Mayan Cichlid (Mayaheros urophthalmus) Species Guide

The Mayan cichlid is a fascinating fish that has caught the attention of many aquarists and scientists alike. Originally native to Central America, these colorful and adaptable fish have made their way into various habitats, including southern Florida.

As you dive deeper into the world of Mayan cichlids, you’ll discover their unique dietary preferences and how they change through ontogeny. Not only that, but their reproductive biology and impressive ability to tolerate different environmental conditions make them stand out among other cichlid species. So, whether you’re an aquarium enthusiast or simply curious about aquatic life, immerse yourself in the fascinating story of the Mayan cichlid!

Image Of Two Mayan Cichlids Swimming

Mayan Cichlid Species Guide Summary

  • Average Lifespan: You can expect Mayan cichlids to live up to 10 years with proper care.
  • Care Difficulty: Taking care of Mayan cichlids is relatively easy, suitable for beginners.
  • Colors: These striking fish display beautiful shades of red, orange, and black.
  • Compatibility: Mayan cichlids are territorial and best kept with similar-sized fish.
  • Conservation Status: Currently, Mayan cichlids have no major conservation concerns.
  • Diet: Their diet includes snails, insects, shrimp, algae, and plant matter.
  • Distribution: You’ll find them in Central and South America, Florida, Mexico, and beyond.
  • Group: These cichlids belong to the diverse family Cichlidae.
  • Habitat: They thrive in rivers, lakes, canals, marshes, ponds, and estuaries.
  • Hardness: Their preferred water hardness ranges between 10 and 20 dGH.
  • Interesting Fact: Due to their adaptability, they’re considered invasive in some regions.
  • Minimum Tank Size: A tank of at least 30 gallons is recommended to keep them healthy.
  • pH: They prefer a pH level between 7.0 and 8.0.
  • Scientific Name: Their scientific name is Mayaheros urophthalmus.
  • Size: Adult Mayan cichlids grow to around 6 to 8 inches in length.
  • Temperament: This species is known for its territorial and sometimes aggressive behavior.
  • Temperature: Keep your tank’s temperature between 72 and 78°F for optimal health.
  • Where It Swims: Mayan cichlids swim in both freshwater and marine conditions.

Appearance & Varieties

Sex Differences

When it comes to the appearance of Mayan cichlids, you’ll notice a variety of colors and patterns. The common colors include red, orange tiger, olive-brown, beige, pink, and even a distinctive turquoise ring on some of the individuals. Keep in mind that their patterns and colors may vary depending on factors such as age, environment, and diet.

In terms of sex differences, males usually display more vibrant colors and are generally larger than females. A key feature in identifying male Mayan cichlids is their spiny fins. On the other hand, females tend to have rounder bodies and subtle color patterns.

When you’re observing these amazing fish, you may come across an incredible array of colors:

  • Red: Seen especially on the belly area of the males during the breeding season
  • Orange tiger: This distinctive pattern runs along the body of the fish and is typically more prominent in males
  • Olive-brown: A common color found in Mayan cichlids; it often serves as a base tone
  • Beige: Some individuals have beige markings around the turquoise ring
  • Pink: Can be found in certain areas of the fish, giving it even more variety in its appearance
  • Turquoise ring: A unique feature found in some Mayan cichlids; it’s usually more visible in males

Now that you’re aware of the different visual traits of Mayan cichlids, you’ll be better equipped to appreciate the beauty and diversity of these fascinating fish. Just remember, these are general guidelines, and there may be exceptions or variations within the species.

Behavior & Temperament

Mayan cichlids are interesting fish with unique behaviors that you might find intriguing. They have a somewhat territorial nature, so you should be prepared to accommodate their needs in your aquarium. Providing ample hiding spaces and visual barriers can help to minimize territorial disputes and create a more harmonious environment for your fish.

When it comes to spawning, Mayan cichlids show some unique behaviors. They’re known to be good parents, guarding their eggs and fry carefully. In order to encourage spawning behavior, make sure to provide flat rocks or surfaces where they can lay their eggs. You’ll also want to maintain clean water conditions and a stable temperature to keep them comfortable and in the mood to breed.

It’s important to note that Mayan cichlids can get aggressive during spawning. You may notice them defending their nest and chasing off other fish, even those of their own species. So, it’s crucial to keep an eye on things and be ready to intervene if necessary. Additionally, you might want to consider housing them in a species-specific tank during breeding to avoid any unwanted incidents.

While maintaining your aquarium, you’ll notice Mayan cichlids are quite active swimmers, and they’re known to be fast and agile. Don’t be surprised if they dart around the tank or engage in some playful behavior with each other.

In a nutshell, Mayan cichlids have a unique and somewhat territorial temperament, making them a fascinating addition to your fish collection. Just remember to give them the right environment, and you’ll be able to appreciate their fascinating behaviors and charming personalities.


If you’re curious about the breeding process of Mayan cichlids, it’s quite an interesting topic! These fish are known for their unique spawning habits and ability to adapt to various environments.

During the breeding season, you’ll find both males and females preparing their nests. They usually choose shallow, sandy areas in their habitat to make these nests, ready for laying eggs. In some cases, Mayan cichlids have even been observed breeding in seawater over sand on a barrier reef, showcasing their impressive adaptability.

Once the nests are made, the female Mayan cichlid lays her eggs and the male fertilizes them. After the eggs have been fertilized, both parents take on the responsibility of protecting their nests and offspring from predators. This parental care helps increase the survival rate of the young fish, called fry.

As the fry grow, they remain close to their parents for a certain period before venturing out on their own. In the wild, they can face various challenges and threats, so it’s crucial for them to learn survival skills from their parents.

Breeding Mayan cichlids in captivity might be a bit different than in their natural habitats, but it’s essential for you, as a fishkeeper, to provide the right conditions to encourage a successful breeding process. Make sure to maintain the proper water temperature and quality, and provide a suitable substrate for nest-building, such as sand or fine gravel.

By considering these basic factors, you can help your Mayan cichlids thrive and reproduce in captive environments. And who knows, you might just find yourself fascinated by the fascinating world of these resilient fish!

Care Instructions

Food & Feeding Frequency

Mayan cichlids are quite easy to feed, as they are omnivores. You should offer them a variety of foods, including high-quality pellets, small fish, and aquatic invertebrates. Mixing in some vegetable matter, such as blanched spinach, is a good idea as well. Feed your Mayan cichlids once or twice a day, ensuring that they consume everything within a couple of minutes to prevent overfeeding.

Potential Diseases

Like any other fish, Mayan cichlids can be susceptible to diseases if kept in poor conditions. Keep a close eye on their behavior and appearance, and maintain proper water conditions to minimize the risk of illness. Some common diseases found in fish are ich and fin rot. If you notice any issues with your Mayan cichlids, consult a veterinarian or aquatic specialist for proper treatment.

Tank Setup

Setting up a suitable home for your Mayan cichlids is essential to ensure their well-being. This species requires a spacious tank – at least 50 gallons or more. Add a variety of hiding places, such as rocks, driftwood, and aquatic plants, to mimic their natural environment. Mayan cichlids can be territorial, so provide adequate space for each fish to prevent aggression.

Water Conditions

Mayan cichlids are euryhaline, which means they can adapt to various water conditions. They thrive in both freshwater and brackish environments, but for optimal health, you should maintain a stable pH of 7.0 to 8.0 and a temperature of 75-82°F (24-28°C). Do not forget to monitor the salinity if you decide to keep them in a brackish setup. The water should be clean and well-filtered, with regular water changes to maintain good water quality.

In The Wild

Mayan cichlids inhabit various parts of Florida, Central America, as well as the Everglades, where they have gained quite a reputation. While exploring these regions, you might come across them thriving in diverse environments like lakes, marshes, and rivers.

Being in the wild, these colorful fish often interact with anglers. They’re known for being quite the fighters, even on light tackle, which makes them an exciting catch for any fishing enthusiast. Remember to utilize natural baits to get the best shot at reeling in one of these beauties, but always ensure to follow local fishing regulations.

It’s worth noting that Mayan cichlids have an interesting relationship with their surroundings. They were first discovered in the wild of Thailand and have since spread to other locations. In areas such as the Everglades, they are known as invasive species, posing concerns for native wildlife. So, while admiring these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat, always be aware of the potential ecological impact.

While you’re out there, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the cherished world record Mayan cichlid, which would undoubtedly make for an unparalleled fishing tale. With a little luck, you just might find yourself at the center of an unforgettable adventure in the wild.

FAQs About Mayan Cichlids

Are Mayan Cichlids Good Tank Mates?

Mayan Cichlids can be quite aggressive, so choosing tank mates carefully is important. Consider compatible species that can tolerate their behavior, such as other large cichlids, catfish, or larger tetra species. Keep in mind Mayan Cichlids may be territorial, so provide ample hiding spots and establish separate territories within the tank.

How Much Do Mayan Cichlids Cost?

The price of a Mayan Cichlid can vary depending on factors like size, color, and availability. On average, expect to pay around $10 to $25 for a single fish. It’s important to purchase from a reputable breeder or store to ensure quality and health.

How Do I Keep My Mayan Cichlid Healthy?

To keep your Mayan Cichlid healthy, follow these guidelines:

  • Tank size: Minimum 30 gallons for a single fish, with larger tanks being better for multiple fish or tank mates.
  • Water conditions: Maintain a temperature of 72-82°F with a pH range of 7.0-8.5. Regularly monitor ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels, and implement water changes as needed.
  • Diet: Offer a varied diet, such as high-quality cichlid pellets or flakes, supplemented with live or frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, or krill.
  • Feeding: Feed your Mayan Cichlid 2-3 times a day, with an amount they can consume within a few minutes.
  • Tank setup: Provide a mixture of open swimming areas, hiding spots, and caves using rocks, driftwood, and artificial caves. Live or artificial plants can also help reduce stress and territorial disputes.
  • Maintenance: Perform regular tank cleaning, water changes, and filter maintenance to ensure a healthy environment for your fish.

By following these guidelines, you’ll create a comfortable and thriving environment for your Mayan Cichlid. Enjoy the connection with your aquatic pet and keep learning about their fascinating world!


In your Mayan cichlid journey, you’ve learned about its growth, diet, and invasive nature. Best of luck with your fishy adventures!

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