but they can refer to slightly different variations or color morphs of the same species, Andinoacara pulcher.

The whole body of the fish is blue and it reminds the coloring of flower horn Thai silk. “Electric Blue Acara” a selectively bred variant of the blue acara that exhibits a more intense and solid blue coloration throughout the body, without the golden hues.

It’s important to note that the electric blue acara is not a separate species but rather a selectively bred color morph of the blue acara. Both have similar care requirements, behavior, and characteristics. The primary difference lies in their coloration.

Electric blue acara vs blue acara



The name of the fish says about its color. The body color is gray and blue with several vertical black bands and sparkles scattered over the body. Blue acaras have a laterally compressed body with a deep oval shape. They display a stunning metallic blue coloration, which intensifies during breeding or when they are excited. The lower parts of their face and belly often have a golden hue. Females tend to have less vibrant colors than males.


How big do blue acaras get?

Blue acara can reach an average size of 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) in length when fully grown, but in a tank size is about 15 cm (6 in). However, there can be some variation in size among individuals. Males tend to be larger than females, with some males reaching sizes closer to 8 inches (20 cm) or even slightly larger.

They has an oval shaped stocky body with sharpened proctal and dorsal fins.


How long do blue acaras live?

Blue acara have an average lifespan of around 8-10 years in captivity, although with proper care, they can sometimes live longer. The fish becomes reproductive when its body is about 6-6.5 cm long and breeding starts when body length is 10 cm. Factors such as genetics, diet, water quality, and overall care can influence the lifespan. It’s important to note that individual fish may have variations in lifespan, and some blue acaras may live shorter or longer lives depending on various factors.

Blue acara vs green terror

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

Blue acaras (Andinoacara pulcher) and Green Terrors (Andinoacara rivulatus) are both cichlid species from the same genus, Andinoacara. While they have some similarities, they also have notable differences.

Green terror cichlid is larger and in the wild its max size can be 25-30 cm (10-12 in) when blue acara is just about 20 cm (8 in) long. Green terror male when it becomes reproductive develops a pronounced hump on its head, while blue acara hump is less pronounced. Blue acaras have a vibrant metallic blue coloration, while Green Terrors have a greenish-brown base color with iridescent markings and orange or red accents on their fins and tail.

Difficulties in keeping

The blue acara isn’t demanding therefore it’s good for beginners unlike green terror. Since they 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. This cichlid is a great fish for the aquarists willing to have their first cichlid in a tank.

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.

Care and keeping in a tank

Tank size

Blue acaras require a spacious aquarium to thrive and exhibit natural behaviors. A tank size of at least 40 gallons (150 liters) is generally recommended for a pair. However, larger tanks, such as 55 gallons (200 liters) or more, are even better as they provide more swimming space and allow for better territorial establishment.

Having ample space is important for blue acaras because it helps reduce stress and aggression, especially during breeding and territorial disputes. Additionally, a larger tank provides more opportunities for creating hiding spots, such as caves, rocks, and driftwood, which are beneficial for their well-being.

Remember to consider tank dimensions along with volume. Blue acaras have a laterally compressed body shape, so a tank with a length of at least 36 inches (90 cm) is preferable to accommodate their swimming and maneuvering needs.

Water parameters

It’s important to renew water and siphonate the tank bottom regularly. Apart from clean water blue acara also likes water flows and it’s better to use good canister filter. The fish adapts to water parameters rather good, but the ideal water parameters for it are the following:

  • Blue acaras prefer a water temperature range of 75-82°F (24-28°C). It’s essential to keep the temperature stable within this range to prevent stress or temperature-related illnesses.
  • They tolerate a wide pH range but prefer slightly acidic to neutral conditions. Aim for a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5. Avoid extreme pH fluctuations as they can stress the fish.
  • Blue acaras are adaptable to a variety of water hardness levels. They can tolerate soft to moderately hard water conditions. Aim for a hardness range of 5-15 dGH (German degrees of hardness).
  • It is crucial to maintain low levels of ammonia and nitrite, as these are harmful to fish. Regularly test the water parameters and ensure that both ammonia and nitrite levels are at or near zero. Nitrate should be kept below 20-30 ppm through regular water changes.

It’s also crucial to maintain good water quality, provide proper filtration, and conduct regular water changes to ensure a healthy environment for blue acaras.


Fine river sand is better to be used as a tank bottom because cichlid fish likes digging it. It creates a natural-looking bottom and allows the fish to exhibit their natural digging behavior. Fine-grain sand is ideal to prevent any abrasion or injury to the fish.

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 fish lives in the wild, they are also source of feed for juveniles.


Blue acaras appreciate hiding spots and territories to establish their own space. Use rocks, caves, or stacked slate to create caves or overhangs where your fish can retreat, spawn, and establish their territories.

Adding driftwood or root structures can create natural and aesthetically pleasing elements in the aquarium. They provide hiding places and mimic the natural environment of blue acaras. Ensure that the wood is aquarium-safe and won’t leach harmful substances into the water.

Incorporating live plants not only enhances the aesthetics but also provides shelter, oxygenation, and natural filtration. Blue acaras may appreciate plants like Amazon swords, Java ferns, Anubias, and Vallisneria, which offer cover and create a more natural environment. In addition to live plants, you can add floating or submerged vegetation like Hornwort, Water Sprite, or Waterweed.


Blue acara are carnivorous feeders, but first of all and the fish requires feed with high protein content. In the nature 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 diet – brine shrimp, cyclops and artificial feed – tablets and flakes.

A good staple diet for Blue Acaras is high-quality pellets or flakes specifically formulated for cichlids. Look for products that provide a balanced blend of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Feed them a few times a day, offering an amount that they can consume within a few minutes.

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. It’s important to feed your Blue Acaras an appropriate amount to prevent overfeeding and maintain good water quality. Monitor their feeding behavior and adjust the quantity accordingly. Remember to remove any uneaten food after feeding to prevent water pollution.

Tank mates

Blue acaras are generally peaceful but can become territorial during breeding or if they feel threatened. They are suitable for community aquariums with other peaceful fish of similar size and temperament. Avoid keeping them with aggressive or overly territorial species, as this can lead to stress or aggression.

This fish is more good-tempered then other cichlids, even more then green terror cichlid. It’s middle sized and peaceful fish, so other cichlid can be 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 cherry shrimps. 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.

Best tank mates are: firemouth cichlid, angelfish, convict cichlid, Jack Dempsey cichlid, jaguar cichlid and different catfishes: leopard pleco, plecostomus, bristlenose pleco.

Gender differences: male vs female

Distinguishing between male and female Andinoacara pulcher can be challenging when they are young or not in breeding condition. However, as they mature and approach breeding age, several physical and behavioral differences can help identify their gender. Males are more colorful and they are larger then females. Male usually have longer and more pointed dorsal and anal fins compared to females. In addition, males may exhibit more vibrant coloration on their fins, with bold patterns and elongated filaments, especially during breeding or when displaying courtship behaviors. Both male and female dark vertical bands become even more dark when breeding and especially when caring for their juveniles.

Male are known to be more territorial and may exhibit aggressive behaviors, especially during breeding. They establish and defend their territory, display courtship rituals, and take on the role of guarding the eggs and fry. Females, on the other hand, tend to be less aggressive and may focus on preparing the breeding site and caring for the young.

Blue acara male and female


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. Fishes 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°, pH 6,5-7,0, temperature 25-28 °C.

Spawning can be stimulated by frequent water renew, high aeration and water temperature increase by 2-3 °C. 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 acara becomes aggressive and they intensely guard their territory from tank mates intrusion. 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 anoter 3-4 days the juveniles start swimming and feeding. Start feed for juveniles is: freshly hatched brine shrimp, rotifers, nematodes.