Can they be kept in a community tank?
Smaller species such as Laetacara curviceps, Laetacara thayeri “Purple Peru” and Laetacara dorsigerus grow to around 7cm and can be kept in pairs or small groups in most community aquariums.
Even some of the larger species, such as Uaru amphiacanthoides, Heros severus, Heros notatus, Heros appendiculatus and Mesonauta festivus can be kept in community tanks, as long as they are large (greater than 90 cm) and do not contain small or delicate fish.
Some species may show territoriality or heighten aggression during spawning, but many are peaceful and will breed and care for their young without much trouble.
How are other species best kept?
Many of the other South American cichlids, such as Satanoperca jurupari, Geophagus spp., Gymnogeophagus spp., and some Aequidens species can be a bit aggressive or grow too large for community tanks.
These species are best kept in larger tanks (around 120cm or more) equipped with hardy aquarium plants, rocks and bog wood. They may also be housed alongside larger fish, such as catfish, or even with fast-moving schools of large tetras.
Some species, such as Oscars (Astronotus ocellatus) and Pike Cichlids (Crenicichla spp.) are fierce predators and need to be housed in very large tanks with other large fish. These can become quite tame and will often learn to recognize their owners.
Are they easy to breed?
Some species breed easily in aquariums, but others are much more difficult. Most are substratum breeders, building nests dug into the gravel bottom. They lay their eggs on large rocks or pieces of bog wood, and both sexes care for the young and fry.
Some species, such as the true Heros severus, and some members of the Geophagus group are mouthbrooders. The eggs can be collected immediately after spawning, or they can collect the young to move to new locations after they hatch.