15 Common Types of Cichlids


If you’re planning to set up a cichlid tank, you’re in for a vibrant and diverse aquarium experience. Cichlids are popular among aquarium enthusiasts due to their unique behaviors, stunning colors, and variety of species. With so many options out there, selecting the right cichlids can feel overwhelming.

This guide will help you navigate through 15 different types of cichlids that could be perfect for your tank, considering factors like looks, temperament, and care requirements. Whether you’re a seasoned aquarist or a beginner, these selections offer something for everyone, ensuring that your tank will be both beautiful and harmonious.

1) African Peacock

African Peacock cichlids are popular in the aquarium hobby due to their vibrant colors and active behavior. They’re freshwater fish from the cichlid family found in Africa’s Lake Malawi. Their colors include blues, reds, yellows, purples, and more, making them a stunning addition to any tank.

Males typically grow to around 6 inches, whereas females are slightly smaller, usually maxing out at 4 inches. They have a fusiform body shape with six fins, including a long, spiny dorsal fin that extends along their spine.

African Peacocks are known to be relatively peaceful compared to other cichlids, making them a good choice for community tanks. Just ensure their tank mates aren’t overly aggressive or too small.

There are over 20 different species of African Peacocks. Some of the most common types include the red peacock cichlid, with its striking red hues, and the blue peacock cichlid, known for its vivid blue coloring.

Their ideal tank setup includes plenty of rocky structures and hiding places to mimic their natural habitat. They prefer a sandy substrate and water parameters similar to their native Lake Malawi, with a pH between 7.5 and 8.5.

Regular maintenance and a balanced diet are essential for keeping African Peacocks healthy. Feed them a variety of foods like high-quality pellets, live foods, and vegetables to ensure a well-rounded diet. With proper care, they can live up to 10 years, although there are instances of them living as long as 15 years.

2) Oscar

Oscars are a type of cichlid that are quite popular in the aquarium hobby. They belong to the Cichlidae family and are scientifically known as Astronotus ocellatus. Initially, there were only three types: Red, Tiger, and Albino Oscars.

Through generations of cross-breeding, you can now find varieties like Blue Oscar, White Oscar, and the elegant Veil Tail Oscar. These fish not only come in various colors but also exhibit different fin shapes.

Oscars are native to the Amazon River region and parts of Paraguay. They can grow quite large, usually up to 12 inches in captivity, and have a reputation for being interactive and intelligent. You might notice them recognizing their owners and even performing tricks for food.

These fish require a spacious tank, often recommended to be at least 75 gallons, due to their size and territorial nature. Tank water should be kept clean with a good filtration system.

Oscars are known to be quite hardy but are sensitive to water quality. Regular water changes and monitoring are essential to keep them healthy. They also have a long lifespan, often living up to 15 years with proper care.

Feeding Oscars is relatively straightforward. They are omnivores, enjoying a diet that includes pellets, live foods, and vegetables. It’s important to provide a varied diet to ensure they receive all necessary nutrients.

Adding an Oscar to your tank can bring vibrant color and a unique personality, making them a joy to own for both novice and experienced aquarists.

3) Angelfish

Angelfish are a type of cichlid native to South America, specifically found in river systems like the Amazon, Rio Oyapock, and Rio Essequibo. They come in three main species: Pterophyllum scalare, Pterophyllum altum, and Pterophyllum leopoldi. Each species has its unique characteristics, but all are known for their distinctive, triangular shape and graceful swimming.

A standout feature is their diverse color range, including black, blue, albino, and more. They usually grow up to 6 inches in length and can reach a height of up to 8 inches. Despite their elegant appearance, angelfish can be moderately aggressive, especially during breeding times or when they feel threatened.

They thrive in a peaceful community tank but can struggle with highly aggressive tank mates. Suitable companions include species like Symphysodon and Heros, which share similar water parameters and temperaments. On the other hand, keeping them with more aggressive cichlids like Red Devils is not advisable due to potential stress and harm.

4) Jack Dempsey

The Jack Dempsey cichlid, scientifically known as Rocio octofasciata, is a striking freshwater fish named after the famous boxer. These cichlids come from Central America and are well-loved by aquarium enthusiasts for their vibrant appearance and distinct personalities.

When it comes to appearance, Jack Dempseys have large oval bodies, which can grow between 10 to 15 inches long. Males typically sport brighter colors and longer, pointed fins compared to females.

Due to their aggressive nature, these cichlids require ample space. For a single Jack Dempsey, a minimum tank size of 50 gallons is recommended. However, if you’re keeping a pair or more, consider a tank size of at least 100 gallons to provide sufficient room and reduce territorial behavior.

Choosing tank mates for Jack Dempseys can be tricky. They’re best housed with other large, robust fish that can stand their ground. Avoid small, timid fish that could easily be harassed or injured.

Jack Dempseys thrive in slow-moving waters, so replicate this environment with a proper filtration system to maintain clean water. Decorations like rocks, caves, and plants can offer hiding spots and help reduce aggression.

Feeding Jack Dempseys is straightforward as they are not fussy eaters. They thrive on a varied diet of high-quality pellets, flakes, and occasional live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp and bloodworms. Providing a balanced diet will keep them healthy and vibrant.

5) Firemouth

Firemouth Cichlid, known scientifically as Thorichthys meeki, is a popular choice for freshwater aquariums due to its striking appearance. This fish’s distinctive orange-red coloration on the underside of its jaw gives it its common name. Hailing from Central America, these cichlids thrive in warm waters and do best in temperatures between 74-82°F.

Maintaining the right water conditions is key for a healthy Firemouth Cichlid. They prefer a pH range of 6.5 to 8.0 and water hardness between 8-15 dGH. Stability in these conditions will keep your fish happy and reduce stress.

When it comes to tank mates, Firemouths are semi-aggressive and territorial but can cohabitate with other similar-sized, non-aggressive fish. Avoid pairing them with overly aggressive species to prevent conflict. A tank size of at least 30 gallons is recommended to provide ample space.

In terms of diet, Firemouth Cichlids are not picky eaters. They do well on a varied diet that includes high-quality cichlid pellets, live food, and frozen food. This variety ensures they get all the necessary nutrients.

These fish are relatively hardy, making them suitable for both novice and experienced hobbyists. Ensure your tank has plenty of hiding spots using rocks and plants, as this mimics their natural habitat and helps them feel secure.

Breeding Firemouth Cichlids can be straightforward if you maintain optimal water conditions and provide a peaceful environment. These cichlids are known for their parental care, often guarding their fry diligently.

6) Convict Cichlid

The Convict Cichlid (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) is a freshwater fish native to Central America. They are known for their striking black and white vertical stripes, which resemble prison uniforms, hence the name “convict.”

Convict Cichlids are relatively small, reaching about 10 to 15 centimeters (4-6 inches) in length. They are hardy fish, making them a popular choice for beginners. Their low care needs and vibrant coloring add to their appeal.

These cichlids prefer stable water temperatures between 75°F and 79°F (24°C – 26°C) and slightly acidic to neutral pH levels of 6.6 to 7.8. A high-quality aquarium heater and thermometer are essential to maintain these conditions.

Convict Cichlids are territorial and can be quite aggressive, especially during breeding. In community tanks, it’s important to carefully choose tank mates to minimize conflicts. Often, a single convict or a male and female pair is suggested to reduce aggression risks.

A 29-gallon tank can accommodate up to 14 or 15 adult convicts, but overcrowding and territorial behavior make it essential to monitor and manage the space appropriately. Aggression can increase with more fish, so careful planning is needed.

These fish are also known for their breeding ease. They are prolific breeders, often laying eggs on flat surfaces in the tank. Their receptiveness to breeding makes them ideal for those interested in fish breeding.

With proper care and tank management, Convict Cichlids can thrive and provide an enjoyable aquarium experience. Their striking appearance and resilient nature make them a standout choice for both beginner and experienced fish keepers.

7) Haplochromis

Haplochromis are a large group of cichlids primarily found in the East African Rift. They’re well-known among aquarium enthusiasts for their vibrant colors and active behavior.

You’ll often find them referred to as “haplos” or “haps” in the hobbyist community. They are generally larger and more peaceful than the Mbuna cichlids, which makes them popular in home aquariums.

Haplochromis cichlids exhibit complex social behaviors and are quite active. They’re best kept in spacious tanks with plenty of hiding spots. If you’re setting up a tank for Haplochromis, ensure you have good water quality and stable conditions.

Many species within this group are endemic to Lake Malawi, although Haplochromis can also be found in other parts of Eastern, Southern, and Northern Africa. They’re a diverse group, which adds to their appeal among fish keepers.

8) Red Terror

The Red Terror Cichlid, also known as Mesoheros festae, is a striking and formidable fish known for its vibrant red and orange hues with vertical black stripes. These large cichlids can grow quite big, so it’s important to have a suitably sized tank. For a single Red Terror, a 125-gallon tank is recommended. If you’re keeping a pair, aim for a tank around 180 gallons.

Maintaining optimal water conditions is crucial for Red Terrors. Keep the tank temperature between 77-84°F (25-29°C), with a pH level of 6.0 to 8.0, and water hardness ranging from 4 to 18 dH. Regular water changes are essential. It’s best to replace 25-50% of the tank water every 2-4 weeks.

Tank mates for Red Terrors should be chosen carefully, given their aggressive nature. Avoid pairing them with other territorial or smaller fish that could become targets. Suitable tank mates might include large, equally robust fish like other large cichlid species.

Beyond the basics, Red Terrors are also known for a few distinctive markings. Their first two vertical bars connect near the face, forming a Y-shape. Additionally, their off-center eye spot on the upper portion of the back fin helps differentiate them from their mimic species.

Regular filter maintenance is critical to keep the water clean and to prevent debris buildup. Feeding should include a balanced diet of high-quality pellets, live foods, and frozen items to meet their nutritional needs and keep their colors vibrant.

9) Green Terror

Green Terror Cichlids (Andinoacara rivulatus) are known for their striking appearance. They typically exhibit vibrant green bodies with highlights of blue, yellow, and red. The edges of their dorsal and anal fins often flash bright red or blue, adding to their visual appeal.

Males and females show noticeable differences in color. Males usually have more vivid hues and may sport iconic orange stripes. In contrast, females often have duller colors and might lack the defining stripes.

Green Terrors thrive in habitats with soft, slightly acidic to neutral water. Replicating these conditions in your tank can help them feel at home. Aim for temperatures around 72-84°F (22-29°C) and a pH between 6.5 and 8.0.

When breeding, set up a shallower tank that’s a few degrees warmer than usual. Use sandy substrates and include flat rocks for the female to lay eggs on. Once fertilized, the fry hatch in about 10 days and transition to free swimmers.

These fish are relatively aggressive, so choose tank mates carefully. Compatible species include other robust cichlids or similar-sized fish. Avoid pairing them with smaller, more passive species to prevent conflicts.

Feeding Green Terrors is straightforward. They enjoy a varied diet of pellets, flakes, and occasional live or frozen foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms. Keeping their diet diverse ensures they get all necessary nutrients.

Proper tank maintenance is crucial for Green Terrors. Regular water changes, efficient filtration, and monitoring water parameters contribute to their well-being. Adding some decorations can provide hiding spots and reduce stress levels.

With their captivating colors and dynamic behavior, Green Terrors make a fascinating addition to your aquarium. Just be mindful of their territorial nature and provide the right environment to keep them healthy and happy.

10) Flowerhorn

Flowerhorn cichlids are known for their vibrant colors and unique head shapes. Originating from Malaysia, they were selectively bred in the 1990s. These eye-catching fish combine genetics from several Central American cichlids.

You’ll find a variety of types within the Flowerhorn category, including the Golden Base, which encompasses some of the most colorful and unique specimens. Another popular type is the Thai Silk, recognized for its shimmery silver-blue coloration.

Flowerhorns are hybrid fish, distinct in their appearance and bred specifically for their ornamental value. They’re known for the prominent nuchal hump on their heads and a mix of bright colors and intricate patterns, making them a standout addition to any aquarium.

When keeping Flowerhorns, it’s essential to maintain proper water conditions. They thrive in tropical temperatures around 80°F to 86°F. Water quality is crucial to prevent diseases common in aquarium fish. Ensuring clean and stable tank conditions will help your Flowerhorns stay healthy and vibrant.

11) Electric Blue Acara

The Electric Blue Acara, known scientifically as Andinoacara pulcher, is a vibrant freshwater cichlid. It’s highly valued for its striking iridescent blue coloration, which makes it a standout in any aquarium.

In terms of habitat, you should provide a tank with at least 30 gallons of water, adding 15 gallons for each additional fish. The preferred water temperature for Electric Blue Acaras ranges between 68-82°F.

Your tank setup should include soft, fine sand or gravel substrate, with rocks, caves, and lots of plants for hiding spots. This species thrives in water with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5.

The Electric Blue Acara is a peaceful cichlid, making it suitable for community tanks with similarly sized, non-aggressive fish. It’s a hybrid or genetic mutation of the Blue Acara, native to South America.

These fish have a lifespan of 8-10 years in captivity and can live even longer in the wild under optimal conditions. Maintaining high water quality and reducing stress are crucial for their long-term health.

Breeding these cichlids is relatively straightforward. They’re substrate spawners, so ensure there are flat surfaces in the tank. The pair will clean and defend their chosen spawning site aggressively.

Electric Blue Acaras are omnivorous. They’re not picky eaters and will thrive on a varied diet of high-quality flakes, pellets, and occasional live or frozen foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms.

12) Bolivian Ram

The Bolivian Ram, scientifically known as Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, is a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts. This small cichlid is native to the freshwater systems of Brazil and Bolivia. It’s known for its vibrant colors and peaceful nature.

Bolivian Rams typically grow to about 3 inches in length, with males sometimes reaching up to 3.5 inches. Females are usually smaller, staying closer to 2.5 inches. Their manageable size makes them suitable for various tank setups.

They thrive in water temperatures between 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit and prefer a pH level of 6.0 to 7.5. It’s essential to maintain stable water conditions to keep them healthy. A tank size of at least 15 gallons is recommended.

These cichlids are generally peaceful but can become territorial when breeding. They get along well with other non-aggressive fish species. Small-sized Characidae species make excellent tank mates.

Bolivian Rams have a varied diet. They eat high-quality flakes, pellets, and occasional live or frozen foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms. A balanced diet helps maintain their vibrant colors and overall health.

In a community aquarium setting, Bolivian Rams display shy and timid behavior. However, when protecting their young, they can show territorial behavior. This makes them an interesting addition to any home aquarium.

By meeting their specific care requirements, you can enjoy the beauty and charm of the Bolivian Ram in your tank for years.

13) Kribensis

The kribensis cichlid is a popular choice among aquarists due to its vibrant colors and peaceful temperament. These dwarf cichlids hail from the freshwater streams and rivers of West and Central Africa, specifically Nigeria and Cameroon. They’re known for their beautiful patterns and ease of care.

You can keep kribensis in a community tank, but make sure it’s at least 20-30 gallons. They thrive with plenty of hiding spots and live plants. Choose tank mates that are similar in size and avoid slow-moving or aggressive fish to prevent stress.

The ideal water conditions for kribensis include a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5, and soft water with low carbonate hardness (KH) and general hardness (GH). Aim for a KH range of 3-10 dH and a GH range of 5-12 dH. Keeping the temperature around 75-80°F is optimal.

Breeding kribensis is straightforward. They form monogamous pairs and prefer spawning in caves. If you’re looking to breed them, set up a separate tank and raise the temperature to around 80°F. Use fine gravel as the substrate and provide a spacious cave for the pair.

During the spawning season, you’ll notice the female displaying a striking cherry-red belly. This is a sign that she’s ready to breed. By creating the right environment, you’ll likely see a successful spawn and the subsequent rearing of the fry.

14) Midas Cichlid

The Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is a stunning freshwater fish native to Central America, specifically the San Juan River and its adjacent watersheds in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It’s known for its vibrant colors, with some displaying bright oranges, reds, and yellows.

This species can reach up to 13.8 inches (35 cm) in length, making it one of the larger cichlids. They require an aquarium of at least 55 gallons for a single fish, providing ample space for swimming and exploring.

Midas Cichlids have aggressive and territorial behaviors. It’s crucial to carefully select their tank mates to avoid conflicts. They thrive in water with a pH between 7.0 and 8.5 and are sensitive to changes in their environment.

In the wild, they inhabit slow-moving rivers and streams with sandy bottoms. In captivity, they need clean, well-filtered water to stay healthy. Their diet includes a mix of high-quality pellets, as well as occasional treats like brine shrimp and bloodworms.

With the right care, Midas Cichlids can exhibit intriguing behaviors and a strong interactive nature. Their bold colors and dynamic presence make them a popular choice for aquarists seeking a lively addition to their tank.

15) Frontosa

Frontosa cichlids are freshwater fish known for their striking appearance and ease of care. They can live up to 15 years, with some reaching up to 25 years in captivity. They feature prominent blue and black vertical stripes and can grow up to 14 inches (35 cm) or more.

These fish are native to Lake Tanganyika in Africa. Males tend to be slightly larger than females, reaching up to 15 inches (38 cm). It’s essential to provide them with a spacious tank, at least 100 gallons (380 liters) for a pair to reduce stress and allow comfortable swimming.

Frontosas are generally peaceful but may assert dominance, especially in smaller tanks. They thrive well with other Lake Tanganyika species like Cyprichromis or Altolamprologus. A diet rich in protein will help maintain their vibrant colors and health.

Breeding Frontosas can be challenging. They are mouthbrooders, meaning females carry the eggs in their mouths until they hatch. It’s important to provide plenty of hiding spots and a well-maintained environment to encourage breeding. Proper tank conditions and a good diet can lead to successful breeding.

Seeking Guidance or Eager to Share Your Knowledge?