A nice “little” fish


Photo by Andy Rapson at www.fishtanksandponds.co.uk/.

If you want to add a nice, peaceful fish to your tank, pick up a few Cleithracara maronii. Commonly known as a Keyhole cichlid, this small South American is typically quite peaceful and passive compared to most fish its size. I hesitate to call it a dwarf species because mine grew to nearly 5″, which is about the maximum you can expect. However, they are not rowdy fish by any means, certainly not compared to mbuna of the same size. 

Mine never bred, but then again I never set out to breed them. I suspect it was because the water parameters didn’t suit them. I’m on municipal water that runs between 7.5 and 7.8 pH even though I was using R/O at the time to lower it to about 7 and the hardness to around 150. The maronii species prefers softer, more acidic water but mine seemed to do well (growth, color) other than spawning.  

In any case, the maronii aren’t demanding. In fact, they’re quite shy. I kept four together in a planted 55g, with what I believe was a ratio of 1:3 (1 male and 3 females), though it could have been 4 females (I never vented them to be certain). They aren’t the most sexually dimorphic species, but I believe the females tend to be smaller and males have more pointed anal fins. Mine were all about the same size. It’s not an overly colorful species, but mine developed a nice blue outline along the trailing ends of the fins, especially dorsal and anal. Sadly, I never took any photos of mine, but the photo at top is a good representation. 

I haven’t kept any American (CA/SA) cichlids in quite a while, but I would certainly consider a few of these fish for my next American community tank. If you’re a beginning cichlidophile or wanting to delve into Americans for the first time, consider the Keyhole. Because of their shyness, it’s not a bad idea to include some dithers in your tank. I included some Black Skirt tetras, some barbs, and some danios, which seemed to help pull them out from behind the plants, rocks, etc. You’ll know if your Keyhole is “nervous” or “anxious” because the eye bar and black spot on the anterior will become very pronounced. 

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