What Cichlids Stay Small? Top 4 Small Cichlid Species For Your Tank

In this article, we’ll take a look at what cichlids stay small and provide four great small cichlid breeds and ideas for your next tank.

Cichlids are loved in the aquarium hobby for their range of bright colors and larger-than-life personalities.

Some cichlid species can grow up to 30 inches and while this isn’t the standard for aquariums, most commonly found in the aquarium trade have an adult size of between 4 and a half to 8 inches.

So when it comes to housing these beautiful fish but being limited on space, you may feel you have limited options.

However, this is not true; dwarf cichlids are very popular smaller cichlids for those that want a big package in a small size.


What Cichlids Stay Small?

There are several different species of small cichlids. Spanning from all over the globe, these little fish pack the punch of beautiful color, easy to moderate care requirements, and big personality, all in a more compact package than the more commonly known species of cichlid.

Supplies For African Cichlids

Top 4 Types Of Cichlids That Stay Small

Next y0u’ll find our list of the best small cichlids that you can find.

1. Golden Eyed Dwarf Cichlid (Nannacara Anomala)


Reaching a maximum of 3 inches, these adorable little South American Cichlids are also known as the Golden Dwarf Cichlid. The male is much more colorful than the female, just as in most cichlid species. The male’s appearance is usually an olive-brown to light brown back, belly, and upper body.

The male usually has striking iridescent blue to green flanks and cheeks. When docile or stressed, they can display two dark, lateral lines and faint transverse markings. The dorsal fin usually begins as red and turns green towards the rear of the fish.

The coloration of the female is a much blander version of the male without iridescent markings. During times of stress or spawning, the female coloration can show a crisscross pattern on her body. While several different color species can be found in many different geological areas, the most commonly available in the hobby are captive bred, which leaves them slightly less colorful.


While a 20-gallon aquarium is sufficient, it is heavily planted, and many hiding places are recommended in the aquarium’s back while leaving free-swimming areas in the front. This fish is generally very peaceful; meanwhile, if you plan to breed the fish, a bigger aquarium or species-only aquarium may be the better choice. They can be territorial during spawning season but only if not given enough space to feel as though their fry are safe.

2. Kribensis (Pelvicachromis Pulcher)


Known as “Krib” within the aquarium hobby, these little fish come from West Africa and reach an adult size of 4 inches maximum. In this species’ male and female fish have dark stripes running from the fish’s mouth to the rear fin. Different specimens of this species support different colors, but standards suggest you can see many oranges, yellows, and sometimes blues on the fins. Some specimens also sport gold-ringed eyespots, with darker pectoral and rear fins that are bluish to purple with a greenish sheen on the gills. The females also support a reddish or pink belly, especially during the breeding season.


The Kribensis are a hardy species, and a 10-gallon aquarium is large enough to house a pair, keeping in mind that you will need bigger if combining with other fish. Even though these fish have a reasonably docile temperament, it is wise to give them a little extra space, especially if you are interested in breeding them, as they can become territorial of their nesting site. Numerous caves and decor will help limit this aggression and keep the Kribs happy as they adore having a shelter all to their own.

3. Shell Dweller Cichlid (Neolamprologus Multifasciatus)


The Shell Dweller Cichlid gets its name because they call snail shells on the bottom of Lake Tanganyika’s home. These African Cichlids live, sleep, and breed in these shells. Being among the smallest cichlid species globally, they reach a maximum of 2 inches, while some females never reach 1 inch long! This collection of cichlid species comes in many colors, sizes, and shapes.


being one of the smallest cichlid fish a 10-gallon aquarium is the smallest recommended size for these fish, and it is highly recommended to get along, flat tank rather than a tall tank as these cichlids rarely stray far from their shells at the bottom of the water. Some species live in colonies, making it possible to have many of these small fish in a tight spot, but it is always important to do your research on the specific fish you are getting.

An abundance of shells usually recommended to have 2 to 6 shells per fish is essential in keeping the shell dweller cichlid happy and healthy. Due to these small fish being diggers, it is also recommended to have two or more substrate inches at the bottom of their tank.

4. German Blue Ram Cichlid (Mikrogeophagus Ramirezi)


These beautiful members of the dwarf cichlid family measure in at a maximum of 3 inches, the German Blue Ram is found in South America, and the wild-caught is commonly more colorful than the ones bred in the hobby. They are highly sought after in the hobby due to their small size, peaceful nature, and beautiful coloration.

A bright yellow to greenish body and head and the remainder of the body being white compliments black curved lines that run along its body with a black dot usually near the middle. Red eyes and yellow or red fins with blue lines compliment the beauty of this fish. Females have a pink stomach and are generally slightly smaller with more subdued coloration than males.


As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended you allow for 10 gallons per german ram. Although very friendly fish, they can be overly sensitive to water parameters. The water parameters in a slightly larger tank are easier to control and less likely to have a dramatic swing or drop in parameters. These beautiful fish will appreciate a heavily planted tank or a tank that provides many hiding places.

Video: Great Cichlids For Small Aquariums


What what are the smallest cichlids?

The Shell Dweller Cichlid (Neolamprologus multifasciatus) is one of the smallest dwarf cichlids, with the Male being only 1.8″ and the Female being only 1.4″ when fully grown.

How big do dwarf cichlids get?

Dwarf Cichlids will grow to be about 4 inches and required an aquarium of at least 20 gallons.

Dwarf Cichlids are very colorful, peaceful fish and make a great addition as a centerpiece fish to any aquarium.

How many dwarf cichlids can I put in a 10 gallon tank?

The number of Cichlids you can keep in a 10 gallon tank will depend highly on the type of cichlid you have.

In most cases, you’ll want to keep 1-3 in a tank this size as even small Dwarf Cichlids can grow to almost 3” in size.

However, a 10-gallon tank is pushing the limit, and a 20-gallon tank would be much more accommodating for the fish.

These four cichlid species are the smallest in the aquarium hobby and require the least amount of space for the most part. Keeping in mind, especially when it comes to cichlids, there are many different species and sub-species, so it is always wise to research the specific fish you plan to bring home. Providing you with the color and personality in a more compact and efficient size, the fish on this list are the best fit for a small tank with immense beauty.

Before you go find out what is the most popular pet fish.


Jack Dempsey
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