The Uaru Cichlid is best known for its unique triangle shape, incredible intelligence and impressive spawning colors!

The Uaru Cichlid Uaru amphiacanthoidespresents one of the most unique body shapes and coloring in cichlid family. Its normal adult coloring is a silvery gray color marked by a single, large dark tear shaped spot in the middle of the body and another at the base of the tail. Juvenile Uaru Cichlids are similar in coloring but will have a general white speckling over most of their body and a golden fringe edging their tear drop spots. These special characteristics will fade as the fish grows older, generally disappearing altogether by the time they are 3-4 inches in length.

In addition to Uaru Cichlid, these fish are also commonly known by the names Chocolate Cichlid, Triangle Cichlid (a homage to the adult’s triangle shaped body), and Waroo. This cichlid, described by Heckel in 1840, is one of two recognized Uaru species which share the name “Triangle Cichlid”. The other is Uaru fernandezyepezi, which was described by Stanikowski as recently as 1989. WhileU. amphiacanthoides is an uncommon import, the Uaru fernandezyepezi is an even rarer import and not likely to be available to most hobbyists, thus reducing the confusion caused by their shared common name. .

A moderately large fish, the Uaru Cichlid will reach about 10″ in the aquarium. They can be moderate to difficult to care for as they do need a larger tank with good water quality. Softer water is preferred along with moderate or subdued lighting. Water changes need to be performed frequently to keep the nitrate levels low. If water quality is ignored, as with all cichlids, disease and death can occur. Provide a gravel substrate and a decor of rockwork with plenty of caves and hiding places. They enjoy densely planted aquariums and including some floating plants can help to diffuse the lighting.

This intelligent cichlid makes a great pet. They are likened to the Discus and were at one time dubbed “the poor man’s discus”. Like the Discus, they are a challenging species to maintain and breed.One of the main attractions of this cichlid is when it is spawning. Then this fish really become imposing. The tear drop becomes large and black with just a bit of brown or gray around the edges, and the eyes light up like lanterns becoming bright orangish red.With their typical cichlid nature they come to know and respond to their owner and many owners report they are one of the if not the most intelligent aquarium fish.

Once established in their aquarium they are easy to feed and raise as long as the water is kept very clean. They are not considered a community fish but they can be kept with other easy going Central and South American cichlids. They are a schooling species and should not be kept singly, but rather in groupings of two or more so they develop a social and easy going personality. As long as they are provided plenty of room and appropriate decor, a grouping can work in well in aquariums over 100 gallons.

Nathan Sederholm, photographer of the juvenile pictured above, gives this quick overview, “The Uaru is a very intelligent fish. It is not aggressive but will defend itself. Compatible species are Heros, Jack Dempsey, Green Terrors, Convicts, and Geos. Feeding veggies is a must, Uarus love veggies. Best to keep them in communities of more than one fish.”.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care

Uaru Cichlid with Fry

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Two adult Uaru Cichlids protecting their recently hatched fry!

Showcasing a pair of adult Uaru Cichlids standing careful guard over a group of tiny but free swimming fry. Note the bright orange eyes and pitch black spots on the body on the adults. These characteristics only present when the fish are spawning and will change when the cycle is complete; the eyes will become more yellowish and the spots will become lighter and smaller. Beautiful fish and a wonderful video!

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Genus: Uaru
  • Species: amphiacanthoides
Uaru Cichlid – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Size of fish – inches: 12.0 inches (30.48 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 70 gal (265 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Difficult
  • Temperature: 79.0 to 82.0° F (26.1 to 27.8&deg C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Uaru Cichlid Uaru amphiacanthoides was described by Heckel in 1840. They are found in South America, in the Amazon River basin along the Amazon-Solimoes River drainage. Their range in this area runs from the Japura River to the Tapajos River as well as in the middle and lower Negro River basin. Other common names they are known by include Chocolate Cichlid, Triangle Cichlid, and Waroo.

The species is not listed on the IUCN Red List. The natives use this fish for food as they are abundant in the Amazon River basin. They inhabit clear steams with soft water having a pH of 6.8. They feed on worms, crustaceans, insects, detritus, fruit and plant matter.

  • Scientific Name: Uaru amphiacanthoides
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed


The Uaru Cichlid is deep bodied with an oval disk shape reaching about 12 inches (30 cm) in the wild but only about 10 inches (25.5 cm) in the aquarium. They have a life span of 8 – 10 years when properly cared for.

The adult is a silver gray color with a large sideways tear drop shape (point of tear drop is at the tail) in dark brown to olive in the middle of their body. There is also a splotch at the base of the tail and they have yellowish orange eyes and a heavy cushion of fat around the neck. When spawning the tear drop becomes large and black with just a bit of brown or gray around the edges and the eyes become a bright orangish red.

Juveniles of this fish look a little like leaf fish with a goldfish yellow color which is speckled white through out. A darker shading near their belly area will develop into the “sideways” teardrop shape seen in the adults when they reach about 3 – 4 inches in length,

All cichlids and some saltwater fish such as wrasses and parrotfish share a common feature of a well-developed pharyngeal set of teeth located in the throat, along with their regular teeth. Cichlids have spiny rays in the back parts of the anal, dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins to help discourage predators. The front part of these fins are soft and perfect for precise positions and effortless movements in the water as opposed to fast swimming.

Cichlids have one nostril on each side while other fish have 2 sets. To sense “smells” in the water, they suck water in and expel the water right back out after being “sampled” for a short or longer time, depending on how much the cichlid needs to “smell” the water. This feature is shared by saltwater damselfish and cichlids are thought to be closely related.

  • Size of fish – inches: 12.0 inches (30.48 cm) – The Uaru Cichlid grows to a length of 12″ in the wild. They are generally smaller in aquaria, reaching about 10″ (25 cm).
  • Lifespan: 10 years

Fish Keeping Difficulty

Once dubbed as the “poor man’s Discus”, the Uaru Cichlid can be a challenging fish for a beginner to keep and is best kept by someone with some experience. They can be a finicky fish to keep and are intolerant of wide swings in their water conditions and chemistry. Their owner will need to be able to appropriately and quickly respond to changes in water conditions and also maintain a strict and frequent cleaning scedule.

These fish are not particularly aggressive and can be kept in a community tank with other Central and South American cichlids, but should not be kept with fish significantly smaller than themselves. They also must be kept in groups of at least two Uaru Cichlids and should not be kept singly. They will require a large tank (100 gallons+ would be best but 70 gallons will suffice for one fish) to provide them an adequate amount of space.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Difficult – The most difficult part of keeping these fish is perfecting your aquarium’s water levels and chemistry. Once the levels are correct, you will need to be diligent in your maintenance and cleaning to keep them in acceptable ranges.
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

The Uaru Cichlid is an omnivore that eats worms, crustaceans, insects, detritus, fruit and plant matter in their natural environment. In the aquarium they can be fed frozen blood worms, live black worms, live earth worms, frozen brine shrimp, and blanched lettuce and peas. Be sure to include vegetable based foods in their regular diet in order to prevent diseases such as Hole-in-the-Head. Feeding leafy greens will also help quell their desire to eat the aquarium plants in their tank.

Feed 2 small amounts of food a day instead of a large quantity once a day. This will keep the water quality higher over a longer time. A one day a week fast is also beneficial. All fish benefit from vitamins and supplements added to their foods.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore – In aquariums them are more of a herbivore.
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet – Will occasionally feed on invertabrates.
  • Vegetable Food: Half of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day

Aquarium Care

TheUaru Cichlid can be difficult to care for until the proper water chemistry is achieved. Once it has been achieved however, it will still require strict maintenance and cleaning. Aquariums are closed systems and regardless of size all need some maintenance. With home aquariums the nitrate and phosphates build up over time and the water hardness increases due to evaporation. Because these fish are very sensitive to pollitants and pH instabilty, so it is important that at least 25%-50% of the tank water should be replacedweeklydepending on howdensely stocked. When doing the water changes always use a gravel cleaner to make sure all of the decomposing organic matter that has built up is removed. The majority of of problems that occur with tropical fish tanks usually come down to one cause, decomposing organic matter.

  • Water Changes: Weekly

Aquarium Setup

These fish need a lot of room, a minimum of 70 gallons with 100 gallons or more being preferable for keeping them in groups. They are found in the same water as discus, so similar care is warranted. They prefer slow to moderate moving water along with good efficient filtration. Softer water is preferred along with a more moderate or subdued lighting.

Provide a good depth of gravel for the substrate and a decor of rockwork with plenty of caves and hiding places. They do enjoy densely planted aquariums and including some floating plants can help to diffuse the lighting. Plants like anacharis and duckweed help to keep the water clean and are also a great food source for them. They will refuse to eat Java fern and Java moss, so including these plants as well will insure that all of your aquascaping won’t be “mowed”. Arrange the aquascaping so that it creates natural divisions, this will provide areas for them to “defend”. Lastly, for best coloring and health be sure to include some method of oxygenating the tank such as airstones or powerheads.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 70 gal (265 L)
  • Substrate Type: Small Gravel
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting – Including some floating plants in your tank to diffuse the direct lighting.
  • Temperature: 79.0 to 82.0° F (26.1 to 27.8&deg C)
  • Range ph: 5.0-7.5
  • Hardness Range: 5 – 12 dGH
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Middle

Social Behaviors

They are not consideedr a community fish but they can be kept with other easy going Central and South American cichlids. South American cichlids tend to be less aggressive than their African cousins, but space is very important. They can be kept with Discus, the Blue Acara and other Aequidens species, the Pearl Cichlid and other eartheaters, Angelfish, and other easy going Central and South American cichlids.

They are a schooling species and should not be kept singly, but rather in groupings of two or more so they develop a good social and easy going personality. As long as there is plenty of room, a grouping can work well in aquariums over 100 gallons.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – Only happy if kept in a school.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Safe
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Safe
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive
    • Plants: Threat – Regular feedings of leafy greens can alleviate their desire to eat aquarium plants.

Sex: Sexual differences

Its hard to tell the difference between sexes, but at full grown size the male has a more pointed genital papillae and may be larger.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Uaru Cichlid are open breeders, egg layers, and are one of the more difficult species to breed. These fish are difficult to sex so if you are looking to form a mated pair it is easiest to simply have 6 or so in a tank and let them pair off themselves.. Once a pair has formed, place them in a tank with a significant amount of space, at least 100 gallons.

Though the female prefers darker areas, leaving the lights on will keep the pair from spooking and eating their spawn. It is recommended to breed the pair in a tank with other tankmates for the first few spawns. These fish tend to suffer from high levels of stress during their first few spawns and can end up eating their eggs as a result. Keeping them in a tank with other fish for the first few spawns helps them ease this stress. You may put a mesh net held on by suction cups over the clutch to prevent them from being eaten by other fish. Remove any plecostomus or they will eat the clutch.

The female will lay between 100 to 400 eggs and both parents guard the clutch. The eggs will hatch in about 4 days and the fry are fast growers, reaching 2″ in a few months. The fry feed off the slime on the parent’s body, so removing them is not the best idea unless you are skilled at raising the young. Feed the fry newly hatched live baby brine shrimp about a week or two after they are hatched. The babies are dark and turn a yellow/gold color with white speckles. By 2″ they are taking on their adult coloring. See more about cichlid breeding in: Breeding Freshwater Fish: Cichlids.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Fish Diseases

They are subject to infections as well as other diseases that ail all freshwater fish, especially if water is stale and of poor quality and oxygenation. One common problem is Ich. It can be treated with the elevation of the tank temperature to 86° F (30° C) for a few days since they can tolerate higher temperatures.

They are prone to the same diseases as discus. The notorious Head and Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE), also called “hole-in-the-head” disease is common with poor water conditions. This looks like cavities or pits on the head and face. It is believed this may be a nutritional deficiency of one or more of: Vitamin C, Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus. It is thought to be caused by a poor diet or lack of variety, lack of partial water changes, or over filtration with chemical media such as activated carbon.

As with most fish the Uaru Cichlids are prone to skin flukes and other parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), fungal infections, and bacterial infections. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

Anything you add to your tank can bring disease to your tank. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria and harmful chemicals. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance.


The Uaru Cichlid is occasionally available online, but only rarely found in fish stores.Many stores will probably be able to special order a Uaru. Take time to examine the fish for spinal defects before purchase. They range in price but are generally moderately priced, though a bit more than more common cichlid species.