The Big Cat Of The Water – Jaguar Cichlid (Parachromis managuensis) – Complete Species Guide

So, you’ve chosen to include the Jaguar Cichlid in your aquarium, have you?

First off, it’s a good choice on your part, especially regarding appearance. They are beautiful fish.

However, be warned. These fish aren’t for the fainthearted. Or those who don’t have much experience in the ways of fish-keeping. Jaguar Cichlids are some of the larger fish in the aquarium trade, and they can be very temperamental.

Spotted Jaguar CichlidJaguar Cichlids are very aggressive and territorial. You should exercise caution in keeping them.

In saying that, if you provide them with the right conditions, tank, and feed, they will be a pleasure to keep. Their coloration and size will make an excellent addition to your tank. They are very visually pleasing.

If you’re thinking of having a Jaguar Cichlid, (or a few) as a pet. Or have one and are looking for more information, or you’re just curious, you’ve come to the right place! We have everything on Jaguar Cichlids right here, so read on.

Table Of Contents:

Jaguar Cichlid With Tank Mates

Basic Facts

Name: Jaguar Cichlid

Scientific Name: Parachromis managuensis

Group: Freshwater

Size Of The Fish: Large

Temperament: Aggressive

Aquarium Size Required: Large

Where It Swims: Bottom/Middle Areas

Care Difficulty Rating: Medium

Good Paired With: Other Jaguar Cichlids, Aggressive Cichlid Species


Jaguar Cichlids are yet another Cichlid species that come from Central America. These fish are freshwater, living in most lakes and basins throughout several countries. They come from the basins in Nicaragua, but they can be found in Honduras and Costa Rica.

Jaguar Cichlid taken by @fishy_wishes_ on Instagram - Here we share everything you need to know about Jaguar Cichlids. Find out how to keep your Jaguar Cichlids happy and healthy. | Contented Fish
Thanks to @fishy_wishes for this photo of a large Jaguar Cichlid

However, now they have spread throughout Central America. This is because of commercial anglers and human intervention. These include Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, and the southern areas of Mexico. They are also present in Florida, in the Us, and even Singapore.

The habitats of their preference are usually lakes that are cloudy. They also have an abundance of aquatic life. They also prefer warmer water, without too much oxygen. Jaguar Cichlids live in water bodies that have muddy bottoms.

However, they can sometimes be found in places with sandy bottoms, such as ponds and canals.

Their common name ‘Jaguar Cichlid,’ comes from the unique spots that cover their body. The pattern of the spots has been likened to that of a Jaguar.

The second part of their scientific name, Parachromis managuensis, comes from the habitat where the first of their species was found. The ‘holotype,’ (the first known specimen of a species,) came from Lake Managua in Nicaragua.

Today, that lake has a large and thriving population of these fish.

Jaguar Cichlids are known under many different names. You may have heard of one, or a few of them. Their other names include Aztec Cichlid, Managua Cichlid, and Managuense Cichlid. They are also known as the Spotted Guapote, Guapote Tigre, and the Jaguar Guapote.

(FYI: “Guapote Tigre” is Spanish, and it means the Guapote Tiger/Jaguar.)



Jaguar Cichlids, when we look at them, they remind us of some of the magnificent big cats. Well, take a look at them. They’re called Jaguar Cichlids for a reason!

The majority of their colors may consist of tones. But, keep them in clean conditions, and the patterns stand out. The extra colors vary for each; it can be interesting to see how they develop.

As with many species, all across the animal kingdom. It can be difficult to determine the sex of the individual. But here are a few pointers to help you.

Markings and Colours: In the earlier stages of life, the males have more spots. However, as they grow older, they begin to lose them. They reach a stage where the spots disappear entirely. The females go through a similar process, but they keep most of theirs.

Another difference is the edging of the males fins are brightly colored. The female does have coloration, but hers is less vibrant.

Size and Shape: The males are always bigger than the females. Usually, there is an inch or so difference in length. They also have broader and sharply pointed proctal and dorsal fins. The females are rounder in shape.

Jaguar Cichlidae Parachromis managuensis

Behavior: As with most species, the sexes become prevalent during the breeding season. The males become very aggressive, ready to impress the females. Also, and this happens all year round, the females tend to stay in the bottom area of the tank.

(Even if after you’ve followed all the pointers listed above, and you still can’t tell, ask your local vet or expert. That should clear up the problem.)

Jaguar Cichlids, besides being large, are robust fish. They’re big in all directions.

They have light-colored skin, usually being pale yellowish brown, to yellow to bronze. When they are younger, they display dark-grey/black vertical stripes across their body. However, it completely changes when they become mature.

Slowly, the vertical stripes begin to disappear, and they are replaced with dark spots. They are present all over the body but are prominent on the gill covers and lower sides. They also have a horizontal line of these dots across the bottom of their body.

Like the Jaguar, no two body patterns of the fish are the same, and none of them have the same amount of spots. Their fins are always dark-grey/black, becoming significantly darker during breeding. Sometimes, their skin has a light blueish-green to a purple tint.

As Jaguar Cichlids are predatory fish, they have sharp teeth at the back of their throat. It makes hunting easier. They also have sharp edging on the ends of their fins. These are for protecting themselves from other predatory fish.

In the wild, these are whoppers of fish. The average size is 24 inches, (60cm), and the females being smaller. However, there’s no reason to panic. You don’t need to start thinking that you’ll need to punch out a wall to accommodate them.

Fortunately for aquarists, they don’t grow this big in the aquarium. Males grow to an average of 16″ (40cm), and for females, it’s 13″ (35cm). Still, they are still quite large fish. So, it’s safe to say that these fish are some of the largest in the

Jaguar Cichlid taken by @project_cichlids
A lovely Jaguar Cichlid pic taken by @project_cichlids

They are some of the longest-living Cichlids. Their lifespan is 10-15 years, but most live for around 15. Many experts say that with proper care, and a healthy diet, you can extend their lifespan for much longer.


A warning before we begin, breeding Jaguar Cichlids isn’t for amateurs. These fish get unpredictable during the breeding season. They can be hard to maintain, and all sorts of problems can arise if they aren’t looked after well.

However, if you are willing to rise to the challenge, we commend you. In the long run, breeding these beautiful fish is worth it. Here, we have everything you need to know on how to help these fish reproduce smoothly.

So, as usual, it starts with the breeding season. For Jaguar Cichlids, there isn’t a set time of the year; it depends on the conditions of the water. Specifically, the temperature. They start to prepare for reproducing when the water gets warmer.

So, in the aquarium, when you want them to begin, it’s time to raise the temperature. Do this over a period of two days. This is so you don’t shock the fish with it suddenly being warm. The recommended temperature is 82° F (28° C).

Get ready; this is where the problems could arise. The male/s will get aggressive and could attack tank mates, (if you have any.) When they get like this, move all the Jaguar Cichlids out of that aquarium. Put them into a particular breeding tank.

(If you don’t have one of these, using a tank divider is a good solution.)

If you are keeping these fish for breeding, it’s best to raise them in a pair from as early in their lives as possible. A definite no-no is introducing a female straight before they breed. Why? Well, the males have a nasty habit of sometimes killing an unknown female. Enough said.

They begin to court each other, but this may take a while. If you wish to speed up the process, there is a way that you can do that. If you change half of the water in their section twice a week, it should make a response.

Once the courtship has finished, the spawning begins. The usual spot of preference is a flat rock, so make sure you include this for them. The female lays the eggs; the male fertilizes them. The number is always variable, but she can lay up to 5000 eggs! However, the usual range is 3000-5000 eggs.

The male then stays to protect the unhatched offspring, and the mother looks after the eggs. If you watch them will they do this, you will notice that the female flaps her fins around the breeding site. This is so the water is continually moving through, so she can provide oxygenated water for the eggs.

In 3-5 days, the eggs hatch, and the fish larvae emerge. As they are still encased in their yolk sacs, they provide food for the larvae. Because of this, there’s no need to feed them during the first week of their lives.

Once they consume the yolk sac, this is when the parents take responsibility for feeding them. The fry are fed organic matter, and they can’t swim at this stage. Let another week pass by.

By now, the fry are free-swimming. What you do now is up to you, but here are some recommended options. The parents can continue to look after them for another six weeks. That’s until they are old enough to look after themselves.

However, some Jaguar Cichlids may consume their fry, if they are left in with them for more than two weeks. If they show signs of doing this, remove the fry immediately.

Suggested foods for the fry would be baby brine shrimp. Also, artificial feed designed for fish hatchlings.

Looking After Jaguar Cichlids

Jaguar Cichlids are aggressive fish. As much as you may not like it, it can’t be helped; it’s part of their natural temperament. With specific aquarium and water conditions, you may notice a change. Believe it or not, their aggression level can lower.

Looking after these magnificent fish well takes some specific planning. However, if you do it right, you’ll reap nothing but good results. Read on to find out how to keep your fish thriving.

Let’s start with the sizing of the tank. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the tank, and the more space they have, the less aggressive they will be. It’s best to keep them in couples. (For reasons we discussed earlier,) so the sizing we recommend reflects that.

The best Jaguar Cichlid tank size is 100 gallons, (378 L). It might seem huge, but it’s the best size for these fish. It’s especially important that they have a territory they can call their own. Because of this, 100 gallons is an excellent size.

Then there is the decor. There are two pointers to keep in mind, keep it simple, and keep it to a minimum. There’s no point having lots of nice-looking decorations. Only to have them knocked over all the time. Yes, they do that.

As with most Cichlids, include a flat rock as a spawning site. Make sure you have hidey-holes and cave-like areas. But balance it out with plenty of open swimming space. Then there is the question of plants.

Many aquarists advise not to have any plants at all. They like to dig, and the plants could be uprooted, or torn apart by clumsy maneuvers. However, you can have plants, only if you choose specific ones. They must be robust and hardy and have sturdy root systems.

Alternatively, you must place them in pots. Choose ones that attach themselves to driftwood and other structures. In the end, it’s up to you.

Top Tip. These fish prefer dark, cloudy habitats in the wild. It would give the fish a good experience if you were to replicate this. An easy way to do this is to chuck a handful or two into the filter, and a bag of aquarium safe peat. (Remember to change the leaves every two weeks.)

IMPORTANT! Your aquarium must have a tight-fitting lid. Why? Jaguar Cichlids can and will jump out of the tank, and there’s no way you want that happening!

Spawing Jaguar Cichlids taken by @xtrippyhippyx
Spawing Jaguar Cichlids taken by @xtrippyhippyx

Conditions Of The Tank

Once you’ve set up the tank correctly, and as you like it, looking after Jaguar Cichlids is easy. Despite the large size of the tank and fish, they don’t require a massive amount of maintenance.

As with any aquarium, the water conditions change over time, and they need to be regulated. For these fish, use a large filter. Recommended types would be simp or canister filters. This is because you need a powerful one to make sure the water is cleaned correctly.

Over time, nitrates and phosphates can build up. The hardness of the water can increase with the evaporation of the water. You don’t want any of these to grow too much, as it can be harmful to them. Like a few other Cichlids, these cichlids are sensitive to pH instability and pollutants.

Because of this, you need to replace 20-30% of the water twice a week, if the tank has much fish in it. If not, and you only have a few or a couple, you can do it every two weeks. When you are performing this chore, use a gravel cleaner. This is to remove the decomposing organic matter.

Make sure you keep your lighting low or subdued. They prefer it that way.


These fish like the temperature to be slightly warm, as they are from a tropical climate. The best Jaguar Cichlid temperature range is 74-79° F (24-28° C).

However, keep in mind that sometimes, the higher the temperature, the more aggressive the fish is. Because of this, it’s best to keep the temperature around 74° F (24° C).

PH And Hardness

Jaguar Cichlids thrive best in water conditions with 10-15 dGH, and a pH of 7-8.7.

Suitable Tank Mates

Now, before we start, there’s something important that you need to know. These fish aren’t the most compatible when it comes to other inhabitants of the aquarium. How much so?

Take a breeding pair of Jaguar Cichlids for instance. If you know a thing or two about Cichlids. You’d be aware that a reproducing couple isn’t the friendliest fish to be around. Well, these fish take it to a whole other level. Sometimes, they’ve been known to kill fish that get too close.

So, yes. Aggressive. They don’t do this to only smaller fish. No, the larger fish have to watch out too.

However! We say this with caution; you can keep them with other fish. You will need to be very selective, cautious, and monitor them closely. This becomes especially important if you are breeding them.

In preparation for the tank mates, you need a large tank. The usual recommended size of 100 gallons, (378 L), is a suitable size. It leaves lots of space for the fish and the Jaguar Cichlids. You should always choose companions that are larger than the Jaguar.

Now, onto the recommended Jaguar Cichlid tank mates.

Others Of Their Species. This is good, only make sure to raise them together from the start.

Other Cichlid Species. You need to choose large, aggressive Cichlids; this will lower the amount of conflict. Recommended species are Red Terrors, Green Texas Cichlids, and Oscar Fish. Also, the Jack Dempsey, Carpintis Cichlids, and the Convict.

Catfish. These are big fish. They tend to have a temperament that doesn’t cause them to get into many conflicts with other fish. Choose a large type of Catfish or a common pleco.

Tinfoil Barbs. These fish hail from the South-East of Asia, and are a peaceful fish. This and their size make them an excellent choice.

Another Option Would Be The Bala Shark. Despite the name, it isn’t a real shark.


In the wild, these fish are carnivorous. Specifically, they are piscivores, which means they eat other fish. However, this doesn’t say they only eat that. They eat a variety of meat, but their diet mostly consists of other fish.

They are also what is known as ‘raptorial’ feeders. If you don’t know what this means, don’t worry. In biology, it means predatory on other animals. It also says that they aren’t fussy eaters. In fact, they dine on almost everything that moves, and things they can put in their mouth.

Something to keep in mind is that these fish love to eat! They have massive appetites.

When planning to keep them as pets, there are a few foods to consider.

Live Foods. This should make up the bulk of their diet. They are carnivores, and the diet you give them should reflect this. There are many foods to choose from, and we have listed them here. Make sure you don’t feed them only one of the options, variety is essential.

The foods include bloodworms, ghost shrimp, black worms, and mealworms. They also like minnows, crayfish, crickets, even small frogs.

Frozen Foods. A good option as well. You don’t have to feed them only live food, a balance of both of them is excellent as well. Feed them the same foods, only frozen, as mentioned in the live foods.

Other Options To Consider

Pellets and Flakes. They don’t always eat these, and shouldn’t make up the bulk of their diet. However, they make an excellent supplement/addition. Keep in mind that sometimes your Jaguar Cichlids may not accept these. Don’t be alarmed. It’s only their preference.

Remember that the food you choose must be of high-quality, and designed for Cichlids.

Things To Avoid

Meaty Food. Don’t feed them any meats that humans eat; it can make them feel ill.

Overfeeding. As with all fish, feeding them too much is never a good idea. Feeding them a considerable amount daily is the best feeding frequency.


Jaguar Cichlids. Aggressive, territorial, large, and sometimes, the terror of the tank.

They are beautiful, uniquely colored fish, and can be a delight to watch.

They’re a fish of many opposites, but for us? That’s what makes them interesting.

If you’re looking for other colorful Cichlids, Peacocks, Jack Dempseys, and the Firemouth are a good starting place.

If you found this helpful, then excellent! You can help other people find this resource by sharing it on social media, and telling your friends. If you have any tips, recommendations or suggestions that somehow weren’t mentioned in this list, please, by all means, share them in the comments. Thank you for reading.

2 thoughts on “The Big Cat Of The Water – Jaguar Cichlid (Parachromis managuensis) – Complete Species Guide”

  1. Hi there nice info . I have lots of jaguar fry and I removed the parents to other tank and my tank size for fry is 125 gallons . How many big jaguar fish can live in 125 gallons tank ? Thanks for great info !! Manny

    • Hi Manny.
      Thanks for reaching out and congrats on your success with breeding your Jaguars! Jaguar Cichlids are highly territorial and aggressive, so each fish needs a tank where they can clearly define their territory with lots of space. As your fish are growing together from birth, there is a much smaller chance of fights breaking out. But it would be best if you still were careful.

      Experts say that a maximum of two fully grown Jaguars should live in a tank of that size. (1 male & 1 female.) If you’re willing to keep a close eye on them, you might be able to have three in your tank. (That would be 1 male & 2 females.)

      An individual fish may not be true to the species characteristics, so see how your cichlids behave while they are growing up.

      Would love to share a photo if you have any!

      Good luck
      Cheers Jim


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