Cichlids are some of the most beautiful fish in the world, but they can also be the most aggressive. Keep reading to learn about the best and worst cichlids for your community tank.
Part of the fun of having a fish tank is stocking it. The challenge of finding the ideal combination of species to make your tank look its best without putting your fish at risk for predation or bulling is something every aquarium hobbyist loves. When it comes to keeping the peace in a community tank, many hobbyists assume that they are limited to placid species such as livebearers and tetras when that may not be true.
A community tank doesn’t have to be boring. With a little research and careful planning, you can find a group of species that will live together in harmony and turn your tank into a thriving aquatic paradise. Don’t assume that because many cichlids are aggressive that they must be omitted from the community tank. Keep reading to learn about the best cichlids for a community tank.
The Top 10 Cichlids for a Community Tank
When it comes to choosing fish for a community tank, you need to think as much about the size of your tank as the fish you plan to keep in it. Many cichlids grow to be fairly large fish, so keep that in mind when planning your tank. Here are the top 10 cichlid species for a community tank:
1. Agassiz’s Dwarf Cichlid (Apistogramma agassizii) – A carnivorous species, Agassiz’s dwarf cichlids do well in community tanks as long as they aren’t kept with other Apistogrammas or fish small enough to be seen as prey. They prefer planted tank with open areas for swimming and they enjoy having fine gravel substrate to dig in.
2. Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) – Not only are angelfish beautiful and unique in their appearance, but they make great additions to the community tank as long as they have the space to swim. These fish may eat very small fish, but they are not aggressive and tend to do quite well when kept in schools of six or more.
3. Blue Acara (Aequidens pulcher) – Named for the blue coloration they develop in adulthood, blue acaras are unaggressive, but they do tend to dig. These fish prefer sandy substrate and warmer water between 75°F and 80°F. They accept a wide variety of foods and are considered a great option for cichlid novices because they are very hardy.
4. Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosa) – Known for their golden-brown color, Bolivian rams have multicolored highlights that make them quite attractive. These fish are very nonaggressive and compatible with most peaceful species, plus they only reach 3 inches long.
5. Discus Fish (Symphysodon genus) – Easily some of the most beautiful tropical fish in the world, discus fish grow quite large. These fish may eat very small species, but they are nonaggressive and do very well in community tanks with other calm species. Just keep in mind that these fish require very warm water with high acidity.
6. German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) – A dwarf cichlid species, the German blue ram only grows to about 2 inches long. They can be somewhat territorial, but this shouldn’t be a problem if the tank is large enough that a pair can establish its territory. These fish do well with a wide variety of nonaggressive tankmates and they accept many different carnivore foods.
7. Keyhole Cichlid (Cleithracara maronii) – A very peaceful species, the keyhole cichlid grows only 4 to 5 inches in length. These fish are very shy and need to have plenty of hiding places in the tank. They are very nonaggressive with other tankmates and will always back down from a fight.
8. Masked Julie (Julidochromis transcriptus) – The masked Julie is a small species endemic to Lake Tanganyika that grows to a maximum length around 7cm. These fish have an attractive pattern and they tend to prefer tanks decorated with plenty of rockwork. They do well in a community tank as long as their requirements for tank parameters are met.
9. Rainbow Cichlid (Herotilapia multispinosa) – Named for their brilliant coloration, these fish grow to about 5 inches in length. Rainbow cichlids are very beginner-friendly, and they tend to breed well in captivity and are hardy for a variety of tank environments. They do well with small tankmates and are omnivorous by nature.
10. Severums (Heros serverus) – Some of the largest cichlids on this list, severums grow 8 to 10 inches long. These fish don’t typically attack other fish and they can be kept with a wide range of species from small tetras to predatory cichlids like Oscars. They may eat very small fish because they are omnivores, but they should do fine in a community tank with medium-sized species.
Even if you take the time to choose your fish carefully, you may still find yourself dealing with challenges. Keep reading to learn some simple tips for keeping the peace in a community tank.
Tips for Keeping the Peace in a Community Tank
Choosing nonaggressive species for your community tank is your best bet for keeping the peace, but you may still have problems with territorial behavior and bullying from time to time. Here are some simple tips for minimizing aggression and keeping the peace in your community tank:
· Provide plenty of hiding places in your tank for fish to hide if they are being bullied or need to get away from a territorial tankmate.
· Include plenty of driftwood and rock formations to break up sightlines in your tank and to provide fish with territory to claim.
· Try to decorate your tank to mimic the natural environment of the species you choose – this is the best way to make them feel comfortable.
· Keep no more than one of each cichlid species – even nonaggressive cichlids can become territorial with other fish of the same or similar species.
· Maintain a male-to-female ratio of 1:3 – having too many males of any species could be trouble, so make sure there are plenty of females to go around.
Following these tips will help you maintain the peace in your community tank but keep in mind that each fish is different. You may need to make adjustments to your tank over time.
Avoid These 5 Cichlids in Your Community Tank
The top 10 cichlid species listed above are excellent additions to the community tank, but they are not your only options. As long as the cichlid species you choose is fairly peaceful and doesn’t tend to prey on smaller fish, it can be considered for a community tank. Whatever you do, however, avoid stocking the following cichlids in your community tank:
· Convict Cichlid (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) – Though these cichlids are fairly easy to care for, they can be quite aggressive and tend to do best in a single species tank. You can keep a pair in a tank at least 30 gallons in capacity without other tankmates.
· Oscar Cichlid (Astronotus ocellatus) – One of the most popular species of cichlid, the Oscar is a very large species and a carnivorous one at that. These fish need at least 120 gallons per pair and they tend to uproot plants and move tank decorations around a lot.
· Jewel Cichlid (Hemichronis bimaculatus) – Beautifully colored, the jewel cichlid is highly aggressive, particularly around breeding time. These fish require sandy substrate with plenty of hiding places and they need hardy plant species because the fish will try to uproot them.
· Frontosa Cichlid (Cyphotilapia frontosa) – Native to Lake Tanganyika, the frontosa cichlid is a relatively calm species but it is an avid predator which makes it a poor choice for the community tank. These fish require a lot of space as well and should be kept in groups of at least 5.
· Jack Dempsey Cichlid (Rocio octofasciata) – One of the most popular species of Central American cichlid, the Jack Dempsey cichlid is very colorful and great for beginners. The problem is that they are very large and can be aggressive – they also tend to feed on smaller fish.
Before adding any cichlids to your community tank, you need to do your research. Keep in mind as well that just because a cichlid species is nonaggressive doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a good fit. Some nonaggressive species will still eat smaller fish and you always have to make sure that all of the species in your tank will do well with your tank parameters.
A recent paper published by the Conservation Research Group and the IUCN shows that more than 30 threatened species endemic to India are still being regularly exported, despite their conservation status.
FRESHWATER AQUARIUM ARTICLES
STOCKING THE TANK
The fish you choose to stock your tank is not a decision that should be made lightly. The articles in this category will help you understand the basics of fish compatibility and will provide you with other information you need to make an informed decision when stocking your tank.