Cichlids have been one of the more popular species of fish with enthusiasts for many years. Their reputation for aggressive behavior may be a concern however if you are contemplating building a Cichlid community tank.
Are there peaceful cichlids that can be kept together with others?
The answer is yes! Read on to find out 8 specific examples and to learn what to look out for (along with the common mistakes)
Once you can identify the least aggressive Cichlids and provide them with a proper environment having a community tank is a possibility for you.
We have had success in the past with building community aquariums with non-aggressive Cichlids, and we want to share those experiences with you! What follows is a closer look at building a healthy community as well as some species you may want to take a closer look at.
Cichlids come in a surprising variety of species from across the globe. They are cherished as being a food fish, along with being a game fish, in the regions that they populate naturally. In the fish keeping hobby, they provide enthusiasts with medium and large pets that have stunning colors and patterns.
One of the struggles you will face when building up a Cichlid Community tank is the natural behavior these fish display. While most fish can be aggressive with smaller tank mates or during the breeding cycle, Cichlids are programmed biologically to display dominance more than other fish you might contemplate keeping.
This behavior manifests in males especially, either as an escalation during the establishment of territory to attract females or as a consistent pattern to establish territory before courting begins.
Some Cichlids Are More Aggressive
Cichlid species are very diverse, even among separate species that come from the same bodies of water in the wild. Through decades of observation by biologists and fish keepers, particular Cichlids have been identified as more tolerable towards other fish. Before you set up a community aquarium you will need to research potential non-aggressive Cichlids (that research will include reading articles like this).
Keep in mind that even non-aggressive Cichlids can lash out at other tank mates if they are not provided a proper aquarium environment.
Space is important
Offering plenty of space for your Cichlids is an easy way to limit aggression. We would suggest that you contemplate a fish tank of at least 55-gallons, if not more. Cichlids can grow to at least four inches, with many species reaching a foot or more when they are fully grown. You will need to provide room for these fish to establish territories that they can protect.
If your aquarium is too small it will cause more angry confrontations between your fish as the community fights over limited space. Smaller tanks will shrink the size of the territories that are created, with males battling in areas that are overlapping. It might also force one or males to wander in other fish’s space if there is not enough room for them to create their own territory.
Keep population in mind
One of the biggest problems for beginners when creating a Cichlid community tank is placing too many fish in the aquarium.
While adding things like multiple filters will allow you to house more fish in your tank, limiting the population will encourage less-aggressive behavior. If you find that your Cichlids are continuously fighting, removing some of them to another tank or giving them away could solve the problem.
Breeding activity can influence behavior
Keep in mind that your Cichlids will naturally be less peaceful towards each other when they are breeding, even among non-aggressive Cichlids.
The number of fights will probably increase during this time as your male fish display to attract females and to intimidate other males. Your least aggressive Cichlids will also be less tolerant towards others invading their territory when they are looking to breed.
Another consideration to keep in mind is their tendency towards either monogamous or polygamous breeding. Monogamous males will focus on their single mate while polygamous Cichlids will attempt to breed with any of the females within the aquarium. Polygamous Cichlids will seek to breed with females outside of their established territories as they naturally seek out mates.
Keeping a single male lowers aggression
In some situations, keeping a single male of a particular species within the tank will keep fighting to a minimum within the community aquarium.
As aggressive behavior most often happens between males of the same species, keeping a single male of each species that you keep can reduce instances of fighting.
It should be noted that it is difficult to identify males and females when they are younger, so you may have to remove one or more males as they mature.
Alter the decorations
One trick that many Cichlid keepers use to keep fighting to a minimum is to alter the structures in the tank regularly.
Rearranging rock and cave structures will allow your fish to re-establish boundaries, something that can be critical when you introduce new Cichlids to the community tank. Performing this during a water change can make this process easier and will help you by adding this reworking into your normal tank maintenance regime.
Stock similar sized fish with similar temperament
Stocking fish of similar size allows them to compete on a more even playing field, so to speak. All fish, including Cichlids, will naturally attempt to kill or eat smaller fish. Similar sized Cichlids will make less tempting targets.
When deciding upon the species that you keep, remember to select Cichlids with a similar temperament. Your least aggressive Cichlids will become targets for other Cichlid species that are more aggressive.
Thankfully, Cichlid enthusiasts have been able to identify and categorize Cichlid aggression levels, allowing you to select potential tank mates with research instead of trial and error.
Provide A healthy Environment
Stress can affect your Cichlid community tank and should be addressed immediately. Long term stress from poor water quality or bad diet can lower your pet’s health and make them targets for others.
The short term stress caused by some of the things mentioned above will also lower your Cichlid’s health and happiness. If you follow the advice we have presented above and select some of the non-aggressive Cichlids discussed below, you should enjoy your Cichlid community tank for years to come!
Eight Awesome Peaceful Cichlids
Neolamprologus multifasciatus (Dwarf Cichlid)
This species will appreciate a sand substrate and snail shells for decorations that mimic their natural environment. They can be kept with other fish that enjoy hard water with a higher PH level.
- You can keep a larger community due to their small size
- These fish will tolerate a wider variety of tank mates than other Cichlids
Keep In Mind
- They tend to have more subtle colors when compared to other species
- This species is polygamous and will wander into other’s territory during mating
Apistogramma cacatuoides (Dwarf Cicliid)
This species can be kept as a pair or harem-style in your community. Bottom-dwelling tankmates should prove ideal for them. They will need at least 20-gallons for a pair, however.
- This species exhibits bright reds and yellows among the males
- They have larger fins that add to their overall appearance and display
Keep In Mind
- They can exhibit more aggressive behavior during mating periods
- Tankmates should not include other dwarf Cichlids
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi (African)
Peacocks tend to remain active in the lower portions of the aquarium, where they can dig through the substrate as they explore. They are iridescent and have a large range of colors based on the various sub-species you keep.
- Can be found with blue, red, and yellow colorations
- They are active swimmers and provide plenty of visual entertainment
Keep In Mind
- Ideally, Peacocks should be kept at a ratio of a single male for every four females
- Successful community tanks will probably require tankmates from the same region
Pelvicachromis pulcher (African)
At three to four inches when fully grown, this fish is also classified as a dwarf Cichlid. That smaller size will require less room and allow you to keep more fish. They tolerate a wide range of tankmates.
- Iridescent golds and reds are displayed on silver bodies
- Distinct personalities can develop within individual fish
Keep In Mind
- They do exhibit aggressive behavior during the spawning season
- Water quality and PH will vary between the different sub-species of this fish
Cyphotilapia frontosa (African)
Those looking to keep a community of larger Cichlids might consider this species. They thrive in aquariums of 150-gallons or more, where they can stake out territory.
- It has a distinct bump on the forehead that offers a unique look
- Adult specimens are larger than other Cichlids on this list
Keep In Mind
- This fish can be a messy and slow eater when compared to other Cichlid species
- They will require a lot of space to help establish defined territories
Mikrogeophagus altispinosusm (South American)
This species of fish will thrive in more open tanks that can house a half-dozen or more at a time. Plenty of decorations in those larger aquariums will aid in keeping aggressive behavior to a minimum.
- Great for beginners due to their durability when kept
- Their diet is easy to maintain as they will eat almost any food
Keep In Mind
- Females can become aggressive when protecting their young
- At least six fish will be needed to display them at their best
Cleithracara maronii (South American)
With a lifespan of six to eight years, these peaceful Cichlids are great for beginners. While their color is rather uniform, they have a dark stripe that runs the length of their bodies.
- They have a timid personality that does not promote aggressiveness
- The species reaches four-inches as adults that will require less space
Keep In Mind
- This Cichlid will do best when kept in a species dedicated tank
- Their color scheme is rather dull in nature when compared to other species
Andinoacara pulcher (South American)
While they grow to be seven inches as adults, the Electric Blue does possess a mellow personality. A tank with plenty of artificial plant decorations will keep them happy while providing you with less work than a planted aquarium.
- A very intense electric blue color makes them a very attractive aquarium fish
- You will keep them for a long time as they live up to ten years
Keep In Mind
- They will need a lot of vegetation covers to keep their stress levels down
- Their tendency to dig into substrates will be difficult in planted tanks, however
Build Your Cichlid Community Aquarium
If you take the time to prepare your aquarium properly, you will create a community of Cichlids that can thrive and offer you a lifetime of enjoyment. Researching potential tank mates ahead of time should help you to avoid problems while saving you both time and money.
Do you have questions that we may not have covered? If so, feel free to comment below so that we can help you.
Finally, here is a quick list of things to consider:
- Select Cichlids that you have researched previously
- Provide them with plenty of room
- Do not overstock your Cichlid community tank
- Alter your decorations regularly
- Stock Cichlids of similar size and temperament
- Provide a proper diet and healthy water quality
- Never hesitate removing Cichlids to keep aggression down