There are over 1,300 species of cichlids—most of which dwell in Lake Malawi in Africa. But you can find them in other places too, like Madagascar, southern Asia, and even tropical parts of the Americas. They have become popular amongst aquarists because of their incredible personality differences, color variations, and environmental needs.
If you’re thinking of adding a cichlid or two, here are 40 species that can work well in your aquarium if you offer the right conditions. Some can be very finicky, aggressive, and otherwise hard to keep. So, make sure your skill set matches their needs before you buy. Let’s take a gander!
The 40 Types of Cichlids
1. Dogtooth Cichlid
Otherwise known as the cynotilapia afra, the dogtooth cichlid is a small species native to Lake Malawi. These cichlids grow up to 4 inches in nature, but they’ve been known to grow larger in captivity. These fish can be many colors on the spectrum, which can even change depending on their mood.
2. Electric Blue Hap
The electric blue hap has a tremendously unique color, adding a splash of personality to any aquarium. These fish can reach almost 8 inches in captivity. They can be moderately aggressive with other tankmates, but beginners are welcome to take a stab at owning one of these blue beauties.
3. Electric Blue Johanni
If you’ve been in the fish game for a while, caring for the electric blue Joahnni is a challenge you might be up for. These fish aren’t the hardiest, meaning they are ultra-sensitive and difficult to keep. They can also be somewhat aggressive and may not work in all aquarium situations. They don’t get very large, reaching up to three inches, requiring only a 30-gallon tank.
4. Electric Yellow Cichlid
The adorable yellow cichlid is a terrific choice for beginners. These tiny guys only reach about three inches total, so they will stay small forever. Since they aren’t very big, their aggression might not bother some fish, but it can be a problem for others. Always keep your eye on their behavior.
The spiny auratus looks mean—and they live up to it. These cichlids are highly aggressive, so you have to be extremely careful just who you pair them with. They stay under five inches as adults and are decently hardy but might still be best for seasoned owners.
6. Livingstonii Cichlid
The Livingstonii cichlid, also known as Livingston’s cichlid, has a very nifty color pattern, boasting camouflage-like blotches ranging from brown to blue. These fish reach nearly 10 inches as adults, but they need a giant setup of 125-gallons or more to thrive. The Livingstonii is a big-time predator but is generally peaceful with its own kind.
7. Red Empress
The red empress cichlid is a lovely iridescent fish with a tall, narrow body. While they are semi-aggressive, they can work well for beginners in the right circumstances. These fish reach almost six inches as adults. They need, at minimum, a 75-gallon tank to live in.
8. Malawi Eyebiter
The Malwai eyebiter is a very eye-catching cichlid, having an elongated head and flowy fins. These fish get pretty big, getting upward of 10 inches as adults. Because of their size and swimming needs, they need a minimum of 125-gallons to live comfortably. Malwai eyebiters do best with experienced aquarists.
9. Venustus Cichlid
The leopard-like spots and exciting colors of the venustus cichlid will surely stand out in your tank. You’ll need a big one, though—these guys get nearly 10 inches once they’re mature and need a 125-gallon tank, minimum. Since they are mildly aggressive, you have to be careful when you’re pairing them with other fish.
10. African Butterfly Peacock Cichlid
Named after an insect, bird, and fish, the African butterfly peacock cichlid is a banded beauty. Don’t let their good looks deter you—they are very easy to maintain. These semi-aggressive fish grow to approximately eight inches and need to live in a 55-gallon aquarium.
11. Flavescent Peacock
Otherwise known as Grant’s peacock, the flavescent peacock is a yellow, silver, and brown-banded fish with a bright blue head. These fish can get along with tankmates, but make sure there are no smaller fish around. These guys grow up to six inches and need a 55-gallon tank to swim freely. They are pretty easy to maintain, so they can work well for beginners.
12. Sunshine Peacock
The sunshine peacock is a bright little cutie, spreading beams of yellow all around. They have long, flowy fins like other peacock cousins with the classic blue face (in most cases.) These guys can grow to reach up to six inches, needing a 55-gallon tank at least. They work well for experienced and novice aquarists alike.
13. Blue Daktari
Contrary to the name, the blue daktari has very little blue at all. These fish are mostly lemon yellow with slight blue hues in the tailfins, around the eyes, and mouth. Daktari’s reach nearly four inches as adults and require a 50-gallon tank. These guys would do best with someone already familiar with cichlid needs.
14. Bumblebee Mouthbrooder
The bumblebee mouthbrooder didn’t get its name by happenstance. They are marked like bees, and sting like them, too—metaphorically speaking. These fish are very aggressive to others, so they should be in the hands of experienced aquarists. They grow just under six inches and need a tank that’s 50-gallons or more.
15. Kenyi Cichlid
The kenyi cichlid is a beautiful silver fish banded in black. Don’t let their good looks fool you, though—these fish are very aggressive. They won’t eat anybody (since they are herbivores), but they might pick a fight or two. They reach up to six inches as adults and need a tank of at least 50-gallons or more to thrive.
16. Red Zebra
The red zebra cichlid is an incredibly bright-colored specimen that is sure to stand out amongst the rest. They are incredibly easy to care for, so no worries if you’re just starting. They reach up to five inches and need a 50-gallon tank or more. They can be a little aggressive, but it’s manageable.
17. Blue Neon Cichlid
The blue neon cichlid is electrifying. They have very eye-catching blue outlines on their fins and down their sides. These fish reach up to four inches when they reach adulthood and need at least a 65-gallon tank to be content. You should be at least a moderately experienced aquarist to take on one of these cichlids.
18. Convict Julie
The convict Julie is a thin, horizontally striped cichlid that is perfect for inexperienced fish owners. Even though they reach up to 11 inches, they are comfortable in a 20-gallon tank. Convict Julies are decently hardy and can be a bit aggressive, so keep that in mind when you’re choosing mates.
19. Lemon Cichlid
The lemon cichlid is a small, thin-bodied fish that radiates neon yellow. These little guys only get to be about 4 inches long and require a 20-gallon tank. But because they are a bit difficult when it comes to hardiness, they need to be dealt with by experienced caregivers. They are somewhat aggressive with other fish and need like-fish around them.
20. Masked Julie
The masked Julie is a lovely little cichlid that is banded with black and white. These tiny tots only reach just under three inches as adults and require only a 20-gallon tank. Julies are decently hardy and ideal candidates for novice aquarists.
21. Sardine Cichlid
The sardine cichlid gets its name from its uncanny resemblance to an actual sardine. These cuties reach about four inches when they’re fully mature and require a 55-gallon tank. Even though they are semi-aggressive, beginners can likely handle their care and behavior with finesse.
22. White Pearly Calvus
The white pearly calvus is incredibly unique with white polka dots and an elongated face. They reach about six inches as adults and require a 40-gallon tank. They are pretty hardy, but they do require specific living conditions to thrive.
23. Spotfin Goby
The spotfin goby is a smaller cichlid, reaching just beneath three inches fully grown. They are known to be slightly aggressive with others, so keep your eye on their behavior and address issues accordingly. These cichlids aren’t the best choice for beginners, as they need care that’s a bit advanced.
24. Lionhead Cichlid
The lionhead cichlid may look intimidating at first, but don’t let their looks fool you. These fish are very peaceful, getting along with all of their fish friends. They are even perfect for beginners. Lionheads reach up to 5 inches as adults and need a 30-gallon tank to live.
The angelfish should be instantly recognizable since it’s one of the more common cichlids you see. These fish are non-aggressive and get along fabulously with other tankmates. They cannot be housed with aggressive fish since it will stress them out. They can reach up to six inches and require a 30-gallon tank.
26. Flowerhorn Cichlid
The flowerhorn cichlid wears bold colors and a sizable bulge on its forehead. These fish can be pretty aggressive, so they have a very limited selection of fish who’d make good roomies. They reach 16 inches as adults and require at least a 75-gallon tank to swim in.
27. Heckel Discus
The heckle discus is a uniquely shaped cichlid, oval-shaped and colorful. They are one of the more peaceful species, pairing very well with most other fish. They require very high tank temperatures—up to 90 degrees. Because of their special environment needs, they need an advanced aquarist to care for them. They reach eight inches at maturity at need a 50-gallon tank.
28. Blood Parrot
The blood parrot hybrid is a beautiful cichlid with a vibrant orange color and flowing fins. They can get up to 10 inches as adults, requiring a tank of at least 30-gallons. They need to be kept with other blood parrots or with peaceful fish that are close in size.
29. Black Belt Cichlid
The blackbelt cichlid might not know karate, but they do sport a black band around their middle. They also will put a fish in its place, being moderately aggressive themselves. These hardy fish get up to 12 inches as adults and need a tank that is 70-gallons or more.
30. Firemouth Cichlid
The firemouth cichlid is somewhat sassy, marked as a semi-aggressive species. These fish reach six inches when they’re fully grown, needing a tank of at least 30-gallons. If you have experience with similar fish, one of these cichlids may work out well in your tank.
31. Green Terror
The green terror didn’t get its name by chance. These fiery fish are pretty bossy, so be aware of that before you decide it’s right for you. They do best with intermediate aquarists and need at least 35-gallons for a singular fish. Green terrors reach 12 inches when they are fully grown.
32. Golden Severum
The golden serverum is a good selection for someone already familiar with cichlids. These fish are mildly aggressive with certain tankmates, so make sure your other fish are compatible before you buy. They reach a maximum size of eight inches as adults and need at least a 55-gallon tank.
33. Jack Dempsey Fish
Named after the famous boxer, the Jack Dempsey cichlid will throw hands—or fins, if you want to be specific. These aggressive fish need others around who can handle their own. They get up to 15 inches, so make sure you have space. They need a whopping 80-gallons to swim around in.
Oscars have a notorious reputation for being ultra-aggressive fish. They are predatory and territorial, making them incompatible with many other mates. If you’re unfamiliar with this type, you may want to pass. These fish need care from experienced keepers. Plan to spare at least 55-gallons for your Oscar.
35. Pearl Cichlid
The pearl cichlid is an iridescent beauty. They get pretty big, too, reaching up to 11 inches fully grown. They are usually fine for beginners, although they can get a bit testy with other tankmates. You’ll need a 40-gallon tank or more to create an ideal living space for these fish.
36. Red Devil Cichlid
The red devil cichlid didn’t just get its name for its color—this fish is a vicious predator. These cichlids are not compatible with any other fish that they can fit in their mouth (and even some they can’t.) Because of their tendencies, they work best for people who are familiar with the species. They require a minimum of 55-gallons.
37. Redhump Eartheater
The intriguing redhump eartheater is an incredibly docile fish, matching well with others in the tank. They reach six inches when fully mature. Not only are they agreeable, but they’re very resilient, too. They do need lots of space to swim around, requiring a tank that is at least 50-gallons.
38. Cockatoo Cichlid
The cockatoo cichlid is a very small fish, reaching only 2.5 inches as adults. They are moderately aggressive with other tankmates and should be watched closely with more passive fish. These cichlids need at least a 30-gallon tank to swim around in, and they are quite busy.
39. Panda Dwarf Cichlid
The tiny panda dwarf cichlid is small and sweet but very hard to keep if you’re unfamiliar with care. They are a bit finicky with their environment, so only advanced aquarists should opt to add one of these fish to their aquarium. They only reach three inches and need a 20-gallon tank at a minimum.
40. Rainbow Cichlid
The rainbow cichlid is an extremely hardy fish that is very peaceful with tankmates. You can own one of these beauties as a beginner and have absolutely no problem. They don’t get very large, either—topping out at only three inches. You’ll need a tank of at least 20-gallons to keep this little guy happy.
Cichlids: Final Thoughts
Clearly, cichlids have an unbelievably wide range of traits, both physically and temperamentally. You can take your pick and even explore other options since this list is just the tip of the iceberg. You can add so much character and color to your aquarium, making quite a striking seascape.
Because many cichlids are mildly aggressive to predatory, you need to make sure that your current fish will be safe with one of these new additions. Many can live alongside other fish as long as they’re big enough that the cichlid realizes, “fish are friends, not food!”
Looking for something unique to add to your aquarium? Try puffer fish!
Featured Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock