Aquatics Unlimited: Articles: Cichlids and Cichlids
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Cichlids and Cichlids

for the week of 11/19/98

Most hobbyists have at least heard of the fish family called "Cichlids," but many mistakenly assume that all cichlids are the same - too mean for community tanks, but can be kept together with all other cichlids. The truth is, however, that the cichlid family is very large and includes fish of many sizes and levels of aggression.

Small (less than 6") Community Cichlids: includes Rams and other Apistogramma species from the Americas, the Chromides from Asia, Kribensis and other Pelvicachromis and Nannochromis from West Africa, and many of the smaller Lamprologus, Julidochromis and Telmatochronis from East Africa. While still territorial, most of these fish have small enough territories to allow them to mix with other active fish (larger tetras, barbs, danios, livebearers) in tanks 30 gallons or larger.

Small (less than 6") Aggressive Cichlids: includes the Jewel cichlids from West Africa, and some of the smaller species of Pseudotropheus, Labidochromis and Melanochromis usually listed as "African Cichlids" from East Africa. These are best kept in a group of a dozen or more assorted in a tank 50 gallons or larger. Sometimes other very active (large danios or barbs), unrelated fish are left alone as well.

Medium (6" to 12") Community Cichlids: includes the beautiful Angel Fish, Discus, Festivum, and Severum from the Americas and most of the Peacock (Aulonocara and Trematocranus species) from East Africa. These fish are best kept in larger (minimum 30 gallon, but 50 is better yet) aquariums, and generally mix with other active fish near their size.

Medium Aggressive (6" to 10") Cichlids: includes Jack Dempsey, Firemouth and other Cichlasoma species from the Americas, and the remaining Pseudotropheus and Melanochromis "African Cichlids" from East Africa. These again should be kept in at least a dozen assorted in a 50 gallon or larger aquarium. The American fish in this group can also be kept as a mated pair in a more moderate size (30 gallon) aquarium. Although American and African cichlids in this group are about equally aggressive, they generally do not mix well in the same tank.

Large (10" and up) Community Cichlids: includes "Oscars" and Peacock Bass from the Americas, Mozambiques and other Tilapia species from Africa, and many of the Haplochromis (venustus, polystigma, livingstoni, etc...) from East Africa. Large aquariums (70 gallons and up) are a must, but these fish can often be kept with other large fish like Clown Knives, Shovelnose and other large catfish, Arawanas, and the like.

Large (10" and up) Aggressive Cichlids: includes Red Devils, Red Terrors, Black Belts and a few other American species. These fish often wind up alone, but sometimes can be kept with other very aggressive species in large aquariums.

For more advice on aggressive "community" tanks, see Mixing the Meanies.


"Tip of the week" appeared regularly in 1999 and 2000.

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