The Most Popular Types Of Cichlids You Can Raise

If you’ve ever thought of raising fish, you may have considered cichlids. These fish are gorgeous and varied, with multiple options available for a multitude of tank sizes, styles, and designs.

Unfortunately, there are so many cichlids out there that it can be difficult to choose the right one for your tank. We’re here to make things easier by breaking down our favorite types of cichlids. We have everything you need to know about raising cichlids – no matter what kind of tank you might have.


1 Angelfish

Photo by Choong Tze Hong

The angelfish is one of the most popular types of cichlids, an aquarium classic that is beloved by novice and expert aquarium owners alike.. It’s commonly kept in an aquarium, with one of the most common being the Pterophyllum scalare. This fish has been bred extensively and as a result can be found in dozens of patterns and colors.

When cared for properly, an angelfish is great to look at and is quite a sight to behold. However, it’s important to know that you should only raise an angelfish if you have a large tank. These fish can’t be housed alone – they have complex social hierarchies that necessitate they be kept in groups of around five or six fish.

You can include other tank mates but you will want to avoid fish who have a tendency to be overly nippy, small, or too active. Instead, you might consider fish like Corydoras, who will get along well with your angelfish. These fish can be kept in tanks that are around 40 gallons or larger.

2 Firemouth Cichlid

Firemouth Cichlid
Photo by Paul MOINE

The firemouth cichlid is native to Central America. It lives in a variety of habitats and has a deep red throat that puffs up during territorial disputes. One of the largest and easiest cichlids to keep, this fish can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and water parameters. As long your tank is kept clean, this fish should be just fine.

You should house this fish with livebearers, as they naturally are found in areas where the firemouth cichlid likes to hang out. These fish are usually large enough to avoid being eaten.

3 Discus fish

Discus fish
Photo by Abdullah Al-Kandry

Another popular species of cichlid, the discus fish is better suited for aquarium hobbyists who have a bit more experience. As long as you pay attention to the specific needs of this fish, you will do just fine.

Discus fish require somewhat warm, acidic waters. This means that it can be hard to find plants that will grow well in these waters – the same rule applies to potential tankmates. You will want to select your tankmates carefully so that you don’t have to worry about any aggression issues. Similarly, you should avoid housing your discus fish with small companions, as they have a tendency to try to eat small fish. Hatchetfish are good companions because they are relatively large, very calm, and don’t hang out in the same areas of the tank.

4 Peacock Cichlid

Peacock Cichlid
Photo by Shane Ruth

Another species of cichlid native to Lake Malawi is the peacock cichlid. Also known as aulonocara, this fish is collectively known as the peacock cichlid. All of the subspecies are gorgeous, but the African butterfly peacock is perhaps the most stunning. The males will have gorgeous combinations of orange and blue colors as well as vertical barring in a whole host of colors.

This fish is found of sorting through the substrate to look for food. To prevent any injury to your fish, you might want to include a substrate that is soft, such as sand instead of gravel. Make sure you keep the pH in your tank high. The water should be hard and you can choose to include plants that are naturally occurring in Lake Malawi, like vallisneria.

The peacock cichlid is incredibly sensitive to fluctuations in water quality. Therefore, it’s important that you clean your tank and maintain consistent parameters at all times. Otherwise, you should not have any trouble tending to this gorgeous fish. It’s not too peaceful, so you may have trouble selecting tankmates – a good rule of thumb is to select those that hang out in different areas of the water column, as well as those that can handle the specific water parameters required by the peacock cichlid.

5 Electric Blue Cichlid

Electric Blue Cichlid
Photo by Dan

Electric blue cichlids, also called electric blue haps, are seriously eye-catching. The males are especially beautiful in this species, which is known for its mouthbrooding behaviors.

Native to Lake Malawi, these fish need a substrate that is composed mostly of sandy. These fish also like lots of rock decorations and hard water. A basic pH is also required.

Electric blue cichlids require proper ratios in order to stay healthy. You should try to maintain a ratio of three females to every male – this will help prevent stress related to mating and breeding. You can keep other tankmates with this fish, too, but you will want to avoid fish that are smaller than the cichlids. Otherwise, you could end up with some gobbled-up fish! Look for other Malawi cichlids, particularly those that are roughly the same size and aren’t overly aggressive. Plecos, particularly those that are large and hardy, would make a good choice.

6 Cockatoo Cichlid

Cockatoo Cichlid
Photo by Dimitri Michaux

The cockatoo cichlid is native to South America and is incredibly colorful. This fish has a gorgeous yellow-orange coloration, a display that is much more pronounced on males, who show this coloring on their prominent dorsal fins. These fins are shaped like crests. The males like to show off these fins during displays intended to show aggression or for breeding.

These fish are small, so an aquarium that is long and at least 20 gallons should suit this fish just fine. You can keep two cockatoo cichlids in a tank this size. You should maintain a somewhat acidic pH and soft water – also, make sure you provide your cockatoo cichlid with ample amounts of hiding spots!

These are not overly aggressive cichlids, so they are one of the few cichlid species that can be kept in large community tanks. You can even keep them with small school fish, like tetras. These easy-to-care-for fish have level temperaments, making them some of the most peaceable species of cichlid you will find.

7 Yellow Lab Cichlid

Yellow Lab Cichlid
Photo by Catherine Bulinski

The Yellow Lab Cichlid is another Lake Malawi cichlid that would make a gorgeous addition to any tank. It has gorgeous colors in an electric yellow shade. A mouthbrooding species, this fish is an Mbuna fish type that is one of the most peaceful species of cichlids you can raise. It does well in a mixed community tank and is very peaceful, particularly if you keep it with other Mbuna fish native to Lake Malawi.

It’s important that you mind your male to female ratios when you are setting up your tank for yellow lab cichlids. This is because males can pursue females quite heavily during the breeding season, leading to potential stress during this time. You should also include a pale sandy substrate and lots of rock formations to help imitate the yellow lab cichlid’s natural environment. The pH should be very basic while the water should be hard.

8 Oscar Cichlid

Oscars Fish

Oscar cichlids are popular cichlid species, prized because they are so easy to care for. They offer massive personalities and massive sizes that are suitable for people who want an exciting fish with a gorgeous appearance.

That being said, it’s important that you do your research before purchasing an Oscar cichlid. These fish need large tanks. Although some aquarium shops will tell you that you can get away with a set up as small as 30 gallons, this unfortunately is simply not the case when it comes to the Oscar cichlid. These fish can reach nearly fourteen inches in length, so you will need a large tank of 120 gallons or more per pair.

This fish also requires plenty of filtration. You can’t do much in terms of decorations for this fish tank, either, as it has a tendency to uproot plants, move driftwood, and lift caves and rocks. Otherwise, though, this large fish is easy to care for and will get along well with fish that are approximately its own size.

9 Frontosa Cichlid

Frontosa Cichlid
Photo by Matthew Pinkerton

The Frontosa Cichlid is another species of cichlid native to Africa, but you won’t find this one in Lake Malawi. This fish is native to Lake Tanganyika, which is home to multiple species of cichlids. This unique fish species is best suited for large home aquariums, but if you have the space it requires it can offer some interesting behaviors.

You will want to keep your frontosa cichlids in groups of at least five. Ideally, these groups should be comprised of female fish. The water should be alkaline and hard, and there should be plenty of decorations in the tank to keep them occupied. You can choose other cichlids that are ntive to Lake Tanganyika if you so choose, but remember that this fish is a voracious predator and should not be housed with smaller fish.

In addition, your frontosa cichlid should be kept in a large tank of at least 200 gallons or more in volume.

10 Jewel Cichlid

Jewel Cichlid
Photo by Felicia McCaulley

The Jewel cichlid is another African cichlid species. It is not from the major rift lakes but does truly live up to its reputation – it is one of the most gorgeous cichlids you can look at. This fish has a lovely red colors, blue spots, and yellow tail fins. It can be somewhat aggressive, particularly during breeding, which makes it unsuitable for the majority of community tanks.

However, this fish is well-suited to life in a community tank. If you want to keep jewel cichlids, invest in a mating pair and provide lots of hiding spots. A sandy substrate will be best, as it will allow your fish to dig without injuring themselves. If you want to grow plants, select hardy floating plants like Anubias nana and Java fern – you won’t have to worry about them being uprooted. These cichlids should be housed in tanks that are at least 30 gallons or more.

11 Venustus Cichlid

Venustus Cichlid
Photo by Brad

Venustus cichlids are native to Lake Malawi. These large fish should not be housed in tanks any smaller than 70 gallons apiece. The males can become quite aggressive, and these large fish will eat any tinier individuals that they see.

These gorgeous fish are blue and yellow and are quiet peaceful -as long as they are not hungry! Males can be aggressive at breeding time, so you will want to keep multiple females for every male. Make sure you provide lots of hiding spaces and plenty of free swimming room.

12 Kribensis Cichlid

Kribensis Cichlid
Photo by Frederik Lundgaard Hansen

The Kribensis Cichlid is similar to the convict cichlid in that it is exceptionally easy to breed. In fact, it can be difficult to get them to stop breeding! These fish are a good choice for beginners as they offer interesting breeding behaviors to watch. The females have stomachs that will turn bright red when they are ready to breed, and the males will become very territorial.

As a result, you should maintain a relatively large tank. If your fish are not breeding, a tank of 20 gallons is sufficient to keep them happy. However, breeding pairs will need larger tanks. You can keep them with other tankmates, but you will want to stick to fast-moving schooling fish. These fish can become aggressive during the breeding season, so it’s important to choose companions that can get away easily.

13 Jack Dempsey Cichlid

Jack Dempsey Cichlid
Photo by basshead93

The Jack Dempsey cichlid is another popular Central American cichlid. A good choice for beginners, this fish isn’t picky about water quality and can tolerate a wide range of conditions. You can keep a pair of Jack Dempsey cichlids in a tank of 70 gallons or so. Make sure you have a sandy substrate as well as lots of driftwood and rocks to mimic this fish’s natural habitat.

You will also need to choose your tankmates carefully – don’t opt for small fish that could be eaten or fish that are sensitive to too much activity. A good option might be the plecos catfish.

14 Convict Cichlid

Convict Cichlid 4
Photo by Rachel Cramer

The convict cichlid is a fun choice for any aquarium. This fish has black and white stripes and looks – like you might guess – like a convict! It is best suited for a single species tank, and while this Central American fish is often sold as a community fish, it is actually quite aggressive and ill-suited to communal living. Instead, you should keep them all by themselves.

If you have a breeding pair of convict cichlids, you can safely keep them in a tank of around 30 gallons. If you intend to keep more, make sure you have a much larger tank to prevent any issues with territorial aggression. You might want to consider adding decorations like wood, rocks, and hiding spots like coconut caves to your tank. You can also add some sturdy plants, but since cichlids have a tendency to uproot plants, you will want to stick to ones that don’t root in the substrates.

Convict cichlids can be aggressive, so make sure you have a large tank. You won’t have to worry about water values too much as long as you conduct regular water changes and keep your levels consistent.

There you have it! These are the most popular types of cichlids you can raise in your freshwater fish tank. Which one will you choose?

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