The Festivum Cichlid, also known as Mesonauta festivus or Flag Cichlid, is a beautiful fish popular amongst novice and experienced aquarists.

With at least six color varieties to choose from, fishkeepers looking to add flare and life to their tank setups will be sure to find a Festivum Cichlid that tickles their fancy.

While their mild-mannered nature makes them ideal for community tanks, Festivum Cichlids still need special attention regarding their care, diet, and social tank mates.

Read on to find out more about the ins and outs of caring for your Festivum Cichlid, including tips on feeding it a balanced diet, assisting its breeding process, and helping it to thrive in its new home.

Festivum Cichlid Stats and Facts

Scientific Name: Mesonauta festivus
Other Names: Festivum Cichlid, Flag Cichlid
Habitat: South American river systems
Temperament: Shy and peaceful
Behavior: Curiosity and an amicable relationship towards other fish
Diet: Omnivores
Lifespan: 10 years
Max Size: Up to 4″ (10cm)
Water conditions: Temperature: 72°F to 82°F; pH: 6.5 to 7.5; hardness: medium to hard
Tank size: 30+ gallons

Knowing the basic facts and statistics about your Festivum Cichlid can help you understand its behavior and needs more. In this section, we cover both the biostatistics that are common to all Festivum fish, as well as the tank numbers you need to maintain to ensure a long and healthy life for your new Festivum Cichlid.

– Origins

Scientifically known as the Mesonauta festivus, this fish’s name comes from the Latin words “meso,” meaning average or middling, “nautes” pertaining to the seas or sailors, and “festivus” meaning merry or handsome.

Put together, the Festivum Cichlid’s scientific name is a quaint summary of this particular fish’s appearance and temperament. It is a gorgeous and happy fish that lives most of its days in a freshwater tank’s middle or bottom level.

This lively fish was initially found in the South American river systems. In particular, the Festivum Cichlid is known to be abundant in freshwater basins such as the Parana and Amazon River basins, among other natural river drainages. It has also been found in the river drainages of Brazil, Peru, and Paraguay.

– Size

These cichlids are on the smaller end of the spectrum. The average adult Festivum Cichlid can measure up to 4 inches.  However, some reports that Festivum Cichlids have doubled this size in captivity and up to 6 inches in the wild.

– Physical Appearance

Festivum fish have an elongated oval body. Their anal, dorsal, and pelvic fins are likewise long, giving them a graceful physique. They are usually yellow-green in color, though they can also sport brownish-red and silver colorations.

The most distinguishing feature of the Festivum Cichlid is the black bar that runs horizontally from the tip of its mouth all the way across its body.

– Temperament

Unlike Pike Cichlids or African Cichlids, Festivum Cichlids are typically shy and tend to be peaceful aquarium inhabitants. Due to their size, they prefer to live in small schools or groups of at least six.

Once they have settled down in their new environment, Festivum Cichlids shed their initial shyness in exchange for a lively curiosity and an amicable relationship towards other fish in the tank that cannot fit in their mouths.

– Life Span

Festivum Cichlids are known to live for seven to 10 years in captivity. This life span is especially true if they are provided with an optimal diet and are paired with other docile fish or similarly-sized cichlids that will not stress them out.

– General Community Behavior

Festivum Cichlids are not strictly schooling or shoaling fish. However, they do thrive best in tanks that have similarly sized fish. They do not fare well as individuals in a community tank.

Moreover, it is recommended that they be kept separate from large, aggressive fish that might view them as prey.

Festivum Cichlid Care

Festivum Cichlids go by many names, including Barred Cichlid, Flag Cichlid, and Festive Cichlid. It has enjoyed popularity among fishkeepers, mainly because of its social behavior and its natural hardiness.

As such, it is pretty ideal for novice fishkeepers who take the time to do research prior to adding this beautiful fish to any kind of tank. Experienced aquarists will also find that Festivum Cichlids are easy to maintain and add a layer of interest and life to their home aquariums.

Here are a few tips you should keep in mind to provide your Festivum Cichlids with the best care possible:

– Place Them in Planted Tanks and Watch Them Flourish

Festive Cichlids enjoy swimming in and out of dense fauna, bogwood, leaf debris, and even rock caves in their natural habitat. Mimicking this in their new aquarium makes them feel more at home and will do wonders for their overall well-being.

Place aquarium plants like Anubias and Java Ferns in the background to provide hiding places for your Festivum fish. You can also include Hornwort in the middle ground or else as floating fauna.

Aside from providing shelter, floating Hornwort also functions as an additional source of shade from harsh or bright lights. Don’t forget to add unique rock formations and wood debris to give your planted tank a rustic and natural look.

Use a sandy or soft substrate to complete your aquascape setup. Your Festivum Cichlids will be happier, healthier, and probably live a long time in the new aqua wonderland you’ve created.

– Keep Them Away From Bigger Bully Fish

Festivum fish are not like most aggressive or territorial cichlids. While they will eat any smaller fish in the tank, they are also prone to be hunted down or harassed by larger fish.

The key is to strike a balance when you choose the perfect tank mates for your Festivum Cichlids. House them with similarly-sized fish with temperaments closer to friendly and social than aggressive and intolerant of new neighbors.

This environment will encourage your Festive Cichlids to show their jollier side instead of staying in the shadows of your tank.

Keep in mind that while they prefer to live in groups, Festivum Cichlids are not ideal as dither fish. They are not meant to be the behavioral punching bags of other fish in your tank. Increased social stress on Festivum Cichlids can make them more prone to sickness in the long run.

– Festivum Cichlid Diet – Feed the Best You Can Offer

One of the most crucial things to get right when caring for a new fish in a community tank is their diet. Fortunately, Festivum fish are not picky eaters.

They are omnivores that will readily accept fish flakes or pellets. You can also expect them to be lively feeders, especially if you have succeeded in making them more confident and comfortable in the presence of other tank residents.

Aside from the typical high-grade flakes and pellets, however, you can also supplement their diet with the following food:

  • Frozen Brine Shrimp
  • Bloodworms or Tubifex Worms
  • Plankton
  • Mosquito Larvae
  • Varied Vegetables – like chopped lettuce leaves and bits of blanched spinach

Some bottled vitamins and mineral supplements would also benefit Festivum fish but use these sparingly. The best diet is still the one made of whole foods, with a combination of vegetables, pellets, and live prey for these lively omnivores.

Festivum Cichlids Preferred Tank Type

Festivum Cichlids are best suited to densely planted freshwater tanks. These fish need fauna, wood debris, or rock caves that they can find shelter in and use as hideaways.

Festivum Cichlids should be housed in tanks with a minimum capacity of 30 to 40 gallons. The tank should be a minimum of 3 feet in length. The bigger and longer your tank is, the better quality of life your fish will enjoy.

– Water pH Level

Festivum fish enjoy tank setups with slightly acidic water. While they can tolerate water acidity levels of 6.0 to around 7.5, keeping your tank’s water at 6.5pH is most recommended by Festivum Cichlid enthusiasts.

– Water Hardness

These fish thrive in water that is medium-hard to hard. They are pretty tolerant of tank setups with water hardness varying from 8 to 18 dGH.

– Temperature

Festivum fish live in a wide range of water temperatures in the wild. That said, they are pretty tolerant of both cool water temperatures and warmer tank climates. As long as you keep your tank’s water temperature within the range of 72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, they should be fine.

– Light Level

Use low or moderate lighting for tanks with Festivum Cichlids to encourage them to come out into the open and feed or interact with the other members of their community tank.

Festivum Cichlid Breeding

While Festivum fish are generally easy to take care of, they can be quite tricky to breed.

The main difficulty lies in telling the males apart from the females, or the selection process known as sexing fish.

Read on to find out more about how to sex these fish properly and how to make the breeding process easier and more successful for your Festivum Cichlids.

– Sexing Festivum Cichlids

Differentiating between male and female Festivum fish can be difficult at the beginning. Both the males and females of this species look exactly alike, and their only distinctive features manifest when they reach adulthood.

Still, there are some things you can look out for when you start sexing your Festivum Cichlids in order to choose a healthy breeding pair.

Keep these sex markers in mind when you try your hand at differentiating male and female Festivum Cichlids:

  • Body Color and Size

In general, male Festivum Cichlids do grow to be more oversized and more intensely colored than females.

  • Fin Shape

Many reports have also claimed that male Festivum fish have longer fins. These apply specifically to the anal and pectoral fins of the fish.

  • Ovipositor Shape

An adult female Festivum Cichlid will have an ovipositor or genital tube shorter and wider than the male’s longer and thinner genital tube. These genital tubes usually drop when a breeding pair is close to spawning.

Even experienced fish breeders can find it challenging to sex Festivum Cichlids properly. As a workaround, aquarists who want to breed their Festivum fish in the future usually purchase six to 10 fish to increase the chances of getting at least two or three potential breeding pairs.

If you plan to use this technique, remember to provide more than enough space for your Festivum Cichlids to grow up healthy and ready to spawn.

– Aiding Festivum Cichlids Throughout the Breeding Process

You have to learn a few more things before you initiate the breeding process for your Festivum Cichlids. Factors such as having a separate breeding tank, choosing a healthy and dedicated breeding pair, and providing care for the fish fry will go a long way towards the success of the breeding process.

  • Choose the Best Breeding Pair

Festivum Cichlids mate for life. The breeding pair can become increasingly aggressive and territorial towards other fish when nearing the spawning stage. That said, be sure to choose a breeding pair that has had no history of illness and has a great appetite.

A breeding pair dedicated to each other in the community tank will most likely turn into a pair of watchful and protective parents in the breeding tank.

  • Use a Separate Breeding Tank for Your Festivum Fish

Festivum fish are considered sexually mature at around eight to 12 months of age. Once their genital tubes drop, be sure to rehome them in a separate breeding tank.

The breeding tank should have water that is quite acidic (with the pH level ranging from 6.0 to 6.5), soft (4 to 8 dGH), and warm (77 to 84 F) to encourage mating.

In addition, the tank should have aquarium plants with dense and broad leaves to provide the pair with shelter and flat objects such as wood debris and smooth rocks for egg-laying.

  • Assist the New Parents in Caring for the Fish Fry

Female Festivum Cichlids will lay around 800 to 1,000 eggs in a single spawning. Additionally, these eggs will be fertilized and guarded jealously by both parents. You can expect these eggs to hatch after 48 hours.

The newly-hatched wrigglers will then spend two to three days at the spawning site until they are able to swim freely around the tank. You can then assist the parents by providing ample food for the fish fry.

Healthy Festivum fish fry should show an interest in, and readily accept, crushed fish flakes and the occasional serving of tiny brine shrimp.

Festivum Cichlid Tank Mates

Festivum Cichlid compatibility is an easy fish care factor to master. These fish are friendly and peaceful, so they go well with most fish that are neither big enough to eat them nor small enough to be their prey.

That said, here are a few examples of tank mates that would pair perfectly with your new Festivum Cichlids:

1. Catfish

Corydoras Catfish and large Plecostomus Catfish make for oblivious companions to Festivum Cichlids. They are mainly bottom dwellers and will not mind their new festive fish provided that there is enough space and food in the aquarium.

2. Angelfish

These fish share the same temperament with Festivum Cichlids. They are rarely aggressive towards other fish, but they will eat any that they deem small enough.

3. Silver Dollars

Like the Festivum Cichlid, Silver Dollars are peaceful medium-level swimmers that prefer to live in small groups or schools.

4. Ram Cichlids

Another peaceful cichlid, the Ram Cichlid, enjoys relatively similar water and tank conditions that are best suited to Festivum fish.

5. Acaras

These stocky cichlids reach about the same adult size as their Festivum fish neighbors. They are likewise peaceful fish. Their bright colorations will serve as a nice complement to the Festivum Cichlid’s silver or yellow-green body palette.

Some novice fishkeepers make the mistake of pairing their peaceful Festivum fish with small Tetras. Small fish, like Neon Tetras, will make excellent food for Festivum Cichlids and bring out their playful hunter behavior.

This characteristic doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t house any kind of tetra with your new Festivum fish. Just make sure that your chosen Tetras are at least the same size as the Festivum Cichlid and are capable of defending themselves during a chase.


Now that you know all there is to care for the renowned Festive Cichlid, you can try your hand at raising these excellent sociable fish.

Here are the key points of this article that you should always keep in mind when caring for your Festivum Cichlids:

  • Festivum Cichlids are peaceful freshwater fish that even novice fishkeepers can care for.
  • These fish thrive in densely planted tanks with sandy substrates.
  • Festivum fish do not pair well with either other aggressive cichlids or tiny fish that they can hunt.
  • Festive Cichlids are not picky eaters; you can feed them various pellets, flakes, and the occasional live foods and vegetables.
  • Breeding Festivum fish can be tricky, but precise sexing and having an appropriate breeding tank can help you grow your Festivum fish school successfully.

Festivum Cichlids are indeed one of the most exciting fish an aquarist can add to any sizable freshwater community tank. Their color and curiosity about their surroundings make them fun to watch and raise.

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