Convict Cichlid Appearance, Size, Care, Tank Mates & Breeding

Welcome to our guide on caring for convict cichlids.

As aquarists, we understand the importance of creating a safe and healthy environment for our fish.

Convict cichlids are a popular species known for their hardy nature and unique appearance, making them an excellent choice for beginner and experienced hobbyists.

This article will cover everything you need to know about caring for your convict cichlid, including their size, tank requirements, breeding habits, diet, health concerns, and compatible tank mates.

We aim to provide all the information you need to create the perfect home for your convict cichlid to thrive in its new environment.

Species Summary

Convict cichlids, or Amatitlania nigrofasciata, are popular freshwater fish native to Central America.

They can be found in the Atlantic and Pacific coast countries, such as Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

They prefer plenty of wood and rocks to hide between meals in their natural habitat.

As omnivores, they are not too picky about their food!

Surprisingly, convict cichlids can also be found in Australia, albeit not in their natural habitat.

This is due to the similarity of the environment in certain parts of the country.

The eye-catching beauty of these fish has made them a popular and sought-after choice for the aquarium scene for many years.

However, overfishing and capturing is a legitimate concern, yet the population has yet to be heavily impacted.

Convict cichlids are a delightful addition to any aquarium. These fish boast vibrant behavior, hardiness, and gentle nature.

They bring life to any tank and will bring joy to any aquarist.

Their attractive appearance and peacefulness make them a must-have for any aquarium enthusiast.



It’s important to note that the lifespan of any fish can be influenced by various factors such as genetics, environment, and care provided by the owner.

The average lifespan of a convict cichlid is 8 to 10 years assuming proper care is given, but several different factors can impact this range.

Some factors affecting the lifespan of these fish include genetics, water quality, diet, and tank mates.

Maximizing their lifespan in captivity involves providing a suitable environment that mimics their natural habitat.

Differentiating genders is also important when maximizing their lifespan since pairing males and females in a community tank may lead to aggression and territorial behavior.

Compared with other cichlid species, the convict cichlid has an average lifespan similar to most other cichlids.

However, some species, like angelfish, have been known to live up to 15 years or more in captivity.

It’s worth noting that lifespans in the wild may differ from those in captivity due to environmental differences between these two settings.


You’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that these small but mighty fish grow fairly normally, allowing you to keep them in smaller tanks than other cichlid species.

The average size of a fully grown convict cichlid is around 4-5 inches, making them perfect for those who want to keep various fish without worrying about space limitations.

It’s worth noting that males tend to be larger than females, but you won’t be able to identify their gender until they’re adults.

Size variations can also affect the activity level of your convict cichlids.

Larger fish may require more room and swimming space, while smaller ones may only need a little.

Additionally, when considering tank compatibility, it’s important to consider the size of other potential tank mates and whether or not they will get along with your convict cichlids based on size differences.


When you first set eyes on a convict cichlid, you’ll notice the unique black vertical bars that run down its greyish-blue body and into its long dorsal fin.

These bars are one of the most striking features of this fish and can vary in number from eight to slightly more or less depending on genetic factors.

These stripes usually continue into their semi-transparent dorsal fin, adding to the visual interest of these fish.

Convict cichlids also have average-sized ventral and pectoral fins that are fairly see-through.

Their anal fins begin at the midpoint of their body and stop at the beginning of the caudal peduncle.

The partially transparent caudal fin is shaped like a symmetrical shell which helps them generate power and has well-rounded mobility in the water.

Altogether, these physical attributes give convict cichlids an attractive appearance, making them popular among hobbyists and aquarium enthusiasts.

Care Requirements

When it comes to caring for our convict cichlids, there are a few key things we need to consider.

First and foremost is tank size – these fish do best in a minimum of 30 gallons.

We must also ensure their tank setup includes plenty of hiding spots with rocks and driftwood.

Maintaining the right water parameters (79°F-84°F temperature, pH levels between 6.5-8, and water hardness between 10-15 dH) can help keep our convict cichlids healthy and happy.

Finally, it’s important to be aware of common freshwater illnesses like Ich or fin rot so we can catch them early and treat our fish promptly if needed.

Tank Size

To create a comfortable environment for your fish, consider getting a larger tank than the recommended minimum of 30 gallons.

While some aquarists may argue that smaller tanks are adequate, providing more space will greatly benefit your convict cichlids.

These territorial fish can become aggressive and stressed in small aquariums, leading to subpar health and lifespan.

Investing in a slightly larger tank will make your fish healthier.

To further enhance the well-being of your convict cichlids, it’s important to properly manage their aggression levels through aquarium decorations and proper maintenance.

Providing sand substrate and various rocks or driftwood will give your fish hiding spots and territories to claim, reducing their need for aggression towards other tankmates or even each other.

Maintaining proper water temperature and regular tank maintenance (such as water changes) can also help reduce stress levels in the aquarium environment, leading to happier convict cichlids.

Remember: happy fish = healthy fish!

Tank Setup

You’ll want to set up your aquarium with sand substrate and plenty of rocks or driftwood to create the perfect environment for your new fish.

The right aquarium decor can help mimic their natural habitat, making them feel more comfortable in your tank. Here are some tips for setting up a convict cichlid tank:

  • Substrate Options: Sand is the best substrate option for convict cichlids. Avoid gravel as it can scratch their delicate bodies.
  • Hiding Places: Convict cichlids are territorial, so providing hiding spots in their tank is important to reduce aggression and territorial behavior. Rocks and driftwood make great hiding places where they can retreat when feeling threatened.
  • Tank Maintenance: Regular water changes are essential for maintaining a healthy environment for your fish. Test the water regularly to check pH levels, hardness, and temperature.
  • Filter Options: A good filtration system is crucial for keeping the water clean and clear. A filter that provides mechanical and biological filtration will help keep the water chemistry stable.

By following these simple tips, you can create a comfortable home for your convict cichlids while reducing stress on yourself by avoiding unnecessary maintenance issues.

Water Parameters

Pay close attention to water temperature, pH levels, and hardness when setting up your aquarium for these hardy fish – getting the right parameters is crucial to their health and well-being.

Aquarium filtration is also important for maintaining a clean and healthy environment.

Convict cichlids prefer a temperature range of 79°F to 84°F, with pH levels between 6.5 to 8 and water hardness of 10 to 15 dH.

You should invest in an accurate testing kit to get the correct readings.

Understanding water chemistry is essential for keeping your convict cichlid healthy.

The nitrogen cycle plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy environment in your tank.

During the nitrogen cycle, beneficial bacteria convert toxic ammonia from fish waste into nitrite and less harmful nitrate.

Regular water changes are necessary to keep nitrate levels under control.

By monitoring the water parameters regularly, you can adjust accordingly if anything needs tweaking – this will help prevent any health issues from developing in your convict cichlids!

Common Diseases

Watching for common illnesses like Ich or fin rot is important when keeping your fish healthy.

Prevention is key when it comes to keeping your convict cichlid healthy.

The best way to prevent diseases is by providing them with a clean and stress-free environment.

This means maintaining proper water parameters, avoiding overfeeding, and quarantining any new fish before introducing them into the tank.

Treatment options are available if you notice any common symptoms of illness in your convict cichlid.

However, acting fast is important as some diseases can spread rapidly and cause serious damage if left untreated.

Common symptoms of the illness include lethargy, loss of appetite, abnormal swimming behavior, and visible signs like white spots or fin deterioration.

Following a quarantine protocol and disease prevention tips will help ensure your convict cichlid stays happy and healthy for years.

Diet & Nutrition

You might think a subpar diet is acceptable because the convict cichlid will eat anything.

However, it’s important to remember that they need a balanced diet of pellets or flakes with live food options to stay healthy and happy.

As omnivores, these fish require a mix of insects and plant matter for proper nutrition.

To ensure your convict cichlids get the necessary variety and nutritional intake, incorporate live food options like brine shrimp and bloodworms into their feeding routine.

It’s also important to establish a regular feeding schedule to avoid overfeeding risks, especially since these fish can be prone to eating more than they need.

Stick with a standard morning and night combination for feeding frequency, and watch how much food your fish consume.

By providing them with a balanced diet that meets their nutritional requirements, you’ll promote optimal health for your beloved convict cichlids.

Behavior & Temperament


Territorial behavior and aggression triggers are common concerns for those who want to keep convict cichlids as pets.

However, these fish can greatly add to the aquarium with proper socialization techniques and stress management strategies.

They are options for those who want to tame their aggressive tendencies.

For example, providing hiding spots in the tank can reduce territorial behavior, while feeding them outside of their usual schedule can prevent over-aggressiveness towards other fish.

Convict cichlids are certainly active fish – they love to get around the tank and explore.

They spend much of their time in the middle of the tank, but they also like to check out the substrate and even do a bit of digging.

Ultimately, it’s important to note that choosing suitable tank mates is crucial in ensuring that your convict cichlids have a happy and peaceful life in captivity.

Suitable Tank Mates

Pairing the right species with your convict cichlid can be tricky, but some suitable options exist.

It’s important to remember that convict cichlids can be aggressive and territorial, so choosing peaceful companions is crucial.

Bottom dwellers like Pictus catfish and Clown Loach make great tank mates because they spend most of their time on the substrate, away from potential conflicts with the convict cichlid.

These species also add an interesting dynamic to the aquarium as they have unique patterns and behaviors.

If you’re looking for active swimmers, Silver dollar fish are a great option to pair with your convict cichlid.

They have a similar size and speed, reducing the chance of one dominating over the other regarding territory or food.

Colorful options such as Jack Dempsey fish also make good tank mates for convict cichlids as they share bright colors that create an attractive display in your aquarium.

Think again if you consider adding a male and female to a community tank!

This will cause a huge spike in aggression and territories, and someone will likely get hurt.

Keep the tank safe and peaceful by avoiding this mix.

Overall, it’s important to research carefully before introducing any new species into your aquarium and always monitor their behavior closely to ensure everyone is getting along swimmingly!

Breeding Basics

So, when it comes to breeding convict cichlids, there are a few basics that we need to cover.

First up is the breeding tank setup.

We’ll need a 50-60 gallons tank with rocks and a cave for the female to lay eggs.

Additionally, cranking up the water temperature to the higher end of the spectrum (80-84°F) can encourage breeding.

Once your cichlids have laid their eggs, it’s time for fry care.

Convict cichlid parents diligently protect their eggs and fry, but you may need to remove any other fish from the tank as they can be aggressive toward them.

You’ll also want to ensure that your fry has plenty of hiding spots in their tank to feel safe and comfortable while they grow.

Breeding Tank Setup

To set up the breeding tank, you’ll want to create a habitat that mimics their natural environment by adding rocks and creating a cave-like structure for the female to lay her eggs.

Convict cichlids are known for being good parents, so providing them with a safe and comfortable space to breed successfully is important.

Both male and female convict cichlids will participate in protecting their eggs and fry after egg laying occurs.

By providing a suitable breeding cave and optimal water temperature conditions, your convict cichlids will have everything they need for successful breeding.

Fry Care

If you want to ensure the survival of your fry, separate the parents and feed them brine shrimp after a week of hatching.

Convict cichlid parents are known for their excellent parental care, but they can also be aggressive toward their offspring if they feel threatened or stressed.

By separating the parents from the fry, you can prevent any harm coming to them and give them space to grow.

To properly care for your fry, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  1. Feeding frequency: Fry must be fed small amounts of food several times daily.
  2. Breeding success rates: Not all pairs will have successful spawns, so monitoring their behavior and removing any unfertilized eggs is important.
  3. Male/female ratios: As mentioned earlier, breeding convict cichlids should be done in a separate tank with only one male and one female.
  4. Separation techniques: When separating the parents from the fry, do it gradually over time instead of all at once to reduce stress levels for both parties.

By following these tips and providing proper care for your convict cichlid fry, you can watch them grow into healthy adults and continue to enjoy these unique fish in your aquarium hobby.


Caring for convict cichlids is a rewarding experience that aquarists of all levels can enjoy.

These hardy fish are easy to care for and have unique personalities, making them a great addition to any aquarium.

By providing the right tank setup, diet, and suitable tank mates, you can create an ideal environment for your convict cichlid to thrive in.

With proper care and attention, these fish will reward you with their fascinating behavior and stunning appearance.