Electric Blue Acara: The Bright Blue Cichlid Ideal For Beginners

Are you looking to freshen up your tank?

The Electric Blue Acara may look like it escaped from the cover of a fairytale book, but we can assure you that it is one hundred percent real.

Although it comes from one of the most aggressive fish families out there, it’s actually pretty peaceful and can be successfully kept with many other species.

The Acara doesn’t need much in terms of care, can tolerate wide temperature ranges and will gladly feed on anything!

Does it sound like your type of fish? If so, keep reading to learn how to successfully care for them.

Category Rating
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Color Form: Blue, Mixed
Lifespan: Up to 10 years
Size: Up to 7 inches
Diet: Omnivore
Family: Cichlidae
Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons
Tank Set-Up: Freshwater, Planted
Compatibility: Mildly compatible

Overview

Electric Blue Acara

The Electric Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) is a freshwater fish native to the slow flowing rivers and lakes of Central and South America. They are from the Cichlidae family, a well-known group among fishkeeping enthusiasts.

They are a relatively tolerant fish that has a peaceful temperament. It will rarely cause you any trouble and will get along with most fish just fine. The only time you need to worry about aggression, is during breeding time (we will cover this later in more detail).

These fish can live for a relatively long time, especially if you compare them to other freshwater fish. With good care and aquarium conditions, they can live up to 10 years. In the wild this number is closer to 20 years.

Like many other members of the Cichlidae family, the Electric Blue Acara is a popular choice for many aquarists.

Depending on their size, most fish will be priced somewhere between $6–15. The size of the fish plays a big role in determining their price. Most small and younger fish tend to be less expensive.

Typical Behavior

They are very curious fish – this can be seen by their love to dig into the substrate. In the wild this is of very little concern but when it comes to the tank, your equipment may fall victim to their boundless interest.

Given their passion for burrowing, they will usually be found near the base or middle layer of the tank. Sometimes they may swim up to the surface, but that would only be on rare occasions.

The swimming behavior of these fish is a healthy mix of hiding and swimming around. You will see them swimming around as well as navigating through the bushes of plants in the tank.

Maternal care in this species deserves a special mention too. The mother acts like most mammals and will bring food to give to the offspring. This is quite unusual for fish (we will get back to this later in the article).

Electric Blue Acara Appearance

Electric Blue Acara Appearance

The appearance of these Blue Acaras is truly electric. Their eccentric color pattern and unusual shade gradient combination makes them stand out from other aquarium fish.

Their body is predominantly light blue with scales forming a netted dark pattern across their skin. They often have white, black or yellowish spots on the sides.

Towards their head, the blue gradually turns into dull gray or black. This uneven pattern usually just covers their head but sometimes reaches lower. Their fins are also blue but in addition have an orange edging.

It has densely packed scales that form beautiful, easily distinguishable cascades.

Their body is elongated and compressed on the sides. The thinnest part of their body is where the abdomen transitions into the tail (caudal fin).

They have a single, large, merged dorsal fin. Their caudal fin is circular, and is bigger than their pelvic, pectoral or anal fins.

Their eyes are large with a dark pupil, enclosed by a reddish or orange iris. They also protrude above their head, this is especially apparent if you look at them as the fish swims towards you.

As for their size, they are not large. They usually grow up to 6.5-7 inches.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

This fish comes from the slow-flowing freshwater basins of South America. These rivers are usually heavily planted – this creates a safe environment for them, allowing them to escape predators and raise offspring.

The substrate in their natural habitat presents rich feeding grounds containing all sorts of meaty invertebrates and smaller fish.

In addition to the planted bed, rivers are also sheltered from above. Drifting plants on the water surface provide protection from the sun as well as act as a food source.

Tank Setup

There is nothing tricky about recreating their natural environment in a tank.

First, we need to talk about water parameters. These species are undemanding when it comes to water chemistry. However, to ensure your fish grow to their full potential, try keeping the parameters within this optimal range:

  • Temperature range of 68-82°F but keeping it around 75-76°F would be optimal.
  • An acidity of 6.0-7.5 pH is ok but best is keeping it close or slightly above neutral.
  • Water hardness should be kept within 6-20 dH.

Now that the main parameters are out of the way, we need to think about the flow. Given that these species will be kept in a pretty large planted tank, there should be a nice aeration and filtration system. A normal filter on a medium-high setting would do the job just fine.

The lighting will depend on the number and type of plants you decide to get. Usually a normal aquarium lamp will suffice. Just make sure that the lighting does not disturb the natural cycles of your fish.

An important aspect of any tank setup is the substrate, but even more so when it comes to Blue Acara. We already mentioned their love for digging it up. For this reason we recommend using rounded gravel or large even grains of sand. The type of the substrate doesn’t really matter, as much as the shape.

Finally, plants and decorations. Before you buy anything, take a look at what should and should not be placed in your aquarium.

Their natural habitat is filled with plants. To make your fish feel comfortable, plants can be mixed up with some driftwood or rocks. Whatever you do, maintain a healthy ratio between decorations and free swimming space.

What Size Aquarium Do Electric Blue Acaras Need?

One Electric Blue Acara should be kept in a minimum tank size of 30 gallons. Allow 15 gallons of water for each additional Acara you add.

Tank Mates for Blue Acaras

Banded Cichlid
Banded Cichlids make great tank mates

These fish are peaceful, and in the tank will get along with most species.

Due to their wide distribution range, Acaras naturally encounter fish from a variety of families, ranging from Catfish to small Barbs.

Especially large or aggressive fish are not a good choice.

Having tank mates that are larger significantly increases competition in the tank and can result in malnutrition for smaller, weaker fish. On the other hand, particularly small fish can become a tempting snack for the acaras. It works both ways.

What are some species you might consider then?

You could choose a tank mate from a number of other South American Cichlids, like Banded Cichlids. The most important thing is to make sure they are a similar size.

Fish from the Characidae family can be a good choice as well. If you’re looking to freshen up the bottom layer of your tank, consider catfish (Corydoras or Plecos). Both are peaceful and unlikely to cause any trouble.

Other ideal tank mates include:

  • Velvet Cichlid
  • Zebra Cichlid
  • Moga Cichlid

Nevertheless, there are some fish that should be avoided. For example, Dwarf Cichlids, Angelfish or other very aggressive members of the Cichlasoma genus.

Keeping any non-fish inhabitants as tank mates is also a matter of size. Nonaggressive small shrimps are your best bet.

Keeping Electric Blue Acara Together

Electric Blue Acaras can definitely be kept together. It’s better to keep them in pairs or in groups of at least six.

Electric Blue Acara Care

Blue Acara

Thankfully Acaras are pretty sturdy and rarely develop severe illnesses. Of course, there are still things you need to pay attention to.

First of all, good water quality is extremely important. Dirty water will result in sickness, so you need to make cleaning your tank a regular routine. About 20-30% of water should be renewed weekly.

Clean the substrate and tank itself every 3-4 weeks too.

The second thing is diet and digestion.

Keeping these fish in a small tank can result in problems with their digestive system, which in turn makes them seem exhausted and disturbs their natural feeding behavior.

While they are not very greedy, overeating can still be a major issue if feeding is not carried out properly. If you notice fish swimming strangely (tilting to the side, or very slow) they most likely ate too much. Give them a break for a day or so to process everything.

To avoid this happening again change their diet or feeding patterns.

Excessive amounts of food are not the only dietary problem. Poor quality foods may cause irritation of their skin or disturb their natural behavior. If you notice that something’s not right, consider buying different foods.

You will notice this because of color fading and fish disorientation.

What To Feed Them

Although Electric Blue Acaras are peaceful little fish, in the wild they can be vicious predators.

The core of their diet should be meaty foods, like bloodworms, shrimps and maybe even little pieces of mussel. The important thing to remember is that their diet should be diversified as much as possible. Tis helps your fish get all the nutrients they need.

You could consider buying specialized premade fish foods – they typically come in pellets, or granules. More importantly, quality feed will provide your fish with the right amounts of nutrients and save you time.

As they are omnivores, some part of their diet should be plant based. You should either have suitable live plants in the tank or buy dry leafy foods (this is usually the most popular).

You can enhance the nutritional qualities of dried food by using chemical supplements. However, nothing is better than keeping a good balanced diet.

The Blue Acara should be given as much food as it can eat in a 2-3 minutes sitting. To avoid any health complication feed them twice a day.

Breeding Electric Blue Acaras

Electric Blue Acaras are possibly one of the easiest Cichlids to breed. A breeding tank should be about 20 gallons and have slightly less plants than the main tank.

For the substrate you can use large grains of sand and cover it with flat rocks. Water temperature should be slightly above 77°F with pH being neutral or slightly below (6.5-7 pH). Having a good aeration system in place is a plus.

Males and females form pairs and spend most of the time close to the bottom, near the rocks. The rocks will be their breeding grounds. These fish usually reach sexual maturity when they are about 8-10 months old.

Females will lay about 150-200 eggs and will stay around to protect the offspring. Male fish will swim a little further away and will also stay there to protect juveniles.

Incubation period usually lasts for about 2-3 days, after which the first juveniles will appear and start looking for food.

For a couple of weeks, however, they won’t leave their mother and stay close to her.

Are Electric Blue Acaras Suitable For Your Aquarium? (Summary)

Electric Blue Acaras are one of the most beautiful and fascinating Cichlids available. Their unusual but beautiful appearance has earned them a spot among the most beautiful aquarium fish.

They are a sturdy fish that will not take up too much of your time.

Their natural environment translates wonderfully to home aquariums. It allows you to build a beautiful planted freshwater tank.

Blue Acaras are a great choice for beginners, as they are not very demanding in terms of care and feeding – they are also very easy to breed.

The wide range of potential tank mates lets you keep them in a diverse tank. Overall, they are a great addition to any tank.

Do you keep any Cichlids? Let us know in the comments section below…

Robert Woods Portrait
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third generation fish keeper and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America and the Nature Conservancy.

13 Comments

  1. Was wondering if I could get an explanation on the reasoning behind the 30 gal minimum. Is it just because the cichlid needs the space to swim around a lot? Or rather they need the space to fully grow? I’m setting up a new 20 gal tank and could use some tips.

    • Hi Brandon, both are very good reasons for needing a tank of this size. A 20 gallon set up will probably be OK whilst your fish is a juvenile, but eventually he’ll need a larger tank. Thanks, Robert

  2. I just acquired 2 Electric blue acaras and a bristlenosed pleco very beautiful fish, I can say they are hardy as when I got them they were left for dead no filter/air for awhile and are currently doing wonderful in my 35 gal tank.

  3. I am getting a 40 gallon breeder to upgrade from my 10 gallon and I would love to add a Blue Acara to it when it is ready. I have 8 neon tetras currently and it is said that the Acara is a peaceful tank mate but is there a chance it will eat the tetras?

    • Hi Luke, it really depends on the personality of the Blue Acara. They are one of the less aggressive cichlids, but it is still possible that they might eat them. Thanks, Robert

      • Thank you Robert, I appreciate your response and all of the all of the knowledge I have gained on fishkeepingworld.com

  4. I’d like to set up an angel fish tank in a “free” 30 gallon tank I was given. . What type of set up is best, and can I put a blue Acara or 2 with them? Also, how many angel fish? I’ll add a Pleco or Cory for tank maintenance. I also love movies and the like. Thanks!!!

    • Hi Nancy, I wouldn’t house Angelfish and Acara’s together as mentioned in the article. Thanks, Robert

  5. I have a 5ft 130G Severum tank. 6 atm but I will probably have 3 or 4 as they grow into adulthood. I also have some Pictus Catfish, a red bristle nose Plecoptera & a school of Dwarf Neon Rainbow Fish. The tank is heavily filtered. I would like some Acaras. The article mentioned keeping 6 or a pair. Do I have room for 6? Thanks

    • Hi Craig, Based on 4 Severums, 3 Pictus Catfish, a Bristlenose Pleco and 6 Dwarf Rainbowfish, a 130G tank is already slightly overstocked so I wouldn’t add any Acaras. Thanks, Robert

  6. Hi,

    I have been seeing these fish a lot lately. Stunning. I have a 90 gallon and am seeking a few fish that can grow into the space. My tank is completely planted. Are they going to disrupt my plantings? Digging/moving substrate is one thing, uncovering my plantings is another story.

    Thank you for any information.

    • Hi Rebecca, these fish like plants and you probably won’t have any problems with them disturbing the roots of your plants. Thanks, Robert

  7. I’ve had an Electric Blue Acara for almost two years. It’s like an energetic puppy and shares its 75 gallon tank with an Angelfish, a Rotkeil Severum, five Diamond Tetras and two bristle-nose plecos that we see once every couple of months. I had the Rotkeil and Angelfish for almost a year before adding the Acara. All three cichlids get along fine. Somewhat surprisingly the Angelfish dominates the tank, especially at meal time. I believe my mix may be an exception, but it has worked out just fine. Tank size is just as important as species compatibility. All three of my cichlids are active and swim in every part of the aquarium. There’s no way I’d keep any of them in less than a 55 gallon tank.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*