Blue Acara: Caring For & Breeding This Easygoing Cichlid

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Okay, so maybe the image is misleading. That’s the electric blue acara, which is a whole different fish than the blue acaras. Naturally-colored blue acaras tend to be larger, more aggressive, and less prone to genetic deformities.

But they’re harder to find and most people aren’t looking for the natural blues, they’re looking for the electrics.

electric blue acara
Electric blue acra
Natural blue acara
Natural blue acara

So what’s the big deal? These two fish are totally different. And if you’re against hybrids, it might be worth noting that electric blue acaras are likely a sleeper hybrid – not a selectively bred mutation.

The best theory we have is that the electric blue acara is a cross between a blue acara and an electric blue ram. Genetically speaking, these two cichlids are fairly closely related and the coloration of the two electric blues is undeniably similar.

I have to admit that these guys look like the middle ground between blue acaras and electric blue rams to me, but here are the photos so you can judge for yourself:

Blue acara
Electric blue acara
Electric blue ram

In either case, I’ll cover both the electric blue acaras as well as the naturally-colored blue acaras in this article because their care does change a little bit depending on which one you chose to go with.

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Table of contents

Blue acara care


Andinoacara pulcher Classification

IUCN Status: Not listed

Class: Actinopterygii are ray-finned fishes, which is a subcategory of boney fishes. These fish are characterized by the bony structures that support their webbed fins. This group makes up nearly half of all living vertebrates.

Order: Cichliformes is a subseries of Ovalentaria, an order united by the presence of demersal eggs that are attached to a substrate. Cichliformes include two families; cichlids (a successful family that encompasses over 1,600 described species and an estimated 3,000 total) and Pholidichthys (a family that hosts two species.)

Family: Cichlidae is one of the largest vertebrate families hosting more popular aquarium species than any other family. They all display some form of parental care towards their eggs and fry.

Genus: Andinoacara species were previously placed in the catch-all genus Aequidens. Currently, Andinoacara only houses eight species of fish from North and South America.

Species: Andinoacara pulcher

What does Andinoacara pulcher mean?

Pulcher means beautiful in Latin and Andinoacara comes from Andino – meaning from the Andes – and acara.

Andes Mountains

Though acara has several different meanings in other languages, it’s likely just a generic catch-all name – much like caridinia with shrimp.

Find Other Fish

Looking for something specific? You can discover other fish with similar characteristics! They open in a new tab so you can keep reading too!

Distribution & Natural Habitat

Native to Trinidad, Tobago and parts of Venezuela in South and Central America. But blue acaras have been introduced in various other countries, including the US, though no acaras have been observed in the US since 2015.

Blue acara natural habitat

In the wild, they don’t seem particular about their habitat. They range from silty still waters to faster-moving white water environments. Though, typically, you’ll find them in more white water areas than not.

Aquarium Care

Difficulty: Beginner
Size: 5.9″ (15 cm)
Lifespan: 10 years
Tank Size: 30+ gallons (150+ liters)
Diet: Carnivore
Temperature: 72 – 83 F (22 – 28 C)

pH6.5 – 8.5
Hardness:  5 – 25 dKH
Temperament: Peaceful
Breeding: Easy
Swimming: Everywhere, but usually somewhere in the middle
Availability: Common

Again, it’s worth noting that there are major differences between the blue acara and the electric blues. For one, blue acaras can hit 8″ (20 cm), while electrics struggle to hit 6″ (15 cm) – mostly because electrics struggle with genetic issues that blues typically don’t have. A big one is not being able to gain or maintain their weight.

Additionally, electric blues are way more peaceful, whereas natural blues tend to be somewhere in the range of moderately aggressive for a mid-sized cichlid. And the last big difference is electric blues are super easy to find whereas normal blue acaras can be a bit of a challenge.

Tank Specs

A 30-gallon or a 40 breeder would be good for a small colony of electric blues and even a few tankmates – provided the acaras aren’t breeding. Like most cichlids, you’re going to want a lid. Not because they’re typically jumpers, but they can get a bit jumpy around feeding time and you certainly don’t want one to pop out of the tank.

If your acaras seem prone to excited hopping, you might want to lower your water level as well so they don’t smack into your lid and injure themselves. If you run your tanks hot, lowering the temp slightly usually helps with this behavior as well.

Blue acara tank

A small colony of normal blues, however, you’d probably want a tank somewhere in the range of a 75-gallon or larger. Again, they’re larger fish, but they’re also more aggressive as well.

Both types can do with or without a heater, but since they are tropical fish, I do recommend one – even if you set it to a lower temperature. I have the best heaters below, but if you’d like more detailed information or more heaters to look at, you can check my detailed review of the best aquarium heaters.


Acaras are generally easy-going and won’t typically be the first to pick a fight. They do best as the only acara, in bonded pairs, or in groups of 5 or more. I don’t recommend mixing ages and sizes, but if you get them all young and at roughly the same size, you’ll likely see the most success from that setup.

 blue acara care

However, acaras are one of the easiest fish to spawn and once they start spawning, they become aggressive and spawn pretty much constantly. So if you want to keep a large group, expect spawning activity at some point. Once this starts, you may need to remove the pair or the other fish.

If you want to try to keep a spawning pair in their original tank with the colony, you’re going to need a much larger tank for everyone to have their own space. A 75-gallon would probably be the minimum here. Even then, I make no guarantees of success.


They’re not terribly picky with decor. Plants, rocks, and driftwood are always a great idea to help break up territories and sightlines (particularly with blue acaras.) Electric blues don’t seem to care quite as much, though if you have a pair, breaking up sightlines helps limit aggression.

Breeders also use small terracotta pits with holes drilled in the side, rock caves, or even just large diameter PVC pipes.

electric blue acara care

If you’re going for more of a natural look, a natural substrate would typically be leaves, silt, or even sand or a mix of sand small pebbles depending on the locale you’re going for. My favorite sand is HTH pool filter sand, but you can also go for some black aquarium sand as well if you’re trying to get their colors to pop.

I don’t suggest any fertilizer-type substrates for these guys because they really do best with sand or a sand mix and they love moving it around.

Best Plants For Blue Acaras

Blue acaras – electric or otherwise – aren’t your typical plant pulverizing cichlids. They are, however, your typical substrate spawners and sand movers. So depending on the plants you chose and where your cichlids decide to spawn, you may get your plants ripped up. Or they may randomly decide to rip them up without spawning, but that’s pretty uncommon with these guys.

Still, you might want to consider low-maintenance and hardy plants just to be safe. With the exception of val, I would advise you to consider plants that don’t need to be planted in the substrate as well.

Java Moss

Java moss

Java moss is an almost bulletproof plant that requires almost no care. It doesn’t grow nearly as slowly as it’s java fern cousin, and can create lush moss beds that blow and billow in the current. They’re a great option for grazers, fry, or those of you with the blackest of thumbs.

Difficulty: Easy
Growth: Moderate
Temperature: 59 – 86F (15 – 30C)

pH: 5.0 – 8.0
Hardness: 3 – 12 dKH
Placement: Floating or attached

Java Fern

Java Fern

Java fern is a nearly indestructible low light plant that can put up with tons of abuse. It doesn’t need Co2, fertilizers, or fancy soils. There are tons of lush, beautiful, jungle-like aquascapes you can create with it too!

Difficulty: Bulletproof
Growth: Slow
Temperature:  64 – 86F (18 – 30C)

pH: 5.0 – 8.0
Hardness:  2 – 25 dKH
Placement: Anywhere, basically

Anubias (Anubias barteri)

anubias barteri

The anubias barteri species has over 13 variants that call it home – so if you think you’ve seen them all, your probably wrong. They range in size, color, and shape, and are nearly guaranteed to be bulletproof. They don’t experience melt as often as most other immerse-grown aquarium plants and do well in low-tech setups – even with plant-munching fish. 

Difficulty: Easy
Growth: Slow
Temperature: 72 – 82F (22 – 28C)

pH: 6.0 – 8.0
Hardness: 2 – 25 dKH
Placement: Floating or attached



Vals come in a ton of varieties, but most of them are about the same to grow. They can grow rapidly, and quickly cover your tank with lush, kelp-like forests for your fish. Some species, however, do grow much shorter than others.

Difficulty: Easy
Growth: Moderate
Temperature: 63 – 82 F (17 – 28 C)

pH: 6.5 – 8.5
Hardness: 3 – 30 dKH
Placement: Planted

Lighting & Filtration

Blue acaras aren’t particularly picky about lighting though, like most fish, they do better with subdued light if you can swing it. But it doesn’t seem to be a deal-breaker for them if you can’t.

Filtration, however, is a big thing for most cichlids, and acaras aren’t exempt from that. If you’re keeping your acaras in a smaller tank, you can certainly get away with a sponge filter. If you’re keeping them in a larger tank (over a 40 breeder,) you’ll want to look at a canister just to make sure it can keep up.

The best filters for both setups are below.

Water Care

Like with almost all medium to large cichlids, HITH is a major concern for these guys. You’re going to want to change at least 50% of the water bi-weekly, but 25% – 50% weekly would be even better. But it really depends on your filtration and your stocking levels how much you can get away with.

In any case, I wouldn’t let the water deteriorate past 15 ppm for nitrates on any given day. Obviously, your ammonia should always be 0 and your nitrites should be as close to 0 as you can get – but definitely no more than 5 ppm – otherwise you’re seriously tempting something like HITH or HLLE.

electric blue acara hith

As with all fish, you’re going to want a good dechlorinator and some meds on hand, just in case. Salt certainly helps as well, but isn’t necessary on a day-to-day with these guys. The meds you’ll need to treat the most common acara illnesses are below.

Feeding Blue Acaras

Blue acaras are super easy to feed. It is, however, worth noting that some studies connect HITH/HLLE to a poor diet as well, so be sure to feed them as much variety as you can and buy in smaller quantities so the food doesn’t go bad on you.

They’ll definitely love you if you can feed them live food, but frozen is usually a much more practical option with mid to large cichlids. I don’t suggest using feeder fish or feeder shrimp, but chopped/whole earthworms, scuds, and bloodworms will be gladly gobbled down and are easy enough to culture yourself.

Scud/gammarus shrimp

They’ll also accept most frozen or pellet foods as well. If you’re looking to get the punchiest colors out of them, carotenoids are a good place to start. Though they haven’t been any tests on spirulina, it does seem to enhance the blue coloration in most fish.

If you’re just looking for something that’s quick, easy, and nutritious, Bug Bites are a favorite of mine, but you can also grab a ton of pellet or freeze-dried foods with spirulina as well and those are listed below.

Common Blue Acara Diseases

Again, it’s worth noting that electric blues tend to struggle with genetic issues like deformities, so that’s something to keep in mind (even if it’s not a disease.) All blue acaras are prone to HITH /HLLE, so water care and nutritious foods are definitely high priority for this species.

Aside from HITH/HLLE, they’re generally healthy fish. Still, there are a few illnesses that tend to pop up for these guys more often than others:

Hole In The Head (HITH) or Head & Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE)

(HITH) Hole in the head

Treating hole in the head is difficult for a few reasons, the most obvious being that we don’t know for sure what causes it – but we do know some factors. Adding to the matter, it’s hard to diagnose in its early stages and often only recognized once it’s pronounced and, you know, eating your fish’s face. 


  • Blotches/eroded patches on the head or around the lateral line


  • Use of carbon in filtration
  • Lack of key nutrients in diet
  • Stress
  • Poor water quality
  • Stray electrical currents
  • Pathogens – certainly present, but are they the culprits?

Skin & Gill Flukes

skin and gill fluke

Skin and gill flukes are worm-like parasites that embed into your fish. Since they’re so small, they’re almost invisible to the naked eye and incredibly difficult to diagnose. 

Before you freak out, flukes are present in almost every tank and are harmless under normal conditions.


  • Excess mucus on skin
  • Redness in gills and on skin
  • Itchiness
  • Scratching
  • Labored breathing (if in gills)


  • Generally, stress
  • Previous illness
  • Overcrowding
  • Wrong water parameters


fish bloat

Bloat certainly doesn’t have to be as severe as the picture, but you get the idea. Bloating is an accumulation of gas, fluids, or unpassed food present in the fish. Although I have no proof, I suspect this is why most people search “how to tell if [insert fish species] is pregnant” even if they can’t get pregnant. There is a difference between a bloated fish and a fish that’s eaten too much – the fish that ate too much will act normal whereas the other usually won’t.


  • Your fish’s stomach is distended without raised scales
  • Fish may appear to be in some sort of discomfort and avoid swimming or other usual activities
  • May not be pooping


  • Intestinal blockage
  • Constipation
  • Internal bacterial infection
  • Internal growths/tumors

Ich (White Spot Disease)

ich fish disease

Ich is caused by a parasite that, to many, looks like tiny white pimples across the fish. It can attach to the mouth, fins, body, and gills. You can usually see fish scraping themselves against objects (likely because parasites are itchy!) before white spots even appear.


  • White spots
  • Scratching
  • Redness or bloody streaks


  • Ichthyophthirius multifilis (parasite)

13 Of The Best Blue Acara Tank Mates

Electric blue acaras are generally more accepting of tankmates than blue acaras. In either case, they’re certainly far from small-fish-friendly. If it fits in their mouth, they’ll likely attempt to eat it at some point. It’s also worth avoiding fish that hang out in the substrate if you plan on breeding your acaras or if you have a colony where breeding will probably happen at some point.

If you’re planning on keeping a single acara – particularly and electric blue – your options open up quite a bit. You’ll want to look for peaceful or moderately aggressive fish they can’t fit in their mouth. Which, frankly, doesn’t make picking tankmates terribly difficult.

Red-Tailed Rasbora (Rasbora borapetensis)

Not the easiest fish to find, and you’ll likely need to special order them, but they make great community tank inhabitants. They’re hardy, peaceful, colorful, and not easily spooked. You’ll want to get them in shoals of 8 – 10, though likely order more in case of casualties.

pH: 5.5 – 7.0
dKH: 2 – 12
Temp: 72 – 78 F (22 – 26 C)

Size: 2″ (5 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful and active
Swimming: Top to midwater shoaling

Paradise Fish (Macropodus opercularis)

paradise fish

Paradise fish, unlike most other gouramis, do best alone or in pairs. If you want to keep them in a group, and an all-female group of six or more would be your best bet. They tend to only be aggressive with each other, other anabantoid species, or towards much smaller tank mates.

pH: 6.0 – 8.0
dKH: 5 – 20
Temp: 72 – 80 F (22 – 27 C)

Size: 3.9″ (10 cm)
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Swimming: Everywhere

Rummy-Nose Tetra (Hemigrammus rhodostomus)

rummy nose tetra

Rummies do best in shoals of eight or more, with ten or more being better. They don’t compete well with boisterous or food aggressive tankmates, but they’re a great community fish for a peaceful, well-planned tank.

pH: 5.5 – 7.0
dKH: 2 – 15
Temp: 76 – 80 F (24 – 27 C)

Size: 2″ (5 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful and active
Swimming: Top to midwater shoaling

Firemouth (Thorichthys meeki)

firemouth cichlid

Firemouths aren’t usually aggressive, except when they’re spawning, and they’re definitely not opposed to eating fish that fit in their mouth. When they do try to start fights, most of the time it’s for show and they’ll back down or deescalate without any damage. They do best in groups of eight or more.

pH: 5.5 – 7.0
dKH: 2 – 12
Temp: 68 – 88 F (20 – 31 C)

Size: 4.7″ (12 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful and active
Swimming: Mid to bottom, usually

Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare)

Angelfish can be aggressive, but typically only when they’re spawning or – when they’re not spawning – aggressive towards their own kind. They do best in groups of 6 or more to spread out the aggression and don’t do well with boisterous fish or fin nippers because of their long ventral fins.

pH: 5.5 – 7.6
dKH: 2 – 20
Temp: 76 – 86 F (24 – 30 C)

Size: 6″ (15 cm)
Temperament: Can be aggressive
Swimming: Everywhere

Discus (Symphysodon aequifasciatus)


Most serious discus keepers don’t keep their prized fish with too many other species – or in the parameters I’m going to suggest for most tanks. But they can make great roommates in the right tank. In community situations, they do best in groups of 5 or more.

pH: 5.5 – 7.6
dKH: 2 – 12
Temp: 79 – 86 F (26 – 30 C)

Size: 6″ (15 cm) – though some report 9″
Temperament: Usually peaceful, can squabble
Swimming: Everywhere

Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia praecox)

Dwarf rainbowfish do best when kept in groups of at least 6, though more is always better. Once they’re fully mature and settled, they develop beautiful colors when given lots of plants and open space to swim.

pH: 6.8 – 7.5
dKH: 5 – 15
Temp:  73 – 82 F (23 – 28 C )

Size: 3.2″ (8 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful and active
Swimming: Top to midwater shoaling

Boesemani Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani)

boesemani rainbowfish

Boesemani rainbowfish are relatively large and pretty fast, they’re always hustling and bustling about. This makes them ideal for color and movement but makes them less than ideal for smaller, easily spooked species that want a quieter tank. They need to be kept in shoals of 8 or more.

pH: 7.0 – 8.0
dKH: 10 – 20
Temp:  81 – 86 F (27 – 30 C)

Size: 4.4″ (11 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful and active
Swimming: Top to midwater shoaling

Severum (Heros efasciatus)

green severum
Green severum

Severums do best when kept in groups of 5 – 6 other severums and, with the exception of breeding, they’re peaceful fish. When maintained alone, they can become nasty towards tank mates. They do, however, need a large tank to be housed in groups.

pH: 6.8 – 7.5
dKH: 5 – 15
Temp:  73 – 82 F (23 – 28 C )

Size: 12″ (30 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful
Swimming: Everywhere, but usually mid to bottom

Keyhole Cichlid (Cleithracara maronii)

keyhole cichlid

Keyhole cichlids are peaceful unless they’re breeding, but they tend to be a shy and more reserved species than most cichlid owners will be used to. They do well with nonaggressive fish that are braver than them. Even smaller characins are safe with these guys.

pH: 4.0 – 7.5
dKH: 2 – 15
Temp:  70 – 83 F (22 – 29 C )

Size: 4.3″ (11 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful
Swimming: Mid to bottom

Orange Head Geophagus (Geophagus sp. ‘orange head’)

A currently undescribed, but already well-loved species of Geophagus, these guys do best in groups of 5 – 6 and are super peaceful as far as geos go. They only get aggressive when spawning and, like all geos, they require sand.

pH: 4.5 – 7.5
dKH: 1 – 10
Temp:  79 – 86 F (26 – 30 C )

Size: 9.8″ (25 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful
Swimming: Mid to bottom

Bristlenose Plecos (Ancistrus sp.)

bristlenose pleco

Most plecos aren’t suited for the average aquarium, some growing up to two feet long – not the bristlenose pleco. They’ll happily munch on algae, green beans, zucchinis, cucumbers, sinking algae wafers, and of course leftovers and fish poo – although leftovers and poo make for a literally shitty diet.

pH: 6.0 – 7.5
dKH: 6 – 10
Temp: 60 – 80 F (15 – 27 C)

Size: 4 – 5″ (10 – 12 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful, can be territorial
Swimming: Everywhere that has structure

Corydora (Corydora sp.)

Panda Cory Catfish

While each species will vary slightly, all require smooth substrates or bare bottom and do best when they’re kept in groups of at least six or more.

Some larger options would be better here, anywhere from 2.5″ (6.5 cm) and up. Good candidates would include bronze, emerald, Sterbai’s, and peppered cories.

pH: 5.5 – 7.0 – species dependent
dKH: 3 – 10
Temp: 72 – 80 F (22 – 26 C) – species dependent

Size: 1 – 3.5″ (2.5 – 9 cm) – species dependent
Temperament: Peaceful, can be boisterous for less active species
Swimming: Bottom (most) in a shoal of 6 or more

Breeding Blue Acaras

Breeding blue acaras is far from difficult. The best way to get a pair is to purchase 6 or more young acaras and let them grow up together and pair naturally. You can, of course, try your luck with buying a male and a female and hoping they get along, but it can be hit or miss.

Sexing blue acaras, on the otherhand, isn’t an exact science but there are a few indicators that you may or may not have a male or a female. On their own, each sign means little, but when combined they help you make the best guess you can. However, none of these are fool-proof:


  • More pointed dorsal or anal fins
  • May (or may not) have yellow to orange tips on their ventral and/or anal fin(s)
  • Rounded more hump-like forehead
  • Generally larger
Male electric blue acara
Extended orange-tipped dorsal, ventral, and anal fins, rounded head, slim body
Extended orange-tipped dorsal and caudal with extended ventral and anal fins, rounded forehead, slim body


  • More rounded body
  • More sloped forehead
  • Typically no dorsal fin extension
  • Typically no yellow or orange on their ventral or anal fins
  • More pronounced vent
Female electric blue acara
No fin extensions, no orange on ventral or anal fins, sloped forehead, pronounced vent, and chunky body
Female blue acara
No fin extensions, no orange on ventral or caudal fins, chunky body, and more sloped forehead


If you’re planning on breeding these guys, it’s best to keep a pair in their own tank. This limits aggression toward not just tankmates, but each other as well. It also lets you set up their tank properly. You’re likely going to want sand since these guys are substrate spawners, but you’re also going to want a sponge filter since a canister filter will likely be too strong and suck up the fry.

If you have a canister and it’s adjustable, you might be able to get away with attaching a pre-filter sponge and reducing the turnover rate to something more managable.

When they’re getting ready to spawn, the pair will clean and defend the spawn site rigorously. This can last anywhere from 24 hours to a week, so this will give you time to set up their tank and move the pair before the eggs are laid. Usually, 24 hours (or less) before they’re actually going to spawn the male’s breeding tube will be visible and that’s a cue that spawning is iminent.

Once the pair decides their spawn site is clean enough, the female will lay a row of eggs and the male will follow and fertilize them, almost in the exact same path.

Anywhere from 50 to 300 (or more, even!) eggs can be laid in a single spawn. If you’re planning on removing the eggs to artificially hatch, you might want to consider leaving them there for at least 4 hours to ensure they’re fertilized.

Egg & Fry Care

If the temperature is between 77 – 82 F (25 – 27 C,) you can expect the eggs to hatch anywhere from 48 – 72 hours after they’ve hatched (as long as they’re fertile.) Another 72 hours after they’ve hatched, you’ll start to see free-swimming fry.

At this point, they’ll be large enough to take baby brine, but you can offer them microworms as well. They grow quickly and around 7 – 8 days old, they should be large enough to take smaller daphnia and grindal worms as well. The fry can stay with the parents (they’re usually pretty good) for 10 – 14 days before the aprents get ready to spawn again and they may become aggressive towards (or eat) their fry at this point.

Electric blue acara fry

You can safely take the fry out once you see some spawning behavior from your pair and place them in their own tank. A 40 breeder would be a good place to start but, depending on the number of fry you have, you’ll likely have to upgrade to a 75 or 90-gallon – or even multiple tanks before they’re ready to be re-homed.

Usually, by the end of month two they’ll look like mini blue acaras and most stores will be willing to take them off your hands. If you live in an areas where blue acaras aren’t super popular, you may have to buddy-up with a store owner to use their wholesale connection just to keep up.

Further Reading & Resources – The Effects of Competitor Odour on Predator Choice for Grouped Prey in Blue Acara Cichlids, Aequidens pulcher (Gill, 1858)

Research Gate – Connectivity patterns of cone horizontal cells in blue acara (Aequidens pulcher, Cichlidae) reared in different light regimes

4 Responses

  1. Hi!
    I started with a group of 8 electric blue acara fish but now I have a spawning pair and the rest of the fish are two scared to go near them because they attack. I’ve tried a divider mesh but the pair broke it down. I don’t have a spare tank what else I can do?

    1. Hey, Carl!

      Depending on the age of the fry (or eggs), you could remove the eggs or fry. That would probably start a bit of a war between the parents, but after a few days it should settle down. Or you could try a foam divider instead of mesh. Water would still flow through but they wouldn’t have to see each other, no fry would escape, and the parents wouldn’t be able to (or hopefully wouldn’t want to) break through the barrier.
      I would try something like 1″ filter foam. Cut it a bit big (maybe 1/3″ or 1/2″ over to start) to wedge in in there tight enough to stay. It’d be ugly, but it’d do the job.

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