Convict Cichlid Care

convict cichlid

Last updated on July 11th, 2022 at 11:07 pm

The convict cichlid fish is a freshwater fish that originates from the Amazon River basin in South America. They are often kept in aquariums and used as feeder fishes for larger predatory species of marine or freshwater fishes. They can grow up to 18 cm in length, but they typically measure around 10-12 cm when fully grown.

These convict cichlid fish are an interesting species that are found in both fresh and brackish water but prefer warmer environments. One of the most iconic convict cichlid behaviors is “head-bobbing,” which can be seen when they’re trying to attract a mate or defending their territory.

Origin and description

The convict cichlid (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) is a freshwater fish native to Central America. They are one of the most popular aquarium fish and can be found in many pet stores.

They get their name from their characteristic black and white stripes, which make them easy to identify. They are relatively small fish, typically growing to only about three inches in length. They are schooling fish, and do best when kept in groups of six or more.

Species profile

convict cichlid

They are omnivorous fish and will eat both plants and meat. but they are not particularly picky and will eat most foods. Their natural diet consists mainly of plant matter, but they are also opportunistic feeders, so an aquarium containing lots of small invertebrates can be very attractive to them.

The convict cichlid typically grows to a length of six inches, but can grow up to eight inches in length. This species is easy to care for and is known for its hardiness and resilience.

Scientific name

The scientific name for the convict cichlid is Amatitlania nigrofasciata.

Range and habitat

The convict cichlid is endemic to parts of Central America, specifically Mexico and Guatemala.

Physical description

The male fish are known for their distinctive black-and-white striped pattern.

They can reach about eight inches in length, which makes them a small species when compared with other large cichlids. Removing specimens that are too small from a breeding colony can be difficult, as they are easily mistaken for other fish in the tank.


Convict cichlids are territorial and aggressive fish that will protect their territory and eggs fiercely. They spawn readily in captivity and are considered good parents. The fries are able to fend for themselves soon after hatching.

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Convict cichlid size

Convict cichlids can grow up to six inches long, making them medium-sized fish. They are an ideal choice for aquariums of all sizes.

Convict cichlid tank size

Convict cichlids do best in tanks that are at least 20 gallons. Larger tanks provide more space for the fish to swim and explore.

Convict cichlid tank setup

convict cichlid

A convict cichlid tank should have a capacity of at least 20 gallons. When setting up your tank, include rocks and driftwood to create hiding places for the fish. Add plants such as java fern or anubias to provide cover and shade.

The water temperature should be kept between 74 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, and the pH should be between neutral and slightly acidic, around a pH of six to seven.

They are territorial and aggressive fish, they will attack other fish that are not their own size and should only be kept with other convict cichlids of the same size. They will defend their territory against other fish, so it is important to provide plenty of space in the tank.

In the wild, they live in groups of up to 100 fish, so a tank of at least 20 gallons is recommended.

Life cycle of the convict cichlid

The male and female convicts will pair up to produce a maximum of 100 baby fish. The parents work together in digging their nest, which takes about two weeks to complete. Once it is finished they fertilize the eggs and then sit on them until they hatch (about 33 days).

After hatching, the fry will stay in the nest for another two weeks while their parents protect them from predators. At this point, they are ready to start life on their own.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Convict cichlids are one of the most aggressive freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby. They will readily attack other tankmates, including other cichlids. If you want to keep them, it is best to house them with robust fish that can handle their aggression.

That being said, there are some strains of convict cichlids that are less aggressive. Some of these may be able to live with other fish, but they still should not be kept in an aquarium smaller than 100 gallons.

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Convict cichlid care

convict cichlid

Convict cichlid care is easy, as these fish are hardy and easy to care for. In the wild, they inhabit a wide range of habitats, from fast-flowing rivers to calm lakes, so they can adapt to most aquarium conditions. They prefer a pH of around neutral but can tolerate levels up to alkaline or acidic.

What they eat

Convict cichlids are omnivorous and will eat a wide variety of foods. In the wild, they feed on insects, crustaceans, and other aquatic invertebrates. In the aquarium, they can be fed a diet of live or frozen food such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and tubifex worms.

Convict cichlids will also eat smaller fish and scavenge for food in the substrate, so it is a good idea to only keep them with other large or semi-aggressive species.

Convict cichlid tank mates

Convict cichlids can be kept with other large fish such as Oscars, green terror cichlids, and red devils. They can also be kept with smaller fish that are fast-swimming and have a robust immune system, such as barbs and tetras. However, they should not be kept with any small fish that are delicate or slow-swimming as they can be eaten.

Water conditions

Convict cichlids prefer a pH of around neutral, with a water hardness of up to 15 dGH. They can tolerate slightly harder or softer water conditions but will do best in the recommended range. It’s important to keep their water clean and well-oxygenated, especially if you’re keeping them in an aquarium.

Convict cichlids are hardy fish and can adapt to a wide range of water conditions, but they will do best in the recommended range. Make sure to keep their water clean and well-oxygenated for optimal health.

Water hardness: up to 15 dGH

Barometric pressure: 0–1000 hPa

Temperature: 18–30 °C (64.40–86.00 °F)

pH: pH of around neutral

Oxygen saturation: >80%

Ammonia concentration: 0 mg/L or less

Nitrite concentration: 0 mg/L or less

Phosphate concentration: 0.05 mg/L or less

Salinity: 0–35 PSU

Convict cichlid breeding

convict cichlid

Convict cichlids are one of the easiest fish to breed in captivity. They will usually start breeding on their own within a few months of being introduced into an aquarium. In order to increase your chances of getting them to spawn, you can try doing some conditioning with live food like brine shrimp or bloodworms.

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Once the female is pregnant, she will need someplace to hide and lay her eggs. This can be as simple as a PVC pipe or large clay flower pot that has been filled with marbles like those used in fish tanks for decoration.

The best water parameters for breeding convict cichlids are temperatures of about 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees C). The water hardness should be around 16 dGH to 22 dGH with a pH of about neutral seven (or slightly acidic) to about seven point four (or slightly basic).

Hatching the eggs can take up to a couple of weeks. The fry should be fed brine shrimp or live blackworms after their yolk sacs are absorbed within two days. They will also need some rocks and other sturdy items to hide under in order to reduce stress and potential predation.

Start off with a single species aquarium if you plan on breeding your convict cichlids. If they are going to live in a community tank after being conditioned, be sure that the other fish aren’t too large and aggressive before putting them together for conditioning.


Convict cichlids have a lifespan of about six to eight years in the wild. In captivity, they can live for up to ten years if well cared for.

Parasites and diseases

They can get internal and external parasites. These include nematodes, trematodes (flukes), roundworms, monogenea flukes, and gill maggots.

If they contract an illness or disease such as ick or fin rot, convict cichlids may become more aggressive than usual in order to protect themselves.


In the wild, convict cichlids have many predators including birds, fish, and other larger invertebrates. In captivity, their main predators are usually other fish in the aquarium.

Be sure to provide plenty of hiding places for them if you plan on keeping them in a community tank. This will help reduce stress and the chance of them being preyed upon.

Male convict cichlid

convict cichlid

The male convict cichlid is easily identified by its black and white stripes. These fish are very territorial and will defend their territory vigorously. The male can be quite aggressive towards other fish, including members of its own species.

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In the wild, male convict cichlids typically build nests in a sheltered area where they will guard their eggs and fry. In the home aquarium, it is important to provide a lot of hiding places for the male so that he can feel safe and secure.

Convict cichlid female

The female convict cichlid is a drab olive-gray color with a dark stripe running from the gill to the tail. She will lay her eggs on a flat surface, such as a rock or piece of wood, and will fan them with her fins to keep them clean and aerated. The male will then guard the nest and eggs until they hatch.

If a female convict cichlid is put in with an aggressive male, she will often turn dark and attempt to mimic the colors of a male. This is not always the case, however! Some females are very gentle while others have been known to attack other fish when disturbed. In this case, it may be best to house her with other females.

Do they make good pets?

Yes. They are a great choice for pet fish. They are very active and colorful, and they can be easy to care for. Plus, they are affordable and readily available at pet stores. Convict cichlids do well in community tanks with other fish, but they can also be kept alone. If you choose to house more than one convict cichlid in a tank, be sure that the aquarium is large enough and add only one per tank.


If you are looking for a good pet fish that is active and colorful, the convict cichlid might be the right choice for you. They are easy to care for and affordable, making them a great option for those on a budget. Be sure to do your research before purchasing one, as they do best in community tanks with other fish.