Jaguar Cichlid (Parachromis managuensis) Species Guide

You’ve chosen to include the Jaguar Cichlid in your aquarium, have you? It’s a good choice, regarding appearance. They’re beautiful fish. However, be warned. Jaguar Cichlids are some of the larger fish in the aquarium trade, and they can be very temperamental.

Spotted Jaguar Cichlid

Jaguar Cichlids are aggressive and territorial. Though if you provide them with the right conditions, tank, and feed, they’re great. For more information, read on.

Jaguar Cichlid With Tank Mates

Basic Facts

Name: Jaguar Cichlid

Scientific Name: Parachromis managuensis (parachromis managuense)

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 from Central America. These are freshwater fish, living in lakes and basins throughout several countries. Mostly found in Nicaragua, but also in Honduras in the Ulua River and Costa Rica.

In Costa Rica, they’re most prevalent in the Matina River.

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’ve spread throughout Central America. Including Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, and southern areas of Mexico.

Though they’re sometimes found in South America with other native South American cichlids. Also in the United States or Singapore.

It’s not included on the IUCN red list of threatened species.

The habitats of their preference are usually waters like cloudy lakes and sometimes rivers. They also prefer warmer water, without too much oxygen.

Jaguar Cichlids live in water bodies with muddy bottoms.

However, they can sometimes be found in places with sandy bottoms, such as ponds, springs and canals. They’ve also been bred in captivity for many years now.

Their common name ‘Jaguar Cichlid,’ comes from the pattern of the spots being likened to 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. Including Aztec Cichlid, Managua Cichlid, and Managuense Cichlid, Spotted Guapote, Guapote Tigre, and the Jaguar Guapote.

(‘Guapote Tigre’ is Spanish, it means the Guapote Tiger/Jaguar.)

A popular fish among fish keepers in home aquariums, readily available in fish stores and online.

In their native habitat, they grow quite large and are sometimes used for human consumption when over a certain size.


The majority of their colors 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, and which hue is the most intense.

Sexual Differences: here is how to sex a jaguar cichlid.

Markings and Colours: In the earlier stages of life, the males have more spots. However, as they grow older they 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 has coloration but less vibrant.

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

The females are rounder in shape.

Jaguar Cichlidae Parachromis managuensis

Behavior: In the breeding season, the males become very aggressive, ready to impress the females. Also, but this happens all year round, the females tend to stay in the tank’s bottom area.

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

Jaguar Cichlids are robust fish.

They have light-colored skin, usually 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, as they reach sexual maturity, the vertical stripes disappear, replaced with dark spots. They are present all over the body but mostly on the gill cover and lower sides.

They sometimes have black bars on the gill covers too.

They have a horizontal line of dots across the lateral line of the bottom of their body. Jaguars also have dark bars extending to the dorsal fin.

The dark bars are some of their most recognisable features.

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 dark-grey/black, becoming significantly darker during the breeding process.

Sometimes, the background color of their skin has a light bluish-green to a purple tint. There’s often a burgundy red tint on the head.

Both sexes have lower lips with two to four small incisor teeth.

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, the average size is 24 inches (60cm), and the females being smaller. However, there’s no reason to panic. You don’t need to punch out a wall to accommodate them!

They don’t grow this big in the aquarium. Males grow to an average of 16″ (40cm), and for females, their sizes are a bit smaller, at 13″ (35cm).

Keep in mind they may not grow to that exact size, and many factors come into play to determine how big each one grows.

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 with proper care and a healthy diet, you can extend their lifespan.


Breeding Jaguar Cichlids isn’t for amateurs, it’s better if you’re a more experienced fish keeper. This fish species get unpredictable during the breeding season.

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

When you want them to begin, raise the temperature. Do this over a period of two days. Don’t shock the fish. The recommended temperature is 82° F (28° C).

The warmer temperatures will trigger a spawning response in some of the aquarium fish.

The male/s get aggressive and can attack tank mates and smaller fish (if you have any.) The other large fish don’t run such of a rish, but sil, Move the Jaguar Cichlids breeding 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? The males have a nasty habit of sometimes killing an unknown female.

These freshwater fish court each other, but this may take a while.

Once the courtship has finished, spawning begins. The usual spot of preference is a flat rock, make sure you include this, and caves, hiding spots and rocks for females to seek refuge.

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 protects the unhatched offspring, and the mother looks after the eggs. You may notice the female flaps her fins around the breeding site.

This is so the tank water continually moves to 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.

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. The parents can continue to look after them for another six weeks until they are old enough to look after themselves.

However, some Jaguar Cichlids may consume their fry if left in with them for more than two weeks. If they do, remove the fry immediately.

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

Once they’ve grown into juveniles, feed the same thing you give the other adult fish in the tank.

Looking After Jaguar Cichlids – Aquarium Care

Jaguar Cichlids are aggressive fish. However, with specific aquarium and water conditions, their aggression level can lower.

Looking after these magnificent fish takes planning.

The bigger the tank, the more space they have, the less aggressive they will be. It’s best to keep them in couples.

The best Jaguar Cichlid tank size is something with a large tank capacity, ideally 100 gallons (378 L). Each fish in the fish tanks must have designated territory and plenty of room.

Keep decor and decorations simple and to a minimum, preferably around the perimeters of the tank. They’re going to get knocked over all the time.

As with most Cichlids, include a flat rock as a spawning site. Have hidey-holes and cave-like areas. Arranging Driftwood is a great way to do this. But balance it out with plenty of open swimming space.

Many aquarists advise not to have any plants at all. They like to dig into the substrate and sand. The plants could be uprooted, or torn apart by clumsy maneuvers.

These fish prefer dark, cloudy habitats in the wild with good water movement. The water is usually filled with plant debris.

An easy way to replicate this is to have a handful of leaves in the filter, and a bag of aquarium safe peat. (Change the leaves every two weeks.)

Ensure your filter is powerful, and can do lots of filtration, because they produce a lot of waste!

Make sure all tank equipment is external, as they can do a lot of damage to any internal systems.

Your aquarium must have a tight-fitting lid. Jaguar Cichlids can and will jump out of the tank.

Sometimes these fish can suffer from a problem disease called Ich or White Spot Disease. If that happens, copper based fish medications are available to help treat it.

The copper use must be kept within the proper levels.

Remove any water conditioners while the fish are under this treatment.

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

Tank Conditions

Once you’ve set up the tank correctly, looking after Jaguar Cichlids is easy. The water conditions and water quality needs to be regulated. For these fish, use a large simp or canister filter.

Over time, nitrates and phosphates can build up, and water hardness increases. Prolonged exposure to these weaken the fish’s immune system and cause a breeding ground for diseases.

The hardness of the water can increase with the evaporation of the water. You don’t want too much of these, as it’s harmful.

Like a few other Cichlids, these are sensitive to pH instability, pollutants and sudden water changes.

You need to do water changes twice a week, with 20-30% of the water. When you do this, use a gravel cleaner. This removes decomposing organic matter.

This is critical for the animal’s health.

Keep your lighting low or subdued.


These fish like the aquarium temperature to be slightly warm. They’re from a tropical climate. The best Jaguar Cichlid water temperature range is 74-79° F (24-28° C).

The higher the tank temperature, the more aggressive the fish. It’s best to keep it around 74° F (24° C).

PH And Hardness

Jaguar Cichlids thrive best with 10-15 dGH water hardness and pH of 7-8.7.

Suitable Tank Mates

These freshwater fish aren’t the most compatible community fish when it comes to other inhabitants of the aquarium. Take a breeding pair of Jaguar Cichlids. Sometimes, mating pairs kill fish that get too close.

However! You can keep them with other fish. You need to be selective, cautious, and monitor them closely. This becomes especially important if you are breeding them.

Make sure you don’t have small fish as their tank mates.

In preparation for the tank mates, you need a large tank. The usual recommended size is 100 gallons, (378 L.)

It leaves lots of space for the fish and the Jaguar Cichlids. You should always choose companions larger than the Jaguar.

Onto the recommended Jaguar Cichlid tank mates.

Others Of Their Species. Raise them together from the start.

Other Cichlid Species. You need 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 and have a temperament that doesn’t cause them to get into many conflicts. Choose a large type of Catfish or a common pleco.

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


In the wild, these freshwater fish are carnivorous and predators. Specifically, they are piscivores, which means they eat other fish.

They eat a variety of meat, but their diet mostly consists of other fish and smaller invertebrates.

They are also what is known as ‘raptorial’ feeders. In biology, it means predatory on other animals. It also says that they aren’t fussy eaters, they’ll eat just about anything they can fit in their mouth.

These fish love to eat! They have massive appetites.

Careful not to feed them by hand though, as they may attack it.

Live Foods. This should make up the bulk of their diet, and they eat many types of fish and foods. Variety is essential.

The foods include types of worms such as bloodworms, blackworms, and mealworms. Ghost shrimp is good too. 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.

They’ll usually accept large pieces of frozen and dry 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, flake food and pellets make an excellent supplement/addition.

Keep in mind sometimes your Jaguar Cichlids may not accept these. The food you choose must high-quality and designed for Cichlids.

Things To Avoid

Many fishkeepers advise against feeder fish bought from pet stores, as these might introduce diseases into the tank.

Meaty Food. Don’t feed them any animal meats used for humans consumption; it makes them ill. Don’t feed them beef heart either for the same reason.

Overfeeding. This is never a good idea. Feeding them daily is the best feeding frequency.

Jaguar Cichlids. Aggressive, territorial, large, and sometimes, the terror of the tank. But they’re beautiful, uniquely colored fish.

Something I forgot? Or have a question? Leave a comment at the end.


  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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