T Bar Cichlid (Amatitlania Sajica) Care Guide & Species Profile

Sajica Cichlid or T Bar cichlid is a beautiful Central American species known for its unique T-shaped mark on the body. It is fairly peaceful and more colorful than their famous cousin, Convict Cichlid. Since they are small in size and boast unfussy nature, they are ideal for beginners looking to add a spark to their CA community tank

However, it’s essential to have a good understanding of their care requirements before making the decision to bring this little jewel home, especially if you intend to breed them.

Keep scrolling the page and find a guide that walks you through all care fundaments, including tank size, water conditions, food, and appropriate tank mates. 

Species Summary

T Bar Cichlids are endemic to the freshwater streams on the Pacific Slope, extending from Costa Rica to Panama. These species mainly inhabit the rivers and streams with moderate to strong currents and have gravels as substrate. They are generally found up to 2000 feet of elevation. 

Scientifically, they are known as Amatitlania Sajica, but fishkeepers commonly call them T Bar or Sajica Cichlid or Costa Rican Blue-Eyed Cichlid. They earned their name, T Bar Cichlid, owing to the third bar on their body that is prominent and coupled with a bold lateral stripe running from the gill. 

These species belong to the Amatitlania genus and are a member of the very large family of Cichlidae. There are currently nine described species in its genus. Several species distribute in a small range area and are listed as “Threatened” by IUCN due to their natural habitats’ ongoing destruction and water pollution. Sajica is among these threatened species.

Scientific Name:Amatitlania Sajica
Common Name:T Bar Cichlid, Sajica Cichlid or Costa Rican Blue-Eyed Cichlid
Care Level:Advanced
Lifespan:5 to 8 years
Max Size:5 inches (12.5 cm)
Temperature:75 to 82F
PH:7.0 to 8.0
Water hardness:up to 20 degrees
Minimum Tank Size:30 gallons
Temperament:Relatively Aggressive


Amatitlania Sajica (T Bar cichlid)

T Bar cichlids get their common name from the distinct horizontal T-shaped black mark formed by the prominent third bar paired with a dark lateral line starting from the gill on their body. 

It’s worth noting that the width of the third bar is uniformly wide, while other species show a variable width.

While the other six bars covering the chunkier body are faded, the rest of the body is a tan. The hue of this color can vary slightly, but it’s often consistent.

Unlike their close relatives, they also lack the blotch on their caudal and dorsal fins and no lateral spot on the side of the body.

Amatitlania Sajica is sexually dimorphic, so you can easily differentiate between male and female adults. The adult male T Bar cichlid grows a bit larger than the females and develops a prominent ‘Nuchal’ hump. 

T Bar Cichlid (Amatitlania Sajica) Size

The maximum size of T Bar Cichlid is around 5 inches (12.5 cm) when fully grown. Males tend to be slightly larger than females and can reach 4.7 inches (12 cm), while females are less at 3.5 inches (9 cm). You won’t be able to identify their gender until they reach sexual maturity.

Amatitlania species are relatively small cichlids and have a fairly standard growth rate; A. Sajica is no different.

However, like all other species, their size in captivity depends on the quality of care. Offer them a well-balanced diet and keep them in ideal water conditions to thrive. 


The general lifespan of T Bar Cichlid is roughly 5 to 8 years, though there have been reports of individuals living up to 10 years.

There’s no guarantee either way, and a lot will depend on the quality of care they receive. A well-managed aquarium set up with appropriate tank mates, plenty of space to swim and hide, and a healthy diet will all contribute to a long and prosperous life.

T Bar Cichlid (Sajica Cichlids) Size Care

Like most other South American cichlids, the best thing about this Sajica Cichlid is that they are hardy, adaptable, and unfussy. 

These species can easily adapt to the tank conditions and won’t create much hassle. Moreover, they are relatively peaceful and get along with other tank mates.

However, they become territorial when breeding, and thus, fishkeepers should pay extra attention to them when spawning. Place them into the rightmost tank conditions to protect them from any further concerns. 

Here’re some of the T-Bar Cichlid care guidelines to consider.

Tank Size

Since they are small in size, a minimum of a 30-gallon (36″ x 18″ x 12″) tank is enough to accommodate them. If you are lucky enough to obtain a 33 gallons long aquarium (48″ x 12″ x 12″) with a large footprint, that’s better. It will provide more space and a swimming area for your Sajica cichlids.

Of course, you can also keep them in large aqua spaces if you are setting up a community tank. Beware of housing a breeding pair in community tanks; they are pretty territorial and aggressive to their immediate surroundings when spawning.

Water Parameters

In their natural inhabits, they prefer to live in streams and rivers with moderate to strong currents, but not found in the rapids.

Keeping the tank parameters as close as to their natural habitat is essential. These are freshwater species that prefer living in hard water. 

Also, they are pretty sensitive and cannot tolerate deteriorating water conditions; Perform partial water changes (15-20% Bi-weekly) to keep the nitrate levels to a minimum. 

They require moderate water movement but do not forget to add some resting spots out of the current. Stick to the below-mentioned water parameters to ease these Sajica Cichlids. 

  • pH: 7.0 to 8.0
  • Water Temperature: 75 to 82F
  • Hardness: up to 20 degrees

Even though these fish are hardy, it’s still necessary to keep an eye on the water parameters. Sudden changes in temperature or pH can quickly lead to health problems and even death. We strongly recommend purchasing a reliable test kit to accurately measure these parameters.

Decor (Plant & Substrate)

Setting up a tank for T-Bar cichlids is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is to mimic their natural habitat as much as possible. They come from streams and rivers with smaller rocks and gravel, so you should create a similar environment in the aquarium.

Use gravel as a substrate and add some caves and driftwood to add plenty of hiding places. Flower pots or anything that can provide a cave-like structure will work great. Be sure to leave some open space in the middle or back of the tank for them to swim.

Plants are not a must, but they do help to create a natural environment and improve water quality by providing oxygen and absorbing nitrates. If you choose to add plants, use tough species that can be anchored on rocks and driftwood as these fish like to dig.

No specific lighting is required to add to the tank accommodating these cichlids. 


T Bar Cichlids are omnivores. In the wild, they feed on algal filaments, small insects, and seeds.

To maintain a healthy diet, you should offer them a varied diet with meaty and vegetable-based foods. Premium-quality sinking pellets, small freeze-dried shrimp, live brine shrimp, Mysis, and bloodworms are all great options for meaty foods.

For vegetables, you can offer them spirulina, zucchini, and peas. Be sure to chop vegetables into small pieces so they can easily eat them.

As with all fish, feeding T Bar Cichlids should be done in small amounts 1-2 times a day. Only give them as much food as they can eat in a couple of minutes.

T Bar Cichlid Tank Mates

Due to their non-competitive nature, you have many options when it comes to T Bar Cichlid tank mates. These fish are readily be kept singly or in pairs in a Central American community aquarium.

However, these fish are generally aggressive toward their own species when spawning. It’s best to keep an individual in a community aquarium. Some

If you’re someone who wants to keep more than one, an established pair is the way to go. Some aquarists say you can get away with a male with 2-3 females, though we don’t recommend trying. The females will likely fight with each other.

Depending on your tank size and your dominant fish’s personality, here are some possible tank mates for T Bar Cichlids:

  • Firemouth Cichlid (Thorichthys meeki)
  • Hypsophrys nicaraguensis (Nicaraguan Cichlid)
  • Herotilapia multispinosa (Rainbow Cichlid)
  • Aequidens diadema (Royal Acara Cichlid)
  • A group of Tetras or Livebearers


T Bar Cichlids are mainly cave spawners, but they also exhibit substrate spawning behaviors. Like convict cichlids, they have been readily bred in captivity for years.

It’s a high risk to house an incompatible pair together. The male can be extremely aggressive with a female that is not ready to breed. Sometime, he may even kill her. So, it’s best to carefully observe any potential pairings before putting them together in the same tank.

When a compatible pair is ready to breed, they will develop high-contrast breeding color with dark body color contrasted by a bright gold coloration on their dorsal and anal fins, as well as their eyes.

The pair will then choose an oblique or vertical surface in caves or crevices as their spawning site. The female will clean the site while the male guards it and is ready to defend against any intruder.

Once the site is ready, they pair off with a dance-like ritual, and the female will lay around 200 eggs. After she is done, the male will follow suit and fertilize them.

The female will fan the eggs with pectoral fins, whilst the male resumes his sentry duty.

The eggs will hatch in 3-4 days, and the fry will be free-swimming a week after another 4 or 5 more days. The fry can be fed on newly hatched brine shrimp to boost their growth.

T Bar cichlids are one of the very protective parents around. They will occasionally move the fry in their mouth around the tank to the nest if they swim too far away. Sometimes, the male might eat a few of them.

In a community tank, the fry will stay with their parents until they are big enough to fend for themselves.

Final Thoughts

So, that’s all about T Bar Cichlid care. We hope our in-depth guide has helped you make the right choice. Keeping these cichlids is absolutely a fun and rewarding experience. They look stunning and will add a unique coloration to your aquariums. Furthermore, these are ideal for beginners and don’t require too much attention. 

However, you shouldn’t deprive them of their essential needs. Maintain the ideal water parameters and feed them well so they can enjoy their new habitat. 

If you’re an owner of these lovely cichlids, feel free to share your stories with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you!

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