Blue Acara
Blue Acara

Blue Acara - Aequidens pulcher

blue acara
Blue acara - Pictures by


The Blue Acara is a South American cichlid with a comparatively peaceful temperament, at least when not protecting offspring. It is fairly hardy and not very expensive which has made it popular among first-time cichlid owners. It is widely bred in captivity so you can obtain specimens that are already used to life in aquaria and haven’t been subjected to any catching stress.

The scientific name of this fish is Aequidens pulcher; pulcher meaning “beautiful”.

The Blue Acara is often confused with another South American cichlid from the same genus, the Green Terror, Aequidens rivulatus. To add to the confusion, the Green Terror actually had the scientific name Aequidens pulcher for some time but they are now recognized as separate species. The Green Terror is much more aggressive than the Blue Acara and is not recommended for novice cichlid keepers. Another difference between the two is that the Green Terror will develop a large hump on its head as it matures.     

The Blue Acara is also sometimes confused with young Jack Dempseys (lägg till vetenskapligt namn här), another cichlid species considerably more aggressive than the Blue Acara.

The expected life span of a Blue Acara is 10 years. 
The Blue Acara is not listed on the IUCN Red List.


Kingdom:      Animalia
Phylum:         Chordata
Class:            Actinopterygii
Order:           Perciformes
Family:          Cichlidae
Subfamily:    Cichlasomatinae
Genus:           Aequidens
Species:         Aequidens pulcher

Geographical range, habitat and habits

The Blue Acara lives in South and Central America, down to Trinidad & Tobago, Colombia and Venezuela. The species can be found in both clear and turbid flowing streams. It is a carnivore that feeds on crustaceans, worms and insects.

Size and appearance

The largest scientifically measured Blue Acara was 16.0 cm (6.3 in). The body of the Blue Acara is compact and stocky while the fins are long and flowing. The forehead is noticeably larger than in other Acara species.

The exact colouration varies regionally between the various populations. The main body colour is a kind of sparkly steel blue-gray, but the exact shade varies from pale off-white blue to bluish-green and all the way to really deep blue. There body is decorated with 5-8 vertical black stripes (which may not always be distinctly visible) and blue iridescent spots and the face sport a few horizontal green lines. The fins have a hint of orange on the tips and some specimens have a red topfin rim.

Blue Acara care

The Blue Acara is a comparatively peaceful South- and Central American cichlid, but it is known to bully smaller fish and is therefore normally kept with fish of its own size or larger. Really small fish will be considered food. The Blue Acara is often kept with other fairly peaceful South and Central American cichlids, e.g. Firemouth cichlids (Thorichthys meeki), Convicts (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) and Banded cichlids (Heros severus).

The exact temperament of a Blue Acara varies according to population, and there are naturally individual variations as well. Generally speaking, dark blue specimens seem to be the most aggressive ones. All Blue Acaras are territorial during the breeding period and will violently defend their territory if necessary.

The Blue Acara will occupy all areas of the aquarium, from top to bottom.  

An aquarium of at least 30 gallons (120 liters) is recommended for Blue Acara, but the exact recommendation will naturally depend on which species, if any, you wish to combine the Acara with. Pairs are known to claim territories comprising up to 55 gallons (200 liters) of water if given the opportunity.

You will have to work to keep the amount of organic waste down in your Blue Acara aquarium so get ready for frequent water changes. Changing 15-20 percent each week is a good rule of thumb.  Powerful filtration (mechanical and biological) will be a great aid. A large and sparsely stocked aquarium is easier to maintain than a small and crowded one.

Try to resemble the native tropical environment of the Blue Acara in the aquarium. Keep the water temperature in the 22-30° C (72-85° F) range and include a lot of hiding spots in the set up. The recommended water hardness is up to 25° dGH and the pH-level should be 6.5-8.0 (mildly acidic to alkaline). Good water movement is beneficial.

Ideally use fine sand as bottom substrate and use rocks, roots, plants etcetera to create suitable hiding spots. Blue Acaras love planted aquariums, especially ones that offer protection from above, but they also love to uproot plants so chose sturdy species or go for floating plants only. Potted Sagittaria and Vallisneria are known to survive in Blue Acara tanks.

Feeding Blue Acara

The Blue Acara is a predatory fish that feeds chiefly on worms, insects and crustaceans in the wild. In the aquarium they will eat live and fresh food, and most specimens can be trained onto frozen and dry foods as well. You can for instance give your fish a combination of cichlid pellets, flakes, brine shrimp, blood worms, earth worms and other types of meaty foods. They will also like chopped fish from the grocery store.  

Feeding young fish many different types of food will prevent them from becoming overly fastidious as they grow older.  

Breeding Blue Acara

Sexing Blue Acara is tricky, but the male is usually about 15% larger than the female and has a vague nuchal hump. The male is also known to have slightly larger fins and his dorsal and anal fins are more pointed.

The Blue Acara is normally ready to breed when it has reached a size of roughly 10 cm (4 inches). This species form monogamous pairs and the female will deposit the eggs on a carefully cleaned rock. Blue Acaras are devoted parents and will care for both eggs and fry. During this period, they can be very aggressive towards other fish in the aquarium. If you remove the eggs or young fry, you can expect the couple to spawn again in two weeks.  

If you wish to coax your Blue Acara into breeding, try keeping the temperature in the upper part of the recommended range, around 26-28° C (79-82° F), and the water soft (3-10° dGH) and acidic (pH 6.5-6.9). Give the fish a suitable rock or similar to use as spawning substrate.

Blue Acara fry are very small and feed on aufwuchs. Until they have reached an age of two week, they are very sensitive to water changes. Do small and frequent changes instead of big ones to keep the water quality up.  

The Blue Acara is widely bred in captivity for the aquarium market.