Cichlids are popular, colorful fish that breed easily in hobby aquariums and add visual interest. However, the cichlid can be an aggressive fish species. Because they are territorial, it can be challenging to find tankmates for any kind of cichlid, especially African cichlids. Sometimes, filling a large tank with only one type of African cichlid is the answer. Another option is mixing all kinds of cichlids of the same size together or adding a species compatible with the African cichlid, such as the red tail shark, pleco (suckermouth catfish), or giant danios.
Video of the Day
Different cichlid types
There are all kinds of cichlid fish, including angel fish, discus, oscars, dwarf cichlids, and there are several different species of specifically African cichlids. The first rule of mixing different cichlid types is to select cichlids from the same region. In other words, keep African cichlids with other African cichlids.
For instance, the Mbuna is a type of African cichlid known to be exceptionally aggressive, though they might cohabitate with larger African cichlids called hap and peacock cichlids. You'll have to manage temperaments by creating ideal tank conditions. That's the best strategy for mixing different cichlid types and other fish species.
Conditions for African cichlid tankmates
If you don't want a tank full of only one species, only add fish able to live in the same water temperature and conditions as cichlids. Cichlids require specific water temperatures and pH levels. For example, the ideal water temperature for African cichlids is 75 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit, and the ideal pH is 7.5 to 8.5.
A cichlid will be stressed attempting to live outside those parameters. A stressed cichlid is an aggressive cichlid. Therefore, increase the chances of them accepting other fish by keeping cichlids calm and comfortable.
Tankmates for African cichlids
Another consideration when selecting African cichlid tankmates is where they live in the aquarium. Fish like suckermouth catfish or plecos are slow moving and spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank. Plus, they are algae eaters, so they serve a useful purpose. However, plecos can not live on algae alone.
If you have a very large tank, African red-eyed tetras can make good tankmates for African cichlids because they are large tetras, have the same water requirements, and will eat the same food. Providing enough food will also reduce stress and aggressive tendencies. Similarly, giant danio, which must live in schools of six or more, can live with all species of African cichlids. However, you'll need a large tank that is approximately 3 to 5 gallons per fish added.
Cichlids and community fish
The cichlid in general is known to be an aggressive fish and some species more so than others. Space is very important, and large tanks are recommended. Though the exact size varies according to fish experts and the amount of fish in the tank, starting with at least a 55-gallon tank will yield best results. Male cichlids are especially territorial, and aggression results when one drifts into another's space. Keeping a single male of each species lowers the chances of aggression toward other community fish.
Limiting the number of aquatic creatures in one tank also reduces aggression. This is true for both cichlids and community fish of other species. Keeping fish of similar size also helps, as cichlids will target smaller fish, such as tetras. The small shell-dweller cichlids are most likely to tolerate tankmates of other species. The peacock cichlid might tolerate tankmates from the same natural region, primarily other African cichlids. Overall, it's advisable to keep African cichlids alone in an aquarium.