The Green Terror Cichlid – Will It Terrorize Your Other Fish?

The name may sound intimidating, but don’t be afraid – the Green Terror Cichlid is actually one of the most enjoyable fish species you can raise. This colorful freshwater fish is entertaining to watch and also relatively easy to care for. Regardless of whether you are a novice or experienced fishkeeper, you can raise the Green Terror Cichlid, one of the best species for your freshwater tank.

This large, somewhat aggressive fish may be easier to care for if you have some experience under your belt, but that’s not to say that you can’t keep this fish if you are newer to the hobby. If you are considering adding the Green Terror cichlid to your aquarium, just keep in mind the following information.

 Green Terror Cichlid

Green Terror Cichlid Background

Green Terror Cichlid 1
Photo by Will Alexander


Green Terror Cichlids are members of the largest order of fish, Perciformers. These fish are unique in that they are ray-finned. This involves their fins being created by a bony graft of skin that is attached to their bodies like rays.

The scientific name of this fish is Andinoacara rivulatus, but it is most commonly referred to as the Green Terror Cichlid. You may also hear it called the Gold or White Saum. First encountered by Gunther in the middle of the nineteenth century, this fish is native to the freshwater tropical river basins of South America.

This fish is normally found in places like Ecuador and Peru, but due to its widespread popularity in the fishkeeping trade can now be found all over the world. This fish can grow extremely large which can lend itself to some aggressive behavior between this fish and other members of your aquarium. That being said, this fish is otherwise a good choice for a freshwater tank.

In the wild, this fish tends to be found in tropical river basins, estuaries, and river mouths in the coastal slopes of the Pacific Ocean. They can be found all the way from the Esmerelda River in Ecuador to the Thames River in Peru. The common trait that all of their potential environments share is that the substrate of these waters are sandy and there are lots of places to hide. Waters tend to be calm but can even be brackish.

Green Terror Cichlid Appearance And Behavior

Green Terror Cichlid 2
Photo by Scott Kirkwood

Green Terror Cichlids can grow quite large and have bright metallic green and blue color patterns. A benthopelagic fish, it does not stay within a preferred section of the water column but instead will spend its day in various locations of the tank. It will scour the bottom of the tank for food or swim across the upper levels on a leisurely jaunt.

Green Terror Cichlids are brightly colored fish with slender bodies and dorsal fins that are pointed outward. When found in the wild, these fish grow to around a foot in length, but when kept in an aquarium they usually only grow to around eight inches.

While green, as the name implies, is the most common shade of scale color possessed by this fish, you can also find Green Terror Cichlids in shades of blue. These fish have orange lines that run along the edges of their dorsal and caudal fins, too.

There is a small amount of sexual dimorphism among members of this species. Females tend to be darker in color and also have a smaller orange stripe on the dorsal and caudal fines. Some females don’t have this stripe at all, or the stripe may be pink, blue, or red.

Males also have differently shaped heads. Male Green Terror Cichlids have round bumps on their head. Interestingly, these humps are absent during non-breeding seasons in the wild. However, in the aquarium, they are always there.

You can often tell the approximate age of a Green Terror Cichlid by looking at it. Juvenile fish tend to have more silver-blue in their scale colors, while adults will be paler.

This fish can be quite aggressive, as can many cichlids. Females tend to be more aggressive than males, but age also plays a factor, with older fish acting considerably more territorial than younger ones. Unlike many species of freshwater fish, the Green Terror Cichlid actually becomes more friendly during its breeding season. During some spawning seasons, however, they can become violent, making it difficult to predict this finicky fish’s behavior.

You might want to consider keeping similar or larger size fish as tankmates. Any smaller fish are likely to be viewed as prey, and even if they aren’t, the aggressive personality of this fish may cause unwanted fighting and eventual death.

It should also be noted that the Green Terror Cichlid can be a bit destructive when it comes to the setup of your tank. As an omnivore and an avid digger, this fish is known to pull up rooted plants and then tear them apart.

Green Terror Cichlid Tank And Water Requirements

Green Terror Cichlid 3
Photo by Xavier

Try to imitate the Green Terror Cichlid’s natural environment as closely as possible when you’re setting up your fish tank. This will make the fish more comfortable and feel at home. You will need to keep the water relatively warm, with ideal temperatures ranging between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH should be relatively neutral, staying within the range of 6.5 to 8.0.

Water hardness should be maintained between 5-20 dGH. This species is not incredibly sensitive to light, but it will shy away from bright light. As a result, you should keep your tank moderately lit, but you don’t need to invest in a fancy tank lighting system – a basic LED setup should do. However, you should provide a moderate current to mimic the Green Terror Cichlid’s natural environment.

Green Terror Cichlids like lots of decorations and objects in their tank, so keep that in mind when you are setting up your fish tank for functionality. You can use any kind of substrate, like sand, driftwood, or large rocks. However, large gravel should not be used as cichlids are known to eat it. This can cause digestive issues or even death!

Otherwise, make sure you provide plenty of caves and areas for open swimming. These fish are large so they will need plenty of space to move about. You can also incorporate wood, rocks, and plants to create a natural barrier. This can help mitigate some of the Green Terror Cichlid’s destructive, aggressive behavior toward other fish.

Green Terror Cichlids, as previously mentioned, do like to dig, so you’ll want to go to great lengths to make sure they won’t pull out any plants or disturb your other decorations. Any rooted plants are usually pulled up and consumed by the Green Terror Cichlid, so you may want to opt for floating plants like the Java Fern or Anubias plant. These plants can provide shade along with helping to moderate the quality of the water by filtering out toxins.

Plants are important for this reason, because Green Terror Cichlids, like many other common freshwater tank species, are extremely sensitive to changes in water quality. You should also add an external filter to control the quality of the water, and conduct water changes of about fifteen to twenty percent of the tank water at least every other week or so.

Green Terror Cichlids are large fish, and as such, need large tanks in order to stay happy and healthy. Ai for a 35 gallon aquarium for one fish, or a 75 gallon aquarium if you have two fish. The more space you can provide this fish the better when Green Terror Cichlids feel crowded, their tendency to engage in aggressive behavior also increases.

What Do Green Terror Cichlids Eat?

Green Terror Cichlid 4
Photo by Potamotrygon

Green Terror cichlids are carnivores in the wild. There, they prefer to feed on meaty foods like small crustaceans, worms, and insects. In your home aquarium, you don’t have to be selective in terms of what you feed them – they will eat just about anything, including plant-based foods.

It’s best to feed your Green Terror Cichlid a varied diet that includes a mixture of foods and nutrients. Some potential options to consider include frozen, pelleted, or live food. Live food tends to be the most nutritious source of food for your Green Terror Cichlid, and it also makes them more active as they will need to chase the food around the tank.

Some good options for foods include earthworms, shrimp, flakes, mussel meat, and pellets. You can also feed crickets, tube worms, and fish fillets. You can also feed vegetables like spinach and peas. Try not to feed too much high-protein food all at once, as this can cause serious digestive problems. Feed your adult Green Terror Cichlids twice a day. When they are young, they can be fed three times per day.

Green Terror Cichlid Tank Mates

You may keep one cichlid for every 35 gallons, so while it may seem like their massive size restricts the number of fish you can keep in your freshwater tank, remember that there are options when it comes to tank mates. While Green Terror Cichlids do well when kept as mated pairs, you can also add in fish of similar size or temperature. Fish that are larger than the Green Terror Cichlid can also be kept.

Here are a few species to consider:

  • Gars
  • Plecos and other large catfish
  • Bleeding Heart Tetras
  • Other larger cichlids (like Jack Dempseys and Flowerhorns)
  • Pacus
  • Silver Dollars

You should not keep cichlids with a kind of smaller fish, even if they live in various areas of the tank. Many people make the mistake of keeping small catfish, like the Corydoras, with their Green Terror Cichlids. This is dangerous because not only will the Green Terror Cichlid go after the Corydoras, but the Corydoras has spines that can cut through the Cichlids mouth and ultimately kill it.

You should also try not to keep mated pairs of Green Terror Cichlids in the tank together during spawning times. This can cause violent, aggressive behavior. Fish with a similar temperament that will not be bullied by the Green Terror Cichlid make the best tank mates, but as a general rule of thumb, the more space you have in your tank, the more options you will have for keeping cichlid tank mates.

Common Green Terror Cichlid Diseases

As long as you are vigilant about maintaining the water quality and conditions in your tank, Green Terror Cichlids are easy to care for. These fish can be sensitive to poor water quality, so you want to go to great lengths to make sure your phosphorus and nitrate levels are under control. Consider using a bio-filter to help prevent the buildup of waste in your tank.

These fish are susceptible to several types of infections. They can develop problems with their skin, parasites, and other diseases if you aren’t careful about keeping the tank clean. One particular disease that is known to affect Green Terror Cichlids is the lymphocystis disease. This viral disease is common in tropical fish and impairs the connective tissues of the fish. This is caused by stress and usually the first sign of infection is the appearance of granular white lesions on the mouth, gills, skin, and fins of these fish.

Try to avoid using chemicals when you are working with cichlids, either to prevent or treat disease or for any other reason. Instead, do your best to keep the water clean and maintain a healthy environment with appropriate oxygenation.

Usually, you will be able to determine the health of your cichlid by merely looking at it. If your fish have bright colors that start to fade over time, it might be an indication that your fish is not feeling so well.

Breeding And Life Spans Of Green Terror Cichlids

This fish can live for seven to ten years in captivity – even longer in the wild! – as long as you provide it with the appropriate conditions. This fish is sensitive to water quality, as are many species of freshwater fish, so by providing your fish with the proper care you can extend its lifespan quite considerably.

If you are interested in breeding your Green Terror Cichlids, the good news is that the process is relatively easy. As long as you have a compatible pair – which you can ensure by buying several young fish and allowing them to pair off naturally – you can raise your own new fish.

Try not to keep your Green Terror cichlids with any other fish during these pawning period. Male cichlids are very aggressive and protective of their eggs and will kill the other fish as a result. Usually, the male will protect the site while the female tends to the eggs.

You can easily detect a male in the reproductive stage, as it will have around hump and its colors will become brighter. Females will start by depositing the eggs and then the male will fertilize them.

To encourage breeding, check your water conditions. The water should be slightly acidic with a pH of 6.5 and the water should be warm, between 77 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This will encourage spawning.

When they are ready, the couple will tidy up the chosen site in the tank. This usually a flat rock or the bottom of your tank, where they will lay their eggs on the glass. Once the eggs hatch, the fry will head to sand pits where they will remain until they are old enough to swim (usually in about ten days).

Female cichlids lay about 400 to 600 eggs, with fertilized eggs having a semi-transparent yellowish glow. Eggs hatch in four days or less. Green Terror Cichlids are excellent parents, preferring to stay with both the eggs and the fry. Young fry can be fed brine shrimp, microworms, and powdered dry food.

Is A Green Terror Cichlid For You?

If you’re used to dealing with semi-aggressive fish species, the Green Terror Cichlid might be a good choice for you. Although this fish is known for being a bit more territorial than other kinds of fish species, it is nonetheless a gorgeous addition you can make to your tank. The Green Terror Cichlid needs to live in a tank that has clean water conditions and is filled with other fish who are larger than (or the same size as) this fish. Otherwise, there’s not much else you need to know in order to successfully raise this jewel-toned beauty.

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