Key Hole Cichlids

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AC Members
Nov 27, 2007
Does anyone have one of these? I have heard that they are peaceful fish and we would like to try and get one to include with our tiger barbs, red tailed shark and zebra danios. Anyone have any clue where to pick up one?
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Reactions: Frank Castle


AC Members
Aug 15, 2007
Keyholes (Cleithracara maronii) are beautiful fish, they are quite shy, but a lot of people don't seem to realise that they are also pretty boisterous once they know their surroundings and tank-mates. At one end of the scale they can be very skittish, swimming away to hide as you walk up to the tank. Then at the other end of the scale they then become inquisitive and will swim up to "greet" you. What's funny about them is that this happens pretty much straight after the first "end of scale" example I gave you, they are quite mad!

You might find this page useful:

They are pretty easy going fish, they are piscivourous, probably more-so than most people expect. This means that smaller fish can be at risk. As I mentioned earlier, the Keyhole can be quite boisterous and inquisitive so even at a small size they will try to chase down smaller fish (big eyes for their stomachs). My guy is still only small at 3" or so, but he is very brave and was the only fish that would stand up to my insane male Bolivian Ram, which not even my Rotkeil would stand against! He lives with the Rotkeil and a couple of P. taeniatus in a 55 and gets on well, he is the second king of the tank, even over my dominant taeniatus male (who you don't want to screw around with!).

So, they are great fish, easy to care for, just provide plenty of cover for them to feel comfortable, my guy really appreciates oak leaves to flip over and hunt for food. Medium soft- soft water with pH of up to 7.5 is fine and don't over feed them! They are REALLY good at begging for food. Driftwood is always appreciated and avoid small fish. Keep an eye on the Red tail black shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) as they can get highly aggressive as they mature, beautiful fish, but can be right buggers. Just in case you weren't aware. The other fish should get on fine.

What size tank (presumably the 84 gal in your sig?) Do you have any other fish in this tank? You could have more than the one keyhole in there, depending on other fish and footprint (of the tank) you could have 2 pairs, leaving adequate room for when they attain their full size...



AC Members
Sep 18, 2006
my keyhole cichlid is really quite aggressive with my kribensis and blue acara hes ripped their tails many times for his bubble territory - he was fine when he had a friend - but he got stuck in a rock and died. :( they don't grow that big ...i've had mine over 18month and hes about 3inch in a 90 gallon tank ....very very very cute and funny tho!


AC Members
Aug 28, 2007
I have 2 keyholes and they are one of my favorite. They pal around with my bolivian rams. They are still growing but one of the sweetest little fishies I have. My family makes fun of me because I talk to them and all my fish in baby talk. I am weird in that way.
Oh Yea! They are not shy one bit they come right out as soon as they see me and did that from they day I got them.


AC Members
Aug 22, 2006
Inland Empire, Cali
I have had 6 in the past but 2 jumped out of the tank while i was cleaning :( sad day that was. anyhow they're all very peaceful and tend to leave other fish alone even other cichlids. Although sometimes i would catch them fighting and whoever is subordinate tends to just flare his fins out and then sit still while leaning ot the side.. aside from that they go back into their normal routine and everything goes back to normal. They don't really do the damage that other cichlids might. At least this is my experience.


AC Members
Aug 2, 2016
Absolutely wonderful fish! I highly recommend key holes especially to those who are interested in cichlids but could use a lot less aggression in their tank. Extremely peaceful but will hold their own when a bigger fish tries to flare up at them. Mine are currently 2-3" so they're still babies but I've had them for a while and love them to death! They love bloodworms Btw and also lots of plant coverage, I agree. I recommend getting a pair or two as well depending on your tank size as they tend to do much better with friends :) My pair (not breeding pair) stick by each others side almost always

Frank Castle

AC Members
Feb 9, 2017
I just bought a pair of these on Wednesday - added them to my "peaceful" SA Cichlid tank (w/ a few Jewels, some SE Asian bottom-feeders and small mild-mannered CA cichlids) and they are doing well. Surprisingly, nothing bothers them even though they are the smallest fish in a somewhat crowded tank and they ate almost as soon as I put them in the tank.

These are a new species for me so i'm looking forward to learning about them and hoping they don't grow-up to wreak havoc on my "peaceful" cichlid community.