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Laetacara dorsigera


Article by David Midgley

Species information

Species: Laetacara dorsigera (Heckel, 1840)

Synoma: Acara dorsigera, Aequidens dorsiger, A. frenifera, A. flavilabris, A. thayeri

Common name: red flag cichlid, red laetacara

Origin: South America

Localities/Morphs: No morphs are known - however, the species occurs around the Rio Paraguay, Rio Guapore, Rio Alegre, Villa Maria & Puerto Suarez

Maximum size: 8-9cm

Natural habitat: swampy areas surrounding major rivers. Very still, murky water.

Natural foods/prey: micropredator (mainly insect larvae, etc - although the fish is an opportunistic feeder and will take other food types such as small fishes & other invertebrates)

Water chemistry in the wild: pH - 6.0; gH - low (under 1 degree); kH - low (under 1 degree); Conductivity - 23 microsemens (@29.5 C)

Predators: Larger fishes, birds.

Brood size: ca 300 eggs

Breeding method: Open spawning pair former usually spawns on a flat stone or large sturdy leaf.

Husbandry requirements

Minimum tank size: 2' (80L) for a single pair

Sex ratio: 1m:1f

Tolerance of conspecifics: Single pair only.

Tolerance of heterospecifics: A pair will tolerate almost any nonaggressive heterospecifics

Water chemistry in aquaria: Under pH 6.5 is best for breeding

Temperature range: 24-29 C

Foods accepted: varied - will accept almost any flake, pelleted, frozen or live foods.

Special requirements: Well planted tanks suit this shy cichlid.


  • L. dorsigera is shy almost to its own detriment. I have found the species easy to spawn in pH's under 6.5, however, the fish are notorious egg-eaters (which they seem to do when stressed) and only poorly defend their fry/eggs from other fishes. As such I would recommend housing them only with a few mountain cloud minnows as a dither species. The tank should be well planted and the spawning site should be well hidden from viewing on at least three sides of the aquarium. Sponge/DIY Ice cream tub filters are ideal for this species which does well in very still water. The parents share the brood care although the male involves himself more with territorial defence (which he does only poorly). Fry care last ca 3 weeks. Fry should be removed from the parents after this time. Additionally, newly free-swimming fry are very small and enjoy regularly feeding of insuforians and fine powdered foods. Newly hatched brine shrimp are only suitable 7 or so days after the fry are free swimming as they are too big for the younger fry and tend to foul the water.
  • This species, along with the flag cichlid (L. curviceps) are two of the more commonly available Laetacara species in Australia. They are also two of the most underrated cichlids in the country. These fish display brilliant red underbellies when breeding along with red highlights in the dorsal and caudal fins. The body is also covered in small blue scales which seem to glow when the fish is breeding.


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