There are countless designs for fish tanks out there, from tiny cubes to hexagons, round bowls to huge customized tanks that can contain entire rooms.
Even discounting custom designer fish tanks for specific spaces, there remain a wide variety of different “standard” shapes and sizes for tanks. Not surprisingly, not all tanks are ideal for all types of fish.
This article will look at the best cichlid tanks.
We will deep dive into the different types of cichlids and will make tank recommendations based on their specific needs to provide the best possible artificial homes for these aquatic pets.
The best tank shape for cichlids
These are the “standard” tanks in the aquarium industry. Rectangular tanks have the most versatility in terms of filtration options and come in sizes sufficient for almost any cichlids.
For most cichlids it pays to maximize the surface area of the tank, so the length and width of the tank are more important than the height.
Angels and Discus fish are the only cichlids that really will thrive in specialized “tall” tanks.
Tall tanks sacrifice their width for additional height. These tanks are great display tanks since much of their contents are visible at a glance, but in reality, few fish and fewer cichlids will utilize the full volume in a tank of this sort.
Most cichlids prefer staying close to the substrate and/or rock décor (eg. African mbuna, Central American cichlids, etc.), while a few like the cyprichromis species from Lake Tanganyika are active surface swimmers during the day. In contrast, the tall bodies of angel fish and discus work perfectly in a tall tank.
Check out our guide to the best cichlid substrate if you need more information on setting up the most ideal tank for your fish.
These oddly shaped tanks are eye-catching, but in reality, they are a poor choice for a cichlid tank.
Most of their volume is in the vertical column of water with little linear swimming distance available in any direction.
If you were given one (or found it) then the best choice of cichlids for it would be to build a rock pile in the middle and populate it with cichlids like Julidochromis marlieri; rock dwellers who tend to stay very close to home. If you were actually buying a tank, avoid the hexagonal ones – you are much better off getting an equivalent volume in a rectangular tank.
Corner fish tanks have two equal sides – both of which are the “back” of the tank – connected by a curved glass panel.
This design can make a great show tank and is suitable for many cichlids. The dimensions of this type of tank make it a reasonable choice for rock-dwelling African cichlids or many of the smaller Central American cichlids.
Anything that needs lots of horizontal linear swimming space would probably be better served by a rectangular tank instead.
Glass Tanks vs Acrylic Tanks
Aquariums are almost exclusively made of either glass or acrylic; each material has their own advantages and disadvantages.
Glass aquariums are generally less expensive but are heavier and can fail catastrophically on impact (rock falls, for instance). Acrylic tanks are basically indestructible, but they also scratch much easier than glass tanks. They are also easier to plumb for custom wet/dry filters.
Which would be best for cichlids? It comes down to personal preference but in general, a glass tank is a better option for any tank under 100 gallons; above that acrylic is worth consideration.
Tank Size for Cichlids?
The most important consideration when choosing a tank is ensuring that it will be big enough for its inhabitants.
In general, the rule with cichlid tanks is the bigger the better.
Larger tanks allow fish to establish territories and decrease aggression in particularly belligerent species.
There are only a few cichlids which could be readily kept in tanks below 30 gallons. In particular, African shell dwellers or South American rams would be ideal in the relatively small tanks.
It may also be possible to keep breeding pairs of some of the smaller cichlids (eg. N. Brichardi) in tanks of this size, particularly if they’re the only inhabitants.
Far too many people put a baby Oscar into a 20-gallon tank and then wonder why mayhem ensues (Oscars grow to 12” or more and shouldn’t be kept in anything less than a 75-100 gallon tank).
Do your research! In general, the larger the tank the fewer difficulties you’ll run into with aggression, especially if you’re keeping any of the more belligerent African or Central American cichlids.
For beginners, a 50-gallon cichlid tank is usually a good start. That way you can still house a nice number of compatible cichlids to get you started in the hobby.
A general rule of thumb is 1 gallon per inch of fish (check out the typical adult sizes).
We hope this advice has pointed you towards the best tank for your cichlids! In most cases, we are looking for a nice wide tank as these suit the cichlids’ swimming habits as bottom dwellers.