How Big Do African Cichlids Get?

African Cichlids, on average, can reach 8 inches in length when they achieve full maturity.

However, there are more than 1,500 species of African cichlids, each having its own physical aspects.

Below is a detailed guide on the sizes of African cichlids.

How Big Do African Cichlids Get?

Depending on the type of African cichlids you have and other conditions, most African cichlids in an aquarium can grow up to 8 inches.

There are several varieties of African cichlids, all of them having their own sizes and color formation.

One of the longest African cichlids is Big Mouth Haps which can grow to 12 inches. The smallest ones are the Multies, which are only two inches when they reach full maturity.

Possibly the Emperor cichlids are the biggest species of African cichlids. Although rare, Emperor cichlids can reach an astonishing size of 20 inches. On average, these cichlids can grow to anywhere between 12-15 inches.

The most common type of African cichlid is the Peacock cichlid. Generally speaking, male peacock cichlids reach 6 inches in length when they have reached adulthood. The females are slightly smaller; they can grow up to 4 inches in length.

African Cichlid Size Chart

Name of the African CichlidSize of the African Cichlid
Neolamprologus Similis1.4-1.8 inches (3.5-4.5 cm)
Lamprologus Ocellatus1.4-2.4 inches (3.5-6 cm)
Neolamprologus Brevis1.6-2.4 inches (4-6 cm)
Masked Julie Cichlid2.8 inches (7 cm)
Maingano Cichlid3 inches (7.5 cm)
Aurora Cichlid4 inches (10 cm)
Brown Julie Cichlid4.3 inches (11 cm)
Lemon Cichlid4-5 inches (10-12 cm)
Auratus Cichlid4-5 inches (10-12 cm)
Yellow Lab Cichlid4-5 inches (10-12 cm)
Red Zebra Cichlid4-5 inches (10-12 cm)
Deep Water Hap5 inches (12 cm)
White Spotted Cichlid5 inches (12 cm)
Calvus Cichlid5.3 inches (13.5 cm)
Jewel Cichlid5-6 inches (12-15 cm)
Six-Bar Lamprologus6 inches (15 cm)
Peacock Cichlid6 inches (15 cm)
Bumblebee Cichlid6 inches (15 cm)
Blue Dolphin Cichlid10 inches (25 cm)
Rostratus Cichlid10 inches (25 cm)
Venustus Cichlid10 inches (25 cm)
Humphead Cichlid10-12 inches (25-30 cm)
Emperor Cichlid12-20 inches (30-50 cm)

When Do African Cichlids Fully Mature?

There are several factors that affect their growth rate.

On average, African cichlids may take about two years to reach full maturity of six to eight inches in length.

However, this is only for their physical size. The body color also accounts for their maturity.

An African cichlid will take anywhere between three months to a whole year to get its full color.

What Is the Ideal Tank Size for African Cichlids?

The size of the fish tank is also dependent on the type of cichlids and their sizes when they reach full maturity.

Some African cichlids that are four inches or smaller will require a 30-gallon fish tank to live.

If, on the other hand, they have grown to anywhere between four to six inches, they will need a 45- gallon tank to be kept happy.

For those African cichlids that have grown to eight inches in length, they need a bigger tank, almost 55 gallons or more.

African Cichlids SizeWater Requirement
4 Inches or Smaller30 Gallon
4-6 Inches45 Gallon
8 Inches or More55 Gallon

As a rule of thumb, you should remember to have at least two gallons of water for every inch of mature African cichlids.

A 30-gallon tank can accommodate six small African cichlids or four medium-sized African cichlids.

It is important to note that African cichlids usually prefer their own company. Hence, if you are adding other types of fish, consider buying a large tank.

How Many African Cichlids Can You Keep in a 30 Gallon Fish Tank?

As I mentioned earlier, a rule of thumb would be to have 2 gallons of water for every inch of African Cichlids in it.

By this calculation, you can have a total of 15 inches of African Cichlids in a 30-gallon tank.

So if you’re keeping Aurora Cichlids, which grow to 4 inches, you can keep 6-8 of these, and if you keep medium-sized Peacock Cichlids, which grow to 6 inches, you can keep 4-5 in a 30-gallon tank.

You can do a similar calculation with other tank sizes – such as 55 gallons or 80 gallons.

This is a very rough estimate, and it is always better to have a bigger fish tank for your African Cichlids (55 gallons or more)

Note that in most cases, you won’t just have African Cichlids in the tank, so you would need a bigger tank to accomodate other fish as well.

What Is the Normal Growth Rate of African Cichlids?

In the beginning (for four to five months), African cichlids have a high growth rate.

They usually reach 2 to 5 inches in length. After five months, there is a noticeable decrease in their growing speed, particularly among the males.

Because of the huge variety of African cichlids, there is a lot of difference in the growth rate of each species.

One of the fastest-growing African cichlid species is the Mbuna species.

How to Speed Up the Growth of African Cichlids

There are several ways to enhance the growth rate of your African Cichlids.

A Balanced Diet

African cichlids that are less than eight weeks old need a diet that’s composed of 40 to 50 percent protein and 10 to 12 percent fat.

You can even give these African cichlids the diet of a commercial trout.

This diet not only stimulates their growth rate but also helps them in forming their colors.

Once African cichlids have matured, you will have to lower the protein and fat content in their diet.

Mature African cichlids need to have a diet of 32 to 42 percent protein and 7 to 10 percent fat.

African cichlids are typically omnivorous; they can eat both plant and animal-based food.

Mature African cichlids are rather choosier when it comes to their food as compared to younger ones.

If you have African cichlids in your fish tank, you can give them a steady supply of frozen bloodworms, earthworms, and tubifex worms.

Avoid Feeding Your African Cichlids Too Much

Young African cichlids will grow best if you are giving them their required level of nutrition. However, there has to be a certain limit to their diet too.

Overfeeding your African cichlids will cause a lot of harm to their health, especially to their digestive system.

Some African cichlids will seem to ask for food even when they are fed properly. This is a common behavior among them.

As mentioned before, young African cichlids require more food intake than their adult counterparts.

Adults need to have a somewhat reduced food intake. You should feed adult African cichlids once a day for optimum health.

This will also help them prevent obesity issues and other diseases from occurring.

Optimizing the Water Quality

Wild African cichlids prefer living in alkaline water, having a pH level between 8.0 to 9.0.

As a fish owner, you may want to keep the pH level of tank water to 7.5. It is possible that you would further need to have a carbonate buffer for the water.

If your tank water has too much alkaline in it, it will cause the ammonia level to rise rapidly. Doing so will dampen your African cichlids’ growth.

When adding the carbonate buffer, it is important to do so gently over a period of one week. Furthermore, you will also have to consider the water temperature too.

African cichlids are able to live in water temperatures between 74 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

You should make sure your tank water temperature is ideally at 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can attain this level of temperature by having two half-length heaters. While one is enough, the second one can be used as a backup in case anything happens to the first one.

Taking Care of Their Health

Your African cichlids need to be in optimum health at all times. There are several factors that can affect their stress levels and cause health hazards.

African cichlids may sometimes be bullied by their tank mates. If that’s the case, you should immediately separate them.

Male African cichlids are known to fight to their deaths; hence you shouldn’t delay breaking up their fights.

You can also decorate your fish tank. Apart from beautifying your fish tank, these decorations also provide a safe hiding spot for your African cichlids if they are stressed.

You can also put rocks in your fish tank to emulate their natural environment. African cichlids love having caves and driftwoods.

African cichlids are also vulnerable to a disease called Malawi bloat.

Any African cichlids suffering from this disease will have bloating, which is quite dangerous. In extreme cases, it can even prove to be deadly for the cichlid.

Symptoms of Malawi bloat in African cichlids are a reduced appetite, white feces, and a general decrease in activity levels.

African cichlids may also have difficulty in breathing, and they may be found to exercise their gills more often.


African cichlids have a lot of variations in size, shape, and color. It is extremely important to make sure you have done thorough research before getting African cichlids for your fish tank.

African cichlids need a stable, peaceful environment to grow to their maximum potential.

These cichlids can often become prey to other fish tank occupants, which is why you should always be on the lookout for any signs of disturbance.

Other articles you may also like: