Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Cleithracara maronii

Keyhole Cichlid

Keyhole cichlid, Cleithracara maroniiKeyhole cichlid, Cleithracara maronii
Photos by Andy Rapson


Cleithracara: Greek, kleithro = to close + tupí guaraní, Acará, the name of a fish in Amazonas river maronii: Named for its type locality, the Maroni River.

General Notes:

Keyhole cichlids have been popular in the fish keeping hobby for many decades due to their mostly peaceful and slightly shy disposition. They are very peaceful even with smaller fish apart from when they are breeding. Even when breeding the other tank occupants will only be excluded from the immediate spawning site.
A simple aquarium layout will suite them best, a sandy substrate, several pieces of bogwood and a few well rounded stones is all that is required. A shoal of dither fish will be a real asset in helping the keyhole cichlids overcome their shyness. A group of pencil fish would be ideal for this and in keeping since the two are found together in the wild.


Wild keyhole cichlids enjoy a diet of worms, insects and crustaceans. Try to replicate this diet by offering similar items either live or frozen. In addition to these items keyhole cichlids will take flake food and suitably sized pelleted food. They are generally quite bold feeders and easy to please.


Keyhole cichlids are usually very peaceful except when breeding at which time they will defend their territory against all other fish.


The gender of juvenile keyhole cichlids cannot be reliably accessed. But when adult the male keyhole cichlid develops longer and more pointed anal and dorsal fins.


Breeding Cleithracara maronii is very easy. If several juvenile fish are raised together they will eventually form in to pairs on their own accord as they mature. They will select a territory and begin breeding with no special treatment but the chances of any fish being raised in a community tank are very slim even with parental care.
In order to raise a brood of Cleithracara maronii a separate spawning tank will have to be used.
A well cared for young adult pair in their own aquarium will eventually breed with out any special treatment. The eggs are normally laid on a hard surface such as a smooth stone. Up to about three hundred eggs might be laid in a single spawning. Don't be too alarmed if the adults eat their first few spawnings because this is quite common, they will eventually get things right without the need to raise the brood artificially. . The eggs are cared for mainly by the female while the male protects the spawning site from intruders (even when there are none). About a week after spawning the fry will become free swimming and at this stage they will need feeding. The fry will accept micro worms, freshly hatched brine shrimps, and finely powdered flake food. Unless you are a commercial breeder some culling will need to take place because a huge amount of space will be required to successfully raise a full brood without stunting their growth and there won't be the demand in the local market for so many cichlid fry.

Wild status

Wild populations of Cleithracara maronii have not been evaluated in the wild. But almost all the fish offered for sale within the aquatic trade will have been commercially bred.

Additional information

If frightened or startled a rapid change in colour to a more mottled pattern will be noticed.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 8
dGH: 4 - 20
Temperature: 22 - 25°C (72 - 78°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 7cm (3in)
Min tank size: 100 litres
Difficulty level: Easy
Aquarium type: Community/ species
Swimming level: lower and middle.

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Keyhole cichlid, Cleithracara maronii

Origin: Trinidad, Orinoco River basin (delta), rivers from Barima River (Guyana) to Ouanary River (French Guiana).

Habitat: Slow moving coastal streams which are rich in decaying wood. Occasionally found in brackish water.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genus: Cleithracara
Species: C. maronii, (Steindachner 1881)

Other common names:

Cleithracara maroni,
Aequidens maronii,
Acara maronii