Laetacara curviceps

Common Names: Smiling acara, flag acara, flag cichlid, curviceps, dwarf flag cichlid, sheepshead acara, blunt-head cichlid, etc.

Type Locality: N/A

Range: Lower portions of tributaries of the Amazon River Basin in Brazil

Taxonomic Troubles: Originally described as Acara curviceps. Also known as Aequidens curviceps and Parvacara curviceps.

Size: 7–9 cm (2¾–3½ inches), males larger than females.

Preferred Water Chemistry: Tropical freshwater. Wild-caught specimens may require soft, acidic water for breeding.

Difficulty: A good beginner’s cichlid.

Tank Setup: A planted tank is very good, but other hiding places (driftwood, PVC pipe, flowerpots, ornaments) should be provided as well. Tankmates can include any small to medium fish that are too large for the curviceps to eat and not large or nasty enough to haras

Feeding: Omnivorous, will take all regular foods. Live foods are always appreciated and are excellent for conditioning breeders.

Breeding: Typical substrate spawning. Pairs form early and can be very stable over a long time. Eggs are usually placed on a horizontal leaf or a flat stone. Parents care for the eggs, wrigglers, and free-swimming fry. They occasionally raise a brood successfully in a community tank, but for best results, give them their own spawning tank.

Fish Description

Highly variable, with several distinct geographical races, which have been blended in captive stocks. These cichlids can change color and pattern very quickly. Some individuals show considerable color, especially blue in the body and red in the fins. Breeding fish take on particularly intense coloration. A dark spot in the middle of the dorsal fin is often present.


This dwarf cichlid was a regular in the early days of the hobby, but it fell out of favor during the African cichlid frenzy at the end of the 20th century. Today, it and its congeners are enjoying a renewed popularity. It is a true dwarf cichlid in the traditional sense: small, pretty, easy to breed, a generally good community fish, not destructive of plantings, etc. Telling the fish in this genus apart is not always easy, and several are being imported. Aquarium care is the same for all of them, but you should get as much collection and identification data as you can from your supplier.