Jaguar cichlid care guide

Jaguar cichlid (Parachromis managuensis) is a large, raptorial, but very beautiful fish, and it is good for large cichlid fans. Unlike other cichlid, jaguar obtains the most of its color when it becomes reproductive. For example, the juveniles have noticeable black bands on their body and the mature fish becomes spotted, so due to these spots they got their “jaguar” name.

Habitat in the wild

Jaguar cichlid was first described by Gunther in 1867. Earlier the fish had the following names – Nandopsis managuense and Cichlasoma managuense.

Central America is managuense cichlid habitat. Nicaragua basins, namely Managua lake is where the fish comes from. Now inhabits in the Lakes of Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Singapore, Florida state (USA), Salvador since it was brought here by fisherman.

This caused damage to local flora and fauna due to relatively unsociable temper and unrestrained gluttony of the fish. Although it inhabits in different waters from lakes with light ground and thickly covered with plants to fast rivers and tributaries. They tend to inhabit in warm waters where there’s usually little of dissolved oxygen.


Jaguar cichlid has an elongated, flat from sides and a bit oval body, which immediately shows that it is a raptorial feeder adapted to an aggressive assault.

In the wild the jaguar cichlid max size is about 60 cm and it weighs about several kilos. In a tank size is a bit smaller – male size is about 40 cm and female – about 35 cm, however considering just these sizes allows to call this fish one of the largest cichlid that can be kept in amateurs’ tank.

Average jaguar cichlid lifespan is 15 years, but provided with good care it can live longer.

Body is elongated, a bit flat from sides and it has a silvery background with spots of black or dark-brown color scattered on it. Due to these spots the fish got another common name reminding about a good looker in a cat family – spotted guapote cichlid. The pattern of spots on the body and their shape vary a lot.

It’s very difficult to find two fishes with the same pattern of body spots. The head is big with a large mouth and full lips. Jaguar cichlid has pharyngeal teeth to haunt and sharp “beams” on the fins to protect itself from other raptorial feeders.

Scientific NameParachromis managuensis
Common NamesJaguar cichlid; jaguar fish; managuense cichlid; jag fish
Ease of keepingEasy
Lifespan10 years and more
Tank size100 gallons (400 litres) and more
Tank typeCommunity of large fishes
Temperature25-36 °C (77-97 °F)
Water hardness9–30 dGH
SizeUp to 30 cm (12 in)

Difficulties in keeping

Care isn’t difficult, if the necessity of having a big tank and powerful filters isn’t considered a a problem. Of course, this fish isn’t for beginners. It’s very large, aggressive and it’s a raptorial feeder.

Because of its size and aggressive temper it’s better to keep jaguar cichlid separately from other fishes in a biotope which is reminding it the basins of Central America and surely, one should avoid keeping in a tank with small and less aggressive fish as a tank mate.


Jaguar cichlid is a raptorial feeder.The fish feeds on everything that moves and that it can put into its mouth. It can be fed with small feeder fishes. During one meal one mature fish can consume up to 10 mature swordtails.

Jaguar cichlid can be fed with large blood worms, earthworms, prawns, large insects, small reptiles, frogs, meat farce, big flakes of dry feed, even mouse or big goldfish.

The fish should have one meal in a day and it’s possible to make one day in a week a hunger day. I myself give some of this food to my pets and as for the rest I’ve heard and read lots of good reviews.

Yet, all of the food is of high quality and it is the best one for this fish kind as well as it keeps the tank water clean.

Care and keeping in a tank

Tank decor

Large objects should be used for the tank design – rocks, snags and big grained gravel should be used as a bottom. There’s no need to put plants into a tank since these monsters will destroy them rather quickly and mercilessly.

All cichlid are bottom diggers. Jaguar cichlid isn’t an exception, since it also likes to move the rocks around the tank bottom. Its size helps it a lot in this task.

The bottom gravel should be cleaned well to prevent constant bottom surface changes and appearance of mud in the water.

Water parameters

In our case the best substrate for the bottom is yet large grained gravel with some small and middle sized grains can be used too, which can be easily moved from place to place. In the areas of their natural habitat the water temperature changes from 15 to 30 °C.

Some authors mention that jaguar fish can stand a short temperature decrease up to 12 °C. Nevertheless, we don’t advise you to test it. The optimal water temperature for this fish is about 24-26 °C. pH should be kept about 7, i.e. the medium reaction should be neutral.

Water hardness should be about 15-25 °dH. It was noticed that the higher the temperature is, the more aggressive cichlid becomes. So, it’s better to keep water temperature on it’s lower limit 24 °C to decrease the fish aggressiveness.

Tank size

Tank size should be large, at least 100 gallons capacity. Jaguar cichlids are very aggressive and to decrease their aggressiveness they need to have their own territory.

Compatibility and tank mates

It’s decidedly not the fish for community tanks. Since it’s an aggressive, territory-dependent fish and raptorial feeder which becomes even more aggressive during its spawning period.

Tank mates can be other large cichlid fish from Central America (oscar, green terror, Jack Dempsey, convict cichlid) or large catfish – redtail catfish, pleco, sailfin pleco. Giant gourami and pacu will also do.

In a tank you can keep either one jaguar cichlid or a couple. They are rather aggressive to the fish of their kind unless fishes grew together. If male is given an unfamiliar female, it can kill her rather quickly, especially if he exceeds her in size.

Gender differences: male vs female

Male is larger and it has more black spots when it’s young. When the male gets older the spots disappear and the female sometimes has some spots left. Also jaguar cichlid male’s dorsal and proctal fins are more sharpened and bright colored.


Jaguar cichlids can breed in a community tank, but for the sake of everyone’s peace it’d be more desirable to provide them with separate territory (about 300 liters capacity tank) for their spawning period.

The fishes form a stable couple and they are brilliant parents. However, to create such a couple it’s required to raise together several juveniles to let them choose their match themselves.

The thing is that the idea of putting a mature female into a tank with a male quite often ends up with injuries or even death of the female. The male is very aggressive and even a stable couple should be kept in a spacious tank so the female will have a place to hide.

Water temperature should be raised a bit and kept on the level of 28 degrees. If the fish didn’t start breeding when it was expected it can be stimulated by changing the 25% of tank water with fresh defecated water of the same temperature.

After jaguar cichlid finds the place it lakes, the couple cleans it and designs the place as they like. The female can put the eggs on large flat stone, flowerpot, large snag. The female can lay about 5000 of big yellowish transparent eggs at one time.

The incubation period is about 2-3 days. After the juveniles appear they should be fed with small food (baby brine shrimp and daphnia). As juveniles grow they should be fed with more saturated and large grained feed.

Their growth pattern is cyclic. During the 1st two month the juveniles can grow up to 15 cm in size. And then they may need a year or a year and a half to reach the size of a mature fish.

The jaguar cichlid juveniles grow with a different speed, so the fish of different size can be seen among the juveniles from the same spawning period. Therefore to prevent cannibalism among the juveniles they should be sorted by size from time to time and put into different tanks according to their size.