Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Mesonauta insignis

Flag cichlid

Flag cichlid, Mesonauta insignisFlag cichlid, Mesonauta insignis
Photos by Andy Rapson


Mesonauta: probably from the Greek 'mesos' meaning middle or average, and 'nautes' for sailo (alternatively from Latin 'nauta' or sailor; the name perhaps refers to he position of dorsal fin origin posterior to the pelvic fin which was the author's principal diagnostic character.

General Notes:

In a large aquarium with suitable tank mates Mesonauta insignis is generally very peaceful but small fish may be viewed as food. But their mouths are quite small and so any fish viewed as food would also need to be very small. In the wild they live in quite water with lots of tangled branches and which is heavily vegetated. They move in to the flooded forest when for a large part of the year and their aquarium set up should try to replicate this as much as possible.


Wild flag cichlids will eat vegetable detritus, worms, surface insects and even small fish. In captivity they will accept insects such as crickets, blood worm, and other suitably sized live or frozen food along with cichlid pellets or granular food. They are quite bold feeders once settled.


There is little or no difference between the sexes when the fish are adult.


They will breed in typical cichlid fashion. Both parents will select a territory and try to exclude all other fish from it. They will select a spawning site in their territory this can range from a stone, leaf, glass or even substrate. Both parents will guard the brood until the fry become independent and gradually drift away or until the next brood comes along at which point the older fry will be viewed as intruders and chased away.

Wild status

The wild population has not been evaluated and so its health is unknown.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 7.5
dGH: 4 - 12
Temperature: 26 - 30°C (79 - 86°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 15cm (6in)
Min tank size: 225 litres
Difficulty level: Easy
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: Middle

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Flag cichlid, Mesonauta insignis

Origin: South America: Amazon River basin, in the upper Negro River drainage in Brazil; Orinoco River basin, along the Orinoco River in Colombia and Venezuela

Habitat: Still or slow moving water, lakes, ponds around branches and in heavily vegetated areas.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genus: Mesonauta
Species: M. insignis, Heckel 1840

Common name:
Flag cichlid

Synonyms: Heros insignis