Keyhole Cichlid

Keyhole Cichlid

Keyhole Cichlid“Keyhole Cichlid” is the common name for the Cleithracara maronii species.

Adult size: 4-5 inches
Minimum tank size: 30 gallon
pH: 6.0-8.0
Temperature: 72-77°F (22-25°C)
Decor: Rocks, Driftwood, and Plants
Substrate: Sand
Lighting: 8-10 hrs/day
Diet: Omnivore

How To Keep Them
How To Breed Them
Other Information


How to Keep Keyhole Cichlids


If you adopt Keyhole Cichlids from a contaminated source, your aquarium may become infected. As a result, you need to ensure you only adopt ones that are kept in a healthy environment.

They can be adopted from:

Before adopting them, understand:

  • Keyhole Cichlids have an average life expectancy of 8-10 years.
  • Keyhole Cichlids may be identified under the common name of: Oval Cichlid

Tank Requirements

• Tank Size & Population Density

If your Keyhole Cichlids are in an aquarium that is overstocked, they will become stressed – weakening their immune systems – causing them to be more prone to diseases, and they won’t grow to their appropriate size. As a result, you need to follow the rule of one inch of fish per gallon of water, but keep in mind:

  • Keyhole Cichlids must be kept in at least a 30 gallon aquarium.
  • Keyhole Cichlids eventually grow to be 4-5 inches long.

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• Canopy & Lighting

The canopy of your aquarium ensures:

  • Your fish don’t jump out of your aquarium.
  • No contaminates enter your aquarium.

As a result, equip your aquarium with a canopy that completely covers it.

As far as lighting goes, if you want your Keyhole Cichlids to be most comfortable, the amount of light they get needs to mimic the amount of sunlight they receive in their natural habitat. The amount of time you should leave their aquarium’s lights on to achieve this varies. If it’s in a room that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, you should turn their lights on during sunlight hours. However, if it’s is in a well-lit room, then 2-3 hours per day is all that is necessary.

Decor & Substrate

When keeping Keyhole Cichlids, they will thrive if you decorate their aquarium with decor and substrate that mimics their natural habitat.

The natural habitat for Keyhole Cichlids, features water that is black and acidic in nature. Adding Indian Almond Leafs to their aquarium will blacken their water and make them feel right at home. In addition, it will help lower the pH of your water to a more comfortable level.

The natural decor for them consists mainly of rocks, so you should add plenty of them to their aquarium. In addition, you can also add decorative pieces such as driftwood and plants. When arranging these things though, you need to ensure you:

  • Place the decor so that it creates plenty of caves and hiding places.
  • Place the decor in a fashion that allows you to see them – don’t create a barrier for them to hide behind.

The natural substrate for them is sand, they love to dig around in it, so, you should fill their aquarium with it. With that being said though, gravel is still a suitable option for them. In either case, you need to ensure you:

  • Clean their substrate beforehand. Otherwise, the residue that is on it will make their aquarium cloudy.
  • Fill their aquarium with at least 2 inches of substrate.

Water Parameters

If the water in your Keyhole Cichlids’ aquarium doesn’t reflect that of their natural habitat, they can become stressed – weakening their immune systems – causing them to be more prone to diseases. As a result, you need to ensure their aquarium has a pH level of 6.0-8.0 and a temperature of 72-77°F (22-25°C).

• pH
pH can be measured by using a Freshwater Master Test Kit. If you measure your water’s pH level and it needs to be altered: remove your fish, adjust the pH, then acclimate your fish back into your aquarium – since they are sensitive to drastic changes of pH.

• Temperature
To measure your aquarium’s water temperature, equip your aquarium with an aquarium thermometer.

Ammonia, Nitrites, & Nitrates

The subject of Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates tends to be very dry. In its simplest form, they are all a byproduct of fish waste (fish poop & uneaten food) and are toxic to Keyhole Cichlids. As a result, you need to ensure their aquarium has:

  • An Ammonia concentration of 0-0.2 mg/L.
  • A Nitrite concentration of 0-0.2 mg/L.
  • A Nitrate concentration of 0-20 mg/L.

If you need to test these concentrations, use a Freshwater Master Test Kit.

If you need to reduce these concentrations, ensure proper:


Keyhole Cichlids are Omnivores, so their diet regimen should consist of plenty of protein and vegetables.

They should be fed twice per day – for a total of 14 feedings per week. For a majority of the feedings, they should be fed a staple food consisting of a flake or pellet. For the other feedings, they should be fed special foods.

During each feeding, they should be fed as much food as they can eat in 2 minutes. The exact foods they should be fed varies, depending on their size:

Of course, this is just our feeding method. You are more than welcome to design your own diet regimen for your Keyhole Cichlids. In either case though, ensure you:

Health Issues

Keyhole Cichlids are most-commonly affected by Ich or Malawi Bloat.

Tank Mates

Keyhole Cichlids can be kept solo or with other fish. If they are kept with other Keyhole Cichlids, you can expect their aggression to increase when they are spawning. But overall, they are fairly good with one another.

Keyhole cichlids are fairly peaceful, they do really well with other peaceful community fish. Only keep them with fish that are similar in size though, they tend to be picked on by fish that are larger than them. They tend to be rather shy, so adding peaceful schooling fish will help put Keyhole Cichlids at ease, which will bring them out of their shell. If you are unsure about their compatibility with another species, you can use this Compatibility Chart.


How to Breed Keyhole Cichlids

Reproduction Process

Keyhole Cichlids are monogamous egg layers. Once they pair up, they mate with that partner for life. They reach sexually maturity when they are are about 2.5 inches.

A pair will begin breeding in typical egg layer fashion, with the female laying a batch of eggs on a flat surface. Once the eggs are deposited, the male will then fertilize them. This will occur several times until the female is all out of eggs. Typically, an experienced female will lay anywhere from 100-300 eggs.

The parents will take good care of the eggs. This includes the female remaining close to the eggs while the male roams the outer perimeter. The female will fan the eggs and remove any unfertilized ones. The eggs will hatch within a few days and will be free swimming about a week after that. It is not uncommon for parents to eat their first batch of eggs, but they will typically re spawn within a few days.

Our Recommended Breeding Technique

Required Aquariums:

  • 50 gallon (breeder)
  • 10 gallon (grow-out)


  • Put a batch of jueveniles in a 50 gallon aquarium and provide them with an appropriate aquarium setting. It is important that they are together early in their life, because they partner up with their monogamous mate at an early age. Make sure the aquarium has plenty of flat rocks, this will make it easier for them to breed.
  • Their is not much that you can do to induce spawning. You will just have to wait, and ensure they are fed plenty. If they are hungry they will focus more time on finding food rather than spawning.
  • After the reproduction process occurs, wait 4-10 days until the fry are free swimming. Once they are, transfer them into a 10 gallon grow out aquarium. The grow out aquarium should not have any decorations or substrate, this makes it easier for the baby fry to eat. It should also have a sponge filter so they don’t get sucked up.
  • In the early stages, it is best to feed the fry New Life Spectrum Small Fry Starter.

As mentioned earlier, it is not uncommon for young parents to eat their fry. Do not be discourage if that happens to you as they will usually re spawn within a few days. If it keeps occurring, then you can try removing the parents from the eggs right after the reproduction process occurs.


Other Information About Keyhole Cichlids


The Keyhole Cichlid is a desirable, yet rare South American Cichlid. Naturally, they can be found in slow moving river drainages throughout the shores of French Guiana. They are a member of the Cleithracara genus. In fact, they are the only species in the genus.

Conservation Status

Keyhole Cichlids have not been evaluated by the IUCN, therefore their Conservation Status isn’t listed on the IUCN Red List.

Taxonomic Status

The Taxonomic Status of Keyhole Cichlids was most recently published in 1881 by Franz Steindachner as the following:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genus: Cleithracara
Species: A. Pulcher


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