Convict Cichlid Care Guide: Tank Setup, Water Quality, Diet, Breeding, and More!

If you’re looking for a unique and interesting fish to add to your aquarium, the Convict Cichlid might just be the perfect fit. Originating in Central America, these fish have become increasingly popular in the aquarium trade due to their striking appearance and relatively easy care requirements. In this article, I’ll be covering everything you need to know about Convict Cichlid care, from tank setup to breeding and beyond.

The Convict Cichlid is a popular aquarium fish due to its unique appearance and hardy nature. They require a tank of at least 30 gallons with a temperature range of 72-82°F, pH range of 6.5-8.0, and a varied diet of commercial flakes, pellets, and live or frozen foods. They are generally aggressive and territorial towards other fish, especially during breeding season.

When it comes to caring for Convict Cichlids, there are a few key factors to keep in mind. First and foremost, it’s important to understand the species summary, including their lifespan, appearance, and temperament. You’ll also want to make sure your tank setup is appropriate for these fish, including factors such as tank size, filtration, and water quality. Additionally, understanding their dietary needs and potential health issues can help ensure your Convict Cichlids thrive in their new home.

Whether you’re a seasoned aquarium owner or just starting out, Convict Cichlids are a fascinating and rewarding species to add to your collection. By following the tips and guidelines outlined in this article, you can provide your fish with the best possible care and enjoy watching them thrive in their new environment.

Convict Cichlid Care Guide Pet people blog

Species Summary

If you’re considering keeping convict cichlids, it’s important to know some basic information about this fascinating species. Here’s a summary of some key details:


Convict cichlids (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) are native to Central America, specifically the Atlantic slope of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

They can also be found in some areas of the United States, where they have been introduced.


With proper care, convict cichlids can live up to 10 years in captivity.


Convict cichlids are small, colorful fish that can grow up to 4-5 inches in length. They have a dark black or gray body with white or pink stripes.

The males have longer fins and are generally more colorful than the females.

Size and Growth Rate

Convict cichlids grow relatively quickly and can reach their full size of 4-5 inches within a year.

Behavior & Temperament

Convict cichlids are known for their aggressive behavior, especially during breeding. They are highly territorial and will defend their space against other fish.

However, they can be kept with other fish as long as they are not too small or passive.

Male vs Female

Male convict cichlids are generally larger and more colorful than females. Males also have longer fins and a more pointed genital papilla. Females have a rounder, more blunt genital papilla.

Tank Setup

Setting up a suitable tank for your Convict Cichlid is important for their health and well-being. In this section, we will discuss the various aspects of tank setup that you need to consider.

Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a pair of Convict Cichlids is 30 gallons.

However, if you plan on keeping more than one pair or other fish with them, you will need a larger tank. The general rule is to add 10 gallons for every additional pair of Convict Cichlids or other fish species.


Convict Cichlids do not require any special lighting. A basic fluorescent or LED light will suffice.

It is important to provide a regular day/night cycle to mimic their natural environment.

Filtration & Aeration

A good filtration system is essential for maintaining clean and healthy water for your Convict Cichlids. A hang-on-back or canister filter is recommended.

In addition to filtration, aeration is important for oxygenating the water. An air stone or bubbler can be used for this purpose.


Convict Cichlids are tropical fish and require a water temperature between 72-82°F. A submersible heater is necessary to maintain a consistent water temperature.


A fine-grained substrate such as sand or gravel is recommended. Avoid sharp or rough substrates that can injure your fish.


Convict Cichlids are known to be aggressive and territorial, so it is important to provide plenty of hiding places and territories in the tank.

Rocks, caves, and driftwood are good options. Avoid sharp or rough decorations that can injure your fish.


Convict Cichlid Care Guide Pet people blog 2

Live plants can be added to the tank, but be aware that Convict Cichlids are known to uproot and eat them.

Hardy plants such as Anubias, Java Fern, and Amazon Sword are good options.

Overall, setting up a suitable tank for your Convict Cichlid is crucial for their health and well-being.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your fish have a comfortable and safe environment to thrive in.

Personally, I have found that adding plenty of hiding places and territories in the tank has helped reduce aggression and territorial behavior in my Convict Cichlids. It is important to remember that each fish has their own unique personality and behavior, so it may take some trial and error to find the perfect setup for your fish.

Water Quality

Proper water quality is essential for the health and well-being of your convict cichlids. Here are some key factors to consider:

Water Temperature

The optimal water temperature for convict cichlids is between 75-80°F (24-27°C). I have found that maintaining a consistent temperature helps to keep my fish healthy and happy.

Water pH

Convict cichlids prefer a slightly acidic to neutral pH range of 6.5-7.5. It is important to regularly test the pH levels in your tank and make adjustments as needed to ensure a stable environment for your fish.

Water Hardness

These fish can tolerate a range of water hardness levels, but slightly hard water with a range of 10-15 dGH is ideal. I have found that adding a small amount of aquarium salt to the water can help to maintain the proper hardness levels.

Water Changes

Regular water changes are crucial for maintaining good water quality. I recommend changing 10-20% of the water in your tank every week to remove any built-up toxins and debris.

It is important to use a dechlorinating agent to neutralize any chlorine or chloramine in the tap water before adding it to your tank.

By paying close attention to these key water quality factors, you can help ensure that your convict cichlids thrive in their environment.

Tank Maintenance

Convict Cichlid Care Guide Pet people blog 5

Maintaining a clean and healthy tank is crucial for the well-being of your Convict Cichlids. Here are some tips for keeping your tank in top condition:

Firstly, it’s important to perform regular water changes. I recommend changing 10-20% of the water in your tank every week. This will help to remove any harmful toxins and keep the water quality high.

Next, make sure to clean your tank regularly. This includes removing any uneaten food, dead plant matter, and waste from the bottom of the tank. You can use a gravel vacuum to make this process easier.

It’s also important to keep an eye on your tank’s filtration system. Make sure the filter is working properly and clean it regularly. Aeration is also important for maintaining good water quality, so make sure your tank has adequate oxygenation.

When it comes to the tank’s decor, make sure to clean any ornaments or plants regularly. This will help prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and algae.

Additionally, avoid overcrowding your tank with too many decorations as this can make cleaning more difficult.

Finally, keep an eye on your fish for any signs of illness or disease. If you notice anything unusual, such as changes in behavior or physical appearance, take action immediately.

Early detection and treatment can make all the difference in the health and well-being of your Convict Cichlids.

Tank Mates

Compatible Fish Species

Convict cichlids are known for their aggressive behavior, so it’s important to choose tank mates carefully. The best tank mates for convict cichlids are other cichlids of similar size and temperament.

Some good options include Firemouth cichlids, Jack Dempsey cichlids, and Green Terror cichlids. It’s also possible to keep convict cichlids with non-cichlid fish such as catfish and plecos.

Firemouth Cichlid Care Pet people blog 6

When introducing new fish to the tank, it’s important to do so gradually and monitor their behavior closely. If any aggression is observed, it may be necessary to separate the fish.

Incompatible Fish Species

Convict cichlids are not compatible with all fish species. Avoid keeping them with small or delicate fish, as they may be attacked or even eaten. Some fish that should be avoided include neon tetras, guppies, and mollies.

It’s also important to avoid keeping multiple male convict cichlids in the same tank, as they are likely to fight for dominance.

Female convict cichlids may also become aggressive during breeding season, so it’s important to monitor their behavior closely.

Overall, it’s important to choose tank mates that are similar in size and temperament to the convict cichlid, and to monitor their behavior closely to ensure a peaceful and harmonious tank environment.

Personally, I have had success keeping my convict cichlids with Firemouth cichlids and plecos. They have been peaceful and enjoyable to watch, and I have not observed any aggression or territorial behavior.

How Many Convict Cichlid Should Be Kept Together?

In my experience, convict cichlids are best kept in pairs or a small group of 4-6 individuals.

Keeping a single convict cichlid can lead to aggression and stress, while keeping too many can lead to overcrowding and territorial disputes.

It’s important to note that convict cichlids are known for their aggressive behavior, especially during breeding season.

To minimize aggression, it’s recommended to provide plenty of hiding spots and territories within the tank.

When selecting individuals to keep together, it’s important to choose fish of similar size and temperament. Avoid keeping convict cichlids with small or peaceful fish, as they may become targets for aggression.

Overall, it’s important to monitor the behavior and interactions of your convict cichlids regularly to ensure a healthy and harmonious environment.


What To Feed

Convict cichlids are omnivorous, which means they eat both plants and animals. In the wild, they feed on insects, crustaceans, small fish, and algae.

In captivity, you can feed them a variety of foods, including pellets, flakes, frozen or live foods, and vegetables. It’s important to provide a balanced diet that includes both animal and plant matter.

Convict Cichlid Care Guide Pet people blog 3

Personally, I like to feed my convict cichlids a mixture of high-quality pellets and frozen foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms.

I also offer them blanched vegetables like zucchini and spinach. It’s important to vary their diet to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.


Convict cichlids should be fed once or twice a day, in small amounts that they can consume within a few minutes.

Overfeeding can lead to health problems and water quality issues, so it’s important to avoid this. I typically feed my convict cichlids once in the morning and once in the evening.

This schedule works well for them, and they are always eager to eat when it’s feeding time.


When feeding your convict cichlids, it’s important to consider the size of their mouth. They have small mouths, so it’s best to offer them small-sized pellets or cut up larger pellets into smaller pieces.

It’s also important to avoid feeding them too much protein, which can lead to health problems. Make sure to offer them a variety of foods to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.

Finally, it’s a good idea to soak pellets in water before feeding them to your convict cichlids. This will help prevent them from swelling up in their stomachs and causing health problems.

Overall, feeding your convict cichlids a balanced diet is essential for their health and wellbeing. By offering them a variety of foods in the right amounts, you can help ensure they live a long and healthy life.

Common Diseases


Convict cichlids are generally hardy fish, but they can still fall prey to a few diseases. Some of the common diseases that can affect them include:

  • Ich (white spot disease)
  • Fin rot
  • Columnaris (mouth fungus)
  • Hexamita (hole in the head disease)


It’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of illness in your convict cichlids. Some common symptoms of diseases include:

  • White spots on the body and fins (ich)
  • Torn or frayed fins (fin rot)
  • White or gray patches on the mouth and body (columnaris)
  • Holes in the head (hexamita)


If you notice any symptoms of illness in your convict cichlids, it’s important to act quickly. Some treatments for common diseases include:

  • Medications like copper sulfate or malachite green (ich)
  • Antibiotics like tetracycline or erythromycin (columnaris)
  • Antibiotics like metronidazole or nitrofurazone (hexamita)


The best way to prevent diseases in your convict cichlids is to maintain good water quality and a healthy environment. Here are some tips:

  • Perform regular water changes
  • Keep the tank clean and well-maintained
  • Quarantine any new fish before adding them to the tank
  • Avoid overfeeding and keep a balanced diet

I once had a convict cichlid that developed fin rot due to poor water quality. I quickly treated him with antibiotics and made sure to keep up with regular water changes to prevent it from happening again. It’s important to keep a close eye on your fish and take action at the first sign of illness.

Signs of a Healthy Convict Cichlid Fish

Convict Cichlid Care Guide Pet people blog 4

As a proud owner of a convict cichlid fish, I always want to make sure that my fish is healthy and happy. Here are some signs that your convict cichlid is healthy:

  1. Active and Alert: A healthy convict cichlid is always active and alert. It will swim around the tank and explore its surroundings.
  2. Good Appetite: A healthy convict cichlid has a good appetite and will eagerly eat its food.
  3. Bright Colors: A healthy convict cichlid has bright and vibrant colors. Its colors may change depending on its mood, but they should always be vivid.
  4. Clean Fins and Scales: A healthy convict cichlid has clean and intact fins and scales. There should be no signs of damage or discoloration.
  5. Clear Eyes: A healthy convict cichlid has clear and bright eyes. There should be no cloudiness or swelling.

If you notice any signs of illness or distress in your convict cichlid, it is important to take action immediately. Consult with a veterinarian or a fish expert to diagnose and treat any health issues.

Regular observation and care can help ensure the health and well-being of your convict cichlid. With proper care, your fish can live a long and happy life.

Signs of a Sick Convict Cichlid Fish

As a responsible fish owner, it is important to keep an eye on your convict cichlid’s behavior and appearance to ensure they are healthy. Here are some signs to look out for that may indicate your fish is sick:

  1. Loss of appetite
  2. Lethargy or lack of activity
  3. Rapid breathing or gasping at the surface of the water
  4. Faded or discolored skin
  5. Clamped fins or fins that appear to be stuck together
  6. White spots or patches on the skin
  7. Swollen or bloated abdomen
  8. Excessive scratching or rubbing against objects in the tank

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to take action quickly to prevent the spread of disease and ensure your fish has the best chance of recovery.

Consult with a veterinarian who specializes in fish health or a knowledgeable fish store employee for advice on treatment options.

One personal anecdote I have is when I noticed one of my convict cichlids was not eating and seemed to be hiding more than usual.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed white spots on its skin. I immediately researched the symptoms and found that it was likely suffering from ich, a common fish disease.

I treated the tank with medication and increased water changes, and within a week, my fish was back to its normal active and healthy self.


Breeding Setup

To breed Convict Cichlids, you’ll need a breeding pair and a separate breeding tank. The breeding tank should be at least 20 gallons and have a temperature between 75-80°F.

The tank should also have a pH between 7.0-8.0 and a water hardness of 10-15 dGH. Adding some flat rocks or slate to the tank will provide a surface for the fish to lay their eggs on.

How To Breed

To breed Convict Cichlids, you’ll need a male and a female. The male will typically dig a pit in the substrate and then try to lure the female into the pit to lay eggs.

Once the female lays the eggs, the male will fertilize them and then guard the nest.

The female will continue to lay eggs in the nest until she has laid all of her eggs. The male will continue to guard the nest until the eggs hatch.


Once the eggs hatch, the fry will be free-swimming and will require small live foods such as baby brine shrimp or crushed flakes.

The parents will continue to guard the fry and will aggressively defend them from any perceived threats. It’s important to keep the water clean and well-oxygenated during this time to ensure the fry’s survival.

Breeding Convict Cichlids can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to be prepared and have the proper setup in place. With the right conditions and care, you can successfully breed these fascinating fish.

Product recommendations for Convict Cichlid:

  1. Hikari Cichlid Gold – These pellets are specially formulated for cichlid fish like convict cichlid, and will provide them with the essential nutrients they need.
  2. Omega One Super Color Flakes – These flakes are a great option for feeding your convict cichlid, as they are high in protein and other important nutrients.
  3. API Stress Coat Water Conditioner – This water conditioner will help to reduce stress in your aquarium, which can be especially important for sensitive fish like convict cichlid.
  4. Seachem Flourish Excel – This liquid fertilizer is a great way to promote healthy plant growth in your aquarium, which can be beneficial for convict cichlid.
  5. AquaClear Power Filter – This power filter is a great way to keep your aquarium water clean and clear, which is important for the health of your convict cichlid.
  6. Eheim Jager Aquarium Thermostat Heater – A heater is essential for maintaining a consistent water temperature in your aquarium, which is important for the health of your convict cichlid.
  7. API Master Test Kit – This test kit is a great way to monitor the levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in your aquarium, which can help you keep your convict cichlid healthy.
  8. CaribSea Eco-Complete Planted Aquarium Substrate – This substrate is a great option for planted aquariums, and can help to promote healthy plant growth, which can be beneficial for convict cichlid.
  9. Hydor Koralia Nano Aquarium Circulation Pump – A circulation pump can help to keep the water in your aquarium moving, which can be important for the health of your convict cichlid.


Overall, the Convict Cichlid is a hardy and fascinating fish species that can be a great addition to any aquarium. With proper care and attention, these fish can live for up to 10 years and bring joy to their owners with their unique personalities and behaviors.

When setting up a tank for Convict Cichlids, it is important to consider their specific needs and requirements. A tank size of at least 30 gallons is recommended, with appropriate lighting, filtration, aeration, and heating. The substrate and decorations should mimic their natural habitat, and live plants can provide additional benefits.

Water quality is key when caring for Convict Cichlids. Maintaining a consistent water temperature, pH level, and hardness is essential, and regular water changes are necessary to keep the tank clean and healthy.

When it comes to tank mates, it is important to choose compatible fish species that can coexist peacefully with Convict Cichlids. Aggressive or territorial fish should be avoided to prevent conflicts and potential harm to the cichlids.

Feeding Convict Cichlids a varied diet of high-quality pellets, flakes, and live or frozen foods will ensure their nutritional needs are met. Regular feedings should be provided, but overfeeding should be avoided to prevent health issues.

While Convict Cichlids are generally hardy and disease-resistant, it is important to be aware of common diseases and their symptoms. Prompt treatment and prevention measures can help keep these fish healthy and happy.

Finally, breeding Convict Cichlids can be a rewarding experience for experienced fish keepers. With the right breeding setup and care, these fish can produce large batches of fry and continue to thrive in captivity.

As a personal anecdote, I have owned several Convict Cichlids over the years and have always found them to be fascinating and entertaining fish. Their unique personalities and behaviors never cease to amaze me, and I highly recommend them to any aquarist looking for a fun and engaging fish species to care for.


As a convict cichlid owner, I have received a lot of questions about how to properly care for these fish. Here are some frequently asked questions:

Can I keep convict cichlids with other fish?

Yes, but it’s important to choose compatible fish species. Convict cichlids are known for their aggressive behavior, so it’s best to avoid keeping them with peaceful or slow-moving fish. Good tank mates for convict cichlids include other cichlid species, such as the Jack Dempsey or Firemouth cichlid, as well as larger tetras and catfish. Avoid keeping them with smaller fish, as they may see them as prey.

What should I feed my convict cichlids?

Convict cichlids are omnivores, so they require a varied diet consisting of both plant and animal matter. You can feed them a high-quality pellet or flake food as a base, and supplement their diet with frozen or live foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and earthworms. It’s important to feed them small amounts several times a day, rather than one large feeding, to prevent overeating and obesity.

How often should I do water changes?

It’s recommended to do a 25% water change every week to maintain good water quality. If you have a heavily stocked tank, you may need to do more frequent water changes. Make sure to use a water conditioner to remove chlorine and other harmful chemicals from tap water before adding it to the tank.

Do convict cichlids require a heater?

Yes, convict cichlids are tropical fish and require a water temperature between 72-82°F (22-28°C). A heater is necessary to maintain a consistent water temperature, especially during colder months or in rooms with fluctuating temperatures.

Can I breed convict cichlids in my home aquarium?

Yes, convict cichlids are known for their ease of breeding in home aquariums. To breed them, you will need a breeding pair, a separate breeding tank with appropriate setup, and patience. The female will lay eggs on a flat surface, and the male will fertilize them. The eggs will hatch in 2-3 days, and the fry will be free-swimming in about a week. It’s important to provide plenty of hiding places for the fry to avoid being eaten by the parents or other tank mates.

What are some common diseases that affect convict cichlids?

Convict cichlids are susceptible to common fish diseases such as ich, fin rot, and velvet. Symptoms include white spots, torn fins, and abnormal swimming behavior. Treatment options include medication and water changes. It’s important to maintain good water quality and avoid overfeeding to prevent diseases.

I hope these FAQs have been helpful in answering some of your questions about convict cichlid care. Remember to always do your research and provide a suitable environment for your fish to thrive.

Reference: Wikipedia.


Hi there! My name is Jacob, and I'm the founder of this Pet people blog that talks all about aquarium and fishkeeping. I've been passionate about fish and aquatic life since I was a kid, and I've spent countless hours learning about different species, their habitats, and how to create the perfect environment for them to thrive in.

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts