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Keyhole Cichlids - how to breed this popular tropical fish

Updated on January 7, 2013

The aptly named Keyhole Cichlid

Cichlids are a large family of tropical fish and the Keyhole Cichlid (Cleithracara maronii) is very aptly named because it has a dark blackish marking on the side of its light-brown body that looks just like a keyhole. The Keyhole Cichlid is a very popular species for tropical fish hobbyists to keep and breed because it is very peaceful and although it is quite large can be kept with smaller species and in the community tank.

The black keyhole marking is edged with pale yellow that makes it stand out too and adds to the striking visual effect. Keyhole Cichlids also have black curved stripes going through their eyes and this makes them an attractive fish to look at even though their body colour is quite dull.

Keyhole Cichlid

Keyhole Cichlid (Cleithracara maronii) by Bartosz Senderek
Keyhole Cichlid (Cleithracara maronii) by Bartosz Senderek | Source

More about Kehole Cichlids

The Keyhole Cichlid comes from the Orinoco River basin in Guyana and French Guiana in South America. It is now kept all around the world though wherever there are tropical fish enthusiasts.

Its scientific genus name Cleithracara means "lock acara" when translated and there are other "acaras" in the Cichlid group of fish, such as the Blue Acara (Aequidens pulcher).

It is not a large Cichlid because there are many other species that grow much bigger but it nevertheless reaches around 4 inches (10cm) in length. The males tend to be bigger and to have more pointed fins, otherwise, there is very little visual difference in the sexes of this fish.

Keyhole Cichlids are ideal for a community tank set-up and will not bother smaller types of tropical fish. Because of its peaceful nature it should not be kept with other more aggressive fish that might bully it.

Keyhole Cichlids can be quite shy and will hide away in a tank if they are feeling nervous or threatened. They also change their colouration at such times and become blotchy but will resume their normal looks when danger, or perceived danger, has passed.

Keyhole Cichlids will eat flake food as well as enjoying live foods. To get them in good condition for breeding a diet with plenty of live food is essentail though.

Keyhole Cichlids will mate for life after selecting a partner. They also make good parents to their eggs and fry.

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How to breed Keyhole Cichlids

Once you have got a pair of Keyholes you will find they will tend to stay close together a lot of the time whilst swimming around. The males tend to have a longer dorsal fin and are a bit longer. Females will become fatter as well when they are full of eggs.

At such times the male will be seen to court the female by swimming by her and expanding his gill covers. He will select a site for her to lay her eggs on too.

Keyhole Cichlids spawn on flat stones and slates, inside flowerpots, on very large plant leaves and other flat surfaces. They will clean the selected site before they begin the egg-laying.

Female Keyhole Cichlids can lay between 300-400 eggs and as many as 1,000 have been reported. Both parents will stand guard over the developing eggs and newly hatched fry. They will fan the eggs to make sure there is no dirt falling on them and that they have enough oxygen.

Whilst Keyhole Cichlids are very unlikely to eat their offspring some tropical fish breeders like to make sure the eggs are safe by removing the parents. If this is done an air-stone should be left gently bubbling away near enough to keep the water moving by the eggs but not too near to dislodge any.

I have bred and reared Keyhole Cichlids several times and ended up with plenty of young fish that I sold to the local tropical fish shops when they were well over an inch in length. Keyhole Cichlid fry do well on freshly-hatched brine shrimp.

Keyhole Cichlids are a very rewarding species to keep and it is not surprising they have become so popular.

Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

Keyhole cichlids


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    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for commenting!

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      So interesting. And I enjoyed the video....Thanks

    • Bard of Ely profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks for your posts, homesteadbound and Jackie!

      Jackie, I haven't sold this species since I was in my early teens back in the sixties! I don't blame you not wanting to sell your hamsters if that was what happened. I could never do that!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      8 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I gave up aquariums years ago but this sounds tempting. Is there money in breeding them? I made a tidy sum on hamsters years ago because they had so many...until I found out most of them were going for snake food.

      Very interesting hub.

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Cichlids are really fun fish. I used to have an African cichlid tank and a South America cichlid tank. Great hub.


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