A convict cichlid sounds intimidating just from its name—and it does quite a good job of living up to its reputation.
Although they are said to be easy to take care of and make a beautiful addition to your tank—a convict cichlid can be very aggressive and hostile towards its tank buddies.
Not only do you need a fairly large tank to house a convict cichlid, but you also have to be wary of which other fish you keep as the tankmates.
They’re territorial fish and need their own space, or you run the risk of losing your other fish in a convict attack.
T-Bar Cichlids, Honduran Red Points, Jewel cichlids, Green Terrors, Pictus catfish, and the Jack Dempsey are only a few of the fish you can keep in a tank with convict cichlids to ensure all the fish live to their full potential and are safe from being harmed within their own homes.
Here’s what you need to know about Convict cichlids and which fish make the best mates for their tank.
What Do Convict Cichlids Look Like?
A convict is often referred to as a zebra cichlid because of its black stripes.
They’re called convicts, not only because of their aggressive nature but because their stripes resemble a prison uniform.
They usually have 8 or 9 stripes. Their bodies are greyish blue, and it is quite difficult to distinguish between male and female convicts, because of the similarity of their features.
However, males grow to be larger than females and their fins are slightly more pointed.
A male convict can grow up to 6 inches, provided that you give them the right tank environment and the right nutrition.
Females grow up to 4 inches. This makes them small fish compared to others, but because of their hostile nature, they do know how to defend themselves and fight back—even with larger fish.
What Kind of Personality Do Convict Cichlids Have?
These fish are slightly mysterious because they love keeping a distance from other fish and prefer staying underneath rocks or plants.
When they’re in the wild, you’ll often find them beneath a branch or rocks under the water, which is why you need to arrange a similar situation in a tank so these fish feel safe.
They’re also omnivorous, which means that you can feed them both plants and meat.
However, for convenience, it is better to go for pellets loaded with nutrition or flakes made especially for cichlids
Convict cichlids are also very active and when they’re not hiding under rocks and plants, you’ll find them constantly zipping around the tank.
This is another reason why they need a large tank—about 40 gallons—to ensure that they have ample space to swim and avoid attacking their mates.
One reason why cichlids convicts attack their mates is that they do not appreciate any fish coming near their territory.
Their way of defending themselves is by lashing out in an attack. On the contrary, they are very loving their fry.
If your convicts have babies, you’ll see that they pay ample attention and are extremely protective.
What Fish Can Live with Convict Cichlids?
Here are eight fishes that can live with Convict Cichlids:
Honduran Red Points
Honduran Red Points are very low maintenance, small fish that are much calmer and less aggressive than convicts cichlids.
Red points prefer keeping their distance as well and can attack if their space is invaded.
They make a good tankmate for convicts because both fish like to keep to themselves and red points are not likely to become aggressive unless provoked.
Green Terrors Fish
As scary as this fish’s name suggests—they’re only terrifying when they have to be.
Green terrors are aggressive and will fight back if attacked, but they do not do so without reason.
They’re also easy to take care of and fairly small, making them a great option for a tankmate.
Jack Dempsey Fish
You can opt for a Jack Dempsey only if you have enough experience with fish.
The interesting thing about them is that they’re quite similar in personality to a convict, but they also get along.
At some point or the other, having limited space in the tank can lead to aggression—but overall, these fish make an amicable pair.
This could happen when the fish reach their full size, as the Jack Dempsey can grow much larger than a convict.
These cichlids are good tankmates for convicts because, as the name suggests, they’re similar in personality to convicts.
They’ll only get territorial after maturity when selecting mates, but otherwise, they are easy to take care of and get along with convicts.
These fish grow to be around the same size as convicts (6 inches) and are again another kind of cichlid.
They are peaceful fish who can get aggressive while breeding but are otherwise friendly and do well in groups.
They’re also able to interbreed with convicts, which reduces the chances of aggression and attack during mating season.
This tiny fish is a great companion for convict cichlids because they are calm, peaceful, and generally do not engage in aggressive behavior.
They spend most of their time scavenging the tank and eating whatever they can.
When it comes to their preferences—they enjoy spending time alone and enjoy rocks and plants to hide in, similar to convicts. This makes them an appropriate pair.
Giant Danio Fish
These fish are not actually giants—in fact, they can only grow up to 4 inches. They are fairly easy to take care of and are extremely unaggressive.
The interesting aspect about the Giant Danio is that it prefers running away and keeping to itself even when provoked to fight.
Unlike the other fish mentioned in the list, it doesn’t stand its ground. Instead, it swims away as quickly as it can (they are generally very fast swimmers) and stays as far away from the convicts as it can.
This provides an ideal condition where convicts have a companion for when they’re in a peaceful mood—but won’t have anyone to engage in a fight with them when they’re feeling aggressive.
These fish are fairly large (around 20 inches) which makes them giants compared to cichlids.
However, they’re considerably easy to take care of and stay near the bottom of the tank.
Because convicts are messy and create quite a bit of debris in the tank, a Common pleco is actually great for maintaining the tank while minding its own business.
You should ideally only have one pleco in a tank with convicts.
What Else Do You Need to Keep in Mind When You Have Convict Cichlids?
- As we’ve mentioned before, convicts need at least 40 gallons of water to thrive and stay happy. If you’re going to have more fish in your tank, you need a tank of at least 50 gallons in capacity. Without the appropriate space to swim, convicts can become unhappy or sick, which has an impact on the length of their lives.
- Additionally, the more space you give them, the less likely it is for them to run into any trouble with other fish. When you get fish that are also aggressive or can establish themselves as dominating, such as most of the fish mentioned in our list, you reduce the chances of aggression in cichlids.
- Keep several plants, preferably soft plastic ones, throughout your tank. Because cichlids eat plants, they’ll likely nibble on and ruin your aquarium plants if you get real plants. You should also have rocks, crevices, and hiding spaces for the fish, so they can associate it with their natural habitat.
- The same goes for their diet: convicts thrive when they’re given a diet similar to the one they have in the wild, which is a mixture of plant and meat matter.
- Even when you only keep other convict cichlids in the tank, you should be careful about how many you have. You should never have fewer than one pair, but several pairs can lead to aggression and territorial issues as well.
- Because they are freshwater fish, they need tank temperatures ranging from 79 to 84 degrees F, and you will need a heater for when it gets colder, as they can fall ill. However, because of their resilient nature, they can become accustomed to a wide range of conditions.
- Lastly, you’ll need a powerful filter when it comes to convicts. They cause a lot of pollutions and can quickly create a mess in your tank environment, which is detrimental for their own and their tankmates’ health. Because they like moving the tank pebbles around, you need to get a filter that cleans solid debris too.
Keeping convict cichlids in your tank is fairly common because of the beautiful stripes and vibrance these fish provide.
They’re not too difficult to take care of, provided that you keep their personality, diet, habitat requirements, and habits in mind.
In this article, we covered the best fishes that can live with convict cichlids and that are less likely to start a fight and have a similar tendency to keep to themselves.
Remember, convict cichlids have a lifespan of around 8-10 years, so if you are careful about how you treat them, you’ll hopefully have them around for a very long time.
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