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Keyhole cichlid - Cleithracara maronii

Keyhole cichlid - Cleithracara maronii

Scientific name: Cleithracara maronii

Common name: Keyhole cichlid

Family: Cichlidae

Usual size in fish tanks: 10 - 12 cm (3.94 - 4.72 inch)


Recommended pH range for the species: 6.8 - 8

Recommended water hardness (dGH): 12 - 30°N (214.29 - 535.71ppm)

0°C 32°F30°C 86°F

Recommended temperature: 24 - 27 °C (75.2 - 80.6°F)

The way how these fish reproduce: Spawning

Where the species comes from: South America

Temperament to its own species: peaceful

Temperament toward other fish species: peaceful

Usual place in the tank: Middle levels


The Keyhole cichlid originates from South America. They inhabit waterways that are blackwater and very slow moving. The waters are highly acidic and vegetated. They can be found in French Guiana and Suriname.

Short description

The Keyhole cichlid have proven to be a very popular species with fishkeepers and have been around for quite a long time. It gets its common name from the pronounced keyhole shaped markings on the side of it’s body. Compared to other cichlid species they are not over aggressive making them ideal tank mates for other species of fish that have a similar disposition but they will increase their aggression levels during spawning times. They do not grow too large either making them ideal for medium sized aquariums, adult specimens will reach an average length of up to 4.75 inches and they occupy the middle levels allowing room for bottom dwellers in the same aquarium.


If cared for correctly the average lifespan of the Keyhole cichlid is expected to be at least 7 years but some specimens may reach an older age.

General care

The minimum sized aquarium that should be used will need to be at least 3 feet in length (90 cm) and one foot wide (30 cm) and use a reliable filtration system to keep the water quality high. Decoration in the aquarium is purely a matter of personal choice but it is best to add some hiding places to make the fish feel secure,, plants can be added and use gravel that has no sharp edges for the substrate.The Keyhole cichlid needs to be added to a fully cycled set up and you will need to perform regular water changes to keep the quality high. The water temperature should range between 24-27°C (76-81°F) and the pH should be between 6.8-8.0. If breeding these fish you may wish to set the pH at a more acidic level. Keep the water flow at a medium pace by careful positioning of the outlet nozzles from the filters.They can be housed with many species of fish but make sure that they are of a similar size and require the same water parameters.


The Keyhole cichlid are classed as omnivorous and very easy to feed in the aquarium once they have settled in. For the staple diet use a quality flake food or cichlid pellets but their diet will need to be varied with treats of live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp or blood worms. They will also accept blanched peas or chopped zucchini for extra vegetable matter.


Mature males grow much larger than mature females and they will also develop extended finnage.


To obtain a pair it is best to purchase a small group of juveniles and allow them to pair naturally as they mature. Use an air driven sponge filter for filtration and reduce the lighting levels to make the parent fish feel more comfortable. Add flat rocks or suchlike to provide spawning sites and keep the water quality pristine on the breeding tank. They should spawn without ant intervention from the keeper but new parents may eat the first few batches of eggs. In time they will learn to become good parents and both parent fish will tend for the fry. Once fertilised the eggs should hatch after 24-48 hours dependant on the water temperature and once free swimming the fry can be fed on newly hatched brine shrimp or infusoria. They will also be able to eat powdered flake and in time will soon accept the same diet as the parent fish.

Additional information

Thanks to Jeff Catalina for allowing us to use the pictures.

Keyhole cichlid Keyhole cichlid

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