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14 Popular Cichlid Types for Your Tank

14 Popular Cichlid Types for Your Tank

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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.

Have you been thinking of buying cichlids for your home aquarium sometime soon? It can be a great choice when you love fish.

Most types of cichlids are hardy and easy to care for. There are hundreds of different types of cichlids out there, though.

You’ll find many different cichlids being sold in stores. Keep reading to learn about common and popular cichlid types that people like to keep in home aquariums.

If you’re not sure which cichlids you’d like to purchase, this might help you to make up your mind. Once you’ve learned about the options, you’ll have a better idea of which fish suit your sensibilities.

1 – Angelfish

Zebra Angelfish

Angelfish are some of the most well known and loved cichlids that you’ll find. Some might not be aware that these fish are cichlids, but they’re incredibly popular aquarium fish.

They’re sold in pretty much all stores that sell fish. There are many different types of angelfish and some have very pretty patterns and colors that make them more appealing.

Most of the common angelfish grow to be six inches long. They must have 20-gallon fish tanks or something larger to be able to thrive in your home.

These are semi-aggressive fish, but they can be kept in community tanks if you plan things out well. Give them more space so they won’t get territorial and be sure to research compatible tank mates carefully.

2 – Oscar Fish

Oscar Fish

Oscar fish are some of the largest cichlids that people will purchase for home aquariums. It’s possible for this fish to grow twelve inches long at maturity.

Since it’s a huge type of cichlid, it will require a minimum of a 75-gallon fish tank to live. Many enthusiasts suggest a 100-gallon aquarium since having more room is better.

These fish do well when kept alone, but you can also keep a breeding pair in a 100-gallon tank if you’d like to. Oscars are interesting fish to own assuming that you have enough space in your home for a large fish tank.

Some even liken the personality of Oscars to that of dogs. They can be some of the most entertaining pet fish to own, but you should be careful not to buy these fish if you don’t have enough space.

3 – African Cichlids

African Cichlid

African cichlids are another category of fish that you’ll hear about when looking into buying cichlids. There are actually many different kinds of African cichlids, but they’re all fish that come from the same general region.

Since there are so many types of African cichlids, you’ll be able to find a variety of different fish. Some will be small and will only grow to be two inches long.

Others will be substantially larger and will grow to twelve inches in length. Big mouth haps are considered to be the largest African cichlids since they regularly grow to be twelve inches in adulthood.

The smallest species that grows to be two inches long are known as “multies.” It should be easy to find great fish that will appeal to you and look good in your fish tank no matter what your situation is like.

4 – Keyhole Cichlids

Keyhole Cichlid

Keyhole cichlids are peaceful cichlids that aren’t nearly as aggressive as most cichlids. This means that they do fairly well in community fish tanks.

They’re rather calm fish that are easy to take care of overall. A keyhole cichlid is only going to grow to be four inches long in adulthood.

These fish are distinct because they have a “keyhole” pattern on their sides. They aren’t the most colorful cichlids that you can find, though.

Despite this, they’re very popular fish that you’ll love owning. If you want non-aggressive cichlids for your tank, it’ll be beneficial to buy keyhole cichlids.

5 – Ram Cichlids

Ram Cichlid

Ram cichlids are dwarf cichlids that stay rather small. There are a few different types such as German blue rams and Bolivian rams.

All of these fish are appealing and they’re fairly peaceful overall. You’ll have an easier time dealing with aggression issues when you’re caring for dwarf cichlids.

The ram cichlids will only grow to be between two and three inches long. Since they’re not too large, it’s easy to keep several of these fish in a modestly sized aquarium.

For some, buying ram cichlids will be the most practical option. If you only have room for a small fish tank in your home, it’s best to buy smaller cichlids that will still be fun to care for.

6 – Convict Cichlids

Convict Cichlid

Convict cichlids are larger than rams, but they still aren’t too big. These fish grow to be between four and five inches long at maturity.

It’s best to keep these fish in 40-gallon fish tanks to give them plenty of space. Despite being somewhat small, these fish are still aggressive.

You’ll love how nice these fish look in an aquarium setting. They have an interesting stripe pattern and they truly stand out from other fish.

If you see some of these fish at your local pet store, don’t hesitate to buy them. Many enthusiasts say that they’re among the most satisfying cichlids to own.

7 – Flowerhorn Cichlids

Flowerhorn Cichlid

Flowerhorn cichlids are incredibly unique because of the “horn” or “crown” on their heads. They have an odd bump on their foreheads that really makes them look unusual.

They’re colorful fish that look rather striking in a fish tank setting. However, these large fish are fairly aggressive, too.

Aggression issues make it so that these fish are ill-suited for community aquariums. You should only keep these fish by themselves in a fish tank.

Male flowerhorn cichlids will grow to be twelve inches long while females will be slightly smaller. There are some short-bodied versions of these fish that only grow to be six inches in length as well, but they’re referred to as “Bonsai flowerhorns.”

8 – Discus Fish

Discus Fish

Discus fish are likely not a good choice for beginners. You see, they’re a lot more delicate than the other cichlids on this list.

If you choose to buy discus fish, you’ll need to pay close attention to the water parameters. They don’t tolerate fluctuations well and might die if you make too many mistakes.

Despite this, many people love owning discus fish. Depending on the quality of the care that the fish receives, it can reach between eight and ten inches in length.

It’s best to keep these fish in a 70-gallon aquarium or something larger. If you’re willing to put in the effort to care for discus fish properly, it can be a rewarding experience.

9 – Firemouth Cichlids

Firemouth Cichlid

Firemouth cichlids are amazingly popular fish that you might be interested in buying. These fish are known for having a fast growth rate and this means that they will reach their full size quickly.

Male firemouth cichlids will grow to be six inches long on average. Females are slightly smaller and will usually grow to be five inches long.

If you plan to buy these fish, it’ll be important to give them enough space. Otherwise, they won’t be able to thrive under your care.

A 30-gallon fish tank is considered to be the minimum acceptable size for these fish. If you can do so, it’s best to go larger than that to give the firemouth cichlids more room to utilize.

10 – Electric Yellow Cichlids

Electric Yellow Cichlid

Electric yellow cichlids are some of the most stunning fish that you can buy. These fish are vibrant and will look amazing in your fish tank if you buy some.

They aren’t overly big either. An electric yellow cichlid will generally grow to be around four inches long. Technically, this is a type of African cichlid that is popularly sold in pet stores.

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s incredibly tough to tell males apart from females. The fish pretty much look the same and they don’t have physical characteristics that can help you to identify the sex.

The only difference is usually that the males are a little bit more colored than the females. These fish aren’t large, but they do best when kept in 50-gallon aquariums and should always be given plenty of space.

11 – Rainbow Kribensis

Rainbow Kribensis

Rainbow kribensis fish are often simply called rainbow kribs. These fish are pretty and they aren’t too big.

Male rainbow kribs will grow to be four inches long. Females will wind up growing to be three inches long.

Since they’re relatively small, they can be kept in 20-gallon fish tanks or 30-gallon fish tanks. Two of these fish will do fine in a 20-gallon aquarium, but if you want to purchase many of them, it’d be better to buy a large 55-gallon aquarium to be safe.

You should have a simple time caring for these fish. Some people even keep rainbow kribs in the same tank as discus fish.

12 – Frontosa Cichlids

Frontosa Cichlid

Frontosa cichlids have similarities to the flowerhorn cichlids mentioned earlier. This is a type of fish that possesses a hump on its head that makes it stand out.

It’s also well known for its striking blue appearance. This is a pretty fish that will look fantastic in your fish tank.

These fish are very large and they’re also aggressive. Males commonly grow to be twelve inches long while females will often be closer to ten inches long.

You can keep these fish in community tanks, but you have to choose their tank mates carefully. You’ll also need to keep the fish in a 75-gallon aquarium or something larger.

To keep things safe, it’d be best to go with a 100-gallon aquarium if you plan to put other fish in the tank. You want to give this fish plenty of space.

13 – Peacock Cichlids

Peacock Cichlid

Peacock cichlids are among the most visually appealing cichlids that you can buy. These are colorful fish that truly do look as flashy as their namesakes.

A male peacock cichlid will grow to be roughly six inches long. Females are smaller and might only wind up being four inches long.

These fish love to swim around the tank and they’re even known as hunters. Give them at least a 55-gallon tank if you want them to do well in your home.

One great aspect of owning these fish is that they’re peaceful. They’re also rather easy to care for, and you won’t have a hard time even if you’re a beginner.

14 – Aulonocara Cichlids

Aulonocara Cichlid

Aulonocara fish are well-known cichlids that you should learn about. They grow to be between five and six inches long at maturity.

To keep these fish in your home, you’ll need at least a 55-gallon aquarium. Keeping these fish in smaller tanks will give them problems with aggression.

Many say that you’ll have an easier time keeping these fish in a 75-gallon fish tank. It makes them happier and healthier to have more room.

These are fish that look rather appealing and you’ll love owning them. If you find some at your local pet store, it’s worth looking into buying them if you have the necessary room for an appropriately-sized fish tank.

Are Cichlids Tropical Fish?

Yes, cichlids are tropical freshwater fish that can be found in many different regions. There are cichlids that come from Africa, South and Central America, India, Iran, and Madagascar.

Since they’re tropical fish, they’re going to need warm water. This is why it’s imperative to have a heater in the fish tank.

These hardy fish can tolerate some slightly cooler waters, but temperature fluctuations can stress the fish. You can combat this by using a high-quality heater and keeping the temperature in the right range.

The exact temperature that the fish will prefer will depend on the species. Some fish like the water to be a bit warmer than others.

Freshwater Cichlids

There are all sorts of freshwater cichlids that you’ve already learned about. Angelfish are freshwater cichlids that are some of the most popular aquarium fish overall.

Electric yellow cichlids, ram cichlids, firemouth cichlids, and more are all considered to be freshwater cichlids. All of the cichlids that you read about earlier are freshwater fish.

This is good because it makes things easier for newcomers. Taking care of a saltwater tank is a more involved process than caring for a freshwater tank.

So now you know that the cichlids that are popularly sold in pet stores are freshwater fish. This should allow you to buy them with confidence knowing that you can more easily care for a freshwater tank.

Saltwater Cichlids

The topic of saltwater cichlids is a bit of a complicated one. You see, many African cichlids live in water that contains some level of salt.

They still aren’t technically saltwater fish, but they can still live in saltwater. Many cichlids can tolerate various levels of salinity.

There are even some aquarium enthusiasts who add salt to the fish tank for their cichlids. They do this because it’s said to protect against infections and other conditions.

So it’s common to add salt to the tank for African cichlids. This isn’t truly necessary, but it’s something that many think is helpful.

Do Cichlids Need Salt?

Technically, cichlids do not need salt. However, many African cichlid owners choose to add aquarium salt to the fish tank anyway.

For some African cichlids, salt might offer minor benefits. Anecdotal evidence suggests that salt helps to lower aggression levels in African cichlids.

Some say that it helps to relieve stress as well. It might also make the African cichlids slightly more active.

Many believe that breathing and digestion is improved by the presence of salt in the water as well. This is not something that is required to care for African cichlids, though.

Since it isn’t necessary, the answer to the question of whether cichlids need salt is “no.” You might choose to use salt if you think that it will benefit the African cichlids.

Sometimes you might want to use aquarium salt when treating specific illnesses as well. Most people just use aquarium salt in this fashion.

Can Cichlids Live in Brackish Water?

African Cichlid Close Up

Yes, cichlids are capable of living in brackish water. These fish can tolerate a range of different salinity levels.

Cichlids are known to live well and thrive in freshwater conditions. They can also live in brackish water and do pretty well.

African cichlids are often kept in brackish water conditions. You don’t have to do this to keep these fish in your home, but you might choose to.

As mentioned above, there are some potential benefits to doing so. However, many of these benefits only have claims from fish enthusiasts to back the information up.

Best Cichlids for Beginners

Picking cichlids for beginners is mostly about finding fish that are easy to care for. You want hardy fish that won’t give you a lot of trouble.

Angelfish are easy to recommend since they’re hardy and many people think they’re among the prettiest aquarium fish. They aren’t too large overall so it should be practical to keep them in modest fish tanks.

The same can be said for convict cichlids. These fish are really nice to look at and stand out in the tank.

Firemouth cichlids will be a good option to consider as well. They’re gorgeous fish that are incredibly hardy and perfect for newcomers to the hobby.

When keeping any of these fish, it’s best to give them as much space as you can. If possible, you might want to get a fish tank that is slightly larger than the recommended size.

It can help you to deal with any aggression issues. Also, be sure to only pick tank mates that are confirmed to be compatible with your chosen cichlids.

Rainbow kribs will be a good choice for those looking for peaceful cichlids. These fish are generally peaceful and don’t bother their tank mates.

Ram cichlids will also fit the bill since they’re small fish that are much more peaceful than most cichlids. They do great in community aquariums, but you do still have to pick compatible tank mates for them.

Small Cichlids

Finding small cichlids won’t be that hard at all. There are many small varieties of cichlids out there that you can purchase.

Dwarf cichlids are the best choice because they’re always going to be fairly small. The most popular dwarf cichlids are likely the ram cichlids that have been mentioned earlier.

You can have a good time caring for ram cichlids and they won’t grow larger than three inches in length. These are fairly peaceful fish that do well in community aquarium settings.

Keyhole cichlids are also very peaceful fish that fit the bill. They’re slightly larger since they grow to be four inches long, but they’re still small fish.

Rainbow kribs will be good choices, too. The males grow to be four inches and females only grow to be three inches.

All of these options are peaceful and easy to care for. For many fish owners, this will be the optimal type of cichlid to buy.

If you don’t want to deal with aggression issues, sticking with small and peaceful cichlids will be a good experience. Many of these fish look beautiful and they’re still hardy fish that won’t be tough to take care of.

Unique Cichlids

There are many unique cichlids out there that will stand out. Perhaps the most unique cichlid is the flowerhorn cichlid. This strange-looking fish has a bump on its forehead that makes it look incredibly unique.

Flowerhorn cichlids cannot be found in the wild. These fish were made by man through selective breeding.

Frontosa cichlids are somewhat similar because they have a hump on their foreheads. These are striking blue fish that are also aggressive carnivores.

Discus fish are unique because they have disc-shaped bodies. They’re also some of the hardest cichlids to care for overall.

You’ll find many cichlids with unique colors and patterns that you can choose from. Finding a fish that will look good in your tank will be simple.

Final Thoughts

You know a lot more about various types of cichlids now. Cichlids are a diverse group of fish, and you’ll be able to find some that appeal to you.

Make sure that you have enough room to house the cichlids that you’re interested in. If you’re a beginner, it might be best to stick to the fish that are easy to care for, too.

So long as you put in the effort, you’ll have a great experience owning cichlids. They’re mostly hardy fish that look great in a fish tank setting.

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