You are currently viewing Different types of Cichlids | What Cichlids can be kept together

Different types of Cichlids | What Cichlids can be kept together

Cichlids are a large family of freshwater tropical fish species found in lakes, rivers, and some brackish water systems around the world. There are over a thousand identified species of cichlids with several still being discovered every year.

Cichlids are largely concentrated in the Great Lakes region of East Africa, and the Amazon Basin. There are other minor genera found in West African and South American coastal rivers and streams. Different cichlid species living in the same geographical region exhibit similar behavior and tolerate identical water conditions peculiar to those territories.

For this reason, most cichlids can only be kept with other cichlids provided they inhabit the same geographical environment. The African Great Lakes cichlid species are the most aggressive, and they are not suitable for a general tropical fish species community tank. However, they can be kept in species-specific community tanks.



This topic will examine a few types of cichlids that can live together, the level of care it will require, and the practicality of keeping them in community tanks.

Types of Cichlids

Cichlids are grouped according to their geographical areas of origin. Not all cichlids are endemic to their native habitats though. The introduction of cichlids into non-native waters for either game fishing, or food purposes has resulted in the proliferation of the species worldwide.

However, cichlids will share similar social behavior and tolerate water composition parameters similar to their native territories, irrespective of their current environment. Hence, the need to group cichlids according to their native regions.

African Cichlids

Features Characteristics
Lifespan Up to 15 years
Size 3-12 inches
Family Cichlidae
Diet According to species
Water temperature 25-27°C
pH 7.2-8.5
Diet Omnivores
Aggressive According to species
Care Level According to species

African cichlids are mostly concentrated in the African great lakes of Malawi and Tanganyika, and they thrive in the clear, clean, and hard alkaline water of the lakes.

Over 1500 identified species of cichlids native to those waters are not found anywhere else in the world. African cichlids native to these areas share similar water requirements and behavior.

African cichlids are colorful, active, and hardy fish. And they adapt easily to most aquarium environments, this is why they are a good choice for beginners.

The African cichlid is a social creature and will recognize its owners. When tank keepers approach the cichlid’s tank, it swims around following the aquarist movements in anticipation of being fed. Aquarium fish, this is the reason why they are popular with aquarium keepers.

When keeping African cichlids in a community tank, it is vital to use a big tank because African cichlids are aggressive and territorial.

Male cichlids are especially aggressive during mating and breeding, and having a big planted tank allows other cichlids to have other “territory” to claim and safe places to breed.

Below is a list of a few African cichlids that can be kept with other cichlids.



Livingston’s Cichlid (Nimbochromis Livingstonii)

What type of cichlids can be kept together

This is a considerably large sized cichlid. Its body has a natural camouflage pattern that helps it prey effectively on smaller fishes. This fish is not recommended for beginners.

Although Livingston’s cichlid is a peaceful fish, it should not be kept with smaller peaceful and non-aggressive cichlids because of its highly developed predatory instincts. They are suitable for species-only tanks with a minimum capacity of 125 gallons.

Features Characteristics
Habitat Lake Malawi
Size 9.8 inches
Lifespan 10 years
Diet Omnivore
Care level Moderate
Min tank size 125 gallons
Nature Semi Aggressive

Red Empress (Protomelas taeniolatus)

What type of cichlids can be kept together

Red empress cichlids come in two color combinations, males have an orange-red color, while females are silvery in color. This is an ideal aquarium fish for beginners, as it is easily cared for.

Red empress cichlids are relatively peaceful and should be kept in species only 200-gallon tanks with a ratio of one male to three females.

Features Characteristics
Habitat Lake Malawi
Size 5.9 inches
Lifespan 7 years
Diet Omnivore
Care level Beginner
Min tank size 75 gallons
Nature Semi Aggressive

Kenyi Cichlid (Maylandia Lombardi)

What type of cichlids can be kept together

Kenyi cichlid has a metallic yellow shade with faint upright lines along its body. Some also come with purple colors with similar upright lines.

This fish is not recommended for beginners. The Kenyi Cichlid is an aggressive fish and it cannot cohabit with peaceful and smaller fish. The Kenyi Cichlid is best suited to a species only 120-gallon tank with a high rate of water flow and efficient filtration.

Features Characteristics
Habitat Lake Malawi
Size 5.0 inches
Lifespan 10 years
Diet Omnivore
Care level Moderate
Min tank size 50 gallons
Nature Aggressive

Lemon Cichlid (Neolamprologus leleupi)

What type of cichlids can be kept together

It can be found in a very wide range of colors, but common colors are vivid yellow, and orange-red. This fish is not recommended for beginners.

Although the Lemon cichlid can be fed fish pellets in an aquarium, it should also be fed a regular diet of live food to maintain optimal health. The Lemon cichlid is a peaceful semi-aggressive cichlid and can be housed with non-identical cichlids native to Lake Tanganyika in a 50-gallon tank with a high rate of water flow and efficient filtration.



Cichlid species native to other African great lakes cannot be kept with the Lemon cichlid.

Features Characteristics
Habitat Lake Tanganyika
Size 4-5 inches
Lifespan 10 years
Diet Omnivore
Care level Moderate
Min tank size 20 gallons
Nature Semi Aggressive

Orange Zebra Cichlid (Maylandia estherae)

What type of cichlids can be kept together

Colors can widely differ between sexes with the males having a pale blue color with dark brights stripes, while females have an orange-brown beige color. This is an ideal fish for beginners.

The Orange zebra cichlid is semi-aggressive and can be kept with non-identical cichlids and tropical fish.

Features Characteristics
Habitat Lake Malawi
Size 3.9-5 inches
Lifespan 10 years
Diet Omnivore
Care level Beginner
Min tank size 55 gallons
Nature Semi Aggressive

Dwarf Cichlids

Dwarf cichlids originate from the coastal rainforest rivers of South America and West Africa. They are little cichlids that can sometimes grow up to about 4 inches, and they share similar water conditions despite their vast geographical difference.

Like the African cichlid, Dwarf Cichlids exhibit remarkable social behaviors, and they have beautiful colors.

Types of Dwarf Cichlids

In the past, dwarf cichlid was a term used solely to classify the Apistogramma Apisamma species which is native to South America. This has now been enlarged to include all cichlids that do not grow beyond 4 inches.

South American Dwarf Cichlids

They are also referred to as the New World dwarf cichlids. These cichlids are native to South and Central America.

The South American dwarf cichlids are beautiful and can be found in a large variety of colors.

South and Central American dwarf cichlids are largely more peaceful than their African cousins, but tanks need to be large to create territories and areas of privacy.

South/Central American dwarf cichlids should not be kept together.



Types of South American dwarf cichlids

Ram Cichlid (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)

What type of cichlids can be kept together

The Ram cichlid is an oval-shaped tiny but striking fish. This fish is a beginner’s delight and it’s extremely low care, beautiful fish, and a general pleasure to own.

The Ram cichlid is a community fish, and it cohabits with other peaceful and non-aggressive fish of all kinds. The recommended minimum tank size for Ram cichlid is a 10-gallon tank with sluggish water and effective filtration.

Features Characteristics
Habitat Orinoco River basin
Size 2.8 inches
Lifespan 4 years
Diet Omnivore
Care level Beginner
Min tank size 10 gallons
Nature Peaceful

Agassizi Cichlid (Apistogramma agassizii)

What type of cichlids can be kept together

This is a small, colorful fish. The Agassiz Cichlid is a community fish and can cohabit with peaceful, non-aggressive fish of all kinds. Care must be taken not to select larger and aggressive fish as tank mates.

Agassiz Cichlid thrives in large tanks with sluggish water moments and effective filtration.

Features Characteristics
Habitat Amazon river basin
Size 3.5 inches
Lifespan 5 years
Diet Omnivore
Care level Intermediate
Min tank size 20 gallons
Nature Peaceful



African Dwarf Cichlids

African Dwarf Cichlids can be found in rivers and streams along the West African coast. While some come from the great lakes region. The African dwarf cichlid is known for its beautiful colors, ease of care, and high adaptability to the aquarium environment. Several, like the Kribensis Pelvicachromis Pulcher, are well known to the aquarists.

African dwarf cichlids from the same area can be kept together, however, large tanks should be used to create enough space for spawning areas.

Types of African Dwarf cichlids

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher)

What type of cichlids can be kept together

Kribensis or Krib, as it is popularly called is a little colorful fish. The Krib is highly recommended for beginners because of its ease of care and great adaptability to the aquarium environment. 

The Krib is a peaceful fish and can cohabit with other peaceful non-aggressive cichlids of different species in a community tank large enough to allow the fish present to have their territories.

Features Characteristics
Habitat Southern Nigeria
Size 4.0 inches
Lifespan 5 years
Diet Omnivore
Care level Beginner
Min tank size 20 gallons
Nature Peaceful

New World Cichlids

These cichlids are native to South and Central America. They can grow to very large sizes and are known to cohabit in aquariums, although cichlids from the same areas are best kept together. e.g Angelfish and the Discus cichlid.

Central American and African cichlids share identical water parameters but are not good tankmates. Like the African cichlid, the American cichlid is a social creature and they can recognize, and respond to their keepers.

Like their African cousins, the American cichlid is known to be aggressive and territorial. The degree of aggression between the American cichlids ranges from high to low and varies among the species. This is a determining factor in how they can cohabit with other cichlid species.

As previously stated, cichlids can be kept together based on several factors. These factors are based on region, size, and level of Aggression.

Peaceful cichlids like Angelfish, Severum, and Discus are ideal for community tanks and can coexist in species only or with other species of cichlids. As long as they are not kept with other aggressive fish or larger predatory cichlids, they will be fine.

Aggressive cichlids need space and territory to claim, and a minimum of 100 gallon high tanks should be hard when keeping different species of cichlids together.



Oscar Cichlid (Astronotus ocellatus)

Oscars are dark-colored with orange hues about their gills and back areas. They are recommended for beginners due to their ease of care, whatever anyone might say about Oscars, they can certainly be kept with other large fish in large capacity talks.

Like most predator fish, Oscar fish will eat any fish that can fit in its mouth. Large cichlids like Jack Dempsey can be kept in a tank with Oscars in well planted and large tanks with a minimum size of 200 gallons.

Features Characteristics
Habitat Amazon river basin
Size 14 inches
Lifespan 10 years
Diet Carnivore
Care level Beginner
Min tank size 20 gallons
Nature Aggressive