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Cleithracara maronii


Species information

Species: Cleithracara maronii

Synoma: Aequidens maronii

Common name: Keyhole cichlid

Origin: Guyana, South America

Localities/Morphs: Orinoco delta in eastern Venezuela, Ouanary in French Guiana (Kullander & Nijssen, 1989; Lasso, 1993).

Maximum size: 10-14cm

Natural habitat: clear water habitats

Natural foods/prey: Omnivorous, micropredator.

Water chemistry in the wild: pH: 7.2, gH: 4.9 degrees, kH: 4 degrees.

Predators: larger fish.

Brood size: 300

Sexual dimorphism: limited. Males grow larger, have a more developed hump on the head, longer and more pointed anal and dorsal fins. Difficult to sex.

Breeding method: Open spawner.

Husbandry requirements

Minimum tank size: 2'

Sex ratio: 1m:1f

Tolerance of conspecifics: good - in larger tanks.

Tolerance of heterospecifics: good - although the fish is extremely shy and peaceful. Boisterous, active tank mates should be avoided.

Water chemistry in aquaria: soft, neutral pH.

Temperature range: 24 - 28

Foods accepted: Unfussy feeder, pellets, flake, frozen etc.

Special requirements: Planted tank or tank with extra cover.


  • To say this fish is shy is to make a serious understatement. Despite its size this large "dwarf cichlid" is not threat to other fishes and can be kept with a range of smaller fishes without incident. The fish is normally a even beige colour with a black "keyhole" like shape on its flank. When stressed, however, the fish displays an irregular brown colouration which can be bought almost on cue by the appearance of a net.
  • Due to their extreme shyness this fish should be kept in a heavily planted tank with many hiding places. Over time the fish begin to feel safe in their environment and lose some of their initial shyness.
  • The fish is relatively easy to spawn although it is a notorious egg eater - a practice which it will take up at the smallest provocation by the aquarist. The pair lay up 300 eggs on a large flattened rock or large flat leaves of plants such as Anubias. Again, parental care is dependant upon stress and the fish will readily abandon it's fry should the dreaded net threaten.
  • This fish is a monotypic species - being the only species in the genus Cleithracara. The genus name is derived from two words the first the greek 'kleidos' meaning "key" and the native south american word for cichlids "acara". The species name "maronii" is derived from the river Maroni in Guyana from which the fish was first identified.
  • Despite its unbelievable shyness - I have a great deal of enthusiasm for this much underrated, most peaceful cichlid. Large adults look amazing and have long flowing fins. Despite it's relatively well known status in the cichlid hobby - very few people have kept this fish to adulthood, let alone spawned them - and I can heartily recommend them to any new (or advanced) fishkeeper seeking something a little different.


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