Keyhole Cichlid (Cleithracara maronii): Care Guide

Common Name(s)Keyhole Cichlid
Scientific NameCleithracara maronii
OriginSouth America
Temperature72-81°F (22-27°C)
Size4 inches (10 cm)
Minimum Tank Size55 gallons
Food & DietOmnivorous
Lifespan7-10 years
Water pH6.0–7.2
Tank MatesAngelfish, Discus, or other Keyhole Cichlids
BreedingBreeding pair lays eggs on a hard surface, such as a rock.
DiseaseIt may be susceptible to Ich.
Keyhole Cichlid
Keyhole Cichlid (Cleithracara maronii)

Keyhole Cichlid Care

The Keyhole Cichlid (Cleithracara maronii) gets its name from its most distinguishing feature, a black spot located on the back of its body. When the Keyhole Cichlid matures, the black spot sometimes extends downwards, which creates a keyhole shape. The Keyhole Cichlid tends to be a very timid fish. In fact, they don’t even bother plants and other tank decorations. Their shy nature makes them great fish to have in a community of non-aggressive species.


Keyhole Cichlids are freshwater fish traditionally kept at a temperature of 72-81°F (22-27°C). The temperature ranges allow for them to share a tank with several other freshwater fish.

Water pH

The preferred pH range of Keyhole Cichlid ranges between 6.0 – 7.2. They prefer a slightly acidic environment, be sure to keep it in the range specified to keep them in the best health possible. Cleaning the tank regularly helps keep the water quality high and prevents diseases from plaguing your keyhole cichlid.

Keyhole Cichlid Size

A fully mature male Keyhole cichlid grows to be around 4 inches (10 cm), slightly larger than the female. Males also have longer dorsal fins than their female counterparts.

Tank Size

A single keyhole cichlid should be kept in a tank no smaller than 20 gallons, but a single keyhole cichlid shouldn’t be kept. They are monogamous and pair for life. Therefore, a minimum of 55 gallons is recommended for several keyhole cichlids.

Food & Diet

Keyhole cichlid are omnivores, which makes feeding them relatively easy. They eat anything from larvae, small crustaceans, and insects to pellets, flakes, and frozen food. A varied diet will keep them both happy and healthy.


When kept in captivity and well cared for, keyhole cichlids have been known to live for upwards of 10 years. Their typical lifespan tends to range from 7 to 10 years, though.

Keyhole Cichlid Tank Mates

The timid nature of keyhole cichlid makes them ideal for community tanks. It is recommended to keep them with similar fish and similar size, demeanor, pH level, temperature, and tank size. But be warned; they do sometimes eat smaller aquatic creatures like tetras or crustaceans.

How many Keyhole Cichlids should be kept together?

At a minimum, two keyhole cichlids should be kept together. They are monogamous and mate for life, so only keeping one wouldn’t allow you to get the full benefit of having a keyhole cichlid in your tank.

Are Keyhole Cichlids Aggressive?

Keyhole Cichlids are a timid species, and the only time they are known to get aggressive is after breeding. They get very protective of their young and aggressive towards any fish they deem a potential predator. 

Compatible Tank Mates for Keyhole Cichlids

Preferred tankmates for keyhole cichlids are other keyhole cichlids. Other than that, any other freshwater, non-aggressive fish will do. Angelfish or discus cichlids are good options. But avoid smaller fish, like tetras, because your keyhole cichlid might mistake them for food and eat them.

Incompatible Tank Mates for Keyhole Cichlids

While keyhole cichlids are timid, they can still be territorial and omnivores, which means they may mistake any small Aquatic species for food. Avoid having smaller species such as tetras, in the same tank as keyhole cichlids.

Keyhole Cichlid and Angelfish

Angelfish and keyhole cichlids are great companions. They’re both non-aggressive freshwater fish and have similar tank requirements. A problem with Angelfish is that some tankmates will nip at their elongated fins, and that is an issue that should not arise when Angelfish are tankmates with keyhole cichlids.  

Keyhole Cichlid and Bolivian Ram

Bolivian rams are a peaceful species, tending not to any other fish in a tank. That alone makes them a great companion for the keyhole cichlid. They are very similar in that regard.  Bolivian Rams prefer similar pH levels to keyhole cichlids; they also prefer roughly the same temperature.

Keyhole Cichlid and Neon Tetras

Keyhole Cichlids are the perfect companion for most fish in an aquarium; unfortunately, Neon Tetras are not one of those species. The small size of the neon tetra makes them the perfect snack for keyhole cichlids. So, if put in the same tank, there is a significant chance that your neon tetra will be dinner for your keyhole cichlids.

Keyhole Cichlid and Kribensis

Kribensis are a species of cichlid, just like keyhole cichlids. They are very similar species, which makes them ideal tank mates. Kribensis and keyhole cichlids are omnivores, meaning their diets and feeding patterns are similar. They also prefer very similar tank conditions making them the perfect companions.

Keyhole Cichlid and Tiger Barbs

Tiger Barbs are a somewhat aggressive species of fish, and that trait only makes them ill-fit for sharing a tank with keyhole cichlids. Keyhole cichlids are primarily timid and don’t pair well with aggressive species. Simply, keyhole cichlids and tiger barbs should not be contained in the same tank.

Keyhole Cichlid and Shrimp

Keyhole cichlids and shrimp should not share a tank unless you plan on feeding the shrimp to the keyhole cichlids. Shrimp’s small size makes them the perfect snack for your keyhole cichlids. When adding a shrimp to your tank, if it contains a keyhole cichlid, don’t expect them to last for very long.

Keyhole Cichlid and Discus

Keyhole Cichlid and Discus should pair well in a tank together. The only thing preventing that is the temperature that Discus prefers to live at, and Discus’ preferred temperature is higher than that of the keyhole cichlid. Discuses are also a much more high-maintenance species than keyhole cichlids.

Keyhole Cichlid | Care Guide & Species Profile

Keyhole Cichlid Tank Setup

When keeping a keyhole cichlid, it is essential to keep them happy. A tank large enough for them is crucial, as is a pH level of 6.0 -7.2 and a temperature between 72 – 81°F. Tanks with keyhole cichlid don’t need much light, as they prefer darkness.

If you plan to breed your keyhole cichlids, it is important to include flat rocks on the bottom of the tank. That is because female members of the species prefer to lay their eggs on flat stones. It is also imperative to find different types of shelters or hiding places. Keyhole cichlids will hide and relax amongst them.

Keyhole Cichlid Breeding

Keyhole cichlids are traditionally very easy to breed. They lay their eggs on a small surface, preferably a rock they cleaned beforehand. Their first few attempts at breeding don’t usually work out, ending with the parents eating their eggs. It’s to be expected, and soon after, they will try again with better results.  After the female lays the eggs, the male and female work together to protect them.

The male tends to cover a large area around the eggs while the female watches the eggs intently.  Around 3-5 days after the eggs are laid, they tend to hatch. Once they become free swimming, usually a few days after their hatch, they should be fed brine shrimp. Both parents protect their young for around six months.

How to tell the difference between male and female Keyhole Cichlid?

Keyhole cichlids have distinct gender differences. The males have a more elongated dorsal fin than the females; the fin is thinner. Female keyhole cichlids also have a plumper belly, even more so during breeding, as they may carry upwards of 300 eggs.

How often do Keyhole Cichlids lay eggs?

Keyhole cichlid breed often and are pretty easy to breed. They protect their young for the first six months of their life, during which time they usually don’t mate again. But during the breeding process, if they are unsuccessful, they will usually try again within a few days until they are successful.

Keyhole Cichlid Disease

If your tank is adequately cared for, then disease shouldn’t be an issue. A common problem in keyhole cichlid that are kept in tanks is ichthyophthirius Multifiliis, also known as white spot disease or ich. The most apparent symptom is white spots on the fish, around its body, fins, or gills.

Where can I find Keyhole Cichlid for sale?

Keyhole cichlid can be purchased at any local aquarium store or pet store; they can also be purchased online. They’re an affordable species of fish, usually only around $10, and that price can increase when you buy multiple recommended ones because they don’t do well alone. Some retailers also offer a discount if you purchase keyhole cichlid in bulk.

Keyhole cichlid is an affordable, easy-to-manage fish that people of any skill level can enjoy. They’re also the perfect species for those looking to breed for the first time, as it’s pretty easy. As long as it’s compatible with the other fish you already have or plan to add, you couldn’t go wrong by adding a keyhole cichlid to your tank today!

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