Top 12 Aggressive Cichlids (With Pictures)

Aggressive Cichlids Cockatoo Cichlid

Aggressive Cichlids have often been unfairly stigmatized due to a lack of understanding about their behavior, care requirements, and compatible tank mates.

In this article we will provide a summary of a selection of popular cichlids considered to have an aggressive nature.

Our hope is that we can shed some light on the least risky approach to keeping this species.

The fish we feature are, by nature, aggressive and for that reason should only be kept by aquarium enthusiasts who are willing to put the effort into learning about the needs of these fish and to set up their tanks to be suitable for housing them.

By taking the correct steps, the risks of potential upsets will be avoided.

There are certain aggressive cichlids that simply will never be acceptable to be kept in a community tank due to their excessive natural aggressions, whilst there will be others that can live with tankmates so long fish keepers understand what considerations are required.

Why Keep Aggressive Cichlids?

Aggressive Cichlids

Aquarium enthusiasts keep aggressive cichlids for the curiosity and perhaps the exhilaration of watching their behaviors. Watching their fish defending territory, breeding, hunting food and challenging one another, all add to the lure of this type of fish.

In addition, many aggressive species of fish have spectacular colors together with an “attitude”. spiking the curiosity of enthusiasts.

I remember one of my first experiences as a teenager, being fascinated by the behavior of a pair of Oscars kept by a friend.

He would tease the fish by holding a live cockroach up to the tank. The fish would be watching intently the squirming insect and its excitement was evident. My friend would then drop the live cockroach into the tank.

The roach skirted across the water surface. The fish immediately switched into hunting mode and tracked the cockroach. Within a split second, an enormous, frenzied splash!

The roach was engulfed! The fish then swam around with it half protruding from its mouth, proudly showing off his prize.

How to Reduce Aggressiveness in Cichlids?

The following steps can reduce aggression in fish:

  • Provide proper tank conditions: Make sure the tank has the water parameters (Temperature, pH, hardness, flow) to prevent stress-induced aggression.
  • Add hiding places: Incorporate extra hiding spots in the aquarium to give fish a refuge from potential predators and bullies, reducing their stress levels. It also permits more areas for fish to establish their territories.
  • Provide ample space: Give fish enough space to live comfortably. Overcrowding can lead to aggression. To separate aggressive individuals, consider dividing the tank.
  • Maintain water quality: Regularly part change the water to maintain optimal conditions. Use a suitable biological filter. Poor water quality can contribute to stress and aggression.
  • Use tall plants: Plants create a natural environment and provide hiding spots, helping to ease aggression.
  • Spread the food: Ensure food is offered around the tank, some floating and some sinking, when feeding aggressive fish in a community tank. Dropping food in the flow of power heads will help spread it around the tank.
  • Remove Bullies: If necessary, remove troublesome fish.
  • Keep fish in schools: some species benefit from being kept in harmonious groups where the pecking order has been established and they feel secure with others of their own kind.

These steps can help minimize aggression, but it’s important to monitor fish behavior and make adjustments as necessary.

12 Popular Aggressive Cichlids Fish Kept by Aquarists

Peacock Bass Cichlid


The Peacock Bass Cichlids look stunning in an aquarium. They display iridescent patches in blue, gold, black, and sometimes green or red colors. Peacocks are found in South America and are often sort after by anglers for sport fishing in South Florida,

Peacocks possess unpredictable nature. They are territorial creatures requiring ample hiding spaces due to their size.

Being predators, they are prone to eating any fish that can fit in their mouths. The best suited tankmates are semi-aggressive species such as Green Terrors, Oscars, and Zebra Tilapia.

Peacocks grow large and require a large tank to accommodate them! Provide plenty of hiding spaces, providing choice for individuals to claim a territory of their own.

Jack Dempsey

Jack Dempsey Cichlid

The Jack Dempsey cichlid is one of the most aggressive fish kept by fish enthusiasts. They originate from Central America’s slow-moving freshwater rivers

The fish was named after the 1920’s boxer, Jack Dempsey, because of its fighting appearance. Jack Demseys tend to chase, bite, and bully smaller and more vulnerable fish.

Dempseys are a beautiful fish to keep in an aquarium. They are considered quite intelligent and will interact with their owners. Adult fish display dark purple-gray background contrasted with shimmering light blue, green, and gold spangle spots.

Whether kept with other fish or on its own, provide this species with a large tank (minimum 80 gallons) and plenty of places for fish to hide. Adult fish grow to 7 – 8 inches.

Despite its hostile behavior, the Jack Dempsey can be housed with other larger species that also have a semi-aggressive nature. Oscars make excellent tankmates – keep more than one to avoid bullying.

With correct care and appropriate tankmates, this species of fish is easy to keep. Their unique appearance and personalities, make them an appealing choice for aquarists seeking an aggressive freshwater fish.

Poor Man’s Tropheus

Aggressive Cichlids Tropheus annectens

The Poor Man’s Tropheus (Neetroplus nematopus) is a highly aggressive cichlid species found in Lake Malawi in East Africa. These aggressive freshwater fish can kill fish larger than itself. It displays violent behavior towards all other fish, particularly during breeding.

It is best to keep them in pairs only. Some fish keepers have had success keeping them with other fish, but most prefer housing them in pairs or as solitary specimens.

This species eats algae from rocks in the lakes they inhabit. Feed a spirulina based flake and pellet.

While not super colorful, their colors intensify during breeding.

Providing territories, in the form of caves and decorations, in the aquarium for them to defend can help reduce their aggression.

It is advisable to only keep them with fish that can hold their own against them. If kept as a single species, keep 12 – 15 specimens in a tank with at least 65 gallons.

Green Texas Cichlid

Green Texas Cichlid

The Green Texas Cichlid is a hybrid developed by crossing the Flowerhorn Cichlid and Texas Cichlid. It is a sparkly and beautifully speckled fish making it an attractive fish for the aquarium.

The Green Texas Cichlid is known to eat fish that can fit in its mouth, making it unsuitable for peaceful community tanks.

It displays a highly aggressive attitude and temperament, especially during feeding time.

While Texas Cichlids can be kept alone, it is best to keep them with other cichlids or house them with fish of similar aggression levels that are large enough to avoid being eaten, such as Red-tailed sharks, Silver Dollars, Oscars, Plecos, Giant Gourami and Giant Danios.

They enjoy dimly lit aquariums with roots or décor that resemble roots and caves. Texas Cichlids will uproot plants in the tank, so floating plants would be better. Their tanks need to be at least 50 gallons.

Umbee Cichlid

The Umbee Cichlid is an extremely aggressive fish that must be kept on its own. It will attack and try to kill any fish in its territory.

It grows to around 2 feet long and aggressively defends its fry during breeding.

The Umbee is a top predator in its natural habitat, it primarily preys on other fish but also consumes crustaceans, frogs, and small mammals.

In terms of color, appearance, aggression, and personality; the Umbee Cichlids rival other South American cichlids. Fish enthusiasts enjoy this species because of its high intelligence and how it shows interest in their surroundings.

With proper management of their aggression and other requirements, theUmbee are not difficult to care for. A super large custom tank or pond is necessary for long-term housing.

Wolf Cichlid

Aggressive Cichlids Wolf Cichlid

The highly territorial and aggressive Wolf Cichlid (also known as Dovii) should only be kept with other large fish that can hold their own against the Wolf Cichlid.

This species becomes very territorial and aggressive particularly when breeding. Therefore during times of breeding they are best kept as bonded pairs.

The wolf cichlid is a predatory species and will hunt down and eat smaller fish. They are adapted to have a large mouth strong jaw bone and large teeth, all meant for catching and eating prey.

The fish looks menacing, with its solid body, and imposing eye shape. It comes in ranging colors from yellow to silver.

If kept alone in a large tank, this fish is easy to care for and makes a wonderful pet. It is a very alert fish, responsive to its environment and showing great intelligence. Wolf cichlids will even interact with its owners.

They are not suitable for community aquariums and require specialized care.

Convict Cichlid

Aggressive Convict Cichlid

As juveniles, the Convict Cichlid, is a peaceful fish which seeks the security of being in a group. As this fish matures it will bond with a mate and, like many other cichlid species, becomes territorial. It is known for its unprovoked aggression, biting and chasing behaviors.

When defending their territories, they can overpower and attack more powerful fish until death. For that reason they are not recommended for keeping in community aquariums.

Provide a tank with plenty of space for this fish to move about and for its territory. Fill the tank with plenty of hiding spaces to help reduce aggression.

Providing ample hiding places in the tank can help reduce aggression.

Among aggressive cichlids, convicts are regarded as a good choice for beginner fish keepers.

Convict cichlids are popular due to their easy care and coloration – striking blue-black striped pattern on a grey-blue background.

Red Devil Cichlid

Red Devil Cichlids are very aggressive territorial freshwater fish. They will attack other fish in the tank, including other Red Devils.

They are energetic fish that are quite destructive in the aquarium, moving around décor and destroying aquarium plants. For some fish keepers, this adds to their interest in this entertaining species.

Red Devils are very popular with fish enthusiasts. They have boundless personalities and great intelligence.

Red Devils will interact with people, sometimes approaching the front of the tank as if asking for treats.

The best tankmates for this species include other Red Devils, and other cichlid species with a similar personality and aggressiveness – species such as Convict cichlids, Jaguar cichlids and Jack Demseys.

Jaguar Cichlid

Aggressive Jaguar Cichlids

Aquarists keep the Jaguar Cichlid for its striking coloration and predatory aggressive behavior. These fish grow large, up to 3.5 pounds and 16+ inches long. Males will grow larger than females. They therefore require a very large tank to accommodate them – minimum of 100 gallons for one pair.

It gets its name from its likeness to a big predatory wild cat and displays a similar mean attitude. Jaguar cichlids have striking patterns and bright colors.

Jaguars are predatory fish and will eat smaller fish in the tank. Only match them with other Jugar cichlids or other species of cichlid that can hold their own against them, such as Demsey cichlids and Red Devils.

Jaguars engage in violent fights as they battle over territory. If breeding this fish, keep them in a tank of their own as a bonded breeding pair. Both male and female should be of similar size.

When starting out with this species, populate the tank with two to three juvenile pairs. They will establish a pecking order and grow together in the tank. Don’t introduce new Jaguar cichlids into the tank with already established adult fish. It will like result in the new fish being killed.

Once established with a suitable tank, Jaguar Cichlids are easy to keep and will live up to fifteen years.

Bumblebee Cichlid


Bumblebee cichlids (Pseudotropheus crabro) are territorial and aggressive. They establish, and fiercely defend, their territories making them unsuitable for communal tanks.

Bumblebee cichlids are particularly aggressive towards other Bumblebee males. It is best to only keep only one male in the tank, with around six females.

Male Bumblebees are also aggressive towards other cichlid species. Unless the tankmates can stand up to the aggressiveness of this fish, they will be bullied and harassed.

Bumblebees look stunning in an aquarium with their yellow base color with darker brown vertical stripes, resembling a bumblebee.

They grow to around 6.3 inches, with males being larger and more brightly colored than females.

An interesting fact is that they are also known to eat parasites from other catfish species.

Acai Cichlid

Acai Cichlid Aggressive Cichlids

Acei cichlids (Pseudotropheus Acei), or Yellow Tailed Cichlid, are generally peaceful fish and can be housed in a community aquarium. However, these fish can become aggressive when stressed or during breeding.

Acei cichlids are a species from Lake Malawi in Africa. They typically grow to around 6 inches (15 cm) in length.

Aceis have quick and relentless energy reserves, and may chase and nip at other fish’s fins for extended periods.

When being fed, they can become aggressive as they compete for the food, whilst at the same time be defending their territories.

Aceis may not be a large fish, but they can still cause great damage to other fish if aggressive.

They like a moderate to high water flow and a well-oxygenated tank. Give them a balanced diet that includes both plant and animal foods.

Ensure the aquarium has plenty of rocky decor, providing hiding places and areas for establishing territories.

Keep this species in groups as this will show off their natural behaviours. Keep one male for several females.

With the right care this species can live up to 8 years.

Jewel Cichlid


When provoked or hungry Jewel Cichlids are know to be very aggressive. They will nip at other fish or engage in intense fights resulting in injury or even death of the other fish in the tank. This aggression is very evident when these fish are hungry and battle for food.

Jewel cichlids are one of the most aggressive cichlid species kept in aquariums. If kept in a pair in a community tank, they will unlikely tolerate any other fish that ventures in their territory.

Therefore it is best to keep these fish as a single fish species with plenty of space for them to establish and defend their own territories. A 40 gallon tank would house two pairs adequately.

The Jewel Cichlid has very attractive colors, especially during times of breeding when their colors are heightened. The head and stomach turn a fiery red and the scales on their sides and gill plates sparkle like blue-green diamonds.

Why Do Aquarists Keep Aggressive Cichlids?

Many fish keepers gravitate towards keeping aggressive freshwater fish because of their stunning visual qualities and the way these fish contribute to the dynamic ecosystem within an aquarium that has been set up right for the nature of these fish.

They are drawn to the allure of colorful hostile fish and have successfully integrated them into thriving aquariums.

Many aggressive cichlid species, demonstrate to be very intelligent and even interact with their owners.

By understanding their behaviors and meeting their specific care requirements, aggression can be managed effectively, allowing for a captivating and harmonious aquatic environment.

Final Thoughts on Aggressive Cichlids

Cichlids are widespread and very popular with Aquarists. In most cases these fish are easy to keep once they are well understood. With correct care, the right tank habitat, careful consideration of tankmates and a suitable sized tank, aggressive cichlids will thrive and entertain you for years.

We have an article on Aggressive Freshwater Fish where we feature Aggressive Cichlids not covered in this article. If interested in hearing what we have to say about Piranhas and Oscars check it out HERE.


The 7 Best Dwarf Cichlids for Your Aquarium [complete guide]

The 7 Best Dwarf Cichlids for Your Aquarium [complete guide]

Dwarf cichlids have big character for such tiny fish. They do well in a tropical community tank. While some species do well alone, others do best in trios or couples.

Cichlids are a group of fish that fish enthusiasts misunderstand as aggressive and territorial. This idea is why some hobbyists often do not prefer them. Cichlids are also blamed for digging up gravel and plants. Because of this, they are not as fashionable as their other fish counterparts.

Fortunately, the Dwarf Cichlids are quite different from their larger Cichlid cousins. These fish species are much less aggressive and will live harmoniously with other fish species in the same aquarium.

Another great attribute of the Dwarf Cichlids is that they do not need much care, so long as you keep them in larger aquariums. Dwarves add interest to the aquarium with their colors and character, giving hobbyists great satisfaction. Keeping and breeding the fish is an easy task.

Types of Dwarf Cichlids

There are two main kinds of Dwarf Cichlids: the African Dwarf Cichlids and the South American Dwarf Cichlids. It must be noted that these two species of fish usually require different water parameters. The African Dwarf Cichlid are generally good community fish. However, the South American Dwarf Cichlids prefer to be alone in their environment.

There are more than 90 different species of Dwarf Cichlids! In this article we have selected six of the best South American Dwarf Cichlids and one from Africa that we think are a definitely worth considering for your aquarium.

The 7 Best Dwarf Cichlids for Your Aquarium- Butterfly Cichlid

Dwarf Cichlid Color Varieties

Some of the most popular South American Dwarf Cichlids kept by hobbyists include Blue Rams, Bolivian Rams and various species of Apistogramma. Whist some species are thought to be challenging to keep, captive bred Cichlid strains are becoming more available and are well suited to aquarium life. New and appealing color morphs continue to be established by breeders.

Captive bred Cichlids have quite diverse characteristics even within the same species, featuring innumerable colors and patterns. Male Cichlids will generally have quite different color variations to females.

Cockatoos with their long striking orange and black fins and Blue Rams with blue hues and unique patterns- these will liven up your tank. Then there are the Dwarves that have gentle colors and patterns that will blend into the landscape.

Dwarf Cichlids

How Long Do Dwarf Cichlids Live?

Although the lifespan of Dwarf Cichlids can vary slightly between species, the typical life prospect of most is up to five years. However, many fish keepers report their cichlids live longer than that, with some fish living ten or more years if given optimal care and a high-quality diet.

What Do They Eat?

Feed your cichlid flakes or pelleted food. They are omnivores and thrive on a nutritious balanced fish food such as Aqueon Tropical Flakes, Shrimp pellets and foods specifically formulated for Cichlids.

Time how much food your fish eats in 3 minutes, then and feed them that quantity twice daily. Offer frozen or freeze-dried brine shrimp or bloodworms as treats.

Wild caught Cichlids can be fussy eaters and may require live foods to begin with, but eventually they will accept frozen and dry foods.

Nannacaraanomala (Golden Dwarf Cichlid)

Dwarf Cichlids

Golden Dwarf Cichlids are lovely little fish with a golden and blue colors. Their hardiness and suitability for a peaceful community tank make them an ideal choice. They should be housed in tanks of at least 20 gallons.

The male is easy to tell from the female. He will be larger with brighter colors.

Captive bred Golden Dwarf will accept just about any tropical fish food. It is important that they are given a rich nutritionally balanced food. They enjoy frozen food and freeze-dried foods too.

The Golden Dwarf Cichlid has been bred in captivity for many years. Due to them being well acclimatized to captive breeding, they are a fish that breeds readily for hobbyists.

They prefer slightly acidic water and a slightly higher temperature (than usual) when breeding. The female does become aggressive when she lays her eggs, chasing off other fish including the male Dwarf Cichlids. If in a small tank, the male should be removed.

Ensure the tank has places for the female to lay her eggs, such as caves. The eggs hatch after a few days and can be fed on newly hatched brine shrimp.


Egyptian Mouthbrooder (Pseudocrenilabrus multicolor)

Dwarf Cichlids

This species has been bred in captivity for over a century. They are very hardy fish and a great dwarf cichlid for beginners.

Egyptian Mouthbrooder Dwarf Cichlids accept most foods. A quality cichlid pellet/flake can be fed as staple. They also require variety, so the inclusion of live and frozen foods will keep them at their best.

This species can be aggressive towards other fish that live in the lower parts of the aquarium. If keeping them with other dwarf cichlids, catfish, and loaches, you’ll require a larger tank so they can all have territory.

In smaller aquariums, they do well with fish that inhabit the upper reaches of the tank; fish such as African tetras, hatchetfish, danios and barbs. Males are very aggressive towards each another and only one should be kept with one or more females.

Males are usually larger and more colorful than females.

The Egyptian Mouthbrooder Dwarf Cichlid is easy to breed. Being a mouth-brooder, it is enjoyable to watch them breed. Leading up to breeding feed your fish a high-quality diet of frozen and live foods. This gets them into prime breeding condition.

Ensure there are secluded areas in the aquarium for the fish to breed. When in condition, the male will dig-out a shallow pit in the gravel. He will then attempt to entice the females to spawn with him. He does this by displaying and sometimes forcefully ‘encouraging’ the females.

When willing, the female and male will tightly circle one another, and the eggs will be released. The female picks them up in her mouth. She will hold 5-100 eggs in her buccal cavity.

After ten days the brood will hatch. The free swimming fry are released by the female and can be fed on newly hatched brine shrimp, microworm and powdered dried foods.

Neolamprologus multifasciatus

Dwarf Cichlids

These attractive small fish have an enormously interesting trait; they tend to establish small territories (6” across) around large snail shells that they will defend vigorously. They will even nip fingers that get too close!

This smallest of the dwarfs, is a highly recommended species because they will entertain you with their unique territorial behaviors.

They require at least a 10 gallon (40 L) tank is needed for a colony. In their natural environment they seek out large open areas of sandy substrate where there are numerous empty shells. By replicating this, the colony will happily set up their territory in amongst these shells. The fish will landscape the area, so ensure the substrate is deep enough.

They generally accept dried foods, however, live and frozen foods will ensure they thrive and it brings them into breeding condition.

Due to their territorial aggressive manner, it is best to house a colony of these cichlids with fish that like to inhabit other areas in the aquarium.

To maintain cohesion with the colony, make sure you provide more shells than fish and keep many more females than males. Males and females look similar. Males will have a more intense color and a reddish tint to the top part of the dorsal fin.

Breeding these little fish is easy. They may breed in the community tank, but it will be more successful in a separate tank. Make sure there are plenty of shells, as the female will lay her eggs in these. They like a hard and alkaline water with a high pH of 8 to 8.5. The temperature should be 77-80°F.

Keep several females per male and space the shells out to reduce territorial aggression between the males.
Females will display in front of their shells to gain the attention of males. The female will lay her eggs in the shell, which will then be fertilized by the male.

After spawning the male plays no further role and the female will see him off. The eggs hatch after a day and become free swimming fry within a week. As the fry grow they will venture further away from the shell and eventually being chased off by the female.

Feed fry on newly hatched brine shrimp or microworm.

A colony of Neolamprologus Multifasciatus is a must for hobbyists interested in this little fish’s unusual habits.

Cockatoo Dwarf (Apistogramma cacatuoides)

Dwarf Cichlids

Being one of the most popular of the dwarf cichlids, Apistogramma Cacatuoides  are a perfect starter cichlid for beginners. They may be small in stature, but by no means small in personality. These species gets its name from their stunning cockatoo-crest-like dorsal fins.

Hobbyists have been breeding Cockatoo Dwarfs for many years and have been able to fix several different color variants.

Male and female fish are quite different in looks. The males develops an enlarged head once sexually mature. This seems to continue to enlarge throughout its life. They have huge mouths that they gape to threaten other males in their territory.

A very hardy fish that can take most water types. Heaters are even optional so long as the room doesn’t get overly cold (not below 60°F). This is not the case with their Cichlid cousins, that prefer warmer water.

Cockatoo dwarfs dwell at the bottom of aquariums. Having a longer aquarium with lots of floor area with 20+ gallons of water would suit best.

Cockatoo Dwarfs are not very picky when it comes to foods. Feed live food daily and supplement with flakes, pellet food, freeze-dried and frozen food.

To bring them into breeding condition, feed live food such as blackworm and brine shrimp.

Cockatoos are cave spawners. Ensure there are many caves in the aquarium, at least one for each female. Openings should face away from one another providing privacy.

The males will battle it out for dominance. Only the dominant males will get to breed. The dominant male will be the brightest colored of the colony and he will be proudly dancing around out in the open to impress the girls! It is best to remove the sub-dominant males from the tank during breeding, unless there is plenty of space for them to hide.

Aggressive males have been known to kill rival males. Each male should have a harem of about four females.
After courting the female lays her eggs on the inner walls of her cave. The male will then fertilize them. The caves need to be large enough to accommodate the male.

When the eggs hatch the female takes charge and herds the fry around the tank foraging for food.

The Cockatoo Dwarf are an addictive starter cichlid. You’ll be hooked by their colors and intriguing behaviors as they go about their lives in a colony.

ApistosApistogramma Trifasciata 

Dwarf Cichlids

Apistogramma trifasciata (Apistos) are small, brightly colored striped fish with a quiet nature, making them very suitable for a community aquarium. The Three Striped Dwarf Cichlid is one of the most brightly colored of this species.

This cichlid is not considered a fish for beginners. A tank of at least 25 gallons is recommended to keep a colony of these fish. It needs to be well planted as the Apistos requires places to hide and to establish their colony.

They require well filtered not too hard (0-12 dH) water, with a temperature of between 71-86F and pH of 5-7. With these conditions, along with a quality diet, Apistos will live five to ten years.

With a preference to inhabit the bottom of the tank, these fish do best with fish that don’t share their lower tank space. Avoid aggressive fish species, as Apistos may become their targets. The best tank mates include: Cardinal Tetras, Otocinclus Catfish, Lemon Tetras, Neon Tetras, Pygmy Corydoras and Rasboras.

Apistos are easy to breed if all their conditions are met. They like the water warm with very little flow. Like most cichlids, these fish are very protective of their eggs and fry. The females defend their nests and the male the territory.

Success with breeding will increase when using a separate breeding tank as opposed to a community tank.

Either breed in pairs, or one male with several females. Two males will fight. The female will coax the male into the breeding area where she spawns, and he fertilizes the eggs.

Once hatched the fry will eat primarily algae.

Apistogramma trifasciata are omnivores and require a balanced diet of plant based foods and protein from live foods or freeze dried foods (brine shrimp, insect larva, worms, fish fry). The food needs to be able to sink to the bottom where they live.

With a little attention to water parameters, these intriguing quiet-natured cichlids make a great addition to the aquarium.

Rainbow Krib – Pelvicachromis Pulcher

Dwarf Cichlids

We selected the Rainbow Krib, or Kribensis, to be one of our best dwarf cichlids picks. This one is not a South American species, but rather from Africa, inhabiting the shallow weedy waters of Southern Nigeria and Cameroon.

The colors on these fish are enhanced during spawning. During breeding time the female sports a striking cherry-red colored belly. Even when not spawning they are attractive fish with many colors.

Rainbow Kribs do well in community tanks, however, their tank mates need to be carefully considered. Although generally peaceful, the Rainbow Krib may nip the fins of slow moving long finned tropical fish. Being bottom dwellers, it is best to house with fish that inhabit other areas of the tank, especially other species of cichlid.

Provide several caves in the tank for the fish to select as their own. The caves should have a single entry, be dark and stable. Half ceramic flower pots and coconut shells make great caves. Being territorial, these fish will compete with other fish seeking caves.

A well planted aquarium with some open spaces is ideal for them. They like to burrow and may uproot plants. Rainbow Kibs can tolerate a wide range of water conditions.

Rainbow Kribs are omnivorous and will happily eat flake or pellet food. Supplement their diet with live or freeze dried foods of shrimp, brine shrimp, daphnia, mosquito lava and bloodworms.

Females are smaller than males and develop the bright red spot on their stomachs when in breeding condition. Males are longer and thinner and less colored.

If you decide to breed this species, it is best to do so with them in their own tank. Males become very aggressive whilst spawning and when caring for the fry. Offer several caves for breeding and make sure the substrate gravel is fine (under 3mm). Fry and eggs get lost in larger gravel.

Condition the pair of cichlids with a generous diet that includes live foods. The female will display her red-cherry abdomen when she is ready to spawn. She will embark on an enticing courtship display. She may become aggressive as well during this time.

The pair will dig the gravel beneath the cave when preparing to spawn. 200-300 eggs will be laid. The female will stay in the cave with eggs, then fry until the fry are free swimming. The male will defend the territory. When leaving the cave, the fry will stick to their parents closely.

Feed free swimming fry newly hatched brine shrimp and finely crumbled flake food. The parents (or may only be one parent as they may begin to fight) will remain with the fry for 2-4 weeks.

Maybe this hardy African dwarf cichlid is the one for you. Easy to keep and breed and fun to watch!

Yellow Dwarf – Apistogramma borellii

Dwarf Cichlids


Apistogramma borellii or Yellow Dwarf Cichlid (Umbrella Cichlid) enjoys a well-planted aquarium with good depths and plenty of caves. They are peaceful, hardy and are tolerant to a wide range of water conditions. The Yellow Dwarf are an ideal choice for beginners due to their peaceful nature, hardiness and easy mix within a community tank.

Males grow to around 3 inches, and females 2 inches. Being mostly carnivorous, they require a diet rich in live and freeze-dried foods.

These small fish are compatible with most non-aggressive fish. Great tank mates include barbs, danios, tetras, live bearers.

They can take a wide range of water conditions, however, to be ideal a temperature of 75 – 81F, a pH of 5.0 – 7.0 and a water harness of between 1 – 10 dGH.

The female is more colorful than the male, yet the finnage of the male is somewhat more spectacular.

This species dwells near the bottom of the tank, requiring a substrate they can sift through and burrow into. Hobbyists will enjoy watching them excavating their territories using their mouths. The downside is they tend to dig up plants (use deep rooted plants and weighted stones and driftwood to hold them down). They like the shade of floating leaves and are used to tannins in creeks and rivers. So floating Indian Almond Leaves helps with providing a natural environment for them.

The Yellow Dwarf Cichlid is a harem species where several females live in a colony with one male. They make excellent parents to a brood of fry. The female will tend to the brood, whilst the male protects them and defends the territory.

During breeding the male becomes very territorial. 50-100 eggs will be laid in a line on flat shale, rocks or within the cave. The male will follow behind her and fertilize the eggs. The eggs hatch in about two days and the fry free swimming in about 5 days. Feed newly hatched brine shrimp.

The fry can be left with their mother for two to three weeks before being removed to their own tank.

Turn down water pumps to reduce water flow in the tank during breeding.

When buying your first Yellow Dwarf Cichlids by a group of about six. It is unlikely you’ll be able to sex young fish. They will sort themselves out over time.

Live Cichlids For Sale Comparison Table

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Appropriate Feeding for South American Cichlids

In nature, South American Cichlids have a preference for insect larvae, small worms and other invertebrates. In aquariums they readily accept commercial flake or pellet food. It is important to offer them live or freeze-dried high protein foods, especially leading up to breeding time. South American cichlids are mostly carnivores. Check individual species for their dietary requirements.

Correct Maintenance for South American Cichlids

South American Dwarf cichlids are quite resilient and can live within wide water parameters. Periodic partial water changes are an important component of maintenance, as well as cleaning of the substrate and filters. With efficient biological filters and an aquarium that is not over stoked, water changes are not as important.

Many cichlids come from ‘backwater’ creeks and drains and live in amongst decaying leaves and weeds. The water can be quite acidic containing tannin. Keeping this in mind, it may be a good idea that these fish have access to plant material both living and dead. Dead leaves (of sea almond, beech oak or walnut), Alder cones, Indian Almond or peat. With some species, this will entice fish to breed.


Oak leaves that sit on the bottom of the tank are great since they remain stiff while wet. Dwarf cichlids love to swim through the labyrinth of leaves and to live in leafy habitats. You need plenty of rockwork, caves, passages, flower pots, coconut shells, driftwood and/or other ornaments.


Some species of Dwarf cichlids live in environments where the substrates are mostly mud or sand. Many species enjoy sifting through sand to find food or to excavate their ‘dens’. Having a layer of gravel an inch or more deep will provide plenty of substrate for digging. If breeding cichlids, it is better to have a small diameter substrate (less than 3mm) as fry and eggs can be lost in the amongst the gravel. Certain species of cichlid prefer dark gravel, and others light.


Dwarf cichlids do not eat or damage aquatic plants, so you can use pretty much any species of plant that tolerate water levels. Some Dwarf cichlids will uproot plants when digging. Use plants with good roots and pin them down with stones.  Floating plants replicate the wild, providing shade and shelter from predator fish. These may be a good addition.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of Dwarf cichlids that are suitable for a peaceful community aquarium. Always do your research and parry up your new cichlids with other aquatic creatures that enjoy the same water parameters as them. If you introduce Dwarf Cichlids to your aquarium it is certain that you’ll be entertained and the decision won’t be regrettable, in fact it is highly likely that you become addicted to this quirky species!