FAQs on Convict Cichlid
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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 Disease, Cichlid Reproduction,
CONVICT COMPATIBILITY 8/30/14
Hello; FW stkg., comm. plus Convict
Hi, and thank you so much for such a helpful website! I have read, I
believe, all of your information and messages concerning Convicts, but
still have a question.
It is apparent that Convicts are not your favorite fish to keep,
<Au contraire! I kept these as a youngster and still would. Exemplary
hardiness and interesting behaviorally... beautiful to me>
but, I keep them because they are such survivors. I have only had one
die in over 2 years, and this was a juvenile that became lodged in the
I have even had two that were happily living, for months, in the bottom
of my canister filter. My water is full of minerals, and the pH is
rather low. But, all I have to do for water changes is syphon and attach
hose to my faucet.
<This describes my situation here in San Diego other than the low pH as
If I remember to throw in a little salt, that's great - but if I don't,
the fish don't seem to mind. So, I consider their relatively drab decor
a trade-off for my not being able to kill them! I have a local breeder
who is going to supply me with some pinks, and, also, what he calls
"Calicos," which have multiple colors. I am looking forward to some
additional color and interest in the tank.
My 55 gallon tank is constantly overpopulated (of course) while I
attempt to rehome the offspring. I am in the U.S., and have some success
with this on Craigslist. But, regardless, it's a pretty busy tank. The
Convicts have adapted, and aren't as territorial as described on your
site and elsewhere. The tank is located in a room that gets a lot of
natural lighting, plus the normal tank lights. This, I believe,
contributes to my
problem: ALGAE! Yuck! I cannot keep the sides clean, regardless how hard
I try! It isn't feasible to move this tank to another location.
<Mmm; I'd look into Loricariid catfishes of use. See WWM under
Considering my water quality, I imagine I am limited as far as what
algae eaters I could expect to survive in this tank. I had two channel
cats in there,
<Not "cleaner uppers", but more "eater uppers">
and the Convicts paid them no attention. But, I would prefer to not go
this route again, as it was too sad for me to have to let them go, when
they quickly outgrew my tank. I have never had any luck with Pleco's,
they all die with some sort of velvety skin problem - I don't care for
them much, anyway, and don't need the extra pollution. A Clown Loach
didn't survive either, but, I wasn't aware at the time that it's much
keep several of them. I'd like to try them again, perhaps, if they would
eat the algae.
Do you have any recommendations on fish that would survive under my
conditions, and also curb my algae problem?
scroll down to the tray "Algae">
I would love to find something that could keep the algae under control,
while adding some interest to my
tank. Or, are there any additives I can try, especially if there are no
fish that would do ok under these conditions?
Thanks again for your dedication and support!
<Welcome and "Keep reading!"
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.
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?
<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.
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.
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
<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,
or would the convicts pick on him/the JD fight for territory when fry
Would a Jack Dempsey (with proper care, good filtration) be able to
reside all of his life in a 50 gallon tank at all?
(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?
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:
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?
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
<Another possibility. Bob Fenner>
2 male Pink Convicts in a 90 gal; comp.
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 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.
<Please read here re some choices:
Re: 2 male Pink Convicts in a 90 gal 7/24/13
Thanks for your quick reply, Bob.
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
Re: 2 male Pink Convicts in a 90 gal; plus two small Mel. auratus
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?
<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.,
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
<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
(used to establish the tank) There are 3 live plants and a pot and a
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
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
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
Maybe a plant too.
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
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
<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.
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
(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.
<We're all volunteers here, so your kind words are much
Re: Female black convicts 12/6/11
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
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
Right now the convict chased the Firemouth to the top corner behind the
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
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
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
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
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
My Firemouth is now the only fish in the 35 gallon.
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
I think your the same person who is helping me with my other tank about
the 15 and 20 gallon community tanks!
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.>
Re: 1/2 inch Firemouth and 3 1/2 inch Convict cichlid in 35
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
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,
Nerites won't. So neither is best, though either would be a good
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?
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
I was wondering if I could put 6 or 7 adult males in my 35 gallon long
< 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
< 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
Amatitlania nigrofasciata; social behaviour
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
<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.>
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
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
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.>
<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
Other SA or CA Cichlids?
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:
The Honduras Red Spot for example (likely Amatitlania siquia) is a
close relative of the Convict but smaller, more colourful, and less
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.)
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Neale and Convicts 5/17/09
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
And as for convicts, they have VERY interesting behavior (at least in
<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
<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
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.>
Re: Neale and Convicts 5/17/09
I understand your point, and am going away from the idea of big tank
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?
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
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
When I say "Fill Up" I don't mean like a community tank,
I just mean to add some movement.
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
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.>
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
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
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.>>
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,