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Blue Acara – Andinoacara pulcher

Blue Acara – Andinoacara pulcher

Cichlids are a very ancient and extensive classification of fishes dating back millions of years before, for example, dinosaurs. Cichlids probably originated around 550 million years ago (give or take a month or two 😀) and there are somewhere in the region of 2,000 to 3,000 different species, of which around 1,700 have been classified (at the time of writing).

Cichlids can make excellent community fish but you should take care because not all Cichlids are good community fish and may devastate an established aquarium, treating their tankmates as food, so before choosing a Cichlid, please ensure that you know whether or not your choice will be appropriate to your needs.

Is Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) a good community fish? Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) should be considered to be an excellent community fish assuming that the community is one of non-aggressive, non-predatory species. Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) is suitable for all community aquariums although it can be territorial, particularly during breeding. 

Key Facts about Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher)

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)Blue Acara Cichlid
Scientific nameAndinoacara pulcher – formerly Aequidens pulcher
Originate fromFlowing streams of Venezuela, in South America and is one of the very few Cichlids to be found in Trinidad
Care requiredEasy to care for and very beautiful
TemperamentRelatively placid shoaling fish
Colour & FormFairly tall body with very elegant finnage
Lifespan7 to 10 years
Adult size6.3 inches – Male is larger than female
DietCarnivorous – eats Daphnia, Bloodworm, Tubifex worms and pellet food in the aquarium.
Aquarium size36 inches in length or greater
Compatible withFish of a similar size or larger. Being a carnivorous Cichlid it may eat small species.
Avoid keeping withSmall species that this larger fish can eat.
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Water temp72 – 86 Fahrenheit
Water pH6.5 to 8.0
Water hardness (dGH or dH)Up to 25 dGH

Origins of Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher)

Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) – formerly classified Aequidens pulcher,  is found in the flowing streams of Venezuela, in South America and is one of the very few Cichlids to be found in Trinidad. The word “pulcher” is the Latin word for beautiful and the Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) certainly fits the bill.

It is usually found in nature in slow-flowing streams, on the margins of larger rivers, in marshland, in ponds and also in lakes but seldom, if ever, in stagnant water.

Basic Characteristics of Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher)

Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) will grow up to around 6.3 inches in length in the aquarium – the males will generally grow to be larger than the female. The male also tends to have a “bump” on its head about midway between its mouth and its dorsal fin. The male of the species tends to have a more vibrant color than the female. Finally, The extended dorsal fin of the Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) has a particularly elongated upper tip at the rear which is not present in the female.

The lifespan of Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) is around seven to ten years or more but this can vary enormously depending on tank conditions and general health.

Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) prefers fairly soft, neutral water with a pH of 6.5 to 8.0  and a temperature range between 72 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 25 dGH.

Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) enjoys soft to medium, slightly acidic, or neutral water conditions so it will be comfortable with other species of similar size that prefer this type of water chemistry.

As the Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) has particularly elongated finnage it is advised to avoid keeping them in company with any fin-nippers. Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher), being Cichlids, will defend themselves and, especially in respect of smaller fin-nippers, they are likely to retaliate with prejudice.

The physical appearance of Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher)

Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) has a tall, softly rounded body in profile, starting with a slightly protruding lower jaw. It is not a slim species in the way that an angelfish is slim, rather it has quite a substantial mass, without being rounded, as a carp would be. There is a significant number of variations of the original Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) shown here so I will limit my description to this specific specimen. The body has silver, grey, marbled scales which is further distinguished by up to eight vertical stripes:

  • The first stripe starts below the eye and is very dark at the bottom and runs up to the top of the eye but not beyond it.
  • The second, third and fourth stripes start very pale grey and each one gets darker the nearer it is to the fifth stripe.
  • The fifth stripe is more-or-less black and is position approximately in the middle of the dorsal fin and ahead of the anal fin.
  • The remaining stripes are sequentially a paler shade of grey, the last one being down the caudal peduncle.
  • All of the stripes (apart from the stripe under the eye) more-or-less reach the top of the body but tend to end roughly in line with the bottom of the pectoral fin, above the belly.

With commercial breeding, there are many color variations of Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) so you can expect to see marbled coloring, electric blue coloring (without stripes) and any number of other variants. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so, providing the fishes that you choose are healthy, choose fishes to suit your own preferences.

Please note that different color variants will breed together, creating offspring with an increasingly diverse range of colors over several generations.

The Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) is a medium-sized Cichlid. It has a very extended dorsal fin. The fins of the male can tend to be longer than those of the female. The rays of the fins tend to contain blue flecks with the exception of the pectoral fins, which are clear (hyaline). The top of the dorsal fin is tipped with a yellow fringe and it should be noted that different variants of the species could be tipped with green, orange and even red. There is no adipose fin.

The living environment for Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher)

Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) enjoys being in the shade so a well-planted tank is beneficial to it.

Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) will appreciate floating leaves and pretty well any broadleaf will assist the condition of the tank, as not only do such leaves provide shade but also, as they decompose, they provide infusoria for any fry in the tank. This also helps adults to determine that breeding conditions are good because they will appreciate the fact that there is a ready source of food for newly-hatched fry.

Note that Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) will generally mate for life unless one of the pair is lost, when the remaining partner may find another mate.

It is recommended that Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) are kept as a small shoal. The male, in particular, can be territorial but setting up the tank so that sightlines are broken up will mitigate the risks of territorial behavior in general. When purchasing Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) it is generally recommended to buy around six fish. It may be impossible to sex the fish when purchasing them as immature specimens but, in due course, they will find their own mate and are, from that point, generally monogamous.

Having a clear, broad area of a fine substrate will protect the elegant finnage of your Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher).

Overall, Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) are the most attractive and most elegant addition to your aquarium.

The diet of Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher)

Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) is primarily carnivorous and has a preference for live food, feeding on a range of invertebrates in nature. In the aquarium a diet of live or frozen Artemia, Bloodworm and Daphnia is recommended and Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher)  will readily eat pelleted food and flake food. Avoid keeping them with small species, which they might eat. This is not because they are aggressive, it is because they are medium-sized carnivores.

Sexual differences in Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher)

It is reasonably easy to distinguish the sex of adult Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) because the adult male is often larger and has a distinctive bump midway between its nose and its dorsal fin along the top line of its head and has a deeper color, especially at breeding times. The female is also fuller-bodied when viewed from above, especially when carrying eggs (gravid). 

Aquarium size for Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) 

It is generally advised that the minimum tank size for Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher)  should be one of at least 36 inches in length or more due to the fact that a shoal of around six per species should be maintained and the adult fish will be around six inches long. This will enable your small shoal to move around freely. A smaller tank will be too restrictive (unless it is a breeding tank) and the fish will suffer as a result whilst a larger tank is always to be recommended.

There is a predominance of so-called “Nano tanks” available but, being old-fashioned, I prefer my fishes to live in an environment which, at least, attempts to mimic nature, rather than living in what I would liken to a piscine prison cell. The tank should be well-planted but with clear areas where the fish can swim freely. The water should have a certain amount of movement, as Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) enjoy a flow of water.

Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) – Videos

Are you keeping tropical fish as a hobbyist or as a breeder?

This is a question too often ignored in my humble opinion. If you are a breeder (either commercially or as a hobbyist who gives away young fish to other hobbyists) then you will need the resources to move fish into breeding tanks in order to maximize the yield of fry that will grow up either for sale or to give them away.

If you are keeping fish for the joy of observing them in something resembling a natural habitat then you may feel that it is appropriate to allow nature to take its course and, as and when different species breed, then many of the eggs (and surviving fry) will be eaten either by their parents or by other fish in your aquarium. This is the natural order of things because this is what will happen in nature. The fittest may well survive to reach adulthood.

Ultimately, the choice is yours to make.

How do Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) breed?

In total, the female Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) could lay around 200 eggs during a single spawning. 

At around 79 degrees Fahrenheit, the eggs will hatch in around two to three days and the fry will become free-swimming after around seven days.

It is generally true that Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) make good parents and will not prey on their own young but it is not unknown for them to cannibalize their own brood. In general, the male will protect the territory whilst the female will tend to care for the eggs and fry but these roles are interchangeable.

The Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) takes responsibility for post-spawning care and may become extremely aggressive if it feels that the brood is threatened. For this reason, if possible, a breeding tank is recommended.

It takes around two to three days for the eggs to hatch, depending on the water conditions and temperature and around a further five days or so for the yolk sacs to be depleted and the fry to become free-swimming.

In a well-planted aquarium, the Cichlid will often spawn in the community tank and at least some of the fittest fry will survive to adulthood.

In a breeding tank, it is always a good idea to include a few aquatic shrimp, as they will consume any unfertilized or dead eggs but won’t tend to predate on viable eggs.

Breeding tank for Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher)

You should prepare a tank of around ten to twenty to thirty gallons in size with mature, soft, flowing water. The water should have a low level of light and broad-leaved plants together with some well-cleaned slate inserted at an angle upon which the female will lay her adhesive eggs. It is recommended that the substrate consists of a fine substrate (sand) without sharp edges. The Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) may also lay eggs of broad leaves or in rows in the substrate.

Arrange your tank heating so that you can slowly remove up to half of the tank water and then replace it with collected rainwater (slightly cooler than the aquarium water – but not so much that White Spot could result) and repeat this daily until the Cichlids spawn. This water and temperature change will encourage spawning, as it mimics nature. The rainwater is most important.

Cichlids prefer to spawn where the water is flowing so a decent pump is required to synthesize that flow.

Feed up your Cichlids on bloodworm, which will sink to the bottom and burrow into the substrate. Your Cichlid will love rooting out the bloodworm and it can help to trigger spawning.

You may also wish to introduce baby brine shrimp, mosquito larvae or tubifex worms as an inducement to reproduction and live food will be very much appreciated. This will also tend to divert the attention of the Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) from preying on their own eggs and fry though cannibalism is not characteristic of Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher).

Reduce the water movement by turning down the pump once the eggs are laid – only regular aeration is now required. Keep the lights off (or very low) and the tank dark (of fairly dark)  because eggs and fry can be particularly sensitive to the light.

The eggs will hatch typically in two to three days depending on tank temperature and conditions and the fry will become free-swimming after around seven days after hatching. 

Keep the tank more-or-less unlit for the first week or so then gradually increase the lighting. Bear in mind that the eggs and fry of a fish as small as the Cichlid will be tiny indeed so you may need to use a magnifier “app” on your smartphone or a macro lens to see anything at all. A collection of eggs is generally easy to spot, as they look like a collection of tiny, tiny pearls.

The newly hatched fry will feed firstly on their yolk sac but, once free-swimming, can be fed infusoria and will also thrive on egg yolk during the first two to four weeks. 

Once the fry are free-swimming and their yolk sacs are depleted, then add baby brine shrimp and/or white worms. Once the fry are sufficient in size not to be treated as a snack then they can be introduced into the community tank where they will join the existing shoal. Before moving the adolescent fish into the community tank ensure that you have balanced the water temperatures to mitigate the risk of White Spot or other diseases being triggered.

Unless you are breeding commercially, you may wish to consider moving the fry into the community tank sooner rather than later. It may seem harsh but the adult fish in the tank will deal with any fry that are unlikely to survive to adulthood in the wild and you are synthesizing, to the best of your ability, a wild environment. The fittest fry will probably survive whilst the rest will be dealt with by the community.

Should your Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) have a special diet for breeding?

Adult Cichlids don’t need any particular inducement to breed. That said, it has been suggested that adding tubifex, bloodworm, or mosquito larva may encourage them, presumably because the addition of a new food may “fool” the fish into thinking that it is breeding time. From my own experience, I would always recommend keeping all of your fish in the best possible condition at all times, as this is good for the wellbeing of your fish.

Mike Wheeler

I started keeping freshwater tropical fish in 1972 and it has been something of a passion ever since. In this website, my aim is to build up an everyman's guide to help the everyday aquarist get the best from this inspiring and entertaining hobby.

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