FAQs on Convict Cichlid Behavior
Related Articles: Convicts,
Discus, Juraparoids, Neotropical Cichlids, African Cichlids, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Asian Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes in General,
Convicts 2, &
Convict Identification, Convict Compatibility, Convict Selection, Convict Systems, Convict Feeding, Convict Disease, Convict Reproduction, & Cichlids of the World, Cichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid Disease, Cichlid Reproduction,
Convict cichlids; repro., beh.
I am new at keeping convicts cichlids.
With my luck I landed up getting a male and a female. They spawned and
there are about 32 Fry. Within 2 weeks they had a new batch of eggs, but
the existing fry ate them.
I move the fry to a grow out tank and cleaned the cichlid tank. Upon
putting the pair back in, the male started attacking the female to a
point of almost killing her. So I separated her from him and put her
with the fry.
<Sometimes one sex will "blame" the other for early spawn mishaps>
When would it be safe to put them together again and how should I go
about doing so?
<Best to put a perforated separator between the two, allowing them to
see, smell each other but not get to... for a week or more. Barring
this, a plastic, floating colander (yes, for draining pasta et al.) can
be used, placing the aggressor (the male in this case) in for a few days
for a "time out", then watching carefully on reintroduction for signs of
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Convict cichlids 9/28/17
Thanks so much for the advice :)
I will definitely give it a try and I will let you know how it goes.
Have a fantastic day further.
<Ah, thank you. BobF>
Convict cichlids; beh., comp.; Oscar sys.
Hi. I recently purchased two convicts. One male one female both about
and 1 1/2 <?> the male slightly larger. But the female is always
following my larger and older Oscars plucking their tails. Annoying them
in a sense.
Paying the convict male little to no attention at all. What does this
<Territoriality amongst neotropical cichlids. Need separating. >
p.s I have a 55gal with plenty of hiding spots and fake plants.
<Too small for Oscars. Bob Fenner>
Female convict behavior change
I tried finding a question related to what my convict is doing and didn't have
much luck after a couple of searches. I have a female convict and she and the
male had babies.
We moved him out of the tank because he was trying to kill her.
<Happens at times>
So now a month or so later the babies are growing and seem to be fine. The past
couple of days she stays at the front of the tank (which is a 35 gallon
right by my bedside) and every time I move my hand close to her to get
a drink or grab the TV remote or anything she lunges at the glass at me.
<Ah yes; protective>
She suddenly seems very aggressive and angry. She also will swim up and down in
the same line really fast like she's freaking out. My husband thinks she is just
being protective of the babies
<This mostly; yes>
or possibly feeling claustrophobic because they are getting bigger and it makes
her feel crowded. They are about the size of a small jelly bean
at this point and there are probably 20-30 of them. I am
wondering if this is normal behavior and ok or if we should try to do something
to help her. <Mmm; time to separate the young out... maybe ask your local fish
they'll trade you credit>
We have a 65 gallon in our living room with several other fish including the
male convict so moving her there could be an option. I am not sure what to do or
if I even need to do anything and hope you can help me.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
CONVICTS RAPID GILL MOVEMENT /RMF
Recently brought a pair of convicts. Male hasn't eaten anything. But
they laid eggs and they took care of the fry
very much. But from 2 days, I observed rapid
gill movement in Male convict and is hiding in the pot where
the eggs were laid. Bullying female whenever it moved near to
<I'd separate these two>
Luckily it is not chasing the other. But the
water condition is good. The fry and the
female is doing so good. Even the female is not accepting pellets.
This is the first time I have seen convicts
hiding and not well. What to do?
<When, where in doubt; partial water changes! Do you have much ammonia,
I am very much concerned about its health. Do
some help. Thank you.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
CONVICTS RAPID GILL MOVEMENT
Recently brought a pair of convicts. Male hasn't eaten anything. But
they laid eggs and they took care of the fry very much. But from 2 days,
I observed rapid gill movement in Male convict and is hiding in the pot
where the eggs were laid. Bullying female whenever it moved near to him.
Luckily it is not chasing the other. But the water condition is good.
The fry and
the female is doing so good. Even the female is not accepting pellets.
This is the first time I have seen convicts hiding and not well. What to
do? I am very much concerned about its health. Do some help. Thank you.
<Very important to separate male and female cichlids after spawning if
they no longer coexist. Sooner or later one will attack the other.
Despite their reputation, stable pairs of cichlids don't stay together
forever, and can "fall out of love" sometimes. Egg crate can be used to
divide the tank, but ideally, move one to another tank. Assuming water
quality and chemistry are
correct, they will both settle down and start feeding. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: CONVICTS RAPID GILL MOVEMENT
Thanks a ton. I will move the male to another tank.
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Convict Fry 11/17/13
I just had a new batch of convict fry, there are about half a pinky
there almost a month old. My question is, about how big should the fish
be at 2 months, 3 months, 4 months. I'm feeding them two to three times
a day shrimp brine started feeding crushed flake food. thanks Stephen
PS: if you can send photos of 2, 3, 4, 5, month convict fish that
would be good, or a website cant seem to find any.
<Hello Stephen. There simply isn't a single answer to this question.
Under optimal conditions they can grow quite rapidly. Such conditions
include a large tank; 4-6 meals per day; daily water changes; near-zero
nitrate levels; and segregation of faster growing fry from slower
growing ones so all can feed adequately. All these things being given,
they can get to 4-5 cm (around a couple of inches) within 3-4 months.
Sexual maturity can be attained within 6 months, often substantially
less for the males, at which point the fish will be around 8 cm/3 inches
in length. But there's enormous variation, and since Convict fry are
rarely given optimal or even half-decent conditions, slow growth rates
are commonly reported. One very common mistake is insufficient food.
Remember, the goal with very young (0-6 week old) fish is invariably
multiple small meals rather than a few big meals. That's because their
digestive system is, at this stage, adapted to continual grazing and has
little ability to store food for thorough digestion. This is why 6 meals
per day (if not more!) is suggested with fry, but the down side to this
is, of course, all that food will mean nitrate levels go up, and nitrate
is one of the most important factors that works against the growth rate
of fry. It's a classic Catch-22, and the solution is, of course, the
biggest possible tank (to dilute the nitrate produced) together with
many, ideally daily, water changes (to reduce nitrate level
periodically). The growth rates of virtually all fish decline with age,
and fish that are stunted in the first few weeks by lack of food may
never quite reach their genetically programmed maximum size, however
well they are fed thereafter. Hope this helps, Neale.>
RE: Convict Fry 11/17/13
looks like I have a lot of work to do for these guys.
<Depends how many you want to raise. Since the market for Convicts is
(in the UK at least) virtually nil, there's no pressing need to rear
more than a half dozen per batch. Convict adults will spawn at least
once monthly, and will do so for several years.>
I have a 55 gallon with all my fish 3 cons and an algae eater, and about
60 fry. Can I move the fry to a smaller tank, so I can take care of them
<Would be optimal, in the sense that a fry-rearing tank will be easier
to keep clean (i.e., keep dissolved nitrogenous wastes low) while
providing optimal amounts of food will be easier.>
if yes, when can I separate them from there parents?
<Any time you want, even the eggs, though eggs and wrigglers (non-mobile
fry) need some care to prevent fungal infections. Certainly easy to move
and rear fry yourself once they're mobile and feeding.>
is it to late for this batch there almost a month now I made an error in
the size there all the size of a pinky nail. I had a bad back my
wife has been taking care of them for past week
<Ah, very kind of her.>
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Black Convict, beh. on being moved
I have a question regarding my Black Convict cichlid. I work at the
local pet store and a customer begged me to take her 55 gallon tank and
complete set up, off her hands. She claimed nothing was wrong with it
and even had 3 fish in it. Well the tank was in horrible shape. I'm not
sure what these poor fish lived like. I donated the two Blood Parrots
and kept the Black
Convict. She told me he was the aggressor in the tank. He is about 4-5
inches long. I used the 55 for bait and put the Black Convict in a 30
gallon with his old gravel & decorations. This guy hides. He has this
entire tank to himself and he squeezes himself into tiny hideouts and
never comes out! It has been a month and this is still his behavior.
When I say never, please appreciate this because I haven't even seen him
eat! Can you please e plain what you think is going on ir offer advice?
<Hello Tommee. It's very, VERY common for fish to be totally
shell-shocked if moved from a big aquarium to a smaller one.
There's no real solution save time, and if the fish feels this tank is
too small, he'll likely be nervous for many months to come. Providing
overhead shade (e.g., floating plants) can help, as will putting the
tank somewhere really quiet. Adding other fish is one way to reassure
cichlids, but Convicts are so aggressive and nasty, and a 30-gallon tank
so small, that that's a risky proposition here. Even something fairly
robust like Swordtails would be hammered in a tank this small. Dither
fish work because bottom-dwelling fish "judge" the safety of their
environment by looking to see what schooling fish in open water are
doing. If the schooling fish are swimming about, the bottom dweller
knows it's safe to come out; if there are no schooling fish, the bottom
dweller assumes that a predator has scared them off so hides. If the
Blood Parrots were working as dither fish of a sort (hardly text book
choices, but hey) then the Convict may now assume they're hiding because
there's a heron or an alligator about, so he's staying firmly in his
Make sense? Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Convict Cichlids: Behavior change 1/17/12
Well, I've got 2 Firemouth cichlids ~ 2" each. The price
was right. I have no idea of their sex yet. They seem happy
enough, mouthing the glass when I walk up to them, swimming together,
no scrapping that I've noticed.
Hopefully they get along like 2 peas in a pod, if not I'll deal
with that when the time comes.
<Okay. This species isn't especially aggressive, and initially,
two antagonistic fish will display to one another long before they come
to blows. So you'll have plenty of warning.>
If it's a breeding pair, I'll likely be in trouble but if they
are of the same sex, would that be a problem?
<Two males may not get along.>
Also picked up Swordtails as you suggested (3 female, 1 male ~
The Swordtails are already picking away at the floating plants looking
for snacks and it didn't take long for the 1 male to start flirting
with the ladies.
Bristlenose Pleco is perfectly at ease with his new roommates.
The above fish are in the 50 gallon. 38 gallon is a work in progress
The good news is there may be free live sword snacks in a few weeks,
food for all.
<Yep, though Firemouths are very inept predators.>
I was fortunate enough to find a home for the troublesome
Convicts. I can't say I'll miss them.
P.S. I did come across 1 fine Nicaraguan cichlid, beauty
indeed. Pricey, but I guess that's to be expected these
<Perhaps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Convict Cichlids: Behavior change (also: book buying)
Hi Neal, thanks for the quick response yet again.
I noticed one of the two Firemouth cichlids has lost his/her colour, or
chooses not to show it. The other is showing the same red as when I
picked them up. The substrate is off white sand if that helps to
know. Any idea what is happening?
<Cichlids change colour primarily because of [a] mood, e.g.,
bullying; and [b] as a result of upwelling or unnatural light, e.g.,
from light bouncing off a pale substrate. Adding shade in the form of
floating Indian Fern ("water sprite") or similar can make a
big difference. Alternatively, simply reduce the lighting if you
don't have live plants.>
I did a 20% water change shortly after seeing this; figured it
couldn't hurt. No change in his/her colour.
Years ago in university I used to read up on cichlids at our natural
sciences library. Being that it's 2012, which text(s) would
you recommend these days for Cent. American cichlids or a decent
aquarium husbandry guide. The internet is great but I'd like
to sit down with a good text.
<"Pocket Professional Guide to Cichlids" by David E.
Boruchowitz is probably the best of the modern books and well regarded.
Otherwise pretty much anything by Paul Loiselle in particular will give
you an excellent grounding in the more serious side of cichlid keeping.
"The Cichlid Aquarium" by Loiselle is an oldie but goodie,
and well worth tracking down.
It's written for people who are interested in cichlids generally
and don't need help setting up an aquarium for a certain sort of
cichlid. The Latin names used are often obsolete, too. But it's a
great book if you want to know why cichlids do certain things in
aquaria or how they live in the wild. There are some oldish books out
there, like "Fishkeepers Guide to Central American Cichlids"
by David Sands and "The Guide to Owning Central American
Cichlids" by Richard F. Stratton, but they're both cheap and
contain material of value. Oh, and if should go without saying, any of
the Baensch Aquarium Atlas books would earn their place on your
bookshelf many times over (they're my Bibles, and have been for 25
years!). There are several volumes, the first one being the most
essential, the subsequent ones that bit more specialised each time,
with cichlids featuring strongly, albeit less and less often traded
species. The fifth volume ("Baensch Aquarium Atlas Photo Index
1-5") is a photo index of the first four, with only very brief
notes on care, size, etc., but is a great book to take fish shop
<Best wishes, Neale.>
Convict Cichlids: Behavior
Aquariums: 38 Gallon & 50 Gallon freshwater
I have 2 Convict Cichlids: 1 Male / 1 Female
I've had them for about 4 months in the 38 gallon aquarium, shared
with a 4" Bristlenose plecostomus. Plenty of driftwood,
slate rock, 1 inverted flower pot and a sand substrate. There is
nothing else in that aquarium.
They seemed to get along and breed regularly.
I recently acquired and set up a 50 gallon aquarium that has been
running for ~ 3 weeks. Five giant Danios inhabit this
aquarium. I transferred the 2 Convict Cichlids to the 50 gallon,
3 days ago. Similar decor to the 38 gallon, including a
ornamental plastic mountain and large pvc pipe to help break line of
For the first 1/2 hour or so, the male and female were swimming
together and quite gentle with each other. After that initial
period, the larger male has been chasing the female all over the
aquarium. She does her best to hide, yet as soon as she comes out
of hiding he chases her again.
Is this normal behaviour?
<Yes. Cichlid pairs are dependent on the tank they're in. Move
them, and they have to form a new pair, just as if they'd met for
the first time.
Sometimes this happens readily -- after all, they clearly impressed one
another before -- but there are no guarantees.>
Perhaps the presence of the neurotic giant Danios is throwing him off
<Perhaps, but generally dither fish have the opposite effect,
encouraging pair-forming behaviour.>
In retrospect, I wish I could have found Rainbow Cichlids [Herotilapia
Multispinosa] instead, since apparently they're easier to manage
with a milder temperament.
<Absolutely. Convicts are not fish I recommend because they're
aggressive and the fry are difficult (perhaps impossible) to rehome.
There are any number of better Central American cichlids out there that
have nicer colours and better personalities, such as Honduran Red Spots
and the Rainbow Cichlids you mention.>
thanks for any advice,
Re: Convict Cichlids: Behavior change 1/15/12
Thanks for the feedback Neale.
<Most welcome, Mike.>
I've given it some thought and have decided to change species.
I'll have to rehome or give away the convict cichlid babies and the
It was a fun learning experience to test my [or their] breeding
abilities. Perhaps craigslist or kijiji, since pet stores around me
have no interest in them.
<What I do warn people about'¦>
I've come to realize that the 38 gallon or 50 gallon aquariums are
just too small to offer the convict cichlids some friends.
<With cichlids, often the case.>
I read some of the stories on your website regarding a breeding pair of
convict cichlids taking out a full grown Oscar.
That's not something I'd like to risk. I suppose I could keep
just the female, yet that sounds risky as she might breed with
different species cichlids?
<Possibly, and quite probable with Central American
Can't say I'm a fan of hybrids.
I know Firemouth cichlids are readily available in my neck of the woods
and I do like the look of them. Apparently mild mannered
<When not breeding; singletons can work well'¦>
and I can possibly house them with some schooling tetras or some
attractive mid swimmer.
<Swordtails are the better bet, given that Firemouths are hard water
The giant Danios I have are even a little too neurotic for my tastes
haha. Occasionally I also come across Acaras for sale, so that's an
<Some Acaras are excellent community residents. The Blue Acara is a
good choice but it's quite big, around 15 cm/6 inches under
aquarium conditions. Needs soft to only moderately hard water to do
well. Keyhole and Sheepshead Acaras are smaller, even less aggressive,
shy even, and can work very well with the usual tetras and barbs we
know and love.>
Unfortunately I've had no luck finding Rainbow cichlids.
<Sadly not as widely sold as they were in the past.>
Would Firemouth or Acara be suitable for a community environment?
<Acaras yes, Firemouths with reservations.>
I'm open to suggestions.
<Do also look out for the Nicaragua Cichlid, Hypsophrys
nicaraguensis. A biggish sort of Central American and does need fast
water conditions in a spacious aquarium, but quite peaceful and good
specimens have wonderful colours. Cheers, Neale.>
Convict Acting Strange After Water Change
Hello! My 5 year old female Convict Cichlid, Miss Stripes, has
been acting strangely since I did a water change/vacuumed the
gravel a week or so ago. She is hovering on the opposite side of
the tank, sometimes near the top of the water (she ALWAYS resides
in her rock formation at the bottom). Her breathing looks
labored, her coloring is very dark and her scales look puffy. She
hasn't been eating, either.
The last time I cleaned the tank she got very stressed out,
having a little bit of what looked like ich on her body. I added
some salts in addition to the normal slime coat and in a few days
she was fine. This time I tried to move very slowly and kick up
as little debris as possible. I added both the slime coat and
salts as an extra precaution.
I don't see any major injuries from other fish/fighting. The
only thing other than the above is maybe where her fins connect
it looks a little white, but not hanging off, just discolored.
The fact that she's not in "her side" of the tank
is a big red flag to me as well.
I'm very worried about her :( She's my buddy and I'm
not sure what to do. Seems there are so many things out there it
could be and we don't have a local aquatics expert! I'm a
bit overwhelmed searching the internet. If you could pass on some
advice, I'd greatly appreciate it (and so would Miss
Thanks so much. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
Re: 5 year old female Convict Cichlid is ill
Oops, forgot to attach a photo. This is the best I could get
considering where she keeps hovering. She does kind of lean to
the side a little off and on as well.
< Check the water quality of the tap water and the tank water
before and after each water change. Your fish is being stressed
by something after a water change. Fish usually don't like
big changes in water chemistry so I would start there. get a kit
that gives you accurate numbers instead of "fine" and
words like that.-Chuck
Convict Goes Wild, beh.,
I have a single male I believe convict cichlid in a ten
gallon aquarium. My question is why does he go nuts all the
time. Most times he hides in a rock but when he comes out he flips
jumps out the water (luckily I have a lid on or he would be in the
floor) swims upside down. He will hit the gravel so hard that there are
bare spots where there is no gravel. I mean he goes absolutely
He does this with the light on and off. I'm not quite sure what is
going on do you have any advice or any ideas? James
< Chances are your convict is reacting to shadows and foot traffic
near the tank that can scare him into jumping out. Move the tank to a
different area of the house, add some floating plastic plants or cover
the sides so he will not be so scared. In a bigger tank I would
recommend adding dither fish like a school of barbs or tetras, but in a
10 gallon the waste products may become too much to
Convict Cichlids, beh., sys.
Hi WWM, I acquired 3 Convict Cichlids about a day ago (1 large male and
2 smaller ones that I do not know the gender of yet) and the 2 smaller
ones sit in one corner of my 25 gallon fish tank and the big one sits
in my rock formation all day. They do not seem to be active at all, is
this a problem?
Also, whenever I turn my fish tank light on the 2 small ones go crazy,
they swim really fast in all directions. Is there something wrong with
Thanks for reading my question. You're site is great!
<Assuming water quality and water chemistry are appropriate (i.e., 0
ammonia, 0 nitrite, 10+ degrees dH, 5+ degrees KH, pH 7-8) then this
sounds like a psychological problem. Your tank is really much too small
for three random Convict cichlids, and the dominant male can, mostly
likely will, badger any other males to death. Non-receptive females are
likely to come in for a good deal of harassment as well. Like all
cichlids, Convicts dislike bright lights, and in a small tank suddenly
switching on bright lights will make them feel very threatened and
exposed. I really can't see this combination of fish and aquarium
size working for long. Back to the drawing board I'm afraid.
I will mention briefly that Convicts are among the most pointless fish
in the hobby, and unless you have a darn good reason to need them,
they're best avoided. There are many much more beautiful Central
American cichlids out there, as well as species that behave much
better. Inbreeding has caused massive problems with the species, and it
is very common to see
specimens that are stunted, have poor colours, or deformities such as
faulty swim bladders that mean they cannot swim properly. Convicts are
fine as "filler" in a 200 gallon tank to go alongside larger,
more impressive Central Americans kept singly, such as Midas Cichlids
or Jaguar Cichlids, but on their own their pretty worthless. Great lab
animals, but rather
boring pets that produce vast numbers of fry that pet shops don't
Unlike, say, Firemouth cichlids it's almost impossible to keep
Convicts in community tank settings. What I'm saying is that if you
have the option ton return these fish, and then procure some species
better suited to a 25 gallon tank, like a pair of Kribensis for
example, then go and do so.
Convict Cichlid Behavior Question 07/13/09
<And a very good evening from England!>
I have a 30g tank that recently finished cycling. I went to the LFS and
purchased what I thought was a pair of Convicts. They seemed to be
guarding a batch of eggs in the petstore tank.
<As they will, repeatedly, at home; do think about what you're
going to do with these fry: after the first thousand, it's gets
annoying! Few pet shops will accept juvenile Convicts, and I'd
strongly recommend pulling the eggs each time they spawn, unless you
have some very good reason to want to rear them.>
One is very colorful and 1.25 inches with a pointy dorsal fin but she
is generally round and fat. The other is normally striped with a
rounded dorsal fin and very faint coloration of the belly (you can
barely see it).
While in the bag they were locking lips and doing what I presumed to be
a mating ritual. Once I introduced them to the tank the more colorful
one has been repeatedly biting and chasing as the dull one. (I'm
going to assume that the colorful one is the female for ease of the
story). The male never fights back, he just takes it all. I left them
together for the night and when I came to the tank in the morning the
male was up in the corner of the tank and the female had him pinned
there. I promptly moved the female to a 45g alone so the male could
maybe establish some territory in the tank (ever since he has been
swimming around happily). I'm starting to think that maybe both the
fish are females because I have been Googling for 2 days now and
I've seen no mention of any males having belly coloration.
<They can do, though usually *less* than females; the problem is
Convicts in the hobby are likely hybrids between more than one
Amatitlania species, and that means that the colour patters of species
like Amatitlania nigrofasciata *in the wild* might not apply to what
you've bought from a pet store.>
Have you ever heard of a male with rounded fins and very faint belly
Any other random input that isn't obvious with convicts that I
wouldn't have read while researching convicts would be greatly
appreciated as well.
<Anything in specific? Feel free to fire away; in the meantime do
Re: Convict Cichlid Behavior Question
New World Cichlid Companions 07/13/09
I decided to rearrange the 30g and put the two back together and the
female went right back to chasing the male up to the corner after she
won the lip locking contest. I moved the male to the 45g this time and
I'm going to keep them separated for good. Now my tank plans will
need to change. I'm looking to put a jewel cichlid and a Firemouth
cichlid in with the convict that is in my 45g later this week. I'm
going to go out on the limb and guess that there really isn't
anything that can be added in with the female in the 30g aside from
dither fish? (FYI, I was planning on using the babies as snacks for my
45g tank which were going to house a blood parrot, a Firemouth, and a
< You could add some more convicts of equal or greater size. You
would probably get a couple of pairs.>
If you have any input on possible things I could do with my tanks Id
appreciate it. Current setup = convict in 45g and convict in 30g. Both
are gravel, fake planted with a few hiding places and have the proper
filtration. Thanks Neale, I appreciate the promptness
< I like the idea of adding additional New World cichlids. Look for
other convict like cichlids like salvini, sajica spilurum. There are
other Firemouth like cichlids too like aurem, and
Convicts Changing Color -- 05/02/09
I recently (2 or 3 weeks) bought three young (>1 inch) Convict
Cichlids, two striped whites and one slightly larger (1.25 inch)
striped black. (No gender determined yet.) Well, the three Convicts are
doing well, growing big pretty fast. The larger black one grows
fastest, already 2 inches, while the other two are just over 1.5
<Still very small, though quite possibly sexually mature. Convicts
can breed when notoriously small.>
Anyways, a few days ago I woke up to find the bigger white Convict
Not just with darker stripes, but completely black; as black as the one
who was originally black. I have seen the large black fish's color
loose its luster occasionally, but the color always came back; the
newly black fish has been that way for >24 hours. Also, when the
largest Convict was lighter, he was still distinguishable from the
white ones; this fish has completely changed.
My question is: Does this have to do with territoriality and dominant
males? If so, why are both fish black at the same time?
<Now, there are two reasons Convicts will change their colours like
As with most fish, if stressed, their colours darken. So if the fish
seem shy, or disinterested in their food, think about social behaviour
problems or water quality/chemistry problems. Review the conditions in
the tank, and establish whether or not you have the right water quality
(0 ammonia/nitrite; less than 20 mg/l nitrate) and the right water
chemistry (pH 7.5-8; 10-25 degrees dH). Check to see that there
aren't any damaged fins or missing scales -- these could suggest
fighting. It goes without saying that mature male Convicts WILL NOT
tolerate one another in small or medium sized aquaria. The second thing
to consider is sexual maturity. Male Convicts are rather drab, but it
is possible for them to change the darkness of the vertical bars on
their bodies. They will do this when "flirting" with females
or trying to "scare" rival males.>
Is it the diet? I feed them Cichlid Pellets, although they eat their
share of normal flakes from the other fish and get a few bites from the
pl*co's algae chips.
<Well, the more varied the diet, the better their colours will be.
That's true for any fish. Including algae AND crustaceans gives you
the best chance of getting the brightest colours.>
Finally, should I be worried? Will this change cause added
<If they are sexually mature males, then yes, they will
Or maybe it's a breeding ritual?
Thanks in advance,
<Good luck, Neale.>
Convicts Changing Color, Part 2
Hey WWM! You guys rock!
<To be fair, we do indeed rock.>
Thank you very much for answering me earlier; I now have the solution,
and would like to share it with you. My last guess was right: It WAS a
breeding ritual. Yesterday while cleaning the tank, I found a batch of
eggs where the newly black fish was hiding. (I described them wrong-not
all black, but black with dark gray stripes, BTW).
<Ah, the details are everything!>
Turns out she (I assume it's a she because she's smaller and
stays with the eggs, while the bigger fish patrols the area outside)
had laid eggs! For some reason, the female changed to match her
mate's color; no idea why.
<They do; or rather, cichlids will alter their colours all the time,
to convey specific messages to their partners.>
I do have a few questions:
1) What color will the babies be when they hatch? Black with gray or
white with black? I'm not sure it's genetic, though, because
the female so easily changed colors.
<Likely black/grey; albinism is usually a recessive
2) I'm right about the sexing of the pair, right?
<Impossible to say; sexing Convict cichlids is tricky when
they're relatively small. Females should have bright patches of
colour around the belly, usually gold or blue, but that's the
wild-type; artificial forms are
(to be frank) less colourful. Males should eventually get bigger than
the females, but again, the inbreeding and the lack of selection
pressure in favour of large size means that many Convicts are far
3) Because she's guarding the eggs, the assumed female is getting
less food, and less types of it. Is this unhealthy?
<Not immediately, no. Pull the fry and rear them yourself after 2-3
weeks, and then ideally separate the female from the male (e.g., with
egg crate or a tank divider) so she can fatten up for a month. Convicts
will breed monthly given the chance, and when that happens, the female
can, will lose health and condition.>
4) The egg-laying place was inside a plastic root system. The female
can get in fine, but the male got stuck twice; it was with difficulty I
got him out. He learned not to go in anymore, but what about when the
Should I remove the roots when the eggs hatch, or wait till the fry are
<They'll figure it out themselves. Certainly feel free to add
alternative nesting sites though.>
5) Petsmart recently changed its policies and won't buy back baby
Does Petco still buy baby fish? What about small fish stores (in
general, not specifically?) And how big should the fry be before I sell
them, either to a petstore or a private owner?
<Can only speak for the UK, where I live, and there the Maidenhead
Aquatics chain will usually accept (for zero money) unwanted fish. That
said, because Convicts are [a] too aggressive for community tanks and
[b] breed like rabbits, there's virtually no market for the fry.
Hence my advice is consistently DON'T BREED THEM unless you already
have a home for the juveniles. Feel free to set aside, say, 20 eggs and
rear the fry yourself, and you'll likely get about ten fry big
enough to give away. But wash the rest away, or feed the newborn
fry/eggs to predators in another tank. I don't mean to sound cruel,
but if you let them, you will seriously be dealing with thousands of
fry per year, and that gets ridiculous.>
6) Once I remove the roots and the convicts lay eggs again in a new
place, is it safe to return them? Will they stick to the new site or go
back to the roots?
<They will explore the tank anew each time they want to
7) What should I feed the fry: Powdered algae chips, powdered normal
fish flakes, powdered cichlid pellets, or a combination of all
<Finely powdered flake food sold especially for baby fish works fine
for Convict fry. Liquid fry food for egg-layers is good too. After a
couple weeks, they'll be big enough to take regular flake food,
crumbled in your fingers first.>
Sorry for the long list of questions and thanks again for the help.
Cichlid rubbing! 7/7/05 Hey crew!!! I have this 20 gallon and
holds 2 convicts and 1 Pleco. Suddenly the convicts started to rub on
the rocks in the tank. What kind of sickness is this? <Could be
nothing... or reproductive behavior... or something to do with your
water quality... is the system cycled?> And I almost forgot that
I'm a beginner and just started a few weeks ago. thank you for the
help!! Sean <Please read... on WWM re cichlid systems, disease...
Leave a space between sentences... Bob Fenner>
Convicts Breeding, Aggression, Behaviour -
05/15/2006 Hi, I'm a newbie and I found your site and love it!
I've learned a lot about the fish that my husband and I have but I
haven't been able to find the answer or advice I need for this
particular situation. <Then perhaps I can help.> We bought a pair
of black (zebra) convicts and a Jack Dempsey. We had all 3 fish in a 55
gallon tank - they are all small, the female convict is about 3 inches
and the male convict is about 4 and a half inches. Jack Dempsey is
bigger at about 5 and a half inches. The convicts had babies
and they kept them away from the Jack. We noticed that the convict
parents were getting very tired constantly protecting their babies from
Jack so we put Jack in a 30 gallon tank. Right after we moved the Jack
to the other tank, the male convict started being really mean to the
female and wouldn't let her near the babies. It was like he was
chasing her and fighting her. We took her out and put her in with the
Jack for about a week. We then tried to put her back into the tank with
the male and the babies and he tore after her. <This behaviour is
rally not uncommon.> We decided to take the male convict out and put
him in with the Jack and they seem to be ok with each other.
There's a lot of chasing but it seems to be like they are
playing. <Trying to establish territories in too small a
space; it could get ugly.> So now we have the female convict and the
babies in the 55 gallon tank and the Jack and the male convict in the
30 gallon. The babies are about 4 weeks old now and we will be giving
most of them away in about 3 weeks. My questions: if we
decide to keep some of the babies, how many would be ok to keep in the
55 gallon tank? <They WILL grow up, and they WILL
breed. I would not try for more than three adult pairs, and
that only if the tank is heavy with plants or decor for establishing
territories.> Would it be ok to keep the mother in with the babies
and have that tank be just a convict tank? Or would it be ok to
introduce some dither fish in too? <I would wait until
most of the young are of a saleable size, pick the "best" to
keep, sell, trade, or give the rest, add some dither fish - a friend of
mine swears by rainbow fish for dithers for many of his cichlids - and
reintroduce the male once the female's fully
recovered. Chances are, the next spawn, they'll be more
amenable to chasing dither fish than each other.> I'm thinking
that the Jack and the male convict would be ok in the 30 gallon tank.
<The jack Dempsey may outgrow it, and the two in the tank together
may spell trouble before long.> And that the babies that we decide
to keep (and the mother) would need the 55 gallon
tank. Thank you so much for your answers/advice and for all
the work you all do in helping people like me - clueless but loving the
fish! -Jackie <Glad to be of service. Wishing
you well, -Sabrina>
Female Convict Hiding From Male -
05/17/2006 Thanks, for your advice. I just got the floating plant
and she doesn't even go near it. She just sits by the filter and
doesn't move. You think she will be okay? < This is
strange because in your first letter you said she was at the surface
trying to get away from the male. She has probably never seen a
floating plant before and needs a few days to get use to it. If the
male convict can still see her then you need more
vegetation/rocks/caves for her to hide. Ultimately you could move her
to a different tank, use a tank divider or add numerous cut pieces of
PVC pipe for her to hide in and around.-Chuck>
Convict Cichlid With Phantom
Rival 9/18/06 Hey dudes. <Cowabunga! Surf's Up!> I
have a male swordtail (3.8 cm) two male firemouths (both about 4 cm) a
female (2.75 cm) and male (5.5 cm) convict in a 20 gallon long tank
furnished with river rocks, about 2.5 cm gravel, and plastic plants.
Obviously, with so many cichlids in such a small tank there is some
competition for territory. The male convict seems to have claimed the
whole tank as his territory, which he defends with two tactics I have
never heard of for a convict cichlid: nosing up to a side of the tank
and kicking as hard as he can with his tail fin, and flaring his gills
like a Firemouth, throat inflation and all! There is also, of course
the usual chasing of intruder fish. I was wondering if the other two
techniques, especially the gill flaring, had anything to do with why
the convicts haven't bred and why the male has recently developed
some pale coloration near the anal fin, but not near the pectoral like
what would happen if it was a female. Also, what can I do to get the
convicts to breed and how big of a tank will I need for all four
full-grown cichlids? -Jack < Your male convict is fighting his
reflection in the glass. He thinks he is lip locking with another male
convict as a test of strength. As long as he thinks their is a
competing male in the tank that is as determined as he is they will
probably not spawn. Cover that side of the tank with some paper and see
if he stops. Males can get some color in the unpaired fins. females
still tend to color up in the belly region. When all your fish are
grown and breeding they will probably need a 40
8/19/07 Hello WetWebMedia crew, I find your site very useful.
I have a pair of convict cichlids, about 2.5 inches, and right
now they are moving around gravel and digging pits and
redecorating an area in the tank. And the female likes to stay in
this little cave rock thing that I have set up. Does this mean
that they're going to breed soon? do you know how long?
Frankie <Yes, they're likely going to spawn soon. Spawning
usually occurs within a couple of days of the fish pairing off
and decorating their cave. But often cichlids will eat the first
batch of eggs, almost as if they're "practising".
But convicts generally make superb parents, and before too long
you will have more baby cichlids that you'll know what to do
with! Cheers, Neale>
Re: convict cichlids --
08/22/07 Hello WWM: Yay, my convicts spawned yesterday! Why
is it that the male convict doesn't really display his
stripes or his "colors" as much as the female does? is
it because there are no other fish/predators in the tank? (they
are in a tank by themselves) <Well, male convicts are less
colourful than females anyway. But also remember the colours
aren't there for your amusement, but for communication. When
fighting over territory or flirting with potential partners, the
colour patters will be used in different ways. When communicating
to one another while guarding the fry, and eventually when
communicating with the fry themselves, different colours are
used. So for now, just sit back and enjoy cichlid behaviour. Cool
behaviour is, after all, why anybody keeps these cranky, violent
animals! Cheers, Neale>
Convict doing head spins, Convict Going Loop The
Loop 8/23/07 Hi there. You guys really have a wonderful
and quite often when I have the time I spend it here. I am relatively
new to the hobby (about a year) and am quite fascinated with cichlids.
I have 3 convicts, 1 male and 2 females. The male I have had since he
was a toddler. The females I introduced later and there weren't any
problems. It's been about 6 months and recently I think the one of
the females and a male seemed to have formed a pair. They've been
digging up the sand in a corner of the tank and they protect it as
their own territory. My male convict suddenly started acting funny
today. He started spinning quite energetically. Not horizontal in
circles, but vertically, like he was doing head spins. I have seen fish
with swim bladder problems and his spinning seemed too conscious to be
a swim bladder problem, but I am no expert. He did this twice in a span
of 10 minutes and after that he went back to being normal. I have been
keeping an eye on him and he's not done it again (over the last
hour and a half). Am a bit flummoxed by the behaviour. Could you please
throw some light on the above. Thanking you in advance, warm regards.
Sujay <It is not part of any spawning ritual that I am aware of.
Never heard of this before. Check the water quality and offer some live
food. Spawning can be stressful and you want to make sure your fish are
in good shape.-Chuck.>
Re: Convict doing head spins 7/25/07
Thank you Have been keeping an eye on him and he's not done it
again. Was wondering whether it could be the onset or symptoms of some
internal energy? Regards... Sujay <Not sure what "internal
energy" means in this context. But, as ever, keep an eye on water
chemistry and water quality. Trying mixing up the diet a little, and
offer some green foods and algae as well as the usual flake and
bloodworms. Practically all cichlids eat some green foods, even if only
incidentally to their normal diet, and just like any other animal, the
vitamins and fibre in green foods are important. (Even cats, the most
completely carnivorous animals on Earth, make a bee-line for the
partially digested plant matter in the digestive tracts of the prey
animals they eat.) When cichlids lose swimming ability, it's
usually either environmental or dietary, so if you can cross those two
things off, you've made a good start. The last time I saw
"spinning cichlids" it was a tank full of baby Pelvivachromis
taeniatus into which I'd poured some freezing cold water without
thinking... they recovered within half an hour or so, but it was pretty
scary to watch! Cheers, Neale>
My convict... beh. 11/3/07 Hi
WWM crew, I just bought two small Convict Cichlids and they are not
getting along too well, one is about 2 inches and the other about an
inch. The smaller one has to stay in the floating plants so it
doesn't get attacked. The other one rules the whole bottom of the
tank including 4 houses and when the smaller one comes down, the bigger
one chases her away. I noticed a few missing chunks of her tail but she
doesn't seem to mind. What's weird is that the bigger one has
the looks of a female, but the characteristics of a male, kind of an
orange belly and a bluish tint to a few places including the fins and
the lips, but an aggressive attitude. I was wondering what this is?
Also the smaller one has kind of dull striping but I think that's
just because she's so young, what would you recommend me doing? I
don't know if I should take the smaller one back to the pet store
or just leave them be? Please help Jesse <Hello Jesse. Cichlids are
territorial and aggressive. A single male (which can get to around 15
cm) will attempt to monopolise even a very large aquarium. If you have
two males, they will fight. Sexing Convict cichlids is notoriously
difficult. While males *do* tend to be bigger and have longer fin rays,
and females *do* tend to be more colourful, there is plenty of
variation. This is why experienced Convict keepers recommend keeping 6
juveniles together and letting them pair off naturally. Once a pair has
formed, you can remove the 4 leftover fish. So depending on the size of
your tank you could either get a bunch more juveniles (not recommended
in smaller than a 55 gallon tank) or else separating the two fish now
to let them grow up some more. Sexing fish at the size you have them
now is very unreliable. Even if you are right, and the small one is the
male and the big one is the female, there's no guarantees they will
"bond". Sometimes cichlids don't like each other.
There's not much you can do about this except swap one of the fish
for another fish. Cheers, Neale.>
Pink Convicts... repro./beh.
2/19/08 Hello WWM Crew, I was given 6 pink convicts and when 2
paired off I gave away the remaining 4 to LFS. Approximately 3 weeks
after spawning and raising the fry, the male killed the female and I
don't know why, <Tank not big enough; Convict cichlids are
notoriously rough when overcrowded, and being so much bigger than the
females, the males can seriously harm females that do not respond to
their overtures to breed again.> yet he does not bother any of the
fry. <Yet.> I now have about 30 fry left from the spawn that are
growing nicely (about 2-3 months old). Could it be because they are so
much smaller than he is? <He won't attack them until he views
them as rivals (in the case of the males) or females that won't
mate with him. In any case, you will need to get rid of the fry
soon.> I like these fish and would like to have more but due to the
aggression I don't know what to put in the tank with
'Periander', nor do I know what size tank would be acceptable.
<Convicts aren't community fish by any measurement, and keeping
them with tankmates is always difficult. When I kept half a dozen of
them, I did so in a 200 gallon tank with a similar number of
Firemouths, a Jaguar cichlid, and a Red Devil. Also some catfish -- a
smallish channel catfish and a Gibbiceps catfish. Adult 'Chinese
Algae Eaters' (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) also work well, being
extremely fast but also quite nasty animals themselves. Large botiine
loaches might work, too, provided the loaches were kept as a school
(for protection) and had ample hiding places. In other words, your best
choices for tankmates are larger and more aggressive cichlids, very
fast Cyprinids, and armoured catfish. This does rather depend on the
size of the tank though; there's absolutely no point trying to keep
*anything* in a 20 or 30 gallon tank containing a mature male Convict.
Even a 55 gallon is pushing your luck, and adding tankmates will be a
bit of trial-and-error.> I am hoping you could make some generalized
suggestions to try. <Cheers, Neale.> Thank you for your