Cichlids – An Overview:
|South America, Africa, Central Asia
|Several Colors and patterns
|1 to 40 inches (2.5 cms to 1 meter depending on species)
|10 to 20 years depending on the species
|Aggressive (there few non-aggressive cichlids)
|Omnivores, predominantly carnivores
|Minimum Tank Size
|30 to 300 gallon (120 to 1200 liters)
|60°-84°F (15.5°-29°C) depending on the species
|6.5 to 8.5 pH depending on the types of cichlids
|5 – 15 dGH (<250 ppm)
|Ammonia & Nitrite
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:
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:
Origin and Distribution:
Best Cichlids Types that can live together:
Types of Cichlids that can live together in a tank:
Here are some of the types of cichlids that can live together:
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.
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 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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.