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Mayan Cichlid (Cichlasoma urophthalmus): Complete Care Guides, Tank Mates, FAQs

Mayan Cichlid
<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mayan09.jpg">Gaddy1975 at en.wikipedia</a>, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ah, the Mayan Cichlid! Officially known as Cichlasoma urophthalmus, this fascinating fish hails from the family Cichlidae. Fun fact: the Mayan Cichlid is not actually native to the Mayan region but got its name for its striking resemblance to Mayan art. Vibrant colors adorn this species, featuring a mix of green, blue, and orange hues.

Looking for a rare find? You might have to look elsewhere. The Mayan Cichlid is not that rare and is frequently found in both freshwater and brackish habitats. They’re a common sight in the aquarium trade, particularly in the United States.

In the same Cichlidae family, you’ll find other popular fish like the Convict Cichlid and the Oscar. These relatives share similarities in both behavior and dietary needs, making them potential tank mates, although it’s essential to be cautious due to the Mayan Cichlid’s somewhat aggressive temperament.

Speaking of temperament, this is one feisty fish! Generally, they are mid-dwellers but will explore all areas of the tank. Their diet mainly consists of insects, crustaceans, and smaller fish. While they can be aggressive, especially during breeding, they’re also known for their curious nature.

Stats time! Adult Mayan Cichlids can grow up to 12 inches in length and have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years under ideal conditions. They prefer water temperatures between 74°F and 82°F and a pH level of 7.0 to 8.0.

There are some variations within the Mayan Cichlid species, although they’re not as distinct as some other cichlids. The most popular variants include those with more vibrant colors and unique patterns, often selectively bred for the aquarium trade.

Originating from Central America, especially the Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan Cichlids have also invaded Florida waters. Interestingly, they’re considered an invasive species there due to their rapid spread and impact on native fish.

We can’t end without sharing some more fun facts! Did you know that Mayan Cichlids have special sensory pores on their jaws that help them detect movements in the water? Their exceptional hunting skills make them outstanding predators. Moreover, they’re known to change their color during breeding, which is a sight to behold!

Mayan Cichlid
Gaddy1975 at en.wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Key Information

The Mayan Cichlid is an intriguing fish that comes in a range of variants. Though not as diverse as some other cichlids, the Mayan Cichlid does offer a handful of variants that differ in color patterns and fin shapes. These variants are often selectively bred for the aquarium trade, and each brings its own unique flair to a home aquarium. Let’s delve into the various aspects of this captivating fish in the table below.

PriceUsually around $10-$20
Common NamesMayan Cichlid, Mayaheros urophthalmus
VariantsVariants with more vibrant colors and unique patterns
Ideal Tank SizeMinimum 30 gallons
Water ParametersTemperature: 74-82°F, pH: 7.0-8.0
Lifespan10-12 years
Full SizeUp to 12 inches
Natural EnvironmentFreshwater and brackish waters, particularly in Central America
BehaviorAggressive, especially during breeding
Habitat PreferenceMid-water but explores all areas of the tank
Aquarium DecorationRocks, driftwood, and plants
Ideal Tank MatesConvict Cichlid, Oscar, large tetras
Fish to AvoidSmall, timid fish; fish with long fins
Best Foods/DietInsects, crustaceans, smaller fish
DiseaseSusceptible to Ich, fin rot
Sex-SwitchNo known sex-switching behavior
Gender DifferencesMales are generally larger and more colorful
Care LevelModerate
Breeding LevelModerate to Difficult

Ideal Tank Mates

Selecting the appropriate tank mates for the Mayan Cichlid is of utmost importance when establishing a community aquarium. This fish is known for its aggressive temperament, especially during the breeding season. Hence, it’s essential to select tank mates that can hold their own without provoking the Mayan Cichlid. The ideal tank mates are generally larger and equally robust fish or species that tend to occupy different areas in the tank, minimizing territorial disputes. Let’s look at 15 fish that could be the perfect companions for your Mayan Cichlid.

Convict Cichlid

The Convict Cichlid is a resilient and robust fish that can co-exist well with the Mayan Cichlid. Both share similar water conditions and dietary preferences, making them compatible roommates.


Oscars are large and can defend themselves, which makes them a good match for the somewhat aggressive Mayan Cichlid. They also have similar care requirements.

Jack Dempsey

Known for their vibrant colors and aggressive nature, Jack Dempseys can definitely hold their own against a Mayan Cichlid. They share similar environments and care needs.

Firemouth Cichlid

The Firemouth Cichlid is a good option because it tends to stick to the bottom of the tank, minimizing any territorial disputes with the mid-dwelling Mayan Cichlid.

Texas Cichlid

Another member of the Cichlidae family, the Texas Cichlid, can be a compatible tank mate due to its size and similar requirements for water parameters.

Green Terror

If your tank is spacious enough, Green Terrors make for captivating and suitable companions. These fish are robust and can fend for themselves.

Blood Parrot Cichlid

Known for their unique appearance and vibrant colors, Blood Parrot Cichlids are generally peaceful but can hold their own in a community tank.


Plecos tend to stick to the bottom of the tank, focusing on algae and not posing a threat to the Mayan Cichlid, making them a non-intrusive tank mate.


Though Angelfish are generally peaceful, their size allows them to share a tank with Mayan Cichlids without many issues, as long as the tank is large enough.


Kribensis are bottom dwellers and usually keep to themselves, making them an ideal tank mate for Mayan Cichlids as they occupy different regions in the tank.

Tiger Barb

These fish are fast swimmers and tend to stay in schools, which can help dilute any aggressive behavior from the Mayan Cichlid.

African Cichlid

Though they have different water requirements, African Cichlids can be a good match in a carefully monitored tank due to their similar aggressive tendencies.

Large Tetras

Species like the Congo or Emperor Tetra can be a good fit as they are fast swimmers and can avoid the Mayan Cichlid if necessary.

Giant Danio

Giant Danios are fast and agile swimmers who occupy the upper levels of the tank, avoiding the mid-dwelling Mayan Cichlid.

Tinfoil Barb

Tinfoil Barbs are large and fast enough to evade the Mayan Cichlid and also enjoy similar water conditions, making them a compatible tank mate.

Choosing the right tank mates is essential for a harmonious aquarium environment, particularly when dealing with a species as dynamic and occasionally temperamental as the Mayan Cichlid. The options listed above are generally good companions, offering a balance of similar environmental needs and complementary behaviors.


What is the Mayan Cichlid’s rate of growth?

The Mayan Cichlid grows relatively quickly when young but slows down as it approaches its maximum size. Proper nutrition and water conditions can influence its growth rate.

Can Mayan Cichlids live in saltwater environments?

While primarily a freshwater fish, the Mayan Cichlid can tolerate brackish conditions to some extent. However, it is not advisable to keep them in a saltwater tank.

Do Mayan Cichlids uproot plants in the aquarium?

Mayan Cichlids are known to be somewhat destructive to plants, especially when they’re digging during the breeding season. It’s best to use sturdy plants or anchor them well.

Are Mayan Cichlids sensitive to medications?

Generally, Mayan Cichlids are robust and can tolerate standard fish medications for common diseases like Ich or fin rot. However, always follow the recommended dosage and consult a vet when in doubt.

Can they live in outdoor ponds?

In warmer climates, Mayan Cichlids can indeed live in outdoor ponds. Just make sure to provide ample hiding spots and maintain water quality.

Do Mayan Cichlids have any unique mating rituals?

While not entirely unique, Mayan Cichlids do exhibit intriguing behaviors during mating, such as color changes and intricate dances to attract a mate.

What is their rate of reproduction?

Under optimal conditions, a pair of Mayan Cichlids can spawn multiple times a year, producing hundreds of eggs each time.

Can Mayan Cichlids co-exist with snails and shrimps?

While they might not actively hunt them down, snails and shrimps can become an easy meal for Mayan Cichlids, especially if the fish are not well-fed.

Do they require a lot of hiding spots in the tank?

Providing hiding spots like caves or driftwood can help in reducing stress levels for the Mayan Cichlid, especially during breeding when they become more territorial.

Are they good jumpers?

Yes, Mayan Cichlids can jump, so it’s advisable to have a secure lid on your aquarium to prevent any escape attempts.

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Total posts created: 116
A long-time freshwater fish enthusiast with a passion for sharing knowledge about this fascinating hobby. Over the years, Michelle has dedicated countless hours to studying, learning, and experiencing firsthand the joys and challenges of fish-keeping.

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