Jaguar Cichlid: Facts, Lifespan, Care, Feeding, & Breeding

The jaguar cichlid (scientific name Parachromis managuensis) is a large, imposing, predatory fish with striking dark dapples on a silvery, light purple base color. The older the fish gets, the more the markings change from the straight bars of youth to a fluid swirling pattern. Their markings are reminiscent of the wildcat they are named for. They have a flat, oval body; a big head; and big lips. Originally from Central America, the jaguar cichlid frequents areas from Costa Rica to Honduras.

Closeup front picture of a jaguar cichlid

Jaguar Cichlid Lifespan & Size

As tank dwellers go, the jaguar cichlid is formidable in size. An adult male in captivity can grow to around 35 centimeters (12 inches) in length. Females tend to be a little smaller. In the wild, they nearly double that size. If provided with the right type of care, they can live for 15 years or even longer.

Behavior & Characteristics

The jaguar cichlid is described as a “raptorial” fish. They are aggressive hunters and will kill and eat fish that are smaller and more passive than themselves. Certain tank owners will feed their cichlid live fish, but others go with prepared commercial food.

Baby jaguar cichlid in a tank
Baby jaguar chlids Source

Being very territorial by nature, the jaguar cichlid requires a tank with plenty of room, 100 gallons or more, so they can stake their own area. They will thrash any plants or living things in their space, so there is no need to bother with a lot of tank décor. They do like a gravel bottom complete with several larger stones that they can dig in and move around.


As it is a voracious eater, sometimes described as a bottomless pit, the jaguar cichlid thrives best when made to fast once a week. This will give their system a chance to recover from breaking down the carnivorous diet. They should be on a strict feeding schedule of only once a day, six days a week because they will gladly overindulge. They will swallow live prey, such as goldfish or small reptiles. Owners who do not have the stomach for live feeding bait can opt for dry commercial foods or diced crayfish. They also relish crickets, nightcrawlers, and tadpoles.

It is not recommended to give cichlids red meat, chicken, or pork. It may be tempting to see just what your big-mouthed beast is willing to eat, but the high-fat content of various meats is not good for their health.

Jaguar Cichlid Care

While this is not a fish for beginners, the jaguar cichlid is not difficult to care for, as long as natural tendencies are honored. These include taking precautions about what other fish are expected to share their space. This is not the ideal choice to dwell in a community tank. Their territorial and aggressive nature will become elevated during spawning phases.

Jaguar Cichlid Tank Mates

Even when a male jaguar cichlid is introduced to a female of the species, he may kill her unless they grew up together, especially if she is noticeably smaller than he is. Jaguar cichlids do not generally get along with others of their own kind unless they have been raised with that particular tank mate. If it’s a sibling from the same clutch of eggs, or if they were placed together when very young, they should be able to cohabitate safely.

Although the jaguar cichlid is a ferocious character, it has been known to get along with others of the cichlid persuasion. Certain types of fish will integrate more naturally than others. These include:

  • Oscar
  • Jack Dempsey
  • Convict cichlid
  • Green terror

Jaguar Cichlid Tankmates that would be safe include:

  • Redtail catfish
  • Pleco
  • Sailfin Pleco
  • Pacu
  • Giant gourami
Several fish in a tank including jaguar cichlids, redtail golen jardinis, red oscars, blood parrot fish, jack dempsey and plecostomus fish
Several fish in a tank including jaguar cichlids Source


If they have adequate room in their tank and are not overfed, the jaguar cichlid should thrive in your care. They prefer the water hardness to be around 15-25°dH. If the water is kept too warm, the cichlid will become more aggressive. Therefore, it is best to keep the water temperature at a consistent state of 24 degrees C, which will help maintain the fish in a state of relative calm.

The tank water should be kept clean to prevent infections and bacteria, which can give rise to diseases such as ich. Also known as white spot disease, ich will appear on your fish like grains of salt. It is a common ailment in freshwater tank fish. The ich can be treated by raising the temperature of the water to 30 degrees C for three days – but watch for a simultaneous rise in aggression in your cichlid. If heating up the water doesn’t help, then copper-based fish medication should be used.

Cichlids, like most fish, are subject to parasites and fungal infections. Keep in mind that anything you put in the tank, be it a new rock or new fish, can bring infection or diseases into the environment. A fish tank is a closed venue; therefore, care must be taken to keep it clean and balanced. Any new fish must be quarantined before adding them to the mix.


Managuense cichlids have proven to be successful captive breeding fish. They will pair up happily and take great care of the offspring. But if you intend to breed them, it is a good idea to raise a batch of youngsters in a group, allowing them to pair off on their own. Introducing adult cichlids is a hit-or-miss effort that will often result in disaster. If the female is not killed, she will be beaten up or harassed unmercifully. If you are keeping a pair together, they will need plenty of tank space, with a size of at least 180 gallons to keep the peace, even with a well-established pair.

The happy couple will need a sufficient amount of gravel and stones for digging and spawning efforts. They appreciate a few areas for hiding, and they like to keep the nesting area covered. After the hole is dug and the spawning phase approaches, the male will grow more aggressive, attacking any passersby, including human hands. It is a good idea to get other fish out of the tank before spawning due to the overbearing nature of the male. This will also prevent the tank mates from eating the eggs and gobbling up the fry after they emerge.

To encourage spawning, you can change half the water twice a week and raise the temperature. The eggs will hatch in about three days. Keeping the water at a higher temp will discourage fungus from growing in the nest. The female cichlid will hover over the eggs, fanning them and removing debris from the area.

Once the hatchlings emerge, be sure to change 20 percent of the water every other day, which will help keep the tank clean of all the additional droppings and excess food. The offspring can be fed baby food about four days after they’ve hatched. The fry will grow at an astonishing rate. It won’t be long before they need to be moved to their own tank, and you can enjoy the changing patterns and aggressive behavior of more fascinating jaguar cichlids.