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FAQs on Convict Cichlid Compatibility

Related Articles: Convicts, Freshwater Angels, Discus, Juraparoids, Neotropical Cichlids, African Cichlids, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Asian Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes in General

Related FAQs: Convicts 1, Convicts 2, & Convict Identification, Convict Behavior, 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 DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,

 

Hello; FW stkg., comm. plus Convict      9/29/13
I have a 30 gallon stable tank with one female tiger barb and four males - all a little over an inch, one three inch Pleco and one two/half non-aggressive female convict.  What other fish could co-habitate with them?  Thank you Kathy
<I'd start by getting a few more Tiger Barbs, preferably females! She must be having a bit *too* much male attention, if you get my drift. Your Plec will need rehoming of course, since Plecs get to, what, 45 cm/18 inches and would make a 55 gallon tank filthy, let alone a 30 gallon tank. Assuming your Convict cichlid stays peaceful -- by no means a certainty -- you could try something like Yo-yo Loaches which should be robust enough to live with the Tiger Barbs and fast enough to keep out of the way of the Convict.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Hello     9/30/13
Thank you Neale,
My plans is to get a couple more barbs when the pet store has more, however the suggestion of females is a good one.  I might not have given that a thought. I forgot to mention there are about 8 fry in the tank, I missed them when I brought the rest with the male to the store.  The mom usually hides from the barbs and only chases them when she comes out to eat or if
one or more get too close / low in the tank in which ever back corner the fry are in. When the fry are bigger would you advise keeping one female, if there is one, or just giving them all away?
Cheers Kathy.
<Are these fry Tiger Barb fry? If they are, keep as many as you want. Once the group is over 10-12 specimens, they generally school together extremely peaceably; it's in smaller numbers where they go a bit "screwy" and annoy their tankmates (or one another). Cheers, Neale.>

Crazy Convict Cichlids; gen. comp.       9/13/13
Hello!
<Hi there>
I'm looking to set up for the first time a large tank that will be completely mine. My mother being a fish enthusiast (125g with angelfish, cherry barbs, red minor tetras and a few more), having assisted with my father's two oscars growing up, and myself googling the HELL out of any animal purchase I plan to make, I'm not entirely amature.
<... amateur>
I plan to buy a 50 gallon tank (48 1/4"L x 12 3/4"W x 20"H). My goal is to have less fish, but have the fish I do have more personable, smarter, and interactive. With the money/space I'll save on fish, I'll put toward making the decoration (and hiding spaces) grandiose and the filter especially powerful.
<Sounds/reads like "a plan">
I also have a 20 gallon long tank that's gathering dust. It doesn't need to be used, just throwing it out there.
I've become enamored with the idea of watching a pair of black convicts breed, but I also want a fish that's a bit more reactive than the black convicts that I've seen. I was thinking a larger, also aggressive cichlid, like the Jack Dempsey.
Now for the questions.
Would a Jack Dempsey and a bonded/mating pair of black convicts be able to reside in a 50 gallon tank,
<No>
or would the convicts pick on him/the JD fight for territory when fry are born?
Would a Jack Dempsey (with proper care, good filtration) be able to reside all of his life in a 50 gallon tank at all?
<Yes>
(The internet has so many mixed answers here!)
Would the JD eat the fry once they are moving too far away from the parents/when their parents were ready to move onto the next batch of babies/in his section of the tank?
<Might>
Is there a different sort of personable fish that you think would do better in a 50g tank with bonded convicts?
<Quite a few. Do read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/convictcompf.htm
and the linked files above>
I've read about jewel cichlids, but from what I've seen (and I've mostly seen babies) they're not as personable and they wouldn't be aggressive enough to get the convicts to back off.
Are black convicts more personable as they get older?
<Less so>
I heard that when breeding, they pretty much only love each other and their babies, and hate everything else in the world -- including the one who gives them food. I've also heard that they're never not breeding.
I'd kinda like to avoid it, but I know I can't have my cake and eat it too; should I just set up my 20 gallon long with the bonded pair of convicts, then scoop out the extra fry to feed to the JD in the 50 gallon tank?
<Another possibility. Bob Fenner>

2 male Pink Convicts in a 90 gal; comp.     7/24/13
Hi :) 
<Mandy>
I've written to you guys before and I love your site.
I'm having problems getting an answer to my questions that will work.
I have a 90 gal tank which, until recently, was full of Mbuna cichlids, 2 bushynosed Plecos, 1 CAE, 12" Sailfin Pleco and 2 male Pink Convicts(these two were left over from a 55gal CA tank I had and no one would take them)
Recently, we had a massive heat wave and my A/C broke.  For all my best efforts, my tank overheated and killed the CAE, the Bushynose and all the Mbuna save 2 barely 1/2" Auratus fry.  Now I just have to 2 5" male Pink convicts, the fry and the 12" Pleco. 
<I see>
I have tons of rock in the tank with plenty of hiding spots, but 1 male is being relentless to the other one.
When they were with the Mbuna, they were fine.  Barely paid attention to each other. 
My question is, other then females (been there, done that.  Not going there again LOL) what fish can I introduce into the tank that won't get killed.
<Smart, fast, tough ones... Many choices>
 I can't go Africans again really because the budget is somewhat tight for that right now, maybe later though.
I was told danios, or barbs but they are really plain looking.  I'm looking for a fish with some color.  My dad suggested an Oscar or two but I'm not even sure that would work.
<A good choice... though it gets large>
I have an XP3 filter and a Fluval FX5  so I can take the most dirtiest of fish I think LOL.
Thanks Mandy
<Please read here re some choices:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/convictcompf.htm
and here
 http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/neotropcichselfaqs.htm
Bob Fenner>
Re: 2 male Pink Convicts in a 90 gal    7/24/13

Thanks for your quick reply, Bob.
<Welcome>
So you think a couple of Oscars might work?  My dad had one before, I know how big they can get, but his tank was a 55 gal.
<Ah, too small. Your ninety should work fine for several years>
Of all the average New World Cichlids, how many do you think I could add with what I have in the tank now.
<Depends on the species mostly; as some are more/less aggressive... and if they should decide to breed later>
 I'm thinking 2 giving most of the sizes of NW's, but I'm not sure that it will be enough to stop the males from fighting.
But again,  thank you very much. Your links provided some good info.
Mandy
<Cheers, BobF>
Re: 2 male Pink Convicts in a 90 gal; plus two small Mel. auratus      7/24/13

Hi again Bob
Sorry, I forgot to ask about the fry.
The 2 Melanochromis auratus  fry I have seem to be holding their own in the rock pile for now.  Obviously, I don't know what I have in regards to male or female.  But I do suspect 1 might be a male.
Could these two cause a problem should they survive to adulthood.  I heard auratus males can be quite deadly, though with the brood I had I only saw some aggression towards the other males.
Should I just leave them be or look into rehoming them?
Mandy
<I would leave them at least for now... More likely than not they will not present a problem down the line. B>

Female black convicts, stkg./sel., comp., sys.   12/6/11
Good evening,
I have been looking at fish for a while now and I think this is what I would like to have in my tank. I have an established 37 gallon tank and a 75 gallon tank (not setup yet) the 37 gallon tank at the moment has 4 cherry barbs
<These are very small fish to keep with Convicts!>
and 2 rubber lip suckey fish in it.
<Do you mean Rubber-Nose Plecs, Chaetostoma species?
These fast-water fish are reasonably easy to keep, but they do need a lot of oxygen and despite high water temperatures. So ensure good filtration, excellent water quality, and a temperature no higher than 24 C/75 F.>
(used to establish the tank) There are 3 live plants and a pot and a cave.
The heater is 150 watt and the filter is a aqua clear 70. I have not seen much info on keeping female convicts together. I do not want breeding convicts so I was thinking about getting two or three female convicts.
Would this be a bad idea or would they get along being together?
<It can work. But Convicts are unpredictable fish; at least, in the sense that's it very hard to say that Convicts will ever behave well. Females, if you can identify them properly, should be less territorial and less waspish. But they're still bullish fish that can throw their weight around.
I would honestly hold out for two other species. One is the excellent Rainbow Cichlid, another South American species noted for its pretty colours and surprisingly gentle personality. It's not at all shy, and makes a great character fish. Pairs work well, too. Rainbows are unusual among Central American cichlids in largely leaving plants alone. Another species is the Honduran Red Point, a close relative of the Convict, but with nicer colours and a more peaceful personality. It's not as safe with plants as the Rainbow Cichlid.>
Thank you for your time and great website, very informational.
<Thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Female black convicts  12/6/11

Good morning,
Thank you for the reply and all the info.
<Glad to help.>
First off, to clarify the Cherry Barbs and one of the Rubber Nose Plecs (I stand corrected and yes, your right on the money) will be moving to the 75 gallon to start establishing that tank.
<The Chaetostoma WILL NOT do well in an un-cycled tank. But the Cherry Barbs could do okay, provided you keep nitrite and ammonia below 0.5 mg/l.>
Maybe a plant too.
<Sure.>
I have bumped up the heat (now at 75) I did forget to mention, the back bubble wall (wand) and bubble volcano connected to a Tetra Whisper 60 regulated dual output air pump. (I think that is what it is called) I am more less looking for a fish some what similar in personality to the Tiger Oscar I used to have but much smaller in size.
<I see. Lots of options. The Rainbow Cichlids would be good. Angels can also be very tame. Bolivian Rams are reliable, unlike the Common Rams. A step up in size is the Blue Acara, good specimens of which are very pretty, and these are bold fish easily tamed. Do also think outside the cichlid paradigm. Sleeper Gobies, e.g., Mogurnda, and some of the Gouramis, e.g., Trichogaster leeri, can add character to medium to large community tanks.
Predators can work well too, like Spiny Eels and Hujeta Gar, if you can deal with their diet. My Hujeta Gar are weaned onto floating Cichlid Gold pellets so aren't difficult to keep, but I can hand feed them bits of fish and prawn if I want, and they're completely peaceful towards fish too large to be swallowed, such as Corydoras and Ameca splendens.>
He knew when I was around played with ping pong balls ate everything fed to him. I will research the fish you have listed, thank you very much for the info. From this being said, does any other fish come to mind?
<See above. But do understand Oscars are uniquely intelligent in a way few other fish are, so it's hard to promise anything would be exactly the same.>
I am trying to keep the fish to about 6 inches give or take.
<A good size range for tanks in the 40-100 gallon bracket.>
Thank you again.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Female black convicts  12/6/11

I just your email to me again just after adjusting the temp. Then just adjusted the temp back to 72 degrees. I read that wrong and corrected my mistake. No harm done.
<Indeed. Low-end tropical temperatures in the 22-25 C/72-77 F range are best for a surprisingly large range of aquarium fish: Corydoras, many Plecs, many barbs, Danios, Neon tetras, Acara cichlids, etc. Keeping them too warm shortens their lives and wastes money on heating bills!>
(Still drinking my morning coffee) By the way your website is now book marked on my pc, tablet, and phone. You are doing an excellent job. Thank you.
<We're all volunteers here, so your kind words are much appreciated.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Female black convicts  12/6/11

Good afternoon,
Thank you for the info and advice on fish to consider, I will do more research before making a decision.
<Glad to help.>
Point taken, I will not add the Chaetostoma in the uncycled tank.
<Wise. These are lovely fish, but slightly sensitive to pollution, as you'd expect from fish adapted to cool, shallow, well-oxygenated streams rather than rivers or swamps.>
You have been a huge help and really fast responses.
Thank you for your time.
<Thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>

1/2 inch Firemouth and 3 1/2 inch Convict cichlid in 35 gallon, incomp.    1/21/11
I recently moved my painted turtles from this 35 to a 55. I then put a 3ish maybe 3 1/2 inch male convict cichlid in. He was the weaker male in another tank with 2 male convicts. I also put a 1/2 maybe 3/4 inch Firemouth cichlid in the tank.
<Not a good combination of species. Thorichthys are "bluffers" and use their red throats to scare one another. Because they have delicate mouthparts adapted to sifting sand -- they're basically Eartheaters in terms of ecology -- if they wrestle with other types of cichlids they very often end up with damaged, even dislocated, jaws. Keep Thorichthys on their own, or with non-aggressive cichlids, or with fast midwater species such as Swordtails.>
Both were placed in the tank at the time. The tank is heavily planted (real and fake), many large rocks across the bottom, and a tall piece of fake driftwood from the left in the middle that is a major sight block. Anyway, I'm hoping my Firemouth will catch-up in size with the convict.
<Irrelevant.>
Right now the convict chased the Firemouth to the top corner behind the filter.
<Completely predictable.>
I'm hoping they may become a pair (won't sell fry, probably end up as feeder fish) but I'm afraid the Firemouth will die before having a chance to grow up.
<Very likely will be stressed and damaged, even if not killed outright.>
I have a few questions. Will lowering the temp from 76 to something like 70 lower the aggression?
<Not really, no. While Central Americans do well at around 24 C/75 F in terms of maintenance, if kept very much cooler than this they become sickly.>
Will the Firemouth die from this treatment?
<Quite probably, yes, on its way to an early grave.>
How long does it usually take a Firemouth to grow to 3 inches if it is already 1/2 an inch?
<Kept properly, your Firemouth should reach adult size within a year. But cichlids grow fastest when very young, and the older they are, the more slowly they grow, so if your specimen is already, say, six months old, it may never reach full size, and any growth it does make will be very slow.>
Any ideas on how to make the odds of them forming a pair greater?
<Amatitlania and Thorichthys are not compatible in any sense of the word.
Do not keep them in the same aquarium.>
Thank you! Sorry for so many questions!
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.> 
Re: 1/2 inch Firemouth and 3 1/2 inch Convict cichlid in 35 gallon   1/21/11
I put the male in another tank for the time being. He is now with the larger male and is being bullied.
<Convicts are aggressive fish. Don't expect to keep more than one male in a tank. It's do-able in tanks containing 150 gallons or more, but generally they're best kept singly. Because Convict fry are worthless, I don't recommend anyone keeping them in pairs.>
My Firemouth is now the only fish in the 35 gallon.
<Okay.>
I plan on making a divider using mesh to have one space of the Firemouth and one for the convict. Would this work?
<Perhaps, but why bother? Thorichthys are interesting fish kept singly, in pairs, or in groups given enough space. They're relatively unaggressive outside of spawning, and do work extremely well with "dither fish" such as Swordtails that share the same water chemistry requirements but keep away from the bottom half of the tank. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: 1/2 inch Firemouth and 3 1/2 inch Convict cichlid in 35 gallon   1/22/11
I think your the same person who is helping me with my other tank about the 15 and 20 gallon community tanks!
<Yes indeed!>
Anyway I think I may add some black skirt tetras to the 35 gallon and leave the 2 males together in another tank. Would a Pleco (Bristlenose) be able to live in this tank with black skirt tetras and Firemouth?
<Should do just fine. Will need a cave of its own, one small enough that the Firemouth won't try to use it himself.>
Would a few snails be better?
<Six of one, half a dozen of the other'¦>
Could I add my convict to the tank after the Firemouth grows to be closer in size?
<No. Thorichthys spp. are not compatible with Convicts. Almost always when combined, the Convicts become bullies, the Firemouths the bullied, and more often than not you end up with damaged or dead Firemouths. Because they can't fight, they shouldn't be combined with anything likely to "mouth wrestle" with them. Midwater dither fish and nocturnal catfish are the best companions. Some of the less retiring dwarf cichlids like Kribs might work too, depending on your water chemistry and the size of the tank.>
Thanks!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: 1/2 inch Firemouth and 3 1/2 inch Convict cichlid in 35 gallon   1/22/11
Do Firemouths eat snails?
<Not really, no. In the wild they're earth-eaters: they sift sand and silt, extracting tiny invertebrates such as worms alongside algae and decaying plant material.>
When you said <Six of one, half a dozen of the other'¦> what did you mean?
<Idiomatic, perhaps British English? Means there's not much difference either way, six of one being similar to half a dozen of the other. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: 1/2 inch Firemouth and 3 1/2 inch Convict cichlid in 35 gallon   1/22/11
Were you talking about the snails when you said six of one is good?
<Algae-eating snails like Nerites would be about as effective as a single Ancistrus catfish. The snails would be a bit better in terms of cleaning the glass, but the catfish would also eat leftover fish food, which the
Nerites won't. So neither is best, though either would be a good choice.
You might even get an Ancistrus catfish and a few Nerites, and see what happens. Allow 2-3 Nerites per 10 gallons, fewer if they have to compete for algae with the Ancistrus and your tank doesn't have enough algae to keep everyone happy.>
Or was it with the platys or black skirts?
<Cheers, Neale.>

7 Large male convict cichlids in a 35 gallon long tank?
Male Convict Cichlid Aggression   1/21/11

How aggressive are Convict males when there are no females?
< Single males are still aggressive and territorial because they are still cichlids.>
I was wondering if I could put 6 or 7 adult males in my 35 gallon long tank?
< Put them in as juveniles and let them sort out the pecking order before they become sexually mature.>
I know that would be over crowded but I do weekly water changes and over filter the water. I was thinking that any fish that gets bullied could hide in the crowd. With so many fish I was thinking that any aggression would be spread throughout the fish so no one fish is overly harmed. I would put them in all at once (tank is already cycled and currently has my to turtles that I'm moving to a 100 gallon) so none of them have a territory they are trying to defend. What do you guys think?
< It is a idea that is used all the time with Lake Malawi cichlids. It is just that a tank of convict males may be a little boring. They will still set up territories but there would still be less aggression than a spawning
pair.-Chuck.>

Amatitlania nigrofasciata; social behaviour   11/17/09
hello again just want to know..in a 28 gallon tank can i put 2 male convict with 2 female convict together or is it better just to put one couple...tks in adv...
<Keep just a mated pair in a tank this side. Convict Cichlids can be very aggressive when spawning. Do think carefully before buying Convict Cichlids: many pet shops will not take unwanted fry, and you will soon have thousands! Cheers, Neale.>

Cichlid comp, lack of detail -- 11/16/2009
Can I put a pair of ram Bolivian cichlids with a pair of convict <cichlids>?
<Short answer is...maybe. If you had a fairly spacious tank with plenty of hiding spaces and broken sightlines, with a pH of 6.5-7.0, it might be possible. Of course, all bets are totally off if the convicts decide to breed. Overall, I wouldn't risk it. Convicts are not on the more aggressive side for cichlids, but rams would nonetheless not be a match for an angry or spawning convict.>
<Will N.>

Convict fish question 05/20/08 Pairing Up Convicts I set up a new 35 gallon aquarium this past fall and based upon advice given to me I purchased 3 Red Devils and 3 Convict fish for the tank. I was told that the Convict specimens sold to me were two females & one male. Eight months later two of the convicts are twice the size of the third. The two larger convicts are constantly picking fights with everyone else in the tank. Based upon what I have read in your web site I actually have two MALE Convicts and they are being so aggressive because they fighting over the female and over territory. Would it make much difference if I found a new home for one or both of the males?  Would the female be happier as the only Convict - or would a pair of Convicts (male & female) be content? Thank you for your help! Mary < Once your female selects a mate then I would recommend getting rid of the other unpaired male. If he hangs around he will do his best to disrupt the pair bond.-Chuck>

Tankmates for a Convict   5/17/09
Hello!
What kind of fish are good with convicts?
<Nothing. Any fish kept with Convicts needs to be very robust and quite a bit larger than the Convicts. Otherwise, the Convicts will bully them. I've seen Convicts bully Piranhas! Seriously, the only time Convicts work well in communities is in jumbo tanks mixed with larger Central Americans; I've kept Convicts with Jaguar Cichlids and Midas Cichlids in 240 US gallon systems with success. But even in that tank, the Convicts bullied the Firemouths, and those poor Firemouths had to be re-homed.>
Specifically, how about African Cichlids? Depending on who I asked, I got both yes and no answers.
<Central American cichlids and Lake Malawi cichlids -- as opposed to West African or Tanganyikan cichlids -- are similarly aggressive and both enjoy similar hard, alkaline water conditions. Some aquarists have indeed mixed
them, albeit in large rough-and-tumble systems. But you need to know what you're doing, and you certainly need to have a Plan B in case a particular combination won't work. Frankly, it's not an approach I'd recommend for a
variety of reasons, not least of which that whereas Convicts are hardy fish, Malawi cichlids are extremely intolerant of nitrate, so quickly become sick in overcrowded, under-maintained aquaria. Secondly, whereas Mbuna are largely herbivorous and shouldn't eat too much meat, Convicts are more carnivorous and do well on a diet of worms, insect larvae and so on. It would be impossible to give either fish the right diet in the same tank:
one would be eating too much of the wrong thing.>
How about some small SA Cichlids?
<Not a chance. South American cichlids need soft, acidic water whereas Central Americans need hard and alkaline.>
Rams?
<You're kidding me, right? Seriously, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi is a "hothouse flower" very difficult to keep even on its own, let alone in a tank with the wrong water chemistry *and* the wrong water temperature.>
Other SA or CA Cichlids?
<See above.>
Any other recommendations?
<Don't keep Convicts. They're a fish without a purpose. Seriously, there's almost no reason anyone should bother keeping them. They're aggressive, messy, quite big, and not especially colourful. The quality of the farmed Convicts is dire, with females not having any of the colours seen on wild fish, and the males never getting to the size they should. They're the fish equivalent of Darkling Beetles; great for labs, pointless as pets. There are so many other lovely Central American cichlids out there, I'd strongly recommend you don't buy Convicts. Do see here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_1/central.htm
The Honduras Red Spot for example (likely Amatitlania siquia) is a close relative of the Convict but smaller, more colourful, and less aggressive.
If you can get wild-caught stock, so much the better. In England at least, this species is reasonably widely traded. Cichlasoma salvini is another nice species; though predatory, it's otherwise fairly easy going, and mixes well with midwater fish too large to eat. Farmed specimens are often a bit blah, but if you can get good quality stock, they're stunning. If you're able to set up a large tank with a super-strong water current, then Hypsophrys nicaraguensis is a revelation, good quality fish being equal to any coral reef butterflyfish in brilliance.>
Keep in mind that I'd like any fish I add to be able to fit in a 30 gallon, in case the pairing doesn't work.
<A pair of Convicts will OWN this tank, and will barely tolerate the heater, let alone other fish!>
And with these fish, would I need: Special types of food? Extra caves? Live plants? Different substrate? (I have gravel now.)
Respectfully,
~Babale
<Hope this helps, Neale.>  

Neale and Convicts   5/17/09
Hello Neale!
<Hello,>
I (respectfully) disagree with your aversion to convicts. Yes, they aren't colorful; yes, they are aggressive; but they have a beauty of their own. Gouramis, platies, mollies, and other fish aren't very colorful, but they are still popular.
<Ah, but those other fish can be kept in mixed species tanks with few issues -- though Mollies certainly do need very specific environmental conditions to do well. Convicts, by contrast, are only really suitable for single-species aquaria, and simply don't work in community tanks. For the vast majority of aquarists, they're not worth keeping, however cheaply sold they are. This isn't to say they're bad fish for you -- I happen to enjoy keeping all kinds of things others would consider dull, small, or otherwise unappealing.>
And as for convicts, they have VERY interesting behavior (at least in my opinion.)
<They're actually pretty "typical" for cichlids, which is why they're so widely studied. Do pick up a copy of King Solomon's Ring by Konrad Lorenz; if I recall correctly, this book includes quite a bit of pioneering animal behaviour work based on his experience of Convicts. It also happens to be a terrific read, and a classic book for armchair naturalists.>
I have spent hours watching them defend their home from other fish, court each other, and peck between rocks. Unlike my other fish, they seem not to accept the way the tank is; they put it the way THEY want it.
<Again, this is fairly typical Central American cichlid behaviour. Many such cichlid will uproot plants, shovel sand, and pile up gravel. There are various explanations, including males simply "advertising" fitness to females, through to practical functions such as creating hiding places for eggs and fry that catfish won't find.>
Keep in mind that this is in no way a personal attack; I am simply disagreeing with your opinion and defending my favorite fish.
<Not a problem.>
One last thing: will you clear up what you meant about Convicts and African Cichlids? what if I add an African Cichlid who is much bigger than the Convicts are currently and is at full size, and put in a bunch more shelters, so that he can establish a territory before the Convicts are a threat? (I know that Convicts attack bigger fish, but African Cichlids are definitely no pushovers!)
<As I said, it depends on what you mean by African Cichlids. There are something like 1000 species of cichlid in Africa, more than all the cichlids of Central America, South America and Asia added together. They come from a variety of habitats ranging from fast-flowing streams to brackish estuaries. But assuming you're talking about Lake Malawi cichlids (which are often, if inaccurately, called "African cichlids" by some hobbyists) then the short answer is no, they don't belong with Convicts.
Take something like Pseudotropheus zebra for example; this fish is a herbivore prone to bloating when given too much meat; yet it likes to eat meat when given the choice. Kept with Convicts, it would be very difficult to give the Convicts bloodworms and snails, which they need, while keeping the Pseudotropheus on a largely vegetarian diet of algae and herbivore flake. Given your tank is a mere 30 gallons, that would be viable for Dwarf Mbuna only, and such small species would be at severe risk of death when kept with a spawning or even merely territorial Convicts. Bigger species of Mbuna like Zebras need tanks above 55 gallons before you can even think about keeping them with other species, so your tank is too small. So we return to my basic point about Convicts: they aren't useful fish unless you specifically want to keep them either by themselves or else in a very large Central American community with bigger cichlids.>
Respectfully,
~Babale
<Cheers, Neale.>  

Re: Neale and Convicts   5/17/09
Hello.
<Hello again!>
I understand your point, and am going away from the idea of big tank mates.
But what about dither fish?
<They don't really need them. Dither fish work fine in tanks where the dither fish have space to avoid trouble. In a 30 gallon tank, you'd be pushing your luck. Mexican (Astyanax spp.) tetras (not Cave tetras though) or non-fancy Swordtails are geographically appropriate, psychologically robust and should work given space; all rather depends on your particular Convicts and how threatened they feel. They should ignore fish that stay at the top, but do keep an eye on them, and act accordingly.>
I currently have 3 zebra danios in the tank, and they are doing well. I'm wondering if maybe I should raise the size of the school?
<Sure.>
And maybe add a school of another type of dither fish?
<Would stick to just one type of thing: Dither fish work best the more they "school" tightly, and Danios school better the more you keep.>
What would you recommend as far as that goes? Since Convicts are low-water fish, I want some nice schools to fill up the rest (Assuming I can't have big fish).
<I'm just not wild about the idea of "filling up" a Convict tank; that's simply another way of trying to create a community tank by the back door.
But Convicts just aren't community fish. By all means try dither fish, but if your pair turn aggressive, or simply decide Danios are what's for dinner, then you have a problem. Cheers, Neale.>  

More Convicts!   5/17/09
Hello again!
<Hello,>
When I say "Fill Up" I don't mean like a community tank, I just mean to add some movement.
<I see...>
So, in a 30 gal with Convicts and a Pleco, what is the recommended size of a Danio school? I've seen people say 6, but I've had 5 Danios at once before, and they didn't school. No idea why, but maybe because they weren't feeling threatened?
<Danios -- and indeed all schooling fish -- need to be kept in a minimum number to school, otherwise they (at best) lounge around looking disinterested or (at worst) become bullies as each specimen tries to assert its dominance. Six specimens is often said to be the minimum number, but you'll often find it takes 10 or 12 specimens to get the full effect. It varies.>
It was a peaceful community tank back than, with the most aggressive thing being 3 tiger barbs.
<Classic Tiger Barb behaviour when kept in insufficient numbers.>
On a somewhat unrelated side note, should Convicts have a variety of caves to choose from, or is one enough?
<They usually choose one and stick to it, so provided they have at least one nice cave, it doesn't matter how many other caves there are in the tank.>
Thanks!
Respectfully,
~Babale
<Cheers, Neale.>  

Pink convicts 11/6/08 I have a 55 gallon freshwater tank with all live plants. I had a kissing Gourami and several angel fish in there for almost 10 years. They all died over the course of the last year. Someone gave me 8 pink convicts and they now "rule the roost". I want to put some other fish in the tank, as they aren't really displaying any typical aggressive behavior. My biggest one is probably about 2 inches long and the smallest is coming up on one inch. A friend who works at the pet store said that the majority of my convicts are female and I couldn't put anything else in with them. Another friend introduced 2 Jack Dempseys to her tank with 9 adult convicts (60 gallon tank) with no major issues after 6 months. Is this a good match up? My husband has a 60 gallon tank with 2 polypalmas and an upside down swimming catfish, also all live plants and natural rock "hidey holes". He has been eyeballing a barracuda for a while now and was wondering if they'd get along. The polys have lived peacefully with several different breeds of fish, but the catfish has killed a couple of the Gouramis recently and seems to be intolerant of even the fish he "grew up with". I don't want to spend the money on the barracuda, if it will just get killed. Any suggestions? <Hello Maria. Convict cichlids are very variable fish, and maximum size in particular varies a lot, in part due to inbreeding. That will be especially true with albino Convicts. That said, I'd expect even females to reach a length of around 8-10 cm/3-4 inches. If they're smaller than that, they're unlikely to be sexually mature, and hence not as aggressive as they can be.  Convict cichlids can be combined with other Central American cichlids of similar size/disposition. Convicts tend to bully "nice" Central Americans like Firemouth cichlids if kept in tanks as small as your 55 gallon system, but in a 200 gallon system I've mixed them well with Firemouth cichlids, Jack Dempseys, Midas cichlids, and Jaguar cichlids. Armored catfish (big Plecs and large Synodontis such as Synodontis nigrita) also work well.  However, you CANNOT keep them with Polypterus species. Polypterus are too mild mannered and get bullied by aggressive cichlids. I've seen people try this, and the poor Polypterus gets its fins bitten off! Polypterus are gentle fish, albeit predatory, and best kept either in their own tanks or in peaceful community tanks with quiet species such as Silver Dollars. Freshwater "Barracuda" are completely and utterly incompatible with Convicts. They are typically the species called Ctenolucius hujeta, a gentle, schooling fish that needs to be kept in a quiet tank in groups of six or more specimens. They are tricky enough to maintain in good conditions, and keeping them with something as aggressive as a Convict would be extremely unwise. Ctenolucius hujeta is a predator, so don't mix it with small fish, but happily eats invertebrates like river shrimps and earthworms, as well as frozen foods. Make sure any specimens on sale are feeding: avoid specimens being given "feeder fish" as these are likely exposed to parasites and bacterial infections that will make your job of acclimating to captivity even harder. Keep Ctenolucius hujeta in a spacious tank; it is a nervous fish prone to jumping and will not adjust to confining tanks. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Pink convicts  11/07/08 Thanks for getting back to me. I have my 8 convicts (2 which have been identified as male) in the 55 gallon tank by themselves. <Hmm... wonder how they've sexed juvenile male Convicts? Most folks would consider that pretty tricky! Inbreeding has removed the bright colours from many fish, and when they're small, you can't really predict which ones will turn into big males! So while you *may* have them sexed, I'd be very cautious and open minded.> Will they still get aggressive even with the low male to female ratio? <Yes.> The 2 Polys have always been separate from the convicts and are going into a 60 gallon tank with the upside down swimming Catfish (so far) and my hubby wants to put a barracuda in the 60 gallon tank with the Polys and the catfish. <You don't put "a" Ctenolucius in anything. They're gregarious, schooling fish. Single specimens are nervous as heck and have short, miserable lives.  By all means get a bunch (minimum: 3) and keep with Bichirs and Synodontis nigriventris (this catfish is also gregarious). These three species are more or less compatible. Just do make sure the Ctenolucius hujeta don't feel confined or threatened.> My question is whether or not the 'Cuda will get along with the Polys and whether or not a 60 gallon tank is too small to add the Cuda. <It should work. Ctenolucius hujeta isn't terribly big (less than 20 cm under aquarium conditions) and easily reared on frozen foods. Because the catfish and bichir feed on the bottom, you shouldn't have any problems getting bloodworms and earthworms into the Ctenolucius hujeta.> The Convicts are in a totally separate tank. <Ah, very good. Cheers, Neale.>

Convict with an Oscar? Hey, About a year ago, my hubby and I bought a breeding pair of convict cichlids.  They were very shy and would wait until I left the area near the tank to eat.  About three weeks ago, the female died (no known cause) and the male seemed rather depressed.  (By the way, the female was 1.5in and the male is 3.5in) I decided it was time to get him a tank buddy and picked out a 2in long Oscar.  I removed my convict, all the plants, did a 15% water change, cleaned the rocks and moved all the plants and rocks around the tank.  I placed the Oscar (in his pet store bag) in the tank and let him get used to everything for about an hour before releasing him.  Then about 30min later, I put my convict back in the tank.  I forgot to mention that this is a 55 gal tank with the works on filters.  The convict has totally taken over, but hasn't bitten, rammed or tried to kill the Oscar.  Was it a good idea to mix these two? Thanks, Becca >>>Hi Becca, Not only is a 2 inch Oscar an unsuitable tankmate for a convict, but I've seen 14" Oscars victimized by convicts no larger than 2"! The Oscar will sulk on the bottom of the tank, pale - and will not eat. This is a LARGE Oscar mind you, a smaller Oscar like yours will often be killed. Remove the Oscar and look to other medium sized, more aggressive Central American Cichlids. Regards Jim<<<

Convict Trouble Well, after that last e-mail, more problems came up.  First, the convict found a way over the divider.  I'm not sure how because it stuck up about 1in above the water level.  I guess he was determined.  But, he started really going after the Oscar and so I scooped him out of the tank before he was really hurt and placed him in a 5.5gal tank that I've had set up to put feeders in for a week.  He's the only fish in that tank and is much happier. He was a bit stressed and changed from black and light blue to grey.  But he is eating and swimming around.  If there is any quick movement, he darts behind a plant or into a clear tube.  He seems to think he can't be seen and feels safe.  Go figure.  How long will he be able to stay in this little tank?  I have another tank coming to me that is a quite a bit larger, but I want to run it for a week before I put him in it.  Will he be fine for a week or two in this 5.5gal tank?  You have helped me out so much, between the site and the e-mails.  I thought I knew enough about cichlids, but I have learned so much from the site in the last 24hrs. Thank you so much!  You helped me save my Oscar's life!!! : ) Becca >>>Hello again Becca, You did the right thing, and your Convict should be just fine until the larger tank arrives. Put a background on the tank, and some rocks for cover so he feels a bit more secure. Cheers Jim<<<

CONVICTS WITH RED DEVILS Hi, I am a big fan now. You guys answered a question in record time for me about a year ago, and, are the only people who were able to answer it at all! But, anyway, I recently lost a female parrot who I have had for years and who had been paired up with my red devil . They were inseparable, and spawned many, many times. He has been depressed and hides now. (about 2 mos.) I bought a pair if convicts today in hopes of arousing his interest. He seems interested but not aggressive...yet. I hope to add to the convicts soon, But only if there is still peace., What is your advice? Are these two kinds of cichlids going to be able to co-exist? They are in a 200 gal. thanks, Lori C. < If your pair of convicts decide to breed then they will not let any other fish close to their eggs and fry . The tank seems big enough so they should get along. Sometimes when the fry become free swimming the wander all over the tank regardless what the size. At this point the fry are very hard to catch and the parents will not tolerate any other fish in the tank.-Chuck> 

Convict Cichlid Cell Mates 8/29/05 Hi, I have setup a tank of convict cichlids.  Before hand I had a Plecostomus and Rafael Catfish. Are these compatible? <Depending on the size of the tank they should get along for awhile. When the convicts begin to breed they will chase everything away and the Pleco will attempt to eat the eggs and fry.>   Also, would convicts be compatible with Clown Loaches? < This would be an interesting match up. The convicts are pretty aggressive but the clown loach has a secret weapon in that it has a little saber like spine under each eye. In a big enough tank they would probably leave each other alone. Watch out for ich with the loach.-Chuck> thanks! Sick Convicts?... CAE...    5/2/06 Hi! <<Hi, Sharon. Tom>>   I recently purchased 2 female convicts for a 37 gallon tank.  They will be the only inhabitants except for a Chinese algae eater later on.   <<Sharon, you had me right up until the CAE. Do NOT add this fish to your aquarium! In my opinion, they shouldn't even be sold. They grow to a fairly large size and develop a "taste" for fish skin as adults, latching on to fish and sucking "juices" from tankmates - to death. The Siamese Algae Eater is, by far, a better choice but is a little more difficult to find.>> My question has to do with coloring.  One of the females has beautiful dark stripes and coloring..  She has a little pink on her side. The other female is a bit smaller with drab stripes but with the female pink on her side.  Is this because she is a juvenile? <<Likely but not all fish are created "equally". Some are just a little slow to develop. Also, it just might not happen. Time will tell here.>> Thanks.  Sharon <<Welcome. Tom>> Thanks!  I did not realize that about a CAE.  I appreciate your help! <<Glad to be of assistance, Sharon.>> Sharon <<Tom>>

Adding Fish To a Pair of Convicts - 05/05/2006 Hello, I've been browsing your website over the past few months and I've been able to pull tons of helpful information, probably more than I need.  Thank you.  As a novice hobbyist I share information, tips, hints with friends and local pet shop stores.  As you probably could figure the information and "facts" are often inconsistent and also don't match to my experience so far, let me get to the point.  I have a 20g tank currently with a 5" pink convict (male) a 4"black (striped) convict (female) and about 15 pink and striped 1" inch adolescence convicts (obviously).  I originally inherited the convict when I didn't realize what I was in for and he promptly destroyed the Gourami a had.  Anyway after some failed others including a large red devil (yikes that was a disaster) the store owner talked me into the striped convicts to which I bought about six and kept only one (giving the other to a friend.  My first instinct after they had fry was to remove them but after inheriting a 55g I decided to hold off.  Now I'm getting ready.  I just purchases a Fluval 304 canister filter and I'm picking up a stand so I can fill the tank and prepare the water and I'm trying to decide what to do.  I would like some variation.  I was thinking about a Jack Dempsey or some other cichlids maybe 2 more of similar size.  My other thought was, should I remove the female.  I was already planning on getting rid of the young convicts in the tank.  Will the male and female just become too territorial if I introduce other cichlids.  I appreciate your advice as your site has been the most helpful in my hobby thus far.  Any tips on this set up, compatibility with my convict including any other fish that may make the tank more interesting.  I like the adaptability of the convict and wanted fish equally as adaptive.  Thank you. Tim < A breeding pair of convicts do require space. You need other big aggressive fish or fast fish. They will probably take over at least 1/2 of the 55 gallon. Jack Dempsey's, Firemouths, jewelfish, port Acaras, would all be worth a try. Large groups of schooling fish like rainbows or giant Danios would keep them busy for awhile too. Stay away from using African cichlids from Lake Malawi. they are very fast and have sharp teeth that can inflict lots of damage.-Chuck>

Convicts And Larger Cichlids  4/25/07  Hi folks, great site! < Thanks for the kind words.> Currently I have a pair of convicts and a Pleco in a 29 gallon tank. Tank has a lot of rocks and hidey holes for everyone, and I'm running a Top Fin 30 and a Emperor 280 bio wheel. Convicts are about 2-3 inches and the Pleco is about 4-5 inches. I am currently looking to get an additional tank. A 55 gallon tank is more in my range, but I have my eye out for a 75 gallon tank for a good price. I would like to get a couple of larger cichlids for the new tank and keep the convicts where they are now. Option 1: I'm thinking of a tiger Oscar (had 'em before, loved 'em), a Jack Dempsey (same), and another Pleco in the 55. I know those 2 are pushing a 55 gallon, but I would put a lot of filtration and don't mind the effort. < The Jack Dempsey would get as big as the Oscar if it was a male. The Jack would probably be the more aggressive of the two.> Option 2: My other thought is to put the convicts, Pleco, and either one of the larger fish in the 55, then do something entirely different with the 29 (I'm liking a Malawi tank). Now, if I get the 75 gallon tank I know these are not an issue. What are your thoughts on my two options? Thanks! Billy <If the convicts pair up, they would hold their own with any larger cichlid. A 29 gallon is pretty tight for a Lake Malawi cichlid tank.-Chuck>

The female convict is being picked on what do I do    5/12/07 <Hey Jamie, You started off so well by saying "thanks Neale" on your follow-up messages. Please don't disappoint me! Anyway, Fighting between convict cichlids is common and impossible to prevent. The best you can do is try adding extra females (if the tank is big enough) or install a tank divider with a gap small enough for the female to swim through but not the male. You can also try re-arranging the decor, as this sometimes "resets" the social structure. Adding extra decorations (flower pots for example) can work by giving the female somewhere to rest and also by breaking up the line of sight (what the male can't see, he can't attack). But worst case scenario and nothing works, remove the male and find another one, preferably smaller than the female, and try again. Cheers, Neale>

Convict cichlids, comp.   7/11/07 Hi WWM! your site is very helpful. does a compatible convict pair get along as soon as they are introduced, or does it take a while for them to get used to each other and then they spawn? thanks Tim <Oh boy, I wish people would take the effort to spell "thanks" in the traditional way. "Thanx" just screams "lazy self-absorbed teenager" to me! Anyway, no, convict cichlids do not "get along" straight out of the box. The best approach is to keep 6, and then let 2 pair off naturally. Introducing a male and female into a tank in the hopes of breeding often fails, to the degree the male kills an unreceptive female. Also, before trying to breed convicts, make sure you have a market for the fry. They are very fecund, and the fry are very very easy to rear. Few pet shops want hundreds of convict cichlids. Cheers, Neale>

Female Convict non-male companion   7/25/07 Dear WWW Crew, 5 or 6 wks ago a co-worker had convict cichlids that were breeding out of control (go figure). He netted up the babies and got them sold/given away. He missed one little female and was going to just flush her. Sigh. Sounded heartless to me so I took her & set her up in a spare 20 gal. I always keep spare bio-wheel filters hanging on my main tanks so I can have a fully cycled tank for quarantine or for emergencies such as this (learned that the hard way). I used water & gravel from a cycled tank and she's doing great, about 2 1/2" long. I've become pretty attached to the little orphan, her name is "Lifer". I wanted to name her "20 to Life" but was out-voted. My sister told me about your web site and told me to search 1st, which I did. But it seems most people keep convicts as pairs and most the information was about breeding. I don't want babies but would really like some suggestions as to a 'companion fish' for her. (will be quarantined of course). Maybe one of the smaller catfish? How about another female Convict? Also, do you think a 20 gallon would be big enough for another fish? If not I'll just leave her in there by herself. Thanks for reading this and thank you for your undying dedication to this web site. No doubt you've saved thousands of fish with your advice! Amelia <Hello Amelia. Territorial fish like Convicts don't become "lonely" in the way humans do. We're sociable animals that have evolved to live in groups, and when we're alone, we feel sad. Territorial cichlids, on the other hand, have evolved to defend their "patch" fearlessly from potential competition, and view any other cichlids as rivals to be expelled at once! So unlike humans, they get unhappy when forced to live cheek-by-jowl with other cichlids in a too-small aquarium. The only time they break this rule is when the find a mate, and even then the truce is often only temporary! So, your female Convict is just fine by herself. I personally wouldn't recommend adding any more fish to a 20 gallon tank containing a Convict, since they have the potential to be pretty waspish. But is she's still a baby and pretty docile, you could add an Ancistrus sp. catfish of similar size, just making sure there were caves aplenty so each fish could set up home comfortably. Cheers, Neale.>

I have a question concerning convict cichlids comp. and elephant nose sel. 01/21/2008 <Ask away.> Ok... Are elephant noses hardy fish? <Not even close to being hardy. Among the most difficult freshwater fish commonly traded.> What is the minimum tank size for one? <On its own, likely around 150 l/40 gallons. They get pretty big if kept properly. In a community setting, much more space is needed, because they are territorial and their electric field does irritate some fish.> Also, do they need to be put into groups, I was planning on getting just one. <Elephant noses are best kept either singly or in groups of six or more. In twos and threes they tend to be unpredictable, and sometimes quite nasty to each other. Wild fish do live in schools though, so singletons are, unsurprisingly, rather shy (i.e., you don't see them most of the time).> My other question is, are convicts really that aggressive, because I have friends who own these and they say they have had success keeping it with zebra Danios. <Define "aggressive". Yes, Convicts are (for their size) very aggressive towards anything they deep as either a rival for nesting space or a potential predator on their offspring. So despite being relatively small cichlids, they are best kept in (big) community tanks that only include larger cichlids, such as Jaguars and Red Devils. On the other hand, in a spacious enough aquarium, Danios might well be ignored. The use of Danios and other surface-living fish has been widely documented among cichlid-keepers as sometimes beneficial. Such "dither fish" as Danios encourage the bottom-dwelling cichlids to stay out in the open more. So would such a combo work? Quite possible. Is it a good idea for the less experienced aquarist? Probably not.> From your experience, are they really aggressive? <I've kept Convicts in a 200 gallon tank with a Red Devil, a Jaguar Cichlid, some Firemouths, a Channel catfish and a Gar. They all got along fine. Read from that what you will, but I'd make the point that the Convicts were holding their own in a big tank filled with potentially aggressive and/or predatory tankmates.> Will it be fine to keep it with n elephant nose? <Absolutely not.> Thanks for your time and thank you for your help. <Happy to help, Neale.>



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