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Are Cichlids Aggressive? (Aggression Levels of Common Types)

Are Cichlids Aggressive? (Aggression Levels of Common Types)

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This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addition, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Cichlids are popular aquarium fish that many people love. You might be interested in buying some of these fish due to how pretty they are.

Before moving forward, it’s best to learn more about these fish. You want to ensure that they’re the right type of fish that make sense for your situation.

Have you heard that cichlids are a bit aggressive? Is this actually the case or is that not something you need to worry about?

Read on to learn about cichlid aggression. You’ll learn about some of the most common types of cichlids and how aggressive they are.

Are All Cichlids Aggressive?

This question is tough to answer with a simple yes or no. It’s true that cichlids are generally considered to be aggressive fish.

Most types of cichlids are going to show at least minor aggression. Some cichlids are going to be more aggressive than others.

All cichlids will show signs of aggression in certain situations. However, there are cichlids that are generally considered to be non-aggressive fish.

These cichlids are significantly more peaceful than common cichlids. You’ll learn a bit more about these fish later on.

Most Aggressive Cichlid

So you know that cichlids are aggressive fish. What is the most aggressive cichlid that you can find for your aquarium?

That would be the dovii cichlid. This is an incredibly aggressive type of fish that will cause a lot of damage in a tank.

These fish can grow to be as large as twenty eight and a half inches in length. They start becoming aggressive fish as soon as they reach six inches in length.

Dovii cichlids are known for their powerful teeth. They can use them to kill tank mates and they might also bite you if you’re not careful.

You’d have to keep a large 75-gallon aquarium in your home to keep these fish. That makes owning dovii cichlids impractical for most people.

Other Aggressive Cichlids

Continue reading to learn about some other types of aggressive cichlids. This will ensure that you understand which popular cichlids are considered to be rather aggressive.

Flowerhorn Cichlids

Flowerhorn cichlids stand out because they have bizarre foreheads. These fish appear to have huge bumps on their foreheads and that is how they got the name “flowerhorn cichlid.”

These fish actually can’t be found in the wild because they’re a hybrid species. They were bred in captivity and came into being over the course of time due to selective breeding.

They have incredibly vivid colors and this makes them popular among aquarium enthusiasts. The territorial nature of these fish make them poor choices for community tanks.

A flowerhorn cichlid can grow to be between twelve and eighteen inches long. You’ll need a 75-gallon aquarium if you want to own one of these fish.


Oscars are semi-aggressive fish that are rather popular. These fish are some of the most well-loved cichlids.

They’re fun to own, but they can wind up terrorizing their tank mates if you’re not careful. These fish are known to eat any fish that will fit in their mouths.

If you’re going to put them in a community tank, you need to pick the right tank mates. You need to find fish that are large enough to live with these fish or things will go very wrong.

It’s also important to give oscar fish more than enough room to live. They might become territorial if they feel like they don’t have enough space to live.

An oscar fish will be between eleven and twelve inches long at maturity most of the time. Some might grow to be as long as sixteen inches, though.

Non-Aggressive Cichlids

There are quite a few non-aggressive cichlids that you should know about. Some are quite peaceful and these fish are going to be significantly better options for those who want to put together community fish tanks.

Below, you’ll see many of the popular non-aggressive cichlid options. These will be good fish to own when you don’t want to deal with issues occurring in the fish tank.

Keyhole Cichlids

Keyhole cichlids are likely the most well-known type of peaceful cichlid. These fish are commonly going to hide in the fish tank and generally won’t bother other fish.

These are shy fish that just like to do their own thing. If these fish ever get challenged to a fight in the tank, it’s more likely that they will back down than fight.

They’re a bit small for cichlids, too. Keyhole cichlids normally grow to be between four and five inches long.

Overall, these are great fish that you’re going to enjoy owning. Don’t hesitate to buy keyhole cichlids if you’re interested in peaceful cichlids that are great for community aquariums.

Bolivian Ram Cichlids

Bolivian ram cichlids are another excellent option for those looking for peaceful cichlids. These fish can be great to own because they’re very pretty.

They have a beautiful golden-brown color and they also have turquoise and red highlights. You’ll definitely see that they stand out well in the aquarium.

It’s also good to know that these fish might be the most non-aggressive cichlid that you can find. They’re dwarf cichlids that are pretty small.

A Bolivian ram cichlid is only going to grow to be between three and three and a half inches long. You don’t even need to have large aquariums for these fish since they do well in 30-gallon aquariums.

Yellow Lab Cichlids

Yellow lab cichlids will be another option when looking for peaceful cichlids. They’re still a bit aggressive, but they aren’t so aggressive that they’ll be a problem.

As with most cichlids, they will be more aggressive if you keep them in an overcrowded fish tank. Give them enough space and they’ll be relatively peaceful.

It’s also important to pick appropriate tank mates for them. These fish aren’t compatible with fish that look too similar to them.

If you make good choices, you can have a good experience with these fish in a community fish tank. They’re good fish that are worth owning.

Blue Acara Cichlids

Blue acara cichlids are peaceful options that many fish tank enthusiasts will like. They’re gorgeous fish that you’ll find to be visually appealing.

They have brown bodies, but this is accented with bright blue tones that really stand out. They’re larger than many of the other cichlids that have been mentioned since they grow to be seven inches long.

As such, you’ll need to ensure to give them enough space. You’ll need at least a 50-gallon fish tank if you want to care for these fish.

Also, it’s important to know that these fish can get semi-aggressive when mating. That’s common for many types of fish, though.

German Blue Ram Cichlids

Another type of ram cichlid you can buy will be the German blue ram cichlid. This is a peaceful type of fish that looks aesthetically pleasing.

This fish is famous for having blue dots on its body. It makes these dwarf cichlids stand out in a fish tank.

You can easily keep a small group of these cichlids in a 40-gallon fish tank. You can fit up to six of them in a tank of that size.

It’ll be a good experience if you choose to buy these fish. They come highly recommended.

Why Is My Cichlid Killing Other Fish?

Usually, cichlids will kill other fish when they’re put in fish tanks with fish that they aren’t compatible with. Did you put the cichlids in a tank with other fish without researching compatibility?

Whenever you’re putting a community fish tank together it’s imperative to research fish compatibility. You must ensure that all fish are compatible or you shouldn’t do a community aquarium.

Another thing that could be going wrong involves the size of the tank. Are you keeping cichlids in a tank that is too small for them?

When you do this, it makes it tough for the cichlids. It brings out their territorial instincts and makes them want to fight other fish.

You should never put these fish in a tank that’s too small. It’s also important to avoid overcrowding the fish tank, too.

How to Stop Cichlid Bullying

One way to stop cichlid bullying is to ensure that you have a large enough tank. You want to keep the cichlids from getting territorial.

These fish don’t do well when they have to fight over territory. They might fight tank mates and each other when placed in overcrowded tanks.

Providing hiding spots in the tank might help quite a bit. This will make it so fish can get away from the cichlids and should mitigate issues with aggression.

Of course, you must be sure to pick appropriate tank mates for your cichlids. Some cichlids shouldn’t be placed in community tanks at all.

Others can be put in community tanks so long as you pick compatible tank mates. Picking the wrong tank mates could easily lead to fish getting killed.

Do Cichlids Bite?

Yes, cichlids can and will bite you. If you reach your hand in the fish tank or attempt to touch the fish, there’s a chance it will bite you.

Cichlid bites might hurt quite a bit, too. How bad cichlid bites will hurt will depend on the type of cichlid that you’re talking about.

Some of these fish are going to be able to draw blood when they bite you. Others won’t be able to hurt you much at all.

Smaller types of cichlids might bite you and it’ll only feel as if you’re being tickled. Larger fish might cause you to have to use a bandage on the wound.

Truly, there’s no reason to give a cichlid a reason to bite you. Don’t put your hand in the fish tank for no reason.

If you need to put your hands in the fish tank, it’s wise to wear gloves or otherwise protect yourself. If you need to transfer the fish to a different tank, you should use a net to get the job done.

Do Cichlids Have Teeth?

Cichlids do indeed have teeth. All types of cichlids have teeth.

The function of the teeth will differ depending on the type of cichlid you’re looking at. Certain types of cichlids will have teeth that are suited to scraping algae off of rocks.

Others will possess teeth that can be used to hunt small fish. If you want specific information about the type of teeth that your cichlids have, you’ll need to look up the information based on the species of the fish.

Cichlids that have hunting teeth will be more dangerous. You don’t want to get bitten by those types of cichlids since it’ll likely hurt.

As mentioned earlier, you should never put yourself in a position to be bitten by your fish. There’s no reason to do so.

Final Thoughts

Cichlids are great fish, but most of them are at least mildly aggressive. There are some types of cichlids out there that are considered to be peaceful, though.

Peaceful cichlids are still capable of being aggressive in certain situations. For example, peaceful cichlids might be a bit more aggressive when they’re mating.

Most cichlids are going to be territorial and won’t do well in cramped fish tanks. This means that you must be careful not to put too many fish in one tank.

You also have to pay attention to the size of the tank. Always ensure that you’re keeping fish in an appropriately sized aquarium.

If you’re buying certain types of cichlids, it might not be practical to use them as community tank fish. For those that can be community tank fish, it’s still important to research compatible tank mates.

Keep all of this in mind and it should be easy enough to enjoy keeping cichlids in your aquarium. They’re amazing fish that are hardy and easy to take care of.

For many beginners, cichlids will be an ideal choice. Even if they are a bit aggressive, it’s not that hard to deal with many of the most popular types of cichlids.

You should feel more comfortable making a choice about whether to get these fish now. They might be perfect for your tank so long as you’re prepared to deal with potential aggression issues.

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