Cichlasoma – South American Cichlids

The South American Cichlasoma are generally quite large, high-bodied fish, with a typically pointed snout.

Cichlasoma - South American Cichlids

Physical description

The South American Cichlasoma are generally quite large, high-bodied fish, with a typically pointed snout.

Most are fairly laterally compressed. At one stage these fish were nearly all classified as Cichlasoma species.

The best known representatives of this group are the Angelfish and Discus. Other South American Cichlasoma include Severums, Uaru, Chocolate Cichlids, Peacock Bass, Oscars and Festivum.

Most Cichlasoma show little or no differences between males and females.

Amost all Cichlasoma belong to monotypic genera.

Tank care

The native waters of these fish are generally soft, acidic and very clean, but these species vary in their adaptability to other conditions.

Discus are particularly demanding of good water quality whereas Angelfish will tolerate a wide range of pH and hardness so long as the water is clean.

Most of these fish are fairly adaptable, but will rarely breed unless water quality is optimal.

Cichlasoma pairs will often have tests of strength


In general these fish are quite peaceful, but they will regard any fish that is small enough swallow as food. Most are predators, although Severums are predominantly herbivorous. They have fairly small mouths, but will eat small fish.

Most are also inclined to be scappy and nippy, so it is best to avoid fancy-finned tankmates. The most peaceful member of this group are the Discus, which can even be shy and should not be mixed with boisterous tankmates.

At the other end of the scale, Oscars and surprisingly, the Angelfish can be aggressive, particularly when mature, and are best mixed with large robust tankmates or other cichlids.

The majority of these fish mix well in community tanks of medium to large species and can hold their own in cichlid tanks, providing tankmates are not overly aggressive. Most reach an adult size over 15 centimetres in length (or round).


South American Cichlasoma can be quite picky about choosing their partners, and require optimum water quality in order to breed.

In most cases it is best to grow a school of juveniles up together and let them choose their own partners.

The sexes are difficult to distinguish, but if two fish stay together away from the main group, and gang up on the rest of the fish together, it is likely they are a pair.

Cichlasomine pairs will often have tests of strength, involving lip-locking tug-of-war struggles, to determine if they have chosen the right mate.

South American Cichlasoma are open substrate breeders that usually lay their eggs on a vertical surface such as rocks or leaves. Slate or broad-leafed plants makes a good spawning site.

Both sexes share the care of the young. In some species (Discus and Uaru) the fry eat a secretion from the skin of the parents.

Many Cichlasoma are quite good beginners fish, but others in this group are a little more demanding, particularly the Discus and Uaru.

The majority of fish in these groups are hardy and robust and are suitable for large tropical community tanks, with fish of the same temperament and general size.

Discus are shy and care needs to be taken in choosing suitable tankmates.

Cichlasomine species

  • Astronotus ocellatus (Oscar)
  • Cichla monoculus (Peacock Bass)
  • Heros severum (Severum)
  • Hypselacara temporalis (Chocolate Cichlid)
  • Mesonauta festivus (Festivum)
  • Pterophyllum scalare (Angelfish)
  • Symphysodon aequifasciata (Discus)
  • Uaru amphiacanthoides (Uaru)

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