Electric Blue Acara: Caring for this Blue Beauty

The electric blue acara is easily the centerpiece of the tank. 

It boasts vivid coloration, beautiful shape, and a curiosity that leads to an active nature.

One of the more peaceful species you will find in the cichlid family, the electric blue can pair with a variety of similarly sized fish in a community tank.

Andinoacara pulcher also known as blue acara swimming in a planted aquarium

Add in ease of care, and this freshwater fish is a go-to for aquarists.

Read on to learn more about this brilliant species. 

At a Glance

Tank Size:  30 gallons
Group Size:  In even-numbered groups
Water Temperature:  72 – 85°F (22 to 28°C)
pH:  6.0 – 7.5
Hardness:  3 – 20 dGH
Lifespan:  8 – 10 years
Breeding:  Egg-laying 
Adult Size:  6 – 7 inches (15-18 cm)
Usual Place in the Tank:  All areas, but mostly middle to lower regions

In the Wild

This cichlid species occupies varied habitats in South America, particularly in Colombia and Venezuela.

Some acaras live in clear, quick-moving streams with sandy riverbeds and a high oxygen content.

Others are found in slow-moving, almost stagnant waters that are often lush with floating and submerged vegetation.

Appearance and Biology

The electric blue acara (Andinoacara pulcher, formerly Aequidens pulcher) is popular with aquarium keepers due to its unique beauty.

While this cichlid has the standard oval body shape, what makes it stand out are the large and well-defined scales covering its body.

These scales have a glowing, metallic blue sheen that gives this fish its name.

The dorsal fin and anal fin sweep backward and terminate toward the end of a fan-shaped caudal fin.

These thin, delicate fins have spiny rays and are lined in bright yellow, giving a nice color contrast.

Blue acara vs electric blue acara

As a result of mixed-up naming conventions, many people think that there is a difference between two very similar types of fish: blue acara and electric blue acara.
There is no difference between the two except the color.

Size

This species grows to a length of 6 to 7 inches (15-17.8 cm).

Lifespan

The electric blue acara can live from 8 to 10 years with good care. 

Behavior

A peaceful cichlid? You bet! The electric blue acara has an easygoing temperament that makes it an excellent community tank member.

They can even be a bit shy at times, which is why including hiding spaces in your tank is a must.

If your tank size and stocking numbers are in line, the only time you will see aggression from this fish is when they are spawning.

From the time the eggs are laid until around two weeks after the fry have hatched, these fish will protect them and their territory. Keep this in mind if your fish are in a community tank.

Blue acaras are diggers. Although they will curiously explore all levels of the tank, they enjoy spending time along the tank bottom rooting around for food.

You will need to take some extra care in securing live plants and tank decorations. 

How many per gallon?

Blue acaras grow to a decent size and need room to swim.

A minimum tank size of 30 gallons will suffice for a single fish. For each additional acara, add 15 gallons.

Tank Setup

Select a tank that is longer than it is tall to give your fish plenty of room.

The larger surface area will also help keep the water well oxygenated, which these fish prefer.

Decorations

Line the tank bottom with a fine, sandy substrate. This will keep your fish from injuring themselves as they dig.

Include caves or driftwood to increase their comfort level, reduce stress, and give them a place to duck into every now and then. 

If you add live plants, keep them potted to prevent your acara from digging them up.

Fortunately, this fish does not make a habit of snacking on plants, so as long as the plants are secured, you have a range of choices. Try java fern and anubias for a nice look.

Floating plants, like hornwort, are also excellent choices.

Not only do they help recreate the acara’s natural environment, but because they are floating, you do not have to worry about your fish “rearranging” them.

The idea with decorations is to approximate their natural habitat without overdoing it. Remember to leave a good amount of swimming space.

Water Conditions

Set the water temperature between 72 and 85°F (22 to 28°C). Stability is important.

Keep the temperature around 76°F (24°C) and you will be in good shape.

The pH level should be between 6.0 and 7.5 and the hardness between 3 and 20 dGH. 

Change out 25 percent of the water each week to keep it clean.

Equipment

As strong water flow is a natural part of the electric blue acara’s environment, make sure the filter you select can be adjusted to provide this.

Canister filters or powerheads are solid choices. Cycle the tank for a week or more before adding your fish. 

Install a heater and thermometer to keep the water temperature at a good level.

Use a gravel vacuum to keep the substrate clean. A quality water testing kit and pH monitor can help to maintain optimal tank conditions. 

While this fish does not have special lighting requirements, plan to keep the lighting normal to moderate. Do not place the tank in direct sunlight.

Tank Mates

Andinoacara pulcher also known as electric blue acara swimming in a tank with other cichlids

The blue acara is a species where you want to find a happy medium when choosing tank mates.

Put them with a large, aggressive species, and they may be too stressed, shy, or malnourished.

Conversely, larger fish may also bring out more aggression in your acara.

Put them with too small of a species, and you may find the population in your tank decreasing as your acara partakes of these “snacks.”

Blue acaras work well with others of their species as well as similarly sized, peaceful South American fish.

They also tolerate easygoing bottom dwellers

Consider these species to pair with your blue acara:

Avoid the following:

Food and Diet

The key to feeding blue acaras is ensuring variety.

In the wild, these predators primarily seek out meaty foods.

In an aquarium, give them an omnivorous diet with nutrition coming from a variety of sources, both vegetable, and protein. 

Start with a high-quality flake or pellet food and supplement with live or frozen protein-rich foods, such as tubifex, brine shrimp, or bloodworms.

Make sure some vegetables get in there as well. Blue acaras are enthusiastic eaters, so be careful to not overfeed them.

Give them two to three small meals a day and only as much as they can finish within two minutes.

Remove uneaten food from the tank to keep the water quality up and ammonia and nitrates down.

Breeding

Electric blue acaras readily breed in an aquarium setting with little special preparations or care. Once mated, blue acaras remain paired for life.

Setting up a Breeding Tank

Start with a 20-gallon tank. Line the bottom with a sandy substrate.

Adding flat rocks for cichlids is a must as they will spawn on these. A plant or two is fine, but you will not need the tank to be heavily planted.

Set the water temperature to 75°F (24°C), the pH between 6.5 to 7.0, and the hardness between 3 to 12 dGH.

Install a sponge filter so that the tiny fry will not be sucked into the system.

Determining Male or Female

The easiest way to determine if you have male and female acaras is to start with a group of fish and wait to see which ones pair up naturally.

Otherwise, you can look at the dorsal and anal fins of your fish.

The male’s fins will generally be longer and more pointed. The female’s will be shorter and rounded.

The males can also be slightly larger and more vividly colored. 

Spawning

Although blue acaras are sexually mature when they are at a length of two to three inches, they typically breed when they have grown to a length between four and five inches (10-12 cm), at around 10 months of age.

A bonded pair can breed several times a year. 

A mating pair will interact frequently, staying close to the bottom of the tank.

When they are about to spawn, will clean their chosen location to lay eggs. You may notice that their colors are more vibrant during this time. 

The female will deposit from 150 to 200 eggs and the male will fertilize them.

The female then remains with the eggs and attends to them while the male guards the territory from a distance. 

The eggs will hatch in a few days with the fry quickly becoming free swimming.

The fry will stay close to their parents, who will guard them for the next two weeks.

Blue acaras can be aggressive when guarding their young, so a separate breeding tank is an ideal setup. 

Caring for the Fry

Your blue acara parents will handle the initial care and feeding of the fry, making your life easy.

To ensure the fry are getting the nutrients they need, you can supplement with some baby brine shrimp or fry food. Introduce larger foods as the fry grow. 

At two weeks old, the juveniles are ready to fend for themselves. You can transfer them to a grow-out tank at this time. 

Hardiness

The blue acara is a hardy species but can be prone to ailments if they are fed a poor diet, are constantly stressed, or are kept in poor water conditions.

This species can develop digestion issues if they are fed a substandard diet.

Make sure this omnivore gets a good base of cichlid flakes or pellets combined with occasional live/frozen protein-rich foods and vegetables.

Ich presents as white spots on the fish’s body. It is caused by a parasite and can be cured by correcting poor water conditions and adding medication. 

Another parasitic infection that acaras can get are skin flukes. These tiny critters burrow into your fish’s scales and cause redness or even labored breathing if in the gills.

Your fish can be prone to secondary bacterial infections, which may be your first indication that your fish has flukes.

Treat with medication purchased at your local fish store.

Blue acaras can also develop hole in the head disease. Curing your fish involves adding antibiotic medication to the water and paying close attention to water conditions and the diet your fish receives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the electric blue acara live with angelfish?

This pairing generates a range of responses and may, in the end, come down to the individual temperaments of the fish.

Some aquarists have successfully kept these two species together with the caveat to watch for aggression from the angelfish.

Although this aggression is mostly centered on their own, angelfish can turn on other species when they are breeding, just as the electric blue acara can.

Keeping a group of six angelfish can help to spread out the aggression. 

Other aquarists say this pairing is risky as the angelfish can be too aggressive.

If you adhere to recommended tank and group sizes, then this pairing may work out just fine.

However, it’s better to have a backup plan if aggression cannot be controlled.

Closing Thoughts

The electric blue acara is an appealing addition to a home aquarium on many levels.

They are active and curious in nature and have coloration that draws the eye. Their temperament makes them easy to pair with numerous different species.

They tend to get along well with their tank mates, and although they are diggers, they are safe around well-secured aquatic plants. 

At a cost ranging from $6 to $15 per fish, they can easily become a part of your single species or community tank. 

If you have kept electric blue acaras in the past or currently have some in your tank, drop us a note below!

What is your favorite fish to pair them with in your community tank?

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