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How Many Cichlids Can You Fit In A 55 Gallon Tank

In this article, we’ll answer the following questions about keeping Cichlids in a 55 gallon tank.

  • How Many Cichlids Per Gallon?
  • How Many Cichlids Can I Put In A 55 Gallon Tank?
  • Which Cichlids Can You Keep in a 55 Gallon Tank?
  • How Many African Cichlids In A 55 Gallon Tank?
  • How Many Mbunas Can Fit In A 55 Gallon Tank?
  • How Many Peacock Cichlids Can You Keep In A 55 Gallon Tank?

Below you’ll also find a full list of African, South American, and Central American ideas for your 55 gallons along with some helpful care tips.

Let’s get into it then.

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How Many Cichlids Per Gallon?

African Cichlids

African Cichlids

Cichlids are one of the largest aquarium fish families. The Wolf Cichlid, for example, can reach up to a size of 30 inches require a 120-gallon take.

Some of the smallest Cichlids, like the shell-dwelling ones called Multie or Shellie, grow up to be about 1.5 to 2 inches and require at least a 5-gallon tank.

So the per gallon calculation doesn’t work out for this large family. If we base the size on some of the common Cichlids like Apistos (about 4 inches) or Silver Angelfish (about 6 inches), they need at least 20-gallon and 30-gallon, respectively. It would be about 0.2 inches of Cichlids per gallon.

When it comes to the tank size, the length or even weight of the fish isn’t the only parameter you consider. Some fish prefer large open spaces to swim, while some are comfy in relatively smaller plated tanks. But a general rule of thumb is that the larger the tank, the happier your fish is likely to be. For community tanks, you have to focus on the overall biomass and the general messiness of species you are getting.

How Many Cichlids Can I Put In A 55 Gallon Tank?


The number of Cichlids you can fit into a 55-gallon tank depends on whether it’s Cichlid African or some other kind of Cichlid. The size of that particular Cichlid species, their temperament, and tolerance of their kind will determine how many you can put in a 55-gallon tank. Most Cichlid species don’t show schooling behavior, even the small dwarf ones. Some Cichlids can school (like Discus) if they are in a big enough Cichlid tank, but a 55-gallon tank is not enough.

Most Cichlids are territorial. Some may tolerate others of their species, especially if you keep them in a pair or a harem configuration (one male and a few females), then you can keep a group of them.

But the prime factor here is still the species and their size. An African Butterfly Peacock (9 inches when fully grown) or a Discus (10 inches), needs a 55-gallon tank. A Cockatoo Cichlid needs 20 gallons for a pair. So you can keep about a harem of 5 or 6 Cichlids in a tank that size. And it’s not big enough for an Oscar.

There is no exact answer for that, but if your Cichlid is somewhere between 3 to 4.5 inches, you can keep a small harem (4 to 6 Cichlids) of them in a 55-gallon tank. But if you are thinking of putting two males at once, make sure they are small enough to have their territory in the 55 gallons. For bigger Cichlids, a safer option would be to stick with a pair. If they are peaceful enough, you can create a community tank around them.

Which Types Of Cichlids Can You Keep in a 55 Gallon Tank?

Sevrum Cichlid

Sevrum Cichlid

Apart from some massive Cichlid species, typically the ones that grow beyond 8 inches, several Cichlid species can be kept in a 55-gallon tank. How many Cichlids in a 55-gallon tank would depend upon the specific species? Let’s take a look at some of the common Cichlids and how will they fare in a 55-gallon aquarium.

Whether you are building a specialized Cichlid tank or a community tank is also an important consideration. The temperament might be more important than how many inches in length a Cichlid.

African Cichlid Tank Ideas

If you are creating an African Cichlid tank or a community Cichlid tank, you have many choices.

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis): It’s a small fish, reaching 2.6 to 3 inches at max. It needs a minimum of 20 gallons to keep two pairs in a 55-gallon easy (pairs are territorial). They prefer densely planted tanks with plenty of rocks.

African Peacock: It’s a species of Cichlids hailing from Malawi lake, with at least 22 unique members. They are brightly colored and beautiful fish that grows up to be four to six inches typically. Some peacocks grow larger. A 55-gallon Cichlid tank will be excellent for one of the larger African Peacocks.

Buffalo Head: It’s also called Lionshead or Humphead, due to a distinct hump on the heads of males of the species. It grows 4.7 inches at max (males), and a 55-gallon aquarium is big enough for a pair, maybe one male and three females. They need a sandy substrate to dig in. They can tolerate some small fish and a few catfish species.

Compressiceps: Also called Malawi Eyebiter, it is too large for a 55-gallon aquarium.

Zebra Mbuna: Mbuna are endemic to Lake Malawi in Africa, Zebra Mbuna is also called Red Zebra, and it grows up to 4.4 inches maximum. A 55-gallon aquarium is enough to house one male with two to three females. They are found in the lake’s rocky bottoms and prefer rock-based decoration in the aquarium and moderately lit water.

Electric Blue: At about 6 inches, this fish is big enough for a tank size of 55 gallons. Some Haps grow up to 8 inches and require a bigger tank size. They are harem fish (1 male four females), but you will need a bigger tank. They prefer moderate water movement.

Yellow Cichlid: They grow up to three to five inches and should be kept in one male and four to five female group. A 55-gallon aquarium is enough to build a community Cichlid tank.

Maingano Cichlid: Maingano is a 3 inch long, semi-aggressive fish that is not suitable for beginner Cichlid tanks. You can keep one male and several females in a 55-gallon.

Demasoni Cichlid: It’s another small fish that grows 2.5 to 3 inches in length. It’s easy to keep fish with beautiful black and blue stripes. Since it’s an aggressive fish, keep just one in a 55-gallon aquarium, preferably with sand substrate and moderately lit water.

Venustus Cichlid: Too large for 55 gallons need at least 100-gallon African Cichlid tank since it grows up to 11 inches in length.

Acei Cichlid: At max, it’s 4 to 5 inches in length, males are longer, and one male should be kept with at least three to four females in a 55-gallon aquarium. They prefer a bit of basic water with a pH above 7.5.

Bumblebee Cichlid: At about 6 inches in length, it’s quite a large “bumblebee” for your 55-gallon Cichlid tank. It’s aggressive, so not suitable for a community tank, it can be kept in a species-only Cichlid tank. It requires pristine water quality, so be ready for frequent water changes.

Frontosa Cichlid: Another Humphead that’s too large for a 55-gallon aquarium.

Kribensis Cichlid: It’s a fun beginner fish with a lot of character and grows up to only 4 inches in length. In a 55 gallon, you can keep two pairs. They are peaceful but fin nippers. So you can keep them with Danios, Gouramis, some Catfish and Plecos.

South American Cichlid Ideas

Severum Cichlid: It’s another fish with a lot of character and a trusting personality. A Cichlid tank with Severum can be fun to watch since it can even be trained to eat directly from hand when you feed it. It can grow up to 8 inches, and just one is enough for a 55-gallon Cichlid tank.

Blue Acara: It’s a peaceful fish that reaches a size of 7 inches generally. It needs sandy substrate, strong water movement, and Cichlid tank at least 55 gallons in size for a pair.

German Blue Ram: It’s one of the most well-known beginner fish. It’s peaceful and can be kept in a community tank. It’s small (about 2.8 inches) and lives in pairs. Two or three pairs would be enough in a 55-gallon.

Oscar Cichlid: They reach up to a foot, sometimes 14 inches in size, and are typically too big for a 55-gallon tank. But some aquarists have had success keeping one in a solitary Cichlid tank.

Central American Cichlid Ideas

Convict Cichlids: True to its name, Convict is an aggressive Cichlid. It reaches 6 inches in length and prefers sandy substrate, warm water, and floating plants. A pair would be okay in a 55-gallon Cichlid tank.

Firemouth Cichlids: It’s a hardy 6.7-inch fish which can be kept in a community tank with similar sized fish. A pair would be enough for a 55 gallon.

How Many African Cichlids In A 55 Gallon Tank?

African Cichlid tanks are fun to design because there is a lot of variety available. In a 55 gallons tank, you can keep anywhere from just one Cichlid to a harem of 5, 6, depending on the species. A 55-gallon African Cichlid tank can be designed in a variety of different ways.

How Many Mbunas Can Fit In A 55 Gallon Tank?

Depending upon which Mbuna you are choosing, you may either house a pair in a Cichlid tank of 55 gallons or a small harem, i.e., one male with two or three females.

How Many Peacock Cichlids Can You Keep In A 55 Gallon Tank?

The Peacock Cichlids are aggressive, and a cramped Cichlid tank would only aggravate them. Their sizes usually lie somewhere between 4 and 7 inches. For smaller peacocks, you can keep a small harem of one male and two to three females. For larger Peacocks, you may keep one or max, a pair in a tank size of 55 gallons.

Cichlid Care Tips & Other Considerations

Most Cichlid species are semi to entirely aggressive, and they don’t make for good tank mates to other, more peaceful species. So if you are choosing a Cichlid for your community tank, your choices would be somewhat limited. Other things you should take care of:

  • Most Cichlid species are territorial and need lots of hiding places (ideally rocks and caves) to feel safe.
  • Some species like to dig up plants, so floating ones would be better.
  • Feed them twice a day, and only so much that they can eat within three minutes.
  • Most species prefer hard water, but you should check for your specific species.
  • Keep the tank clean, with partial water changes and a strong filter.

The Cichlid family is extensive and an exciting family to choose from. So when you are researching which one would suit you best, we recommend doing your research using the specific name. A lot of them have overlapping names, which can make it very confusing for novices. If that’s you, it’s good to compare the scientific name of the fish and check if it’s the same on multiple sources.

Learn More About Cichlids

How Many Cichlids Can Fit In A 55 Gallon Tank