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Laetacara Fulvinpinnis

The Happy Cichlid is a name I gave the Laetacara Fulvinpinnis.


These are South American cichlids that are fairly rare to the United States. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information about them so below is everything I know from a few months of keeping them.



I obtained these beautiful fish from a friend, David Magee, at my local aquarium club. He imported some fish from over seas and a few Lateacara Fulvinpinnis were sent accidently. Eventually he was able to grow them out and they spawned fairly easily from what I understand. There were 2 spawns producing several hundred babies.

They did not have a common name so I named them “The Happy Cichlid” because the “late” of Lateacara means happy due to the stripe that goes across their face and body making it look like they are smiling!


They seem to spawn like most cichlids. They will search and find a hard, dark surface to lay their eggs and they will spend a couple days cleaning the area and performing various mating rituals in preparation for the eggs. They will guard and fan their eggs like most cichlids and seem to be fairly good parents.


They reach a maximum size of 4-5” of length and seem to enjoy a 40 gallon aquarium or larger. They are very observant and shy at first but after a couple weeks of feeding they will come up to greet you. They are extremely greedy eaters and will eat just about anything. From flake food, to live and frozen foods.


They seem to be happiest in small to large groups. I am not sure if this fish will be happy on its own.

They also seem to be territorial like most cichlids and will hang out in loose groups in their own area and will nudge out intruders. This bickering is never more than a nudge or push and they only do this to other territorial fish. Peaceful, non-territorial fish are ignored all together. They do seem to also appreciate dither fish though (dither fish are out-going fish that help make shy fish more comfortable). So, adding some plecos, schooling fish, or Corydoras will go a long way in making these fish more active and more likely to come out and explore the tank.


They are also able to adjust their colors really quickly. When stressed their entire body gets flushed out. I normally see this when its time to catch and ship them. They also can look different depending on the substrate you decide to use. On darker substrates their bodies and fins get much darker and on lighter substrates their white and greys of their body become even more intense which is a great contrast to the dark bars/stripes and orange in their fins. I personally think they look best in a lighter substrate as you will be able to see more of their orange in their fins and their “smile” is easier to see.


I keep them in the below water parameters:


Temp: 76 - 82 degrees

pH: 6.5 - 7.5

Tank size: 40 gallon


These fish also move around like rams do - they almost exclusively move in stop and go patterns. They will move 2-3 inches and stop suddenly, wait a few seconds, then move another 2-3 inches. They will do this repeatedly as they explore the tank. They don’t seem to be exclusively bottom dwelling fish - they very much will explore the top and middle of the aquarium very regularly.


They seem to enjoy having easy access to hiding places. So adding lots of wood, decorations, caves, and plants will go a long way in making this fish happy. Mine enjoys being able to hide behind rocks and driftwood and also very regularly spends time in various caves that I created for them.


Overall, they seem to be very mild for a cichlid and have been great tank mates with:


Swordtails, Platys, Corydoras, Plecos, Angelfish, Rams


So far they have been fine with any fish I have put in with them. So for tank mates I would recommend the above or any fish that is peaceful and around the same size. I would also recommend a lid as these fish will jump 10 - 20 feet out of the tank when spooked!


If you have experience with this fish, I would love to know!

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