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Zebra Acara Cichlid (Ivanacara Adoketa) Care Guide

If you need another small and peaceful species in your community tank, the zebra acara is one of the best recommendations that you’d like to add to your wishlist.

This small cichlid is peaceful towards its own species as well as other species as their tank mates.

If you are planning to have a peaceful and fun community tank, this small buddy is a great option for you.

The care is easy to moderate level. Although you are a beginner in the aquarist world, you will only need to learn for a while to make yourself ready to adopt the zebra acara into your aquascape.

Species Overview

Level of CareEasy to Moderate
Appearanceblue-green on the chest, belly, and pelvis
Life Expectancy5 – 8 years
Size100 mm – 130 mm
Tank Size20 Galloons
Tank EnvironmentIn the substrate, consider adding more wood roots and branches.
Tank MatesNon-aggressive, peaceful, slow-moving tank mates

This acara cichlid is a familiar species in the Rio Negro basin in northwestern Brazil. The horde of these small fish is often spotted in the middle and part of the Negro system in the Amazonas State.

But most breeders have successfully domesticated most of the species so that you can find them easily in the nearby pet store in your location.

Natural Habitat

As mentioned, the hordes are from the Northwestern Brazil Negro Basin. In their original location, they inhabit rainforest streams and tributaries in the dry season. They love to flock to the dense canopy of the branches.

The fish are striving in the little light of the water and environment. Therefore, the best way to treat the fish to perfection is to mimic the real characteristics of their natural habitat in your community aquarium.

The acara cichlid fish can be tolerable with little changes, but not too fluctuate.


The adult zebra acara color is blue-green on the chest, belly, and pelvis. There are some darker colors on the head and flanks. Meanwhile, the females are relatively plain with black boomerang bars through their eyes.


Zebra acara availability is rather hard in some countries because of the lower demand for distribution. If you live in a country in which the species is not popular, it might be challenging to get it from your trustworthy pet store.

As long as you don’t mind paying extra for the international shipment service, you could proceed.

Consider reading the laws in your country as well. Not all fish species are allowed to be imported.

Zebra Acara Cichlid Care & Tank Setup

The best thing to do to prepare the tank is to plan it with the knowledge that the closer you can replicate the real habitat, the more benefits you will attain from your pet fish.

The initial tank setup will be very imperative to watch out for. There are some specific rules that you’d want to get a hold of.

Here are a few initial steps before getting the tank for your zebra acara buddies.

Before setting up the tank for Zebra Acara Cichlid:

When it comes to the filters, you will want to choose the external types of filters since they usually work much better than the internal filters.

Since you want to manage a community tank, make sure you have a large enough aquarium that can be suitable for your zebra cichlid buddies and their tank mates.

Keep in mind that you will get the aquarium with the plan to fill it with many objects, including hides, caves, driftwood, plants, and so on.

So, you will want to measure the tank by yourself and make sure that it will be enough for your little acara group of fish and their tank mates who co-habit the same aquarium.

Removing chlorine from the water is very important. In other words, you can’t use your tap water to accommodate these fish.

You must conduct the aeration first to remove chlorine and unwanted substances from the water. It does not take a long time to conduct the aeration. Normally, the small to mid-sized tank requires one or two hours until the process is finished.

If you have a larger aquarium, the process of aeration will take longer.

Water Parameters

The water parameters will be the key to the survivability of your zebra acara fish who live in the community tank.

You will want to set the water parameters to be more supportive of your zebra cichlids. That means if you add tank mates to your community tank, you will need to focus on the tank mates who are also living in the particular water parameters.

The temperature of the water should be between 72 and 84° Fahrenheit. Your small fish can tolerate the changes.

The level of pH is between 3 and 5.5. If you have other tank mates, make sure to measure the levels of tolerance of all creatures so that everyone will be happy and well living in your community tank.

Rio Negro dwarf acara in a planted aquarium


The decoration not only beautifies your aquarium but also replicates the natural habitat of the zebra acara in the most natural way. That way, they will thrive for a long time in the future.

Speaking of the substrate, consider adding soft sand, which won’t hurt the fish and their tank mates. Add fulfilling objects like flower pots, piping, and others. Live plants for decoration and shade can also be great. Consider tall plants like java moss, etc.

In the substrate, consider adding more wood roots and branches. Add some of these items so that your acara cichlid buddies will have plenty of places to hide and rest.

Consider adding dried leaves as well. When decomposition occurs, it can provide good nutrient sources for all of the dwellers.

The decaying leaves will also help you to replicate the blackwater environment, the one where your fish usually reside in their natural habitat.

If you don’t have dried leaves, you could purchase them from the marketplaces. There will be plenty of leaves you can get for only $1.

The zebra acara fish can be very lively in dimmer lighting. Make sure to maintain the dimer lighting to provide a good environment for the fish.

There are also some plant species that you can add, such as Microsorum, Cryptocoryne, and Anubias, which can provide a great quality of natural shade. Adding floating plants can also help to provide shade for the fish.

The filtration needs to be at an adequate level to provide an effective scape for all the tank mates.

If the filter is too strong, it will make your group of fish distressed. What do you think?

These fish are often found in shallow waters, streams, and floods. The silver sand substrate and the softer sand combination can be great compositions for your substrate. Your small buddies can be delicate. The coarse substrate will hurt them.

Add the branches of trees and bogwood as well.

Tank Mates

The rarity in the market could be a challenge to adding more of the same specimens to the same tank. Due to the specifications of the tank and the water that you need to prepare, you could focus only on this specimen for your particular tank.

But you can also tag them along with the friendly and peaceful tank mates. They can thrive for a long time with their companions as long as you maintain the water and tank environment daily. In most cases, it requires double effort and care to maintain the community tank.

It would be simpler to have a dedicated tank for your zebra acara.

Your acara fish are slow-moving creatures. Therefore, you will want to pay attention to their behavior.

The fish with fast speed might be tempted to bully or harass your zebra acara fish. These peaceful fish can live with anyone. But not all fish are good for their tank mates.

The peaceful species who can be your zebra acara tank mates are copella, nannostomus, as well as hyphessobrycon, and other peaceful tank mates.

These fish, although peaceful towards one another, can be territorial if they crash into the goals of the other fish. The nature of this fish is mainly peaceful with the triggers of territorial. So, consider preparing a much larger tank to cater to the needs of every fish.

Food & Diet

Zebra acara hunting shrimp

These fish are mini predators. So, they will love to receive live food from you. They can eat delicious live foods such as worms, insect larvae, crustaceans, and zooplankton.

They can be picky eaters most of the time. Your success chance of feeding them with frozen foods is lower.

They won’t accept dried or other forms of prepared foods. But it does not mean that they will reject everything you give them.

You can train them to eat frozen foods if you want to. But it will take time until they get used to frozen foods.

It can be a little picky in the aquarium and initially may not accept dried or otherwise prepared foods, though in many cases it will learn to take them over time.

At any rate, it should be offered daily meals of small live or frozen fare such as Artemia nauplii, Daphnia, grindal worms, micro worms, etc. to develop ideal color and condition.

Breeding & Reproduction

The males will have black and white striped markings. The females have a pinkish coloration.

The couple will spawn in caves and hide in places. Once the eggs hatch, you will want to separate the fry from the parents. Move the fry when their size is similar to the adults.