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So at one of my lfs they have two tanks that are mixed with diff species of ca/sa cichlids, they have rainbows, jewels, firemouths, festivium, blue acara, jacks and texas cichlids. I can tell them all apart pretty easy except a couple of them, there's some in there that I can't tell if they're acaras or jacks. They're so small it's hard for me to tell the difference. I asked the lfs employees but they don't know squat. I didn't see any texas in there at all so maybe it could be them but really doubt it. So my question is what is the easiest way to tell difference between the jacks and blue acaras cause at the size they are they look alot a like. I'd like to maybe get some acaras but don't wanna get the wrong fish.
 

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First: look at the gill plate. A blue acara has a black line below the eye; a JD does not. Both can have bright blue spots on the gill plate but they do differ: a blue acara will typically have 3 bright blue lines going from the mouth up towards the eye; a JD may or may not have bright blue lines, but they are not arranged in this manner.
A blue acara more often exhibits a mid-body blotch. A JD might exhibit a mid-body blotch, but more often it will be obscured by dark coloration, or totally covered by bright blue spots (irridiophores), or not expressed at all.
A JD typically exhibits 2 bars between the eyes; a blue acara only 1 thick bar.

There are many, many differences between the species, though most are rather difficult to describe. Body shape is different; fins are different. Fin trim is different: blue acara typically has light orange to white dorsal fin trim; JD typically bright red dorsal fin trim, though it is not usually as apperant as the dorsaal trim on a blue acara. Different mouths: blue acara has a smaller mouth. Eyes are different: sometimes the bar below the eye on a blue acara can be seen to run right though the eye, though not always.

If the fish are very young and small, not all the traits may be exhibited or be completely apperant. But you generally expect a blue acara to exhibit the bar below the eye, even at a very young age and size...... a JD will never, because it does not pocess this trait.
 
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