Types Of Cichlids That Can Live Together – An Aquarium Guide

Types of Cichlids that can live together
Do you know that the presence of Cichlids gives your aquarium’s atmosphere a funny and aesthetic elevation? One of the first things you would want to understand amongst many other questions is the types of cichlids that can live together to make your aquarium look awesome. Well, then in this article, you’ll undoubtedly find all your answers.
Cichlids are some of the most beautiful creatures that you can find in the aquarium world. And if you are looking forward to getting one or many types of cichlids for your community tank or species-only tank, the mere number of species will blow you. You would have to know the types of cichlids that can live together, the tank set-up, tank mates, what to feed them, how to care for them, etc.
Cichlids are freshwater species that belong to a family of Cichlidae of more than 1650 species. South American Cichlids, Mainland African Cichlids, Dwarf Cichlids, and Cichlids from Madagascar and Southern Asia. There are also Huge Cichlids, Aggressive Cichlids, Docile Cichlids, etc.
So, you see, you have so many types to choose from; mix and match to find the compatible types of cichlids that can live together and with other species. So now, let us continue to read the article “Types of Cichlids that can live together.”

Cichlids – An Overview:

Description Category
Family Cichlidae
Scientific name Cichlidae/Bonaparte
Origin South America, Africa, Central Asia
Type Fresh Water
Color Form Several Colors and patterns
Difficulty Moderate
Breeding Relatively easy
Max. Size 1 to 40 inches (2.5 cms to 1 meter depending on species)
Life span 10 to 20 years depending on the species
Temperament Aggressive (there few non-aggressive cichlids)
Diet Omnivores, predominantly carnivores
Minimum Tank Size 30 to 300 gallon (120 to 1200 liters)
Temperature 60°-84°F (15.5°-29°C) depending on the species
Acidity 6.5 to 8.5 pH depending on the types of cichlids
Hardness 5 – 15 dGH (<250 ppm)
Nitrate <20 ppm
Ammonia & Nitrite 0

Origin and Distribution:

Cichlids are one of the significant members of the species of the Cichlidae fish family. Many of them are quite famous for keeping in aquariums. Cichlids are found in freshwater, mostly in Southern Asia, mainland Africa, Madagascar, and South America. 

However, Africa scores here more! Wondering why? Well! That’s because most of the species are originally from Africa and found distributed in most of the African Lakes. 

The most popular kind of cichlids is the Firemouth or the Cichlasoma Meeki. Cichlids are a part of one of the largest vertebrate families worldwide that belong to the haplochromine group. One of the most famous cichlids is Tilapia; the fourth-most consumed fish in the United States. Cichla is also known as Peacock Bass; on the other hand, it is the most famous game fish.

General Physical Appearance-Cichlids:

Are you confused about how to recognize those tiny pretty water creatures for your aquarium? Well! The first thing you would want to learn is to identify different cichlids through their physical appearance to decide the types of cichlids that can live together. Unlike most fishes, Cichlids have one nostril and are deep-bodied. They also have more than three anal spines, and the lateral line is discontinuous. Cichlids come in all range of colors and patterns.

Not just this, but they have rounded tails and don’t usually grow longer than 12-inches. In some species, the pelvic fins are elongated, and the rear end of their anal and dorsal fin is pointed. Since Cichlids are available in different species, they often range from carnivorous to herbivorous; some of the cichlids are omnivores. Depending on their diet preferences, some have smaller rows of teeth for scraping algae from the woods and rocks; and carnivorous have set of fang teeth for hunting live fishes and other aqua-lives. 

They are also known for their complex breeding and mating behaviors that include courtship, preparation and maintenance, and the defense of their nest to protect younger generations of cichlids. Studies also reveal that lovesick American female cichlids show certain fascinating emotional and behavioral traits. Quite an exciting life of theirs, right?

Well! It is not uncommon in some species to carry eggs in their mouth instead of laying them in the nest as a form of security until the eggs are hatched. Cichlids are generally referred to as mouthbrooders; this behavior is predominant in some species of Tilapia. Some other popular species include Firemouth, Jack Demsey, Oscar, Discus, Angelfish, etc. – a lot of names.

Types of South American Cichlids that can live together: 

So, are you planning to keep some South American types of cichlids that can live together? Well, there are a lot of things you would want to know before petting South American cichlids. An estimated amount of 450 cichlids species are present in South America. A considerable number, right! However, only about 300 have been described and accepted. 

Due to their environment, the fishes from South America have adapted to different ecological and habitat niches. As a result, they are opportunistic feeders, although there are a few herbivores. They also come in different shapes, sizes, and colors.

The most popular South American Cichlid is the Angelfish. The Angelfish is identifiable by its pointed fins, and of course, its beauty. However, they are pretty sensitive to the changes in water chemistry.

Temperament and Behavior of South American types of Cichlids:

Do you know the real big problem in keeping different types of cichlids in the same tank?

Cichlids are aggressive, which is a big issue for people who want to introduce another fish in the aquarium. Cichlids often claim their territories and attack any fish that swims too close. Well, it looks like tiny worlds have more significant problems! 

Hence, it can be challenging to find different types of cichlids that can live together. Since they are not community fishes, you may keep cichlids from the same region together. For example, South American cichlids are known to grow into some of the largest sizes; hence, you would want to pair them with another large-sized cichlid from South America. Therefore, you can keep Angelfish and Discus in the same tank.

Oscars are known for their dog-like personality that allows them to develop close bonds with their owners. On the other hand, the Pike Cichlids are ruthless predators, though interesting to keep. If the tank is large enough, you can mix wild Discus, Angelfish, Chocolate Cichlids, Severums, Uaru, and Satanoperca and keep them all together. So now, does it sound like a suitable answer to your query, “Which South American types of cichlids can live together?

Types of African Cichlids that can live together:

types of Fish that can live with African Cychlids

Natural Distribution:

Are you someone who loves African cichlids over the American ones? Well! I’m not surprised as African Cichlids are an incredibly diverse group of Cichlids. You would want to know what African types of cichlids can live together.
African Cichlids are scattered throughout lakes in Africa: the most popular species belong to Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Malawi. However, the majority of the species are from Lake Malawi. Thanks to their colorful bodies and unique patterns, which make them stand apart from the rest.
The fishes’ temperament and bright colors make them ideal for improving the mood in an aquarium. However, they are more expensive than most other tropical fishes. But would you mind spending more when you are getting such beautiful tiny, friendly pets? The cheaper one costs anywhere between $5 to $15, and some species cost $100 per specimen, such as Eureka Red Peacock Cichlids, Mbuna Cichlids.

General temperaments and Behavior?

Unlike the rude American Cichlids, the African ones have an interactive behavior, often demonstrated by following the movements from outside the tank. Because of this active lifestyle, they are active swimmers and often leap out of the tank. However, this behavior is less likely to happen if they are not provoked. Maybe they follow the tit-for-tat policy! Sounds funny.

Do you know an east African Cichlid, Julidochromis Transcriptus, can identify unknown individuals only by staring at their eyes? Bizarre, but it’s true. This fish is an inhabitant of Lake Tanganyika that keeps themselves hidden in between the rocks and pebbles. Whenever any other fish comes nearby, this Cichlid gazes at the patterns around its eyes and realizes if it’s a mate or enemy.

Besides, they can be territorial and very aggressive, especially during mating. As a result, the African Cichlids often kill the weaker fishes present in the aquarium. Thus, to prevent this, include numerous hiding spots for the more vulnerable fishes to escape so that the different types of cichlids can live together. Or you can skip the more fragile fishes for your tank when you are deciding to keep African Cichlids.

The standard varieties of African Cichlids include the African Butterfly, Yellow African, African Peacock Cichlids, Orange Zebra Cichlids, etc. They generally have bright colors that get brighter during times of dominance or aggression. Although the males appear more colorful than the females, they all have teeth. It will look like a rush of a rainbow in your aquarium when you house different types of Cichlids in the same tank.

Dwarf Cichlids Types that can live together:

Physical Appearance:

What can be cuter than the dwarf version of your favorite Cichlids? Well, dwarf cichlids are the smallest of the family as they only grow to about 3-inches (8 cms) or less. They have a warm personality and display simple behaviors.
Since they are small and mostly peaceful, small tanks can house dwarf cichlids. Unlike their bigger cousins, they are more amiable with their tank mates. Not just this, but they are also less likely to dig substrate or destroy plants. By implication, they are suitable for a community aquarium.

Origin and Distribution:

Initially, South America Apistogramma Agassizii was described as dwarf cichlids types by the Swiss-American zoologist and geologist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873). However, today, the name refers to different Cichlids species with modest size regardless of their origin and scientific designation. As a result, numerous dwarf types of cichlids can live together.
The South American dwarf is the most popular of all the types found in Central and South America. The South American waters vary in pH levels; however, they are all soft. As a result, dwarf cichlids from South America may find it difficult to survive in hard water. Butterfly dwarf, Nannacara, Ivanacara, etc. are some of the examples of South American Dwarf Cichlids.
On the other hand, West African Dwarf Cichlids mostly inhabit streams, rivers, and lakes, including the three major East African lakes. They inhabit soft, fresh, and hard water; hence, they are hardy and thrive considerably well in various conditions. Tilapia, Pelvicachromis, Nanochromis, Steatocranus, Benitochromis, Pelmatochromis, Thysochromis, Chromidotilapia, etc. are some of the examples of African Dwarf Cichlids.

Best Cichlids Types that can live together:

Non-aggressive cichlids such as Bolivian Ram, Blue Acara, Keyhole, the electric yellow African, Peacock Cichlids are the best types of cichlids that can live together; they let the other fishes live in their own space instead of bullying and showing them territorial behaviors. However, you would want to include plenty of hiding places in the tank, such as plants, caves, crevices, and other decors, for a quick getaway if any cichlid encounters a territorial tankmate.
You want to keep no more than one of each species because even non-aggressive cichlids can become aggressive when they feel threatened by fishes of a similar species. Apart from this, maintain a 1:3 male-female ratio to avoid trouble.
We have already seen that the tiny minds are full of attitude and aggressiveness. So, don’t get carried away with those cute and fun-filled appearances. Thus, before keeping a variety of cichlids together, you would want to know about the compatible neighbors.

Types of Cichlids that can live together in a tank:

Here are some of the types of cichlids that can live together:


Angel Fish

Angelfish are classics in the aquarium trade and one of the favorites of new and seasoned hobbyists.

The Angelfish is beautiful and has a unique appearance that makes a great addition to a community tank; as long as they have sufficient space to swim, their tank mates are not habitual fin nippers. They come in various colors and patterns; for example, Pterophyllum Scalare is extensively selectively bred angelfish.

Their complexity in social behavior calls for at least a group of six fishes together. Although it is not uncommon for them to eat their small tankmates, they are not aggressive and do excellently well in groups. Well maintained Angelfish tank is a special treat to the eyes.

Tank set-up:

Angelfish appreciate woody and leafy tank set-up; the advantage of having angelfish is they go well in Biotope aquarium where different fish, vertebrates, and plants co-exist.  

Bristlenose Plecos, Platies, Corydoras catfish, dwarf gouramis are some of the fish that make good tank mates for Angelfish.

Agassiz’s Dwarf: 

Agassiz’s Dwarf Cichlid is carnivorous but does well in a group of other fishes that are not of the same species. 

They are colorful and add vibrancy to any community tank. Agassiz’s grow from anywhere between 2 to 3 inches (2.5 to 8 cms) in length. Their average life expectancy is about five years.

These fishes prefer planted tanks, fine gravel substrate to dig in, and an open area to swim. 

Electric Blue Acara: 

Electric Blue Acara is a non-aggressive and peaceful species, unlike the other Cichlids. It’s not uncommon for them to bully other smaller species; nevertheless, they make good tank mates to hosts of different aquarium species except with the aggressive species.
Blue Acaras are known for their blue coloration that blooms when they reach adulthood. Since they tend to dig, they prefer sandy substrate and warmer water.
Electric Blue Acaras are hardy and omnivores;  they are opportunistic eaters and are ideal for beginners since they don’t require much experience to keep.

Discus fish:

Discus fish are known as the king of the aquarium owing to the majestic look and regal colors. 

They mainly come from the lowland Amazon River and its tributaries. Discus fish grow up to 15 inches (45cms) in length in the wild; however, they grow up to a maximum of 10 inches (25cms) long in captivity. They live up to 10 years in captivity; they can live up to 15 years if the right care and environment are provided.

Though Discus is a peaceful species, thanks to the Cichlid family inheritance and their size, it’s quite common for them to eat smaller species and be aggressive during the mating time. 

They are schooling species; hence the experts recommend a group minimum of 6 specimens in a tank; furthermore, they are non-aggressive and do well with other non-aggressive species. 

Bolivian Ram:

Bolivian Ram is another peaceful Cichlid species; they are also known as Butterfly Ram, Ruby Cichlid, Bolivian Butterfly Cichlid.

They are popular in the aquarium trade like their relatives, Angelfish, Discus fish, and Oscars.

The golden-brown color of the Bolivian Ram gives them an attractive multicolored highlight. They grow about 3.5 inches (10cms) in length with spiky fins. With optimal living conditions, they can live up to 5 years.

They are omnivores; like most cichlids, they are bottom-feeders and feed on leftovers, worms, and vertebrates. 

Bolivian Ram makes an excellent addition to a community tank.

German Blue Ram:

The Blue Ram is a peaceful Cichlid, also known as Electric Blue Ram or Butterfly Cichlids owing to their colors. They have a reputation for the best Cichlid for community tanks. German Blue Ram are not attached to any particular region or space; they move around everywhere with no preferences.

Corydoras, Clown loach, Guppies, Platies, Kuhli loach, Rummy Nose tetras, Neon Tetras make excellent tank mates to Electric Blue Ram with other peaceful dwarf cichlids.

Keyhole Cichlid:

The Keyhole is another peaceful species that grow up to only 5-inches by length; they have a black spot on the upper quarter of their body that gives them their common name keyhole. Their lifespan is about 8 to 10 years in optimal living conditions.

Keyhole Cichlids are shy and often hide rather than playing in the open. By implication, they do well with other non-aggressive fishes and often back down from a fight. Hence, they are an excellent choice when looking for types of cichlids that can live together.

Masked Julie:

Masked Julie, also known as Black and White Julie, is an attractive African Dwarf Cichlid. They are the smallest of the genus; the species grow to a maximum of 2.75 inches (7 cms) long.
They are omnivores and feed on planktons, zooplankton, crustaceans, mollusks, etc. Julies are peaceful in temperament; they stick to the rocks except during mealtime.
Masked Juli is another excellent choice when you wonder about the types of cichlids that can live together.
Besides the fishes mentioned above, you can also introduce Rainbow Cichlids, Kribensis, Epistles, Apistogramma, Severums, etc.

Top Cichlids to Avoid in Your General Tank:

All Cichlids have some facet of aggression in them; however, some are easier to keep in a community tank or together. When we ponder on the types of cichlids that can live together, we might as well take care of the kinds of cichlids you wouldn’t want to keep in the same tank; to maintain a peaceful atmosphere inside your aquarium, knowing these non-compatible Cichlids are vital. Following are those Cichlids that cannot live together.

Convict cichlid: 

Convict Cichlids

Evident to their name, the Convicts can be quite aggressive. Hence, it is best cared for alone in a tank. However, some possible tank mates for the Convict Cichlids are Oscar, Jack Dempsey, Pictus Catfish, Clown Loach, etc.

Jewel Cichlid: 

Jewel Cichlid

This species is highly aggressive, mostly during the breeding season, and hurts other fishes. Apart from this, they are also known for uprooting plant species. 

Though some aquarists tried keeping them Tetras and succeeded, I guess it’s one of the lucky situations. You could try to keep it with Mbuna, but keep a close watch and be ready with another tank to separate them as soon as the fight breaks.

Oscar cichlid: 

The Oscar Cichlid is very popular among aquarists as a large carnivore. Each pair requires up to 120 gallons as they move around and often uproot plants. 

Arowanas, Jack Dempsey, Firemouth, Convict, Severum, Green Terror, Silver Dollar, and you can also keep them with some large tetras such as Diamond Tetra, Bleeding Heart Tetra, Emperor Tetra, Red Eye Tetra, etc.

However, you cannot have small tetra like Ember Tetra, Cardinal Tetra, Neon Tetra, etc., with Oscar.

Jack Dempsey:

Jack Dempsey Fish Size

The Central American large Cichlid, as the name suggests, is very aggressive and feeds on smaller fishes.

Nevertheless, you can still have some tank mates with Jack Dempsey, such as Salvini, Firemouths, Nicaraguan, Pleco, green terrors, Convicts, etc.

The types of cichlids that can live together are fishes that meet specific tank parameters. You can’t decide on the combination based on the degree of aggression alone. The reason is that some non-aggressive cichlids will eat smaller species if the need ever arises.

What are the Best Cichlid Tank Mates?

Types of fish that can live with Cichlids

So, by now, you might have got your answers to the query, “Which are the best types of cichlids that can live together and which cannot?” Now, are you interested to know what kind of other fishes you can keep with Cichlids?

Well, while choosing the best tank mates for your Cichlid, always opt for those fishes that meet specific tank parameters. You can’t decide on the combination based on the degree of aggression alone. The reason is that even some non-aggressive cichlids will eat smaller species if the need ever arises.

Some of the best tank mates for aggressive Cichlids are Plecos, Murray River rainbowfish, Red-eyed tetra, Giant danios, Salmon red rainbowfish, Siamese Algae Eater, Flying fox fish, Clown Loaches, Synodontis catfish, Redtail shark, Leopard bush fish, etc.

What Bottom Feeders can live with Cichlids?

Are you thinking of adding bottom feeders with cichlids? Well, bottom feeders are too big for cichlids to devour once grown and occupy different water areas. As a result, they are quite suitable for a cichlid tank. 

However, there is no guarantee on the reception that the bottom feeders will receive, especially from the Cichlids of African Origin. We recommend adding enough hiding spots in your aquarium and introduce the Cichlids as last in the tank.

Some bottom feeders that you can introduce are as follows:

  • Clown Loach: Are best paired with South American Cichlids.  
  • Pygmy Leopard Catfish: It gels well along with the smaller cichlids.
  • Clown Pleco: They can live with South American and dwarf Cichlids but not the Central American and African ones.
  • Cuckoo Squeaker Catfish: They go well as a tank mate with Malawi, Lake Victoria, and Tanganyika cichlids.  

Tank Set-Up for Cichlids (African, American, and Dwarf)

While setting up a home for your Cichlids, you would always want to remember its natural habitat. The perfect Cichlid tank is the one, which bears a resemblance to their home. Hence, it would be best to create the fish tank to resemble the Cichlids’ natural habitat. For example, African Cichlids from great lakes don’t need much water movement, unlike South American rivers Cichlids. 

Water Parameters: 

American cichlids are used to the acidic range of 6.0-8 pH, while their African cousins prefer a 7.8-8.6 pH range—the water temperature for South American Cichlids 72°-86°F (22°-30°C), whereas for their African cousins ranges from 78°-82°F (23°-28°C). For the African species, try not to use too much soft water and moderate lighting. 

Ammonia and Nitrite levels should be 0, as minimum exposure to these toxic substances can stress your fish. Long-term exposure to Ammonia and Nitrite can make the fish vulnerable to many diseases.

Ensure to check all the necessary parameters with a test kit regularly and correcting any parameters moved away from the recommendations.

Tank Size:

The bigger the tank, the more fishes it can hold. However, we recommend 30 gallons for every specimen of small species group and 50-gallon fishes over 7-inches. A large tank is always best to reduce aggression and increase swimming space. Sounds a bit labor-intensive task, right?

Substrates, Decors, and Plants:

Cichlids have a natural tendency to dig for reasons such as to look for food, to rest, etc. If the substrates are made of green matter, in no time they will destroy it. The best substrate for them is either sand or gravel; sand settles and level itself after sifting; with the gravel substrate, it forms mounds and basins that can add character to your aquarium and niche for the fish.

Your Cichlids will appreciate some rocks with fissures and driftwood with branches to help them establish their territories.

Also, adding hardy plants such as Java fern, Java moss, Anubias, Vallisneria, hornworts, pennyworts, etc., makes the Cichlids tank lively and gives them enough space to explore and establish their territories.


Lighting is essential to bring out the colors and the majestic of your Cichlids. Some aquarists use fluorescent aquarium bulbs to highlight artificial substrate colors, plastic plants, etc. If you want your Cichlids’ real beauty to shine, you can use LED lighting fixtures. 

However, lighting is aesthetical as long as you maintain dim light where your Cichlid inhabits.

Food and Diet for your Cichlids:

Cichlids eat different food from algae to small fish and vertebrates. However, their diet in an aquarium is different from that are in the wild. Cichlids are primarily omnivores, herbivores, and carnivores. However, most of the fishes eat a wide variety of food on availability.
The majority of species eat plants while some eat meat; however, some species even eat a mixture of the two. They also eat homemade fish foods, pellet foods, wafers, and sometimes alive or frozen insects. Herbivorous Cichlids mostly eat plant matter and algae wafers.
As an owner of your fishes, feed your Cichlids only those high in vitamins and easy to digest. Apart from that, the salt content of their feed should be low to prevent intestinal disease.
Wondering how often you should feed your lovely pets? Well, feed your Cichlids once or twice daily for healthy growth. As a rule of thumb, feed only as much as they can finish in 3 minutes. Over-feeding is the primary cause of tank water turning fowl.

Types of Cichlids that can live together – Wrap-up:

If you are looking to have a peaceful community tank, then Cichlids are not the one for you.
Most Cichlids are aggressive with sturdy attitudes. If you are looking to have a lively and colorful aquarium tank and know how to handle aggressive species, then Cichlids are for you.
Despite their aggressive nature and difficulty in handling them, Cichlids remains one of the most popular family among the aquarium enthusiasts; the reasons behind their popularity is not just their looks, but also their strong characters.
An experienced aquarist shouldn’t have a problem with having a Cichlid Aquarium. They add colors not just to your room but also to your life!

1 thoughts on “Types Of Cichlids That Can Live Together – An Aquarium Guide

  1. Athur says:

    Several types of cichlids can live together: the first is the dwarf cichlid because it is small in size and less aggressive. This is followed by the African cichlid. Although they are quite aggressive, because of their size, they do not pose a threat to the larger cichlids. Some of the friendlier species are the angelfish and the discus, which get along well with each other and with other species. In addition, they can withstand high levels of acidity and heat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *