20 Best Convict Cichlid Tank Mates Care & Setup Guide 2023

One very common fish tank species that is popular all over the world is the convict cichlid and in this post, we’ll share a few convict cichlid tank mates that will keep a peaceful aquarium.

This striped beauty is one of the most widespread types of cichlid and it is the least demanding fish you will ever come across. There are a lot of interesting things about the fish and one of them is how it takes care of its fry, which can be a bit exciting to see.

The only thing as interesting as the fish may be that the convict cichlid is named ‘Convict’ for a reason: this species is particularly aggressive towards its tank mates. This is the reason why having a small tank may not be the best idea if you want to keep a couple of these fish.

Table of Contents

Equipment You Might Need For Your Convict Cichlid Tank

  1. Aqua Clear – Fish Tank Filter
  2. NICREW Classic LED Aquarium Light
  3. Fluval M Aquarium Heater
  4. Python Pro-Clean Gravel Washer and Siphon Kit
  5. Marina Algae Magnet Cleaner
  6. API Freshwater Master Test Kit

Facts about the Convict Cichlid

With an average lifespan of around 8 to 10 years, this is a fish that will stand the test of time given the right care and conditions. They can even live longer if you take good care of them.

Convict cichlids have around 9 vertical stripes of black against a lighter-colored tone and that is what makes them look like convicts. The color intensity of the fish varies and you can find many of them with a pinkish hue.

In the wild, this fish is mostly found in the larger rivers and streams where they shelter themselves near rocks and sunken branches.

They are particularly popular among cichlids because they are a low-maintenance fish that can last a long time. They are also excellent when it comes to breeding because of their receptiveness to mates.

Did you know you can keep some Cichlids in tanks as small as 10 gallons? Read our guide and Find out which Cichlids can live in a 10-gallon tank.

Tips to Help You Keep Convict Cichlids Happy and Thriving

The convict cichlid is an aggressive and territorial fish. It is not very easy to get them to play well with a lot of other fish species in the tank.

While it is not difficult to take care of the species in and of itself, there are some considerations you need to take in order to make sure that they are properly cared for.

Convict Cichlids

Deanpemberton [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Care Level: Very Easy to Take Care
Max Size of Fish: 5 inches to 6 inches
Temperature Range: 70 to 82 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 6 to 8

The information above clearly shows how easy it is to maintain ideal conditions for the convict cichlid. These are the normal conditions for most other fish tank species.

Of course, any additional tips will always be useful when it comes to making sure that the fish is happy, healthy and thriving in the tank, right?

  • You need to have a sizeable tank for the convict cichlid. The smallest size of tank you should use is 30 gallons, but not any less. We would, however, recommend you keep the size of the tank larger than 40 gallons due to their aggressive nature.
  • They are omnivorous fish, which means they can eat both plant and meat matter. Ideally, their core diet should be high-quality pellets or flakes but not just any flakes – you need to get flakes made for cichlids.
  • Convict cichlids do need to hide when they are feeling uneasy. In fact, they really love hiding under rocks and sunken branches in their natural habitat so you should add that as much as possible to their tank. Plants are not as necessary but plants such as Amazon Swords or Java Fern work well.
  • Of course, they are very active fish and they move around a lot. Expect your tank to always have some debris in the water column to combat this make sure you have a high-quality filtration system for the cichlid fish.

Best Convict Cichlid Tank Mates

When it comes to the convict cichlid, beginners should try to keep their convicts in a separate tank due to their aggressive nature. The reason being is that the convicts may fight it out with the others due to their territorial nature so what should you do?

Well, it might be a bit of a surprise for those who don’t know, but you do have some options for convict cichlid tank mates.  We have gone through the painstaking effort to research and compile a comprehensive list, which consists of the top ten convict cichlid tank mates.

Keep in mind that this species is very timid by nature and typically only become aggressive when they want to be, especially when they are breeding.

1. T-Bar Cichlids

Care Level: Very Easy to Take Care
Max Size of Fish: 6 inches
Temperature Range: 73 to 82 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 5 to 8

What better to live with cichlids than other kinds of cichlid, right? The T-Bar Cichlids are an attractive looking species of cichlids that do well in a community consisting of other fish, especially if they are similarly-sized cichlids. They are similar to the convict cichlids in the sense that they are peaceful generally, but they can get extremely aggressive during breeding. The fact that the two species can actually interbreed makes the T-Bar Cichlid the best tankmate for convict cichlids.

2. Honduran Red Points

Honduran Red Points

Cedricguppy – Loury Cédric [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Care Level: Very Easy to Take Care
Max Size of Fish: 3 inches to 4 inches
Temperature Range: 72 to 80 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 5 to 7.5

Another one of the best tank mates for the convict cichlids is the Honduran Red Point. When you compare their nature to that of the convict, the red points are definitely more peaceful. Despite the fact that they are tinier, they can get aggressive when they need to be and can hold their own in a fight. Another cichlid, this fish also needs a good amount of space to thrive.

3. Green Terrors

Green Terror

Elma from Reykjavík [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Care Level: Very Easy to Take Care
Max Size of Fish: 4 inches to 12 inches
Temperature Range: 68 to 75 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 5 to 8

A beauty in its own right, the Green Terror is not as terrifying as the name suggests (if you are putting it in the same tank as the convict cichlid). The thing is, this fish is also inherently aggressive but beautiful. Another species of cichlid, it can hold its own against the convict and knows better than to be unnecessarily aggressive in the fish tank. The best thing about it is that you do not have to worry a lot about taking care of this species.

4. Jewel Cichlids

Jewel Cichlid

Hectonichus [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Care Level: Very Easy to Take Care
Max Size of Fish: 1 inch to 11 inches
Temperature Range: 70 to 74 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 7 to 7.5

Jewel Cichlids are a species of fish that is incredibly beautiful and at the same time, unsuited when it comes to the regular community fish tank. The reason is that it is similar in nature to the convict cichlid and that also makes it one of the Convict cichlid tank mates. They are easy to take care of, live in similar conditions and get aggressive only while forming pairs.

5. Salvini

Salvini Cichlid

Care Level: Very Easy to Take Care
Max Size of Fish: 6 inches
Temperature Range: 72 to 81 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 8

Also known as the Salvini’s Cichlids, this species of cichlid is also known as the yellow-belly cichlid because of its yellow underside. It has a yellow body with two black lines of flower-esque designs running along the sides while the upper side also features the same black lines. Aggressive towards other species of fish, they are moderate when it comes to other kinds of cichlids and that is why they are among the Convict cichlid tank mates.

6. Jack Dempsey

Jack Dempsey

Zhyla (?) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Care Level: Very Easy to Take Care
Max Size of Fish: 15 inches
Temperature Range: 72 to 86 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 6 to 7

The Jack Dempsey is another one of the species that can be considered as one of the best tank mates for cichlids, but there is a catch here. They are the same in nature as convicts and they are quite a sight to look at in the tank. While you can expect them to get along well with convicts, there will come a time that territorial issues can be an issue between the two cichlid species. It is a carnivorous fish, which eats insects, crustaceans, worms, and other fish. Note: This is not a fish for beginners to keep in the tank.

7. Pictus Catfish

pictus catfish

Claire H. [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Care Level: Very Easy to Take Care
Max Size of Fish: 3 inches
Temperature Range: 75 to 81 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 7 to 7.5

And finally, an entry on the list of the convict cichlid tank mates that is not another species of cichlid. The Pictus Catfish is a small fish, which is a scavenger that eats anything it can find. A very peaceful fish, the Pictus actually gets along well with the convict cichlids. They share similar ideal conditions when it comes to the tank environment that makes them a good tank buddy for convicts.

8. Giant Danio

Giant Danio

Faucon [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Care Level: Very Easy to Take Care
Max Size of Fish: 4 inches
Temperature Range: 72 to 81 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 6 to 8

The Giant Danio is in no way a large fish as the name suggests, but it is definitely a good companion for the convict cichlid in the tank. The reason why this fish makes it on the list of the Convict cichlid tank mates is the fact that it is a very less aggressive fish, which likes to keep to itself and it moves really fast. That comes in handy whenever the convict cichlids are in the mood for some aggression because they know how to keep their distance. Tiny and colorful, the Giant Danio is a very vibrant and lively fish to look at in the tank.

9. Clown Loaches

Clown Loach

Care Level: Moderate
Max Size of Fish: 12 inches
Temperature Range: 72 to 86 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 5 to 7.5

Clown loaches are one of the best tank mates for convict cichlids. They are a relatively larger fish that stay primarily on the bottom of the tank. They like doing their own thing, are calm and like their own space.

Just make sure that some of these will reach up to a foot in length so you will need a decent sized fish tank if you want to accommodate them with your cichlid.

10. Common Pleco


Care Level: Moderate
Max Size of Fish: 20 inches
Temperature Range: 72 to 86 degree Fahrenheit
pH Range: 5 to 7.5

The Pleco is also known as suckerfish, this is a catfish species which is the last entry on the list of the Convict cichlid tank mates. They are pretty capable of reaching a larger size (20 inches) which makes them huge in terms of fish tank species but if you are planning to keep a single one of these in the tank with the convict cichlid, everybody will be fine. They are peaceful bottom feeders that keep the tank clean (something you need when you have convict cichlids in the fish tank).

Tank Tips to Make Sure Your Convict Cichlids Stay Safe

Here is a little more information about making the best possible environment for the convict cichlids other than keeping the best tankmates for them in the tank:

  • Keep the capacity of the fish tank at least 50 gallons or more because all of the Convict cichlid tank mates are species which require their own space and space to move around.
  • Make sure that you consider only species mentioned above so that it is easier to keep a handle on the conditions in the fish tank and establish a community.
  • Provide plenty of hiding spots for the convict cichlids and try not to keep too many pairs because of their aggressive nature.

Tank Mates, You Should Keep Away from Convict Cichlids

Convict Cichlids do not get along well with most other kinds of fish. They barely get along with other cichlids so you should understand that the tank mates you should keep away from convict cichlids are pretty much all other species than the ones we have mentioned.

Fun Facts About Convict Cichlids

While you’re going to find plenty of textbook facts about the convict cichlids, here are some interesting things you might not have known:

  • Convict Cichlids are actually pretty shy fish but when it comes to breeding, their protective and territorial instincts cause them to become extremely aggressive
  • If your convicts are in a tank where other fish have established a dominance, their aggressive nature automatically becomes subdued
  • They happen to be one of the most returned fish from the aquarium because people do not know how to take care of the community aspect
  • They love establishing their home and you shouldn’t be surprised if they rearrange the tank from the gravel to the plants.
  • They can hold their own and in fact, pretty much put up a very good fight against fish up to three times their size.

What fish can be kept with convict cichlids?

Keep in mind that this species is very timid by nature and typically only become aggressive when they want to be, especially when they are breeding.

Here are a few great tank mates for Convict’s

  • T-Bar Cichlids
  • Honduran Red Points
  • Green Terrors
  • Jewel Cichlids
  • Salvini
  • Pictus Catfish
  • Giant Danio
  • Clown Loaches
  • Common Pleco

How many convict cichlids can be in a tank?

Convict Cichlids are a smaller Cichlid species and don’t require a lot of space; in fact, 30 gallons would be more than enough for this species.

Can Convict cichlids breed with other cichlids?

Convict Cichlids will not breed with other cichlids however they are one of the easiest Cichlids to breed, and it’s as easy as placing a male and female together in the same aquarium.

Choosing Convict Cichlid Tank Mates: A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to setting up a community tank, the selection of suitable tank mates for convict cichlids is of paramount importance. These captivating fish, known for their vibrant colors and unique look, offer a captivating addition to your home aquarium. However, striking the right balance between their natural aggressive behavior and compatibility with other fish is crucial for a thriving aquatic environment.

Understanding Convict Cichlids

A. Description of Convict Cichlids

Convict cichlids are easily recognizable by their distinctive black stripes and a compact body. Hailing from Central America, they thrive in freshwater environments and are a popular choice among aquarists.

B. Growth Rate and Sexual Maturity

Convict cichlids exhibit a moderate growth rate, reaching sexual maturity at an early age compared to other fish species. This factor plays a role in their interactions with tank mates.

C. Proper Care and Balanced Diet

To keep convict cichlids content, it’s essential to provide them with proper care and a balanced diet. They relish live food like brine shrimp but can adapt to alternatives.

D. Tank Requirements

To ensure their well-being, consider their tank requirements, including minimum tank size and the right water parameters. These hardy fish require a larger tank to accommodate their territorial nature.

Ideal Tank Mates for Convict Cichlids

A. Zebra Cichlids as Compatible Companions

Zebra cichlids make for great tank mates, thanks to their similar habitat preferences and size.

B. Firemouth Cichlid – A Good Match for Convict Cichlids

The Firemouth cichlid shares Central American origins with the convicts, making them a harmonious pair in the tank.

C. Honduran Red Point Cichlid: A Unique Choice

The Honduran Red Point cichlid introduces a unique look to your tank while maintaining compatibility with convict cichlids.

D. Electric Blue Acara as a Colorful Addition

For those seeking vibrant colors, the Electric Blue Acara complements convict cichlids beautifully.

E. Other Central American Cichlids Suitable for a Community Tank

Exploring other Central American cichlids can provide a dynamic and diverse tank environment.

F. African Cichlids – A Consideration for More Experienced Aquarists

While African cichlids are visually striking, they are better suited for experienced aquarists due to their particular care requirements.

G. Schooling Fish like Giant Danios and Tiger Barbs

Giant Danios and Tiger Barbs can act as “dither fish,” helping reduce aggression among cichlids.

Tank Setup and Requirements

A. Minimum Tank Size for Housing Convict Cichlids and Tank Mates

Choosing a sufficiently large tank is essential to provide adequate space for all fish.

B. Providing Enough Space to Reduce Aggression

Adequate space ensures territorial disputes among fish are minimized.

C. Creating Hiding Places to Mimic Their Natural Environment

Incorporating hiding places in your tank design helps create safe spaces for all inhabitants.

D. Water Temperature and pH Level for a Warm and Suitable Habitat

Maintaining the right water temperature and pH level ensures your fish enjoy a comfortable and healthy environment.

E. Water Quality and Parameters to Maintain a Healthy Ecosystem

Regularly monitoring water quality and parameters is crucial for the overall well-being of your tank’s inhabitants.

Dealing with Aggressive Behavior

A. Understanding Convict Cichlids’ Territorial Nature

Recognizing their territorial instincts is essential to mitigate aggressive behavior.

B. Using Dither Fish to Distract Aggression

Introducing dither fish can divert the attention of convict cichlids away from other tank mates.

C. The Role of Proper Tank Setup in Reducing Conflicts

A well-planned tank setup can significantly contribute to reducing conflicts.

D. Steps to Take When Aggression Becomes Too Much Trouble

In cases of extreme aggression, it may be necessary to take action to ensure the safety of all fish.

Feeding and Nutrition

A. Convict Cichlid’s Preference for Live Food and Alternatives

Live food like brine shrimp is favored by convict cichlids, but they can adapt to other options as well.

B. Benefits of a Balanced Diet for Both Convict Cichlids and Tank Mates

balanced diet is essential for the overall health and vitality of all fish in the tank.

C. Ensuring All Fish Receive Their Fair Share

Monitor feeding to make sure each fish gets its share of food.

Tank Mates to Avoid

A. Oscar Fish and Red Devil Cichlids – Not a Good Choice

Oscar fish and Red Devil cichlids are generally not recommended as tank mates due to their aggressive tendencies.

B. Smaller Fish That May Become Prey

Smaller species can fall victim to the territorial nature of convict cichlids.

C. Jack Dempsey Fish and Silver Dollar Fish in Larger Tanks

In larger tanks, Jack Dempsey fish and Silver Dollar fish may coexist, but careful observation is needed.

D. Species That May Not Adapt Well to the Convict Cichlid’s Aggression

Some fish simply don’t thrive in the presence of convict cichlids and should be avoided.


A. Recap of the Most Important Things to Consider When Choosing Convict Cichlid Tank Mates

Choosing the right tank mates requires careful thought about compatibility and tank setup.

B. Encouraging Beginner Aquarists to Make Informed Decisions

Novice aquarists should prioritize research and preparation to ensure a harmonious tank.

C. The Satisfaction of Maintaining a Thriving Community Tank with Convict Cichlids and Compatible Companions

With the proper approach, you can enjoy the vibrant colors and dynamic interactions of a well-balanced community tank that includes convict cichlids and their ideal tank mates.

Final Thoughts

When you are taking on the convict cichlids as a pet, you should know that you can either keep them separately from other fish or choose one of the Convict cichlid tank mates noted above if you want to keep things peaceful in the tank. If you can establish a strong community, you will find the Convict Cichlid to be a very good pet that is easy to take care of.

Looking for more fish keeping tips check out the TFCG blog.

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