The 7 Most Popular Large South American Cichlids (With Pictures) is supported by our readers. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission.

What’s the best type of fish for a spectacular show tank? The large South American cichlids, that’s what! All these different American varieties have personalities, majestic looks, and various sizes to make them perfect additions.

These large SA Cichlids are quite hardy fish, attractive and friendly. These cuddly creatures provide much enjoyment for their owners with an array of interesting behaviors that make them so enjoyable to be around.

The large South American cichlids that can sometimes be found in LFS are the Oscar and Peacock. These fish grow up to 30 inches long, with some reaching even larger! They need an aquarium at least 250 gallons large for each individual. There are some very large species that don’t suit homes because they’re too big.

In today’s article, we will discuss the five most popular and sizable species that can be kept in home aquariums.

The 7 Most Popular Large South American Cichlids

Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus)


The Oscar is the most popular and recognizable large South American cichlid. This fish is found most common in the Amazon River Basin. The oscar fish has an appealing, intelligent personality and its attractive coloration makes for a great aquarium pet.

These fish has an oval-shaped brown/black body with red or orange marbling. Some variations even sport green or olive bodies. There’s also an albino specimen that has white skin covered by striking patterns running through. Their large bodies and heads with large mouths make them perfect for displaying in your home’s fresh water tank or pond.

Oscars can reach up to 12 inches in length in captivity. In the wild, they can grow even longer, reaching lengths of up to 14 inches. These fish are territorial and very aggressive fish, not community fish.

Scientific Name:Astronotus ocellatus
Common Name:Tiger Oscar, Velvet Cichlid, Marble Cichlid
Care Level:Properly informed beginner
Lifespan:10 years
Size:14.0 inches
Temperature:72.0 to 77.0° F
Water hardness:5 – 19
Minimum Tank Size:100g

Butterfly Peacock Bass (Cichla ocellaris)

First, don’t confuse the Peacock Bass with peacock cichlid. Peacock Bass (Cichla) is a genus of a group of 15 large cichlid species that native to the Amazon and Orinoco basins in South America, while peacock cichlid is a distinct group of 22 recognized species of fish that belong to the Aulonocara genus, endemic to Lake Malawi in East Africa.

Although Butterfly Peacock Bass (Cichla ocellaris) is an eye-catching cichlid, this fish is not for everyone. This fish can reach a significant size of up to 29 inches, but the most “harvestable” butterfly peacock bass is 12-14 inches in length and weighs about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds.

This fish has a body that ranges from olive to gold, with three or four black bars on each side. It also features an ocellus present at the base of its caudal fin but not in juveniles, and lateral line-markings typically continue into the tail with having the tendency to fade.

As the most popular gaming fish, Butterfly Peacock bass is also a very reasonable alternative for aquarists. However, be careful with its relatives, such as tucanare peacock bass (C. monoculus) and speckled peacock bass (C. temensis); they can reach up to 30 inches and 1 m in length; the latter is the largest cichlid of the Americas.

Scientific Name:Cichla ocellaris
Common Name:Butterfly peacock bass
Care Level:Expert
Lifespan:10 years
Size:29 inches
Temperature:75.0 to 82.0° F
Water hardness:5 – 12
Minimum Tank Size:200g

Green Terror (Andinoacara rivulatus)

Green Terror

The Green Terror Cichlid (Andinoacara rivulatus) is the most colorful fish that grabs lots of attention in the aquarium community. Not only do the Green Terrors have a variety of stunning colors, but they also have companionable personalities to match.

This cichlid has a green and blue metallic body with bright orange stripes that can be found on the tail fin. The males sport an impressive array of colors, from purple to red. The females have duller colors but are still quite striking. The recognizable orange or reddish tint is sometimes absent in females.

Green Terror Cichlids can reach sizes up to 12 inches in length, making them a suitable candidate for the larger home aquarium. As its name implies, this fish is inherently aggressive. A larger 50-gallon tank for an individual fish and a tank of at least 75 gallons for a pair is recommended.

Scientific Name:Andinoacara rivulatus
Common Name:Green Terror, Orange Saum, Gold Saum, White Saum
Care Level:Intermediate
Lifespan:10 years
Size:12.2 inches
Temperature:70.0 to 80.0° F
Water hardness:5 – 13
Minimum Tank Size: 40g for a single fish and 75g for a pair.

Uaru Cichlid (Uaru amphiacanthoides)

Photo: Ramón Vázquez Piñeiro

The Uaru Cichlid (Uaru amphiacanthoides) is a unique looking fish because of its body shape and coloration. Natives to the backwaters of the Amazon basin of South America. The most common names for this species include Chocolate Cichlid (because its dark coloration resembles cocoa powder) and Triangle Cichlid(due to how three-sided each adult’s body becomes).

When they’re mature, these fish have a mostly brownish color with an obvious black stripe running across their midsection. Juvenile Uaru Cichlids have the same coloration, but there are many white spots covered over their bodies.

These fish can grow up to 12 inches in the wild but only about 10 inches in an aquarium. A minimum aquarium size of 70 gallons or more will give them enough space to swim. They’re not considered community fish, but they can be kept with other Central and South American cichlids.

Scientific Name:Uaru amphiacanthoides
Common Name:Uaru Cichlid, Chocolate Cichlid, Triangle Cichlid
Care Level:Intermediate
Lifespan:10 years
Size:12 inches
Temperature:79.0 to 82.0° F
Water hardness:5 – 12
Minimum Tank Size:70g

Pearl Cichlid (Geophagus brasiliensis)

Juvenile Pearl Cichlid

The pearl cichlid (Geophagus brasiliensis) is a very attractive cichlid that originates from eastern and southern Brazil, where it is found in a wide variety of habitat types. They are not only beautiful but also easy to keep and breed. All you need is good fishkeeping management.

The color of the main body varies; it’s usually spotting over a grey-green body with pearly spots. You may see one dark spot located towards its tail or several black bands that are accompanied the base color. When it’s in good health, the markings on this fish are bright blue speckles that shine brightly. Their colors change with moods and during mating sessions. 

Pearl cichlids are fairly large South American fish and can grow up to 11 inches in length, while females only reach around 4 – 6 inches. The minimum aquarium size needed to keep a Pearl Cichlid individually is 40 gallons, but you’ll want at least 75 when housing two or more of these tough fish.

Scientific Name:Geophagus brasiliensis
Common Name:Pearl Cichlid, Pearl Eartheater, Mother-of-Pearl Eartheater, Brasiliensis
Care Level:Beginner
Lifespan:15 years
Size:11 inches
Temperature:68.0 to 73.0° F
Water hardness:10 – 15
Minimum Tank Size:40g

Chocolate Cichlid (Hypselecara temporalis)


The Chocolate Cichlid (Hypselecara temporalis) is a large, beautiful fish native to the calm, deep, and slow-moving rivers of the Amazon River Basin in South America. It’s no wonder this fish gets its name from its peaceful temperament and elegant Chocolate brown coloring.

Chocolate Cichlids typically grow 12 inches (30 cm) in length and can live up to 12 years in captivity. The Chocolate Cichlid is often found in brown, but it can also be tinged with shades of red and gold. Adult fish become more boldly colored, especially during spawning.

This fish is an excellent centerpiece to spacious community aquaria and is easy to care for – making it a great choice for prepared fishkeepers who want to add a little bit of color and personality to their tank.

You might be interested in this guide: Chocolate Cichlid Care 101: Size, Lifespan, Food, Tank Mates
Scientific Name:Hypselecara temporalis
Common Name:Chocolate Cichlid, Emerald Cichlid
Origin:South America
Care Level:Moderate
Lifespan:8-10 years
Size:12 inches
Temperature:77-84°F (25-29°C)
PH:6.4 – 7.3
Water hardness:1 – 8
Minimum Tank Size:75 gallons

Keyhole Cichlid (Cleithracara maronii)

Keyhole cichlids
Scientific Name:Cleithracara Maronii
Common Name:Keyhole cichlid
Origin:South America
Care Level:Easy
Lifespan:7-10 Years
Size:~ 4.3 inches
Temperature:72 – 81°F
Water hardness:12 – 20
Minimum Tank Size:55 gallons

Final Words

Large South American cichlids make for an attractive and interesting addition to any home aquarium, but they require a fair amount of space and proper care. With the right setup, these fish can be a joy to watch and care for.

So if you’re looking for more options, consider these fun and fascinating Central American predators.

While we can’t cover every species out there, this list should help you find the next one for your tank. We’re always open to suggestions! If you’ve got any intriguing large South American Cichlids that should be on this list, please let us know.

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Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt

Hello, I'm Jeff- an aquarium enthusiast with over 25 years of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish, including koi, goldfish bettas, cichlids and more! For me: Aquariums are like jello - there's always room for more!

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