The Convict Cichlid Fish Care Guide and Aquarium Mates – 2020


The Convict Cichlid is an active fish that is mostly found in the warm waters of Central America. The fish may be aggressive but it easy to care for, making it ideal for beginner aquarists. Breeding the fish is easy and does not require much attention.


Here, we cover information on Convict Cichlids, including their habitat, diet, tank requirements, size, and more. After reading this blog, you will get all the information you need to know about becoming a responsible owner of the fish.


Category Rating
Level of Care Simple
Temperament Aggressive
Appearance Black color stripes and gray-blue body
Life Expectancy Up to 8 – 10 years
Convict Cichlid Size Males up to 6 inches; Females up to 4.5 inches
Diet Omnivore
Family Cichlidae
Tank Size 30 Gallons
Water Conditions 790F to 840F (250C to 290C); pH 6.6-7.8; dH 10-15
Tank Environment Caves, wood
Tank Mates Limited compatibility due to aggressive nature


Overview of Convict Cichlid


The Black Convict Cichlid Fish is also called the Zebra Cichlid due to its unique black stripes. The scientific name of the fish is Archocentrus nigrofasciatus and it belongs to the Cichlid family.


Most of the fish that belong to the Cichlid family are popular aquarium fishes, along with Angelfish, Discus, and Oscar.


Despite their small size, Black Convict Cichlids are aggressive due to their territorial nature. They may attack others twice their size. They also have sharp teeth and may injure other fishes.


Convict Cichlid Appearance


The Convict Cichlid gets its name from the vertical stripes found on its grayish body. The fish appears similar to the African Cichlid, but has different patterns and color.


The fish’s dorsal and pectoral fins start some way back from the mount. The dorsal fin is semi-transparent and has black stripes. The dorsal and anal fins dangle back similar to a sail. Watching the African Cichlids swim in the aquarium is a treat to watch.


The fish have about eight bars but they can be larger or smaller. The bars are one of the first things that most aquarists look for when buying the fish. Most prefer Cichlids with plenty of well-defined stripes.


The bars are black but the body is grayish-blue, while the hue is generally consistent with slight variation. Some Convict Cichlids may look different in the aquarium but that is mainly due to the lighting.


Male Convict Cichlids are bigger than females. They can reach up to the size of 6 inches, while the females can reach up to 4.5 inches. But, female Convict Cichlids appear more striking than their counterparts due to their striking colors with tints of red, gold, and violet.


Although native Convict Cichlids are black, you can also find them  in gold, white, and pink varieties due to selective breeding. Interestingly, the pink Cichlids do not have vertical stripes and are more common among aquarists.


convict cichild


Convict Cichlid Habitat


The Convict Cichlid is a freshwater fish that is found in the rivers of Central America, from Costa Rica to Panama. They mostly live in slow-moving waters with rocky and sandy substrates. Convict Cichlids are hardy species since they learn to adapt to different types of water conditions.


Behavior of Convict Cichlids


Convict Cichlids are aggressive, just like  other fishes in the Cichlidae family. They will strike and injure other fish species, including those that are three times their size.


They are a highly territorial fish and may fight other Cichlids or chase away any fish that comes near them. Convict Cichlids spend most of their time in their territory near plants or a cave inside an aquarium.


They are prolific breeders and attentive parents. They nurture their fry until adulthood. Male and female fishes establish bonds and jointly defend their nests. Researchers have found Convict Cichlids to be loyal and monogamous partners.


They often become gloomy when separated from their partners. So, you need to make sure that the pairs are kept together to ensure that they remain healthy and happy.


Convict Cichlid Tank Mates


Convict Cichlids have an aggressive nature, which makes them dangerous to keep with other species. Some of the possible tank mates for the fish include the following.



While you can keep them with other aggressive species, the safest option is to keep them alone.


Consider keeping two to three Convict Cichlid pairs in a tank. Adding more Cichlids increases the risk of territorial aggression. Never put a pair in a tank with other fish species as this will increase the chances of other fishes getting injured or dying.


Tank Parameters for Convict Cichlids


Convict Cichlids are hardy fishes that can tolerate varied water parameters. This makes it easy for aquarists to care for them. It also gives more flexibility when it comes to tank mates.


The ideal water parameters for the fish are between 790F to 840F (250C to 290C). The pH level is not that important but you should keep it between 6.5 and 8. Meanwhile, the water hardiness level should be between 10 and 15 dH.


Tank Setup for Convict Cichlids


Convict Cichlids should be kept in a tank with 30 gallons of water. They prefer lots of plants and rocks as it mimics their natural environment.


You can have a gravel bottom with plants and inverted pots that can serve as a hiding place for them. Floating plants are also recommended that will act as a cover in the aquarium.


Plants act as a cover and a food source for Convict Cichlids. They are also an ideal spawning site for them. Additionally, plants produce oxygen that is needed by Convict Cichlids to breathe underwater. They also eliminate nitrates inside aquariums that can be harmful to fishes.


Keep in mind that the Convict Cichlid tends to dig substrates, which can cause a lot of mess inside your fish tank. To avoid the mess, buy a strong water filtration system so that the water inside the tank does not turn murky.


Convict Cichlids are strong swimmers and may uproot plants. Therefore, you should buy strong plants, such as Java Ferns and Amazon Swords. You should also anchor the plants to prevent them from re-arranging the plants.


Convict Cichlids thrives best in a mellow current. This is not necessary but it will make them happy and free of stress. Good lighting is also recommended as it stimulates plant growth inside. Moreover, lighting also highlights their striking color patterns and makes them stand out.


Invest in a testing kit to ensure that you get the correct reading. A good testing kit will ensure that the tank conditions are perfect for these fish.


An important thing to keep in mind is that Convicts tend to be aggressive at higher temperatures. So, you should make sure that the tank temperature is always at the recommended setting.


Convict Cichlid Fish Food: What do Convict Cichlids Eat?


An understanding of the diet is important to properly care for your Convict Cichlid. Giving it the right food will ensure it lives a long time.


Convict Cichlids are omnivores in the wild. They eat a variety of plants and insects to get the required nutrition. They are not picky eaters, giving aquarists lots of flexibility in terms of feeding.


Ideally, you should feed a mixture of flakes and pellets to your Convict Cichlids. Live food is also a good option that ensures that the fish will get the necessary nutritional intake to remain healthy. Convict Cichlids’ favorite live foods include bloodworms and shrimp.


You can also feed small insects, plant debris, mosquito larvae, brine shrimp and daphnia.


Make sure to feed them as per a regular schedule. The recommended feeding time is in the morning and night. It is better to feed them smaller portions two times a day instead of a single large portion. Feeding them a large portion can change the water parameters and pollute the tank.


How to Breed Convict Cichlids?


Breeding Cichlids is extremely easy since they tend to take care of the fry. Aquarists don’t have to do much to take care of the young.


Convicts can breed in home aquariums with lots of plants and up to 50 gallons of water. The fish may reach breeding age at about 7 months. You will have to pair male and female Convicts as they breed throughout the year.


Female Convicts lay their eggs on rocks and caves. It is important to emulate this condition in the tank so that they feel comfortable laying their eggs. Consider adding flower pots to create caves or use flat stones.


Water temperature should be up to 840F (290C) to create the ideal breeding condition. You don’t have to keep the male and females in different aquariums, as unlike some other species, they don’t eat their eggs.


A female fish will lay eggs once it has been fertilized by the male. Afterward, the male Convict Cichlid will guard the parameter while the female will protect the Convict Cichlid eggs.


cichild fish eggs


The eggs may hatch after four days and you can expect to see about 30 of young Convicts from one pair. During this stage, the parents will take care of their children by bringing them food and keeping other fishes away from them.


The little Convicts will abandon their yolk and start to swim. At this point, the male will act aggressively toward the young fry. You should take out the male from the aquarium and keep the little Convicts with their mother.


You won’t have to do much apart from making sure that the tank is conducive to breeding. Make sure that there are rocks and plants in the aquarium and keep the water at the desired temperature. This is all that is required to encourage the Convict cichlid to breed.


After about a week from leaving the eggs, you can start feeding the Convicts. Consider feeding them brine shrimp so that they get the required nutrition.


How to Take Care of the Convict Cichlid?


If you take good care of the Convict Cichlid, it won’t be inflicted with diseases. There aren’t a lot of diseases that can afflict this species. Poor conditions can result in freshwater illnesses that are common among Cichlids, which are discussed below.


White Spot – Ich


A white spot on the body is indicative of ich disease that is caused by a protozoan parasite known as Ichthyophthirius multifillis.


The disease can appear on the body, fins, or gills. Fishes afflicted with the disease also show labored breathing, loss of appetite, clamped fins, lethargy, and rubbing against the tank. Treatment of the disease includes adding a salt bath, malachite green, potassium permanganate, or acriflavine.


Fin Rot


Fin rot is also common among Convict Cichlids.  You can detect the disease if you notice fraying or rotting of the tail or fins. To treat the condition, you should add 1 teaspoon of salt per gallon of water in the aquarium. The salt must be mixed in water before putting the diseased fish in the aquarium. Replace about 90 percent of the water every day.




Hexamita is a common disease among freshwater fishes, including Convict Cichlids. The disease can be identified by a depression in the head. Affected fish also show loss of appetite and weight loss.


The lesion along the lateral line will also develop that become larger as the disease progresses.


Most experts suggest that Hexamita is caused due to mineral imbalance and poor quality water. The presence of a parasite known as Hexamita is also a contributing factor to the disease. Treat the tank with antibiotics to remove the parasite from the tank.


You should keep an eye on your fish to ensure that they are healthy. Examine each of them and watch out for out-of-the-ordinary behavior or appearance.


Ill Convicts might show more aggressive behavior even against their partners. Moreover, they may be disinterested in eating. You can also identify the disease if you see spots, bloated stomach, or other unusual appearance.


If you do notice that the fish is ill, you should quarantine it by keeping it in a separate aquarium. Acting early is important before the disease has time to affect other fishes. You may need to treat the ill fish by adding aquarium salt or giving them antibiotics depending on the disease.


Prevention is better than cure and is particularly true with fishes. You should keep the tank clean to avoid parasitic, viral, or bacterial diseases.


Also, you should keep new fishes bought from an online store in a separate aquarium. Look for signs of diseases and add them with other fishes only if they are healthy.


Feeding them the right diet and keeping the temperature at the required level will prevent stress among the fishes. This will also reduce the likelihood of the fishes being afflict0ed with a disease. You should also take care that the water in the tank is always kept clean.


Related Questions


What is the Lifespan of Convict Cichlids?


Convict Cichlids can live for up to about 10 years with proper care. They are also known to have lived even longer.


But you need to ensure the right tank conditions. Always treat them using appropriate treatment options to ensure that they live a long time.


How to Tell the Male and Female Convict Cichlids Apart?


Generally, the male fish are longer and larger than females. Females have a bright color with red/yellow dots on the belly. Their black stripes are more prominent than the males.


What Size Aquarium Should You Buy?


Convict Cichlids must be kept in large tanks. Consider buying a tank with a capacity of up to 50 gallons of water. The males are territorial so it’s best to use plants as natural barriers to keep them from fighting.


Buy an aquarium with a bottom surface area. In other words, the tank width should be high. The tank should be placed in a quiet location so that they don’t become spooked easily. It should be complete with lights to sufficiently illuminate the tank.


Where to Buy a Convict Cichlid?


Finding Convict Cichlids for sale is not easy. Due to their aggressive nature, most fish stores don’t keep them for sale. You will have to do some research to find them online.


Be prepared to pay a bit higher for them since they are relatively rare.  But the price is well worth it as they are a delight to watch in the aquarium.


Wrapping it All Up


Convict Cichlids are rather a joy to keep in the aquarium if you can ignore their aggressive tendencies. They are highly territorial so you need to keep the Convict pairs in solitary confinement


Convict Cichlids are a delight to watch due to their unique striped patterns and active nature. Most aquarists find them an entertaining species to keep in the aquarium.


Click here to know 30 most popular Fish for your Aquarium


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