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Umbee Cichlid Care | Elegant And Fierce Fish For Your Tank |

Umbee cichlid is known for its mesmerizing appearance because of its beautiful blue coloration. It is called by several names such as Umbee, Turquoise Cichlid, and Blue-Freckled Cichlid.

It is a fairly large tropical freshwater fish. The Umbee Cichlid is native to Middle America and found in the Pacific slope eastern Panama in the Atrato and Magdalena River drainage in Colombia and Tuíra and Chucunaque River drainage in Panama. It was first introduced to the fish keeping hobby in 1975.

Umbee Cichlid

Their faces are dark but they are marked by turquoise and blue reflective dots under their eyes and the rest of their body. However, juveniles do not show these beautiful blue-colored dots and are not attractive. 

It belongs to the order Cichliformes, family Cichlidae and genus Kronoheros. Earlier, it was included in the genus Caquetaia.

The scientific name of Umbee cichlids is Kronoheros umbriferus and in some literature, it is still called Caquetaia umbriferus.

Umbee Cichlids have not been evaluated by the IUCN, therefore their Conservation status isn’t listed on the IUCN Red List although in some literature they are categorized under least concern level.

How big do Umbee Cichlid get?

It is a relatively large fish and the length of an adult male may reach 24 inches (2 feet) while the length of an adult female may reach 18 inches. 

Is Umbee Cichlid aggressive?

They are aggressive and intolerant to both of each other and other fish in general.

Umbee Cichlid  behavior

Umbee Cichlids are the very epitome of cichlid-dom in many ways.

They are full of personality and are viciously intolerant to both of each other and other fish in general. Therefore, it is hard to keep other fish with them. 

They are known for their aggressive and predatory behavior and they are the top predators in their natural environment too.

These fish form small territories and aggressively display and snap at intruders regardless of the species.

They are considered good parents and when breeding they will tear up the aquascape and defend their fry from anything. 

How long do Umbee Cichlids live?

Umbee Cichlids have an average life expectancy of 6-10 years.

One look Care guide

Scientific nameKronoheros umbriferus
Common nameUmbee
Turquoise Cichlid
Blue-Freckled Cichlid
Care levelIntermediate to difficult 
Native toSouth America
Type Freshwater 
Color Black and Brown with identical blue spots 
Tank size150 gallons for adult50 gallons tanks as grow up tanks 
Preferred temperature72-80°F (22-27°C)
Other water parameters pH:7.1 to 8.0
Ammonia :0-0.2 mg/L
Nitrite: 0-0.2 mg/L
Nitrate :0-20. mg/L
Preferred salinityFreshwater fish 
Size Adult male :24 inches 
Adult Female :18 inches 
Growth rateFast
Temperament Aggressive 
Recommended tank matesNot compatible with many.
Scavengers, large catfish species may do well
Preferred foodLive fish food,
Dry or frozen foods 
Feeding frequencyTwice a day for juveniles (less than 6 inches)
Once a day for adults 
BreedingCan do breeding in captivity.
Females lay 100-2000 eggs and males fertilize them. 

Umbee Cichlid care

Tank size

They are large fish and therefore need a minimum tank size of 150 gallons. Anyway, if you wish to keep some other fish with the Umbee cichlids you need an even larger tank. 

They can be kept in small grow-out tanks, at least a 50 gallons aquarium when they are young, and need to be sent to a larger tank once they are about 8 months old. 

How many Umbee Cichlids should be kept together?

Since they are aggressive towards the same species, keeping two or cichlids is nearly impossible.

Male cichlids especially can not live  with another male child peacefully. However, one male and one female can live together.

However, Male Cichlid may be very aggressive with the female at a time especially when he wants to reproduce.

Therefore, it is always good to insert a separator into their aquarium once in a while to give the female a break from the aggression of the male.

However, juvenile Umbee cichlids are not aggressive towards each other and they can live together.

Even though they don’t like each other, getting several juveniles is still good. That is because they live or mate with the same partner for a lifetime and hence they are very picky in selecting mates. 

Tank setup

Umbee Cichlids demand the space and therefore it is important to make sure that they are comfortable in their aquarium.

They become stressed when they are not comfortable and it can weaken their immune system and increase the likelihood of sickness.


They are diurnal animals. It is important to provide the same amount of light to the aquarium and that amount should be similar to the lighting that they would receive in their natural habitat.

Aquarists recommend a standard 12 hour light cycle for Umbee cichlids. 

It is good to provide sunlight and if the room which keeps the aquarium doesn’t get enough light, providing artificial lighting during sunlight hours is important. 


The decorating of the tank also should not disturb their comfortability and should be similar to their natural environment.

The natural environment of Umbee cichlids is rocky bottomed rivers and therefore adding plenty of rocks is important. 

Driftwood and plants also are good choices. However, keeping plants with  adult Umbee cichlids is a challenge as they love to dig even when they aren’t breeding.

Any plants are going to get in their way and will be plucked out and left to drift. Epiphytes, which attach themselves to hard surfaces rather than root in sand or gravel, are a good solution.

Anubias, Java fern, and Java moss are popular plants. Anyway, if the leaves of these plants intrude into their chosen breeding space they still might tear them away.

Make sure the decors create plenty of caves and hiding places. However,  do not create a barrier for them to hide behind.

The decors  should arrange in a fashion that allows you to see them otherwise they may hide behind the decors. 


The Umbee cichlids favor sand as a substrate and it is the substrate in their natural habitats. Combining soft gravel with sand is also a good option.

No matter which substrate you are using make sure to clean the substrate before inserting them in the aquarium otherwise the residue that is on it will make the aquarium cloudy.

Umbee cichlids need at least two inches of substrate  in their aquarium. It is good to install a canopy to avoid them jumping from the aquarium and avoid contaminations.

Water quality condition

Though Umbee cichlids are hardy fish, they are sensitive to the environment.

If the water of the aquarium does not reflect that of their natural habitat, it causes them to be stressed, weakening their immune systems, and finally, they are prone to diseases.

The aquarium pH level should be at 7.1 to 8.0. It is a good practice to remove fish from the aquarium before adjusting the pH level if it is not in the preferred range as they cannot bear drastic variations of pH.  

Their preferred temperature is 72-80°F (22-27°C). Routine monitoring of both pH and temperature is very important as they are sensitive to temperature and pH changes.

Umbee Cichlids are fairly hardy to ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate concentrations. However, it is advised to keep the ammonia and nitrite concentration level at 0-0.2 mg/L.

The nitrate concentration should be in the range of 0-20. mg/L. As all ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate are generated from the fish poop and leftover fish feed, sufficient filtration is important to keep them in the preferred range. 

For a tank of juveniles, a power filter will be enough. But alone adult or adult pairs should have a heavy-duty canister filter attached to their aquarium as these large predators generate much poop and when they chew foods, they spew particles of meat all over the tank.

Umbee Cichlid breeding 

Umbee Cichlid male or female identification

It is hard to identify between the male and female cichlids when they are juveniles. But when they grow up, males show brighter colors than females.

The growth rate of male cichlids are twice that of female cichlids. Therefore, at full maturity, female Umbee Cichlid is smaller and usually has a duller coloration than the males as well.

Identify pregnant Umbee Cichlid 

It is easier to identify a pregnant Umbee cichlid as the middle regions of their body, particularly the belly, appear swollen or rounder because they develop eggs in their belly. 

Further,  you can notice the broad side-to-side appearance in the areas near the anal fin.

Umbee Cichlid breeding

They pair up in their early adulthood and mate for life. Therefore they are very picky when selecting a partner.

Hence, introducing an alien male or female to the tank for breeding may not work out. The most successful method is to let them pair by keeping a group of juveniles in a tank. 

When they are ready to reproduce, their color will become more intense especially in males they get brighter turquoise color, and even females take on a bright yellow hue with black markings on their sides and eyes.

In this stage, the male and female will clear off a flat surface together. Then, the female will then lay 100-2000 eggs and the male will fertilize them. After this point, both the male and female will become extremely aggressive.

Umbee cichlids are known as good parents. After the eggs fertilize, the female will stay close to the eggs while the male patrols the surrounding area.

It takes around 72 hours to hatch. Then,   the female will continue to swim with free-swimming fry and support them until they can take care of themselves.

Despite their aggressiveness, the Umbee cichlids are easy to breed in captivity too. For breeding in captivity two tanks of 150 gallons and 55 gallons are needed. The steps of breeding are below mentioned.

  • 150 gallons tank is the breeding tank. To make breeding easier, the tank is decorated with several flat rocks, clay pots, or even PVC pipes. 
  • Since they are aggressive during their breeding it is better to put a divider that is large enough for females to swim through but not large enough for males to swim through. The expectation is to allow the female to take a break from the males’ aggression.
  • Place an already paired couple or one female and one male into the aquarium and provide them with the appropriate aquarium setting. 
  • Free swimming fry are available within 72 hours after the reproduction process occurs. At this point, relocate the fry into a 20 gallons aquarium.

Umbee Cichlid fry care

It is good not to put any decorations or substrate to the fry tank of Umbee cichlids to make the fry feeding easier.

A sponge filter is the most suitable filter because the fry may be stuck or sucked up by other filters. 

In the early stages, it is best to feed the fry with a small fry starter feed as a staple food and Micro Worms and newly-hatched brine shrimp nauplii as special foods.

After a few days, as they grow up, their parents chew their food and spit them so the youngs cluster around parents to feed on the food particles. 

Special tips

Umbee Cichlids are most commonly infected by Ich, bacterial infections, and parasites. Therefore, the application of a suitable quarantine method when introducing new Umbee Cichlids, other fish, or decorating items is recommended. 

Feeding behavior of Umbee Cichlid 

What do they eat?

Umbee Cichlids are the top predators of their natural habitats. Hence they are carnivores and their diet mainly consists of plenty of meat.

They are piscivorous, meaning they feed mostly on other fish.,  But they will also eat smaller prey like shrimp, frogs, and even small mammals that try crossing those dark waters when they are in the wild.

However, aquariums easily adapt to pellet food. Whatever the food provides they should be quality pellets that are high in protein as the protein demand of carnivores is high.

Since they are predators, it is good to provide them with live food such as blood worms, Mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, and live fish.

Providing live food for their diet makes them comfortable and feel like their own environment. However, it is difficult to make a balanced diet with only  live foods. Therefore quality pellet feed is the main food of Umbee cichlids when they are in captivity.

The amount of food provided to the Umbee Cichlids depends on their size. They need to feed with an amount that they can consume in about two to three minutes.

Overfeeding can make them unhealthy and also it affects the water purity in a bad way. Further, some fish food such as freeze-dried pellets expands when placed in water.

For such foods, it is good to soak them in water and feed them because un-pre-soaked foods will expand  in the fish’s stomach and that may cause health issues.

How often should you feed

The number of times that Umbee cichlids feed will depend largely on their size. They need to feed twice per day when they are less than six inches long.  

Once they are over 6 inches long, you can take their feedings down to 1 time per day. Umbee cichlids grow well when fed a high protein diet. 

When should you feed (time of the day)

Since they are diurnal animals you can feed them during day time.

How long they can go without food

They can not live a long time without food.

What fish can live with Umbee Cichlid? 

Umbee cichlids are extremely aggressive towards the same species except in their juvenile stage. Especially two male Umbee cichlids can not keep together.

One male and one female of Umbee cichlids can be kept together, but the male will be very aggressive on the female when he wants to reproduce. Therefore keeping two or more Umbee cichlids together is not a good idea.

Some fish species such as large barbs, giant danios, silver dollars, and other large fish can surely live together with juvenile Umbee cichlids.

But once they are fully grown, keeping other species of fish with them is nearly impossible as they are very aggressive.

Matured Umbee cichlids love to be  solitary. Believe it or not, they will eat or kill nearly every other species of fish.  

However, if you have an aquarium the size of 300 gallons or larger other species also keep with Umbee cichlids.

Other cichlid species can work as tank mates but it’s not easy and definitely not for beginners. As all are vigilant fighters, their fights may end up with missing eyes and permanent scars.

They tend to vary a bit in temperament, sometimes they fight with anything that swims until their death, and sometimes they completely ignore their other tank mates.

In this respect, there are some instances that some large cichlid such as Wolf Cichlid, Peacock Bass, Red Terror, and Jaguar Cichlid live peacefully with Umbee cichlids.

Anyway, only experienced aquarists should try this as this may end up with a loss of a few tankmates.

Sometimes Umbee cichlids may ignore, aggressive but smaller cichlids such as Cuban Cichlid, Jack Dempsey, and Salvini Cichlid since he doesn’t see them as a threat. But again as Umbee cichlids are very unpredictable he may decide others as a threat and kill them.

Many aquarists report that bottom dwellers such as scavengers do well with the Umbee cichlids. Sometimes their fins may be nipped by Umbee cichlids, but thanks to their spins and armored scales they can stay safe with these monsters.

Larger Synodontis catfish species, such as the Featherfin Synodontis and a few other species, Tinfoil Barbs, Silver Dollars, Giant Danios, and other large dither fish, catfish (corydoras) can also work in larger tanks (in 300+ gallons tanks ).

Most of the community tank mates are not compatible with Umbee cichlids. However, in such a tank there should be many hiding places as otherwise, they will fight a lot.

Credit to : Palmer Aquatics
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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.