FIA is community supported website. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More.

Dwarf Flag Cichlid (Laetacara Curviceps) Care Guide

If you have a small to mid-sized aquarium in your house and you want to make it more vibrant and colorful, you can not go wrong with the dwarf flag cichlid.

These small fish can enhance the beauty and appeal of your aquarium, especially if you make your tank a focal point in your house.

The great thing about this fish is that it is easy to take care of. Even though you’ve just started, you could see the guide here and come up with an informed decision to care for and breed your small acara fish.

Species Overview

Level of CareEasy
Life Expectancy2-4 years
Size4 – 5 cm (1.57 – 1.97 inch)
Tank Size30+ gallons for a group, 10 gallons for the pairs
Tank EnvironmentMimic Amazon Basin river conditions
Tank MatesSmall to medium size peaceful species

In common names such as “Sheepshead acara,” “Smiling acara,” and “Flag acara,” the cichlid is referred to as the “Flag acara.”

When looking for a species, regardless of its precise identification, it is always a good idea to look up its Latin classification name.

The scientific name, Laetacara is derived from laetus, means smiling, happy. Well, it is sensible since this fish species has pretty much a unique smile.

While tank-bred specimens are best for beginning cichlid keepers, wild animals can also be successfully managed under the right conditions. Your chance will be much better if you take the specimens from a trustworthy pet store in your location.

The flag cichlid is compatible with other species of comparable size that require similar water parameters, as well as other species of comparable size.

So, you will find plenty of options out there to tag along with your dwarf acara. Avoid putting these fish in with smaller tank mates, as they may mistake them for food. The key to keeping them thriving is to replicate their original habitat.



Individuals can vary in color and pattern, giving each fish a particular personality. Therefore, you can differ from one specimen to another, and even name them according to your desire.

The coloration of each specimen can be different from the other. The key factors for their colorations revolve around crucial variables, including their captivity location, wellness, mood, diets, water temperature, and so on.

Dwarf Acara Size

As the specimens mature, they will have fantastic multi-coloration that will boost your aquarium appearance naturally.

The fish is relatively small, from around four to five cm. However, treated under great conditions, the adult dwarf acara buddies can reach up to 6 cm or more.

With such a range of sizes, you will be able to measure the potential tank mates for them. It is best to focus only on fish that are similar in size to them.

Tank Setup

The dwarf acara fish can be found mostly in the Amazon River basin. The areas that they have always lived in are the spots with slow-moving water and dense vegetation.


Thus, you can conclude that the best way to care for your fish is to mimic the natural conditions in the tank.

Do not just add your dwarf acara without any solid preparation made in your tank. It is best to wait until your aquarium reaches a mature level with soft to neutral conditions. So, make sure the tank is ready for its maturity level before adding your fish there.

You can add contrast characters to the substrate to make your fish look vibrant in the aquascape. The dark sand substrate could be the right decision for you.

Also, add several objects like caves, holes, as well as driftwood to provide places to hide and rest. As mentioned, the habitat is equipped with dense vegetation. Being in captivity, you will not want to remove that from the equation. Consider adding more dense plants.

The acara fish need soft light. To make your tank lighting dimmer, you could add some floating plants to the tank to reduce the intensity of the light.

The water in your tank should be calm and slow.


Do not add a too-strong filter since it will disrupt the flow of water that your fish-like. You must maintain the water movement at a gentler level.

The key to the wellness and good coloration of the fish is the quality of the water and temperature. You could change around 30% to 40% of the water twice a week to minimize the level of nitrate inside the community tank.

Since you’ve added the dense plants to the aquarium, you won’t need to worry about preserving them since the small species won’t eat your plants.

You can add expensive decorative live plants there and they won’t ruin it. If it is fake plants that you plant there,

you will have peace of mind since your pets won’t eat them anyway. But beware if you add tank mates who eat plants.

Tank Size

The dwarf acara is a schooling fish. So, you will want to add them to the group. Or, if you have less space in your aquarium for a large group, you could add a pair of young. These tiny fish are recognized as loyal ones. They are likely to live with their pair for life.

You can prepare 20 gallons to 30 gallons or more for larger groups. If you keep them in pairs, consider preparing 10 gallons instead. Mind about your filtration systems and water changes schedule since those will be the key to your fish’s survivability and longevity.

Water Parameters

The water parameters that you should follow are around 5.5 to 7.5 pH levels. The temperature is around 72 to 80° Fahrenheit. The DH level should be around 5-12.

Your dwarf acara will be thankful for the black water conditions and soft acidic water. The changes in the water are still tolerable, but you will need to change the water up to 30% to 40% once every 2 or 3 days. This method will keep fish happier and healthier.

Dwarf flag cichlid mouth closeup

Tank Mates

On most occasions, this fish is peaceful and indifferent to its tank mates. Keep in mind that the tank’s condition, size, and parameters will also affect their moods.

They will be more peaceful if the tank is large enough for their activities. The fish can only be aggressive when they are breeding or caring for fry, or have diseases. When you breed the fish, you will want to separate them from the other fish tank mates.

While spawning, they will become more aggressive because they want their privacy respected. You could purchase another tank specifically for breeding purposes.

Prepare ahead of time so that you can be ready when they want to breed.

Your dwarf acara buddies can indeed be peaceful fish most of the time. But they will switch to territoriality during spawning.

Therefore, dwarf shrimps or other smaller invertebrates should not be added.

Snails can make great tank mates if you have a large enough aquarium. The larger tank might be safer for all of the tank mates.

Ideal companions are:

You will want to focus on species that are peaceful and have a small to medium size.

They must be large enough not to be eaten. And, they also need to be small enough not to harass or bully your dwarf acara.

Food & Diet

You can give them live or frozen foods. But your little acara will be happier with live foods like blood worms, brine shrimp, tubifex, and so on.

Since they are omnivorous, you can also mix the regular diet with flakes or pellets. But make sure the sizes of the foods are consistent with the sizes of your fish. Larger foods are a deterrent to them. You could chop the larger items into coarse sizes first before giving them to them.

More live foods are necessary if you want to bring out the coloration.

Breeding Guidelines

You must bring a separate tank for the pairs who want to spawn.

The aquascape should be ready for their spawning site. That means you need to add flat rocks, driftwood, and other objects to trigger them. After spawning, it only takes a few days for the eggs to hatch. The fry will swim a week later.

The parents are not tempted to eat their fries. Instead, they will share the assignments to protect their fry. You could feed the fry with brine shrimp or flake.

In a separate breeding tank, the fry will grow much better and strive successfully.

You can get them back to the main tank when they have reached adult size.


You can also see its different names in the marketplaces, such as Smiling Acara, Sheepshead Acara, as well as dwarf flag cichlid. Despite the differences in their names, you can rest assured that your sellers are offering the same thing.

Should You Keep Dwarf Curviceps Cichlid in Your Aquarium?

Here are the top reasons why you should have these small acaras in your community tank:

  • Vibrant and astonishing muti-coloration when they reach a mature age.
  • The hardy fish with a unique personality
  • Easy and simple breeding for beginners as well.
  • Making it a perfect companion for other peaceful species in your tank.
  • Being the “focal point” fish

You can choose this fish as the star of your aquarium. You will have the right to do so.