Chocolate Cichlid (Hypselecara temporalis): Care Guide

The Chocolate Cichlid (Hypselecara temporalis) is a large South American Cichlid native to the calm, deep, and slow-moving rivers of the Amazon River Basin in South America. This generally mild-mannered cichlid is an excellent centerpiece to spacious community aquaria with its elegant pastel colors and is easy to care for.

Common Name(s)Chocolate Cichlid, Emerald Cichlid
Scientific NameHypselecara temporalis
OriginSouth America
Temperature76-86°F (24-30°C)
SizeUp to 12 inches (30 cm)
Minimum Tank Size75 gallons (284 L)
Food & DietHerbivore
Lifespan10 years or more
Water pH5.0-7.0
Tank MatesOscar, Severum cichlid, Electric blue acara, Angelfish, Geophagus
BreedingSubstrate spawner
DiseaseMay be susceptible to swim bladder disease, Malawi bloat, tuberculosis, cotton wool disease, hole in the head disease, ich, gill flukes
Chocolate Cichlid
Chocolate Cichlid (Hypselecara temporalis)

Chocolate Cichlid Care

Chocolate cichlids thrive in biologically mature aquaria with a sandy substrate, smooth rocks, and driftwood decor. Hailing from the biologically diverse, slow-moving rivers and streams of the Amazon River Basin, this gentle giant is a hardy addition to community aquaria with other large, peaceful fish of similar temperament.

Since Chocolate cichlids prefer warm, soft, acidic water with slow to moderate currents, an aquarium filter, aquarium heater, aquarium thermometer, and water pH testing kit are all necessary to keep them healthy. Chocolate cichlids may live 10+ years, so having a long-term plan for your new friends is essential.

Water pH & GH

Chocolate cichlids require soft, moderately acidic water. A tank pH of 5.0-7.0 and general hardness (GH) of 8-12 should keep your cichlid happy and healthy. Remember to perform regular checks on your water’s acidity and hardness to ensure adequate living conditions for your fish!

Chocolate Cichlid Size

The Chocolate cichlid is a large fish growing up to about 12 inches (30 cm). While male and female Chocolate cichlids will grow to approximately the same size, male cichlids will display a nuchal hump and elongated dorsal and anal fins.

Chocolate Cichlid Tank Size & Setup

Although the Chocolate cichlid is not a schooling fish, it will require at least 75 gallons per fish due to its massive size. If keeping your Chocolate cichlid in a community tank, make sure the tank is much, much larger than 75 gallons. The bigger, the better!

Since emerald cichlids originate from warm, tropical climates, a heater and thermometer must ensure the water temperature remains between 76 and 86°F (24 – 30°C). Use a pH balance testing kit to maintain the water’s acidity between 5.0 and 7.0, an ideal setting for the hardy chocolate cichlid. Keeping filtration at a moderate level is also vital because Chocolate cichlids are used in slow-flowing rivers and streams.

Adding aquarium sand to the bottom of the tank will provide a natural feel for your cichlid, and you should avoid substrates with sharp edges at all costs. Aquarium sand will be perfect for your chocolate cichlid(s) to dig and scavenge for food, and large, smooth rocks or driftwood decor will serve as excellent places for your fish to hide. While Chocolate cichlids may rip up live plants, you may get away with some Java fern or anubias, as they will help remove excess nitrates and nutrients from the water and provide shelter for your fish.

If you’re planning on breeding your Chocolate cichlids, provide them with flat rocks or slate to serve as a spawning site.

Chocolate Cichlid Food & Diet

In the wild, the omnivorous Chocolate cichlid feeds on an array of invertebrates, algae, and plant matter in the slow-flowing rivers of South America. In aquaria, they will readily feast on fish flakes or pellets. However, including live fish food and frozen foods like white mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, bloodworm, krill, Mysis, or chopped prawns will provide the healthiest diet.

Unlike small fish, your Chocolate cichlids shouldn’t have a problem eating more significant pieces of food like pellets due to their giant mouths!

Chocolate Cichlid Lifespan

With a suitable environment and a healthy, diverse diet, Chocolate cichlids can live for over 10 years! Always ensure proper aquarium maintenance habits such as regular water condition checks, water changes, and tank cleaning.

Since the emerald cichlid has such a long life expectancy, it’s crucial to have a long-term plan for your new friend!


Chocolate cichlids are relatively peaceful fish for their large size and are an ideal addition to community aquaria with other large fish. Since chocolate cichlids are omnivorous, if they are introduced to an aquarium with small fish, they will likely try to eat them.

There are a few scenarios where a chocolate cichlid may become aggressive toward its tank mates. If the tank is not spacious enough, your chocolate cichlid will feel claustrophobic and engage in aggressive behavior toward others. Chocolate cichlids may also become aggressive when introduced to other chocolate cichlids, as they aren’t huge fans of intraspecies companionship.

As with many other cichlids, the aggression behind your Chocolate cichlid may vary depending on individual personalities. Some Chocolate cichlids may simply be too aggressive by nature to get along with certain other fish. However, Chocolate cichlids are usually very peaceful and should get along well with other large fish.

Chocolate Cichlid Tank Mates

Since Chocolate cichlids are generally gentle giants, they can usually be kept alongside similar-sized fish of peaceful temperaments that enjoy warm, soft water. Other prominent South or Central American fish are excellent choices for Chocolate cichlid tank mates. Oscar fish, Severum cichlids, Electric blue acaras, most Geophagus species, and Angelfish are premium companions for Chocolate cichlids.

While emerald cichlids are peaceful fish, they don’t typically enjoy the presence of other Chocolate cichlids. They may become aggressive toward each other but are generally okay as a compatible pair. If the couple decides to breed in a community setting, they will likely become severely aggressive towards other fish. However, having a very spacious tank should alleviate these aggressions.

Chocolate Cichlid | Care Guide & Species Profile

Chocolate Cichlid Breeding

Breeding Chocolate cichlids is pretty straightforward. Courtship displays during breeding cycles will include intensified colors, shimmying, fin-flashing, lip-locking, and gill-flaring.

Chocolate cichlids are substrate spawners, so when it’s time to lay eggs, your fish will clear a spawning site (usually a flat piece of rock or slate) and excavate a few pits in the substrate. Then the female will perform a few dry runs, swimming over the spawning site a few times before beginning to deposit eggs in small batches.

The male will follow close begins, fertilizing them until several hundred eggs are laid and fertilized. Make sure to keep the lighting dim and avoid startling the parents, or they may begin eating the eggs. Spawning will typically occur for longer than an hour, and the parents will begin guarding the eggs against intruders and fanning them with their fins.

After a few days, both parent cichlids dig a pit in the substrate before moving them and resuming guard duty. After another few days, the eggs should hatch, and the free-swimming fry should be noticed after another 3 days. At this stage in life, they can be offered baby brine shrimp and crushed fish flakes.

Both male and female Chocolate cichlids are excellent parents, keeping their fry close together and bringing them back to the nest site if they swim out too far! The parents will care for their offspring for another 2 – 3 weeks until the fish are mature enough to survive alone.

In some instances, the parent cichlids may not grasp the idea of parenting and continuously attempt to feast on their eggs or fry. If this happens, set up a separate tank for the eggs as soon as they’ve been fertilized. If setting up a different aquarium isn’t a realistic option for you, try adding some coarse gravel substrate to the parent aquarium, so newly-hatched fry can fall between the crevices and hide from their parents.

To raise your Chocolate cichlid fry, a 10-gallon aquarium should suffice to start. Make sure to add some live plants to help your fry feel comfortable and double as a habitat for the microorganisms your fry will eat. A simple sponge filter should keep the water calm enough for your fry and keep your tank water quality at a high level, but water changes are required regardless.

When the fry is large enough to be fed live food like microworms, water changes after each feeding session are mandatory. As the fry matures, you may diversify their diet with cichlid pellets.


As a member of one of the most prominent freshwater fish families, Chocolate cichlids are prone to several aquarium diseases. Some common diseases among cichlids are swim bladder disease, Malawi bloat, tuberculosis, cotton wool disease, hole in the head disease, ich, and gill flukes.

Your fish can be exposed to the disease in several ways, and there is a good chance they will get sick at one point or another. To keep your fish healthy, the best thing to do is maintain high water quality within your tank.

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