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This page will give a completely detailed profile of the selected fish, from A to Z. The profiled fish will be chosen randomly by Badman, and will come from the complete genre of tropical fish. New profiles are added on a regular basis. If you would like to submit a profile for the site please contact me. Don't forget to let us know you experiences with this fish by filling out the

central america


Keyhole Cichlid
Photo courtesy of Freshwater fish in aquarium

Cleithracara maronii


    One of the most peaceful cichlids, Shy and reclusive the keyhole cichlid will make a fine addition to a community set up. Not seen as much as before , don't pass up this fine fish when it is available.

Quick stats:
    Listed tank sizes are the minimum
    Size: 4 3/4" (12 cm)
    Tank: 36 inches
    Strata: All
    PH: 6.8 to 8.0
    Hardness: dH range: 20.0
    Temperature: 75°F to 81°F (25-27°C)


    Order: Perciformes
    Suborder: Cichlasomatinae
    Family: Cichlidae
    Genera: Cleithracara
    Species: maronii
Photo from

Common name:

    Keyhole cichlid

Image gallery:

    Additional species photographs


    Badmans' Forum


    South America: Rio Orinoco basin, and rivers of Guyana .

General Body Form:

    Tall in proportion to its length the keyhole is an oval-shaped cichlid with a short body and a forehead that is rounded . The rear portions of the dorsal and anal fins are drawn out to a point. In the adult males this is much more pronounced.


    The body has a mottled yellowish cream coloration, sometimes leaning toward brown. Occasionally the body is marked with faint lateral lines. A curved, dark band runs through the eye, from the front ray of the dorsal fin, down to the corner of the gill cover. The keyhole shaped marking, which the keyhole cichlid gets it's name from is located in the middle of the rear half of the fish. This marking may look like a keyhole or just a black dot.


    The keyhole needs to feel secure in its tank, you should provide plenty of hiding places in the form of caves and driftwood. Plants are also helpful. The substrate should be fine gravel or sand and you should leave some open areas for swimming. Once established they are not difficult to keep they will accept all types of food including flake, frozen and live. Not overly fond of strong currents.


    Small creeks in the coastal zone, which have clear water and little current


    They can be one easier cichlids to breed, and have even bred in community tanks. Several young should be placed in your tank and allowed to pair off. They are open breeders, up to 300 eggs are deposited on a cleaned stone. The eggs are cared for by both parents, who will fan them with fresh water and pick out the unfertilized eggs. Many times a pair will eat their first brood, but they will spawn again in a matter of days. You can remove the eggs after they are laid if this continues and raise them in a separate tank.. The fry hatch after 3-5 days and are free-swimming several days later. Start feeding with roftiers and baby brine shrimp. The parents may continue their care for the fry for up to six months.

Keyhole with eggs

Your comments:


Please remember that the following comments are personal experiences and may or may not apply to your setup. Use them as guide to help better understand your fish, like us all individuals will behave differently under different circumstances.


From: From: Kristine
Just bought my first Keyhole Cichlid. I Love him!!! I have him in with parrots and two angels. The angels will be adopted out in two days. So far, parrots are picking a little, but pretty much they are leaving him be. Am hoping to be able to get two more. He almost reminds me of a little whale!
From: From: Pete
If anyone were to ask me if I could advise them on a peaceful cichlid then keyholes would be top of my list. They are in a 3 foot tank with 6 corydoras and 6 penguin tetras. Fairly well planted plus rocks and wood so plenty of hiding spaces. A bit hard to sex my pair yet. Yes, for the first couple of days they hid quite a bit but now they roam about everywhere and spend a lot of time front and centre of the tank. They eat flake, pellet and frozen but their favourite is bloodworm. I think a lot of people overlook these fish because they are not brilliantly coloured. Big mistake as their character and peaceful nature more than make up for their lack of flashiness. Over the years I`ve had all sorts from guppies to full grown oscars but without doubt these are my favourites.
From: From: Seth Reese
I got four keyhole cichlids about four months ago, and for awhile they were very shy and secretive. It turned out I had a female and three males, judging by their behavior toward each other and the fin extensions on the guys. There was a lot of squabbling over the lady. No one did any harm to his competitors, but there was a good deal of chasing and flaring of fins and gills. In the end, the biggest and most flamboyant and ardent male won the day, and they paired off (but have not spawned yet). They are kept with a pair of angelfish, who are both completely indifferent to 'inferior' types, a pair of flag acaras (Laetacara Curviceps), a pair of Honduran red points, and a school of serpae tetras. I have never seen any of the keyholes even look at my plants.
From: From: Dan
Today I found my keyholes (pair) out and about more often then usual, then I discovered I had turned up the heat rather then turn it down last night. My tank was 85 degrees yikes. These guys are also my favorites, but painfully shy. They get scared and run for the rock caves sometimes too fast and I hope they don't get injured. The rams and keyholes like seaweed, so I've been giving it to them daily along with frozen worms, brine shrimp and flakes. Mine however are and always been dark brown. My tank is a 120 and they seen happiest hidden below my large plants. Other fish are, ram cichlid, yellow pleco, boesemani rainbow and bloodfin tetras.
From: From: Joe Sheridan
I have two of this beautiful cichlid species in a community tank. In my experience, I have seen their color change multiple times, they started out bleak white with the black spot. At night they look like that but with a little gold along their lateral line. During the day they have black bars running down the side of their face and eyes. And now (I'm assuming getting ready to spawn) they have the black lines, two spots (one keyhole) lots of gold around the face, and patches of brown. They are the most peaceful and beautiful small cichlids I have owned. Prettier and easier to keep than those silly rams.
From: From: Sarah
Great fish. They are so much fun and my little guy is far from shy. When I first got my 2 they were buddy's then they got sick I had them in a hospital tank one got all better but my other one stayed weak and soon my strong one stared picking on the weak one. So I moved the strong one back to the big tank were I had a opaline gourami . I lost one keyhole but my strong one was stronger then ever and picked on my gourami till it got too weak and passed away. So yes they are peaceful but you could always get a bully. I keep mine in a 36 gal with a bristle nose pleco, clown pleco and 5 red tail rasabora. From time to time my keyhole will chase the rasaboras for fun. I love my keyhole even if he is a big bully.
From: From: DaMossMan / DaFishMan (Herb)
I was finally able to get 3 of these after wanting them for so long. Hopefully I have a trio ! These were lively right out of the bag and eating like piggies in a few minutes. They swam right up to the A.agassizii male in the tank. And came up to my fingers when I put a pinch of bloodworms. Actively looking all around exploring and looking for more food now. The aggie is chumming around with them now lol. Cute. I really hope 1 or 2 of these are a female and I get a spawn :)
From: From: John
These fish are extremely amiable, and my male, whom I got first, always meets me at the front of the tank. He and his lady friend have decided to lay eggs, about 50 or so for their first batch, on a false-rock decoration in their 55 gallon tank. They are keeping every fish except for the guppies off their half of the tank. I would recommend these fish to anyone who wants great personality in their tank.

Also, I would just like to note that it is possible, despite previous comments, to sex these fish. The males have extensions on the caudal, dorsal and pelvic fins that are much more extreme than those on the female.

From: From: Shelley
What keyholes lack in color, they more than make up for with their peaceful nature and cute faces. These are without doubt one of my all time favorite fish. Make sure to keep lighting subdued and substrate dark, since Keyholes are quite shy and timid.
From: From: Glenn
I purchased six juveniles and raised them together sexing could be accomplished. Young keyholes are extremely hard to sex, and there is no outward differences until they've paired off and breeding appendages are visible. They can become quite aggressive during breeding, and are very quick to ward off interlopers. However, with these fish I've found that although they are very aggressive to defend their territory they did little or no damage to the other keyholes and ignored the small tetras and corydoras completely, even ones that were swimming over the breeding site. These cichlids have been a joy to keep as they are peaceful (to a fault) and will not destroy plant leaves or damage roots. After breeding the pair resumed its place in the group and no further aggression was noticed. What the fish lacks in color It more than compensates in personality and complacent behavior in a community setting.
From: From: Matt
Very nice community fish. While if you don't have larger than a 30 gal you might want to keep a shoal to distract the male. While the most peaceful cichlid I've ever kept they can still tend to be over eager with the smaller female. My favorite fish for a planted eco.
From: From: Phil
There where 2 of these in my local pets I went straight back and bought the second one. They are the least aggressive cichlids I have come across and live quite happily in my Community tank (a Rekord 120)with 2 Angels, a Kribensis and lots of smaller fish including neons which none of the above have ever looked at twice. They feed well on all foods although can be a little shy sometimes. Hop and I decided to give one a go after reading about them. The very next day
From: From: Stenna
After years of having tropical fish I can safely say that the Keyhole Cichlid is without doubt my favorite,its described in many books as a drab fish ! maybe in colours but certainly not in viewing as this fish has so many features you can watch it hours it is a peaceful fish yet when breeding can be very protective to its eggs and fry. Its very responsive to its keepers too. Must have plenty of hiding places and I have found that its good to have clean flat rock in the tank as it prefers this for laying its eggs.
From: From: Hop
One could make a very strong case for the Keyhole as being "THE MOST PEACEFUL CICHLID of all"!! They get along fine with large peaceful cichlids such as Jurapari's, Severums, and Festivums. And can be trusted with very small rasboras and tetras. Although I would not try that with some of the other cichlids I mentioned above. They like alot of hiding places and small regular water exchanges. A diet that is varied is also appreciated. One other thing to note is that they seem to really need their rest. Be sure to give them a proper light cycle.
From: Marc
This is a such a great fish, they are a great choice for a community tank. They are hardy, and what they may lack in color they make up for in being very peaceful. I have kept them in a 55 gallon community tank with guppies and neon tetras. The temperature was 82-84 degrees farenheight and the water was changed once a month(not the best idea). And the ph was at 7.0(recommended ph for a community tank). These are overall an excellent fish and will readily eat practically anything! This is an intelligent fish with great character and gets to know the keeper!
From: Donna
This is without a doubt my favourite fish. They are very under appreciated. I am now on to my third pair. They seem to live on average between 5 and eight years for me. They are very devoted to each other in the pair and when one eventually dies the other follows within a few months due to sulking and refusing to eat. They are safe with the very smallest of shoaling fish and are very easy to breed. They do like to choose their own partners though. This is not entirely foolproof however as my current pair are two females who spawn regularly and simultaneously and they chose each other out of a group of eight youngsters. I haven't the heart to split them up . They are very affectionate with each other and display constantly and are a joy to watch.

From: Nimish
Wonderfully peaceful cichlids.. Defying the whole family of cichlids. Very hardy and tolerant. Will eat anything from dried, live worms, daphnia, big earthworms which wont fit into their mouth, flake, pellets, and also strained spinach (??? cichlids and spinach???) except fish. Even the smallest of the smallest neons are not threatened. Though they sometimes do have a tussle or so with my Bolivian rams.. But its aggregated from the rams and not keyholes. Certainly recommended for beginners but with cycled tanks. They don't like nitrite peaks.





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