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Maximum size : 15 cm

Flag Cichlid - Mesonauta Festivus : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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The mesmerizing Flag Cichlids (Mesonauta Festivus) are a peaceful species, albeit becoming more aggressive during the breeding season. These social fish thrive when kept in groups, but they can also thrive in a community aquarium alongside other peaceful Cichlids, such as Geophagus and Apistogramma, as well as Barbs, Tetras, and small Catfish. While Flag Cichlids make a wonderful addition to a tank housing Angelfish, they do not get along well with certain small, colourful fish, such as Black Neon Tetras, as they are known to enjoy snacking on them. Regular water changes are essential for maintaining the health of these fish, and their timid nature necessitates the provision of hiding places, such as rock caves, bogwood, or tall plants. Vallisneria, Sagittarius, and artificial plants make ideal hiding places for Flag Cichlids since they do not dig up plants. However, some may eat live plants, while others may not, depending on their personality. When selecting plants for a Flag Cichlid tank, choosing those that reach the water's surface while still leaving open spaces for swimming is best. A properly fitting lid is also crucial, as these fish tend to jump when frightened. The obliquely oval-shaped bodies of Flag Cichlids are strongly compressed laterally, with pointed dorsal and anal fins. These fish are characterized by a distinctive black band running from the mouth, through the eye, and upward to the top of their dorsal fin. In addition to this striking black stripe, there are at least six other colour variations and patterns stemming from the locations where the parent species were first captured. The colours range from yellow above the line to silvery white below. Another type has fins striped in light yellow and brown, with brown on top and whiteish silver on the bottom. Finally, another variety boasts seven irregular brown vertical bars running the entire body length, with an additional bar on the caudal fin.

Flag Cichlid Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Distinguishing between male and female Flag Cichlids can be a complex undertaking. Upon reaching adulthood, males are typically larger than their female counterparts. Additionally, males are characterized by a more elongated snout, an extension of both their dorsal and anal fins, and notably larger pectoral fins relative to their female counterparts. These fish typically form pairs when they reach maturity, with this bond being both strong and monogamous in nature, typically forming at approximately one year of age.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameMesonauta Festivus
Year Described1840
Other NamesFestivum Cichlid, Barred Cichlid, Festive Cichlid
OriginsParaguay Bolivia Brazil Peru
Max Size15 cm
Aquarium LevelAll Levels
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asGroups 6+
Lifespanup to 10 years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
PH5.5 - 7.5
GH2 - 18
72 - 82
22.2 - 27.8

Natural Habitat

Flag Cichlids are a fascinating fish species originating from the Paraguay, Madre de Dios, Parana, Mamore, Guapore, Tapajós, and Jamari River Basins in South America. Found in Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, these cichlids are renowned for their unique habitats, residing in the slow-moving, clear, white, and blackwaters of streams, lakes, and rivers. These inquisitive fish thrive in environments rich in aquatic plants and vegetation, offering excellent hiding places for the Flag Cichlids to retreat to. This gives them added security and allows them to observe their surroundings without fear of predators. Inhabiting such diverse water systems, Flag Cichlids have adapted to their varying environments, making them a truly remarkable species. Whether in the depths of a river or the shallows of a lake, these fish have found a way to thrive in their natural habitats, a testament to their resilience and adaptability.
 Tapajós - Brazil
Brazil Flag


The process of breeding Flag Cichlids entails the selection of a flat stone or a similar area, whereupon the female will deposit her eggs, numbering up to 200, onto these surfaces, followed by the male fertilizing them. Both the male and female Flag Cichlid will remain vigilant, ensuring that the eggs are well-guarded. Upon hatching, which typically occurs two to three days later, the fry will be carefully transferred to a pit where the parents will oversee their growth and development, a process that typically lasts three to four days. Both fish assume parental duties, though they can be easily spooked, leading to the consumption of their offspring. As such, selecting a quiet location for the breeding tank is imperative, which will minimize any potential disturbances. For optimal nourishment, the fry may be fed newly-hatched brine shrimp and powdered fry foods until they are of sufficient size to ingest more substantial foods.

Diet & feeding

In an aquarium setting, Flag Cichlids can enjoy a diverse range of sustenance, including live or frozen foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms, as well as high-quality dried foods like flakes and pellets. It is imperative to provide a balanced diet that incorporates vegetable-based foods like spirulina flakes, blanched spinach, cucumber, or even oatmeal. These additional food sources provide essential vitamins and minerals necessary for the optimal health of these magnificent fish. It is recommended to feed Flag Cichlids multiple times a day with two to five small portions of food, as opposed to one large meal, to maintain a consistent water quality over an extended period. This practice not only promotes the well-being of the fish but also ensures that the aquatic environment is free from harmful toxins or contaminants.

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