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The Convict Cichlid – scientifically known as the Amatitlania nigrofasciata – is a small, beautiful, and amazing fish species known for its beautiful color patterns. This fish has beautiful black and white lines that go vertically throughout the body of this fish. This interesting pattern of colors is similar to the pattern commonly seen in Zebra, and that is why this fish is known as the Zebra Cichlids. It belongs to a family of fish called Cichlidae, in the common language the word cichlids is the representative of this species. It is one of the most popular cichlid fish species and is often seen in aquariums all over the world. There are a lot of reasons behind the popularity of the fish, including its external beauty, and playful nature.

Also, it can live in different conditions, which makes it easier for the fishkeepers to care for this fish. This fish has a lot of history. It was first identified and described as a fish species in 1867 by Frederick DuCane Godman and Osbert Salvin. Previously, it had been placed with other fish families, but after genetic matching, it was placed in the same family as other cichlids. It has been used in aquariums, fish tanks, and ponds all over the world as an ornamental and pet fish species. It is easy to care for this species if you know about it. The article below is a complete guide about this fish species, its history, and how to take care of it in your tank. Read below to know more.

Basic Facts Table

LifespanAbout 8 years,
SizeAbout 6 inches,
ColorsBlack and White,
Care LevelBeginner to moderate
CompatibilityLimited, because of aggression.

Tank Companions

Here is a list of the possible tank mates or tank companions of the Convict Cichlid.

  • Clown Loaches
  • Pictus Fish
  • Golden Pufferfish
  • Jack Dempsey Fish
  • Silver Dollar Fish
  • Oscar Fish
  • Giant Danios
  • Firemouth Cichlids
  • Tiger Barb
  • Mbuna Fish

How To Select Tank Companions?

There are a few fish species that you can put in the tank of Convict Cichlids, that are mentioned above. But there are also a lot of other fish species that you can try for the tank companion. But you need to be careful as the Convict Cichlids are not normal peaceful aquarium fish. The Convict Cichlids are known for being aggressive, that is why you cannot put them in the same tank with other fish species without considering the possibility of aggression and fights. You need to select those fish species that can survive the aggression of Convict Cichlids. Otherwise, any fish species that you put in the tank will have to face the aggression of Convict Cichlids and fight for their survival.

That is why you need to select tank mate species carefully. There are a few factors that can help you find perfect and suitable tank mates for the tank of Convict Cichlids. First of all, you need to consider the aggression of cichlids before selecting any fish species. Apart from the aggressive nature, you also need to consider the size of the fish and the living conditions that the fish requires. All of these are important factors and you need to consider them all before selecting any fish species for the tank of Convict Cichlids. Here is the explanation of why these factors are important to consider when selecting a tank mate or a tank companion for the Convict Cichlids.

Why Size of Tank Companions is Important? – The size of a tank companion is important if you want a peaceful aquarium. If you are selecting a species that is smaller than Convict Cichlids, it will encourage the Convict Cichlids to attack them. Anything smaller than them in their tank will be a target. For that reason, you cannot select any fish species that are smaller than Convict Cichlids after reaching maturity. Also, you cannot select any fish species that is much larger than the Convict Cichlids as it can also give rise to aggression, and can make the Convict Cichlids a target. There are a lot of fish species that can reach 5 to 7 inches in length after maturity. These are the fish species that you should pair with the Convict Cichlids.

Why is the nature of tank companions important? – The nature of tank companions is also important to consider before putting them in the same tank with the aggressive and territorial fish species. For example, if you put any fish species that also possesses the same nature, it will give rise to many disputes in the tank. The Convict Cichlids are territorial, and when you put any territorial fish in their tank, they would try to defend their territory. It will give rise to territorial disputes and fights and that can lead to injuries. Also, you cannot put them in the same tank with very peaceful fish species such as danios and tetras as they will be defenseless against the Convict Cichlids. For that reason, you need to select a species of fish that is peaceful but can defend itself and its territory. There is a huge list of partially aggressive fish species that you can use for the tank of Convict Cichlids.

Why are the living conditions important to consider for selecting a tank mate? – The living conditions are important to consider when selecting a tank mate for the tank of Convict Cichlids. If you do not consider this, there is a chance that your tank mates might not be able to live in the same tank conditions and parameters. For example, some fish live in freshwater, cold, and neutral water conditions, while some live in saltwater or marine water habitats. You cannot put the fish that live in different conditions in the same tank as they would die. For that reason, select a fish species that is capable of living in the same conditions as the Convict Cichlids.

These were the three most important parameters or factors to consider when selecting a tank mate or tank companion for Convict Cichlids. If you follow them properly, you can find a large number of fish species that you can put in their tank. But you will have to be careful even after that as the aggressive nature of fish can still lead to fights. If fights are occasional, you can keep them in the same tank, but if fights become regular and occur more often, you should immediately separate them and select new tank mates.

Species Overview

It is one of the most beautiful aquarium fish species that has been used in aquariums for a very long time. It was first discovered and classified in 1867, after that, it became one of the go-to species for those who were looking for exotic fish species for their aquariums. Their name, Convict Cichlid, was given to them because of their black and white stripes because, in the past, British prisoners used to wear clothes with black and white stripes on them. It is found in freshwater habitats in many regions of Central America, including Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Although they live in freshwater habitats, they are mostly found near the ocean or places where the rivers meet the oceans. This is because it provides the perfect living conditions, pH levels, and temperature that this fish needs to survive. It lives in rivers and lakes in this region that have a moderate water flow. This fish lives in the middle of these freshwater habitats, where the water is deeper and it can catch its prey by swimming easily. Although it shows signs of aggression towards any new tank mates, it can be kept in a community tank with other fish species.

It is also known for swimming against the current, but they tend to stick to their birthplace and do not go far from there. Most of the Convict Cichlids that you see in the aquarium trade are not captured but bred in captivity. They are easy to breed, and many fish keepers have even tried to breed them with other species of cichlids to produce hybrid variants. It is a beautiful fish species to keep in your tank. The Convict Cichlids have a long lifespan, which can be extended with proper care. This means you will not have to worry about replacing your fish in the tank.


The Convict Cichlid is a beautiful black and white-colored fish species from the cichlids family. It is known for its beautiful appearance and pleasant colors that form a zebra pattern. That is a reason why this fish is also called a zebra cichlid in the aquarium trade. Its body is similar to most common cichlids, and the unique features that this fish has are its colored stripes and transparent fins. It has a puffy, tall, and streamlined body shape. The Convict Cichlid has large black eyes that are mounted on the sides of the head. Its face is elongated and is in the middle of the body.

This type of body shape is very helpful for this species as it has to hunt most of its prey while they are swimming in the middle layer of the water. It has multiple variants that display different black and white patterns. Some have black and white alternative patterns, while some display irregular stripes that go from top to bottom of their bodies. Some variants lack the normal black and white stripes, and just present with a leucistic coloration. Also, the age, type, and gender of this can lead to different colorations. For example, a young male would have a different color as compared to a young female, or an older male.

The average size of this fish is about 5 inches, but some individuals can be longer. Proper diet and care can help you increase the size of your fish beyond five inches. Also, the sizes of males and females in this species are different. Female Convict Cichlids are smaller than the male ones, and they weigh less as well. For example, the average size of a male is about 5 to 6 inches, while the average size of a female is about 4.7 inches. When you look at this fish under bright light, you will notice that the scales of its body reflect rainbow colors from different angles. These were some of the notable features of the body, size, color, and shape of the Convict Cichlids that can help you identify them in your tank.


As mentioned above, this fish species is native to Central America. It is found in lakes and rivers near the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean coastlines. Some variants of this species are also found naturally in Australia. According to researchers, this fish originated in Central America and was brought to Australia. As conditions in some parts of Australia are similar to those of Central America, this fish was able to survive there.

Natural Habitat

The native habitat of this fish species consists of moderately warm, fast-moving, freshwater lakes and rivers in Central America and Australia near the shoreline. The Convict Cichlid lives in the middle of its habitats because there is a fast water flow that helps this fish in finding food. It is an omnivore species, which means it has a varied diet but it usually feeds on living creatures such as worms, snails, shrimps, and fish fry.

Convict Cichlid Lifespan

The Convict Cichlid has an average lifespan of 8 years in aquariums. Its lifespan in your aquarium, however, depends on the type of care that you are providing. For example, if you are providing poor care, it would die within two years, but with medium-level care, you can extend this lifespan to about 5 years. But with excellent conditions, however, you can extend this lifespan to 8 years or more in your tank.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

The Convict Cichlid needs certain conditions to live and you can provide these certain living conditions by creating a perfect tank for them. A perfect tank will have a habitat and living conditions that mimic its natural habitat. It should have enough space for the fish to explore and play. Also, it should be easy to clean and maintain as you will have to regularly do these things for the tank of convict cichlids as it will live for a very long time. Below are some guidelines that will help you when creating a tank for the convict cichlids.

Tank Size

The first thing that you need to consider is the tank size. Selecting an appropriately sized tank is very important as it would provide your fish with enough space to explore, and will also be easy to clean. If you selected a smaller tank, it would be easy to clean but it will not have enough space for your fish to live in and explore. That would be a big problem as the fish will grow in size. Similarly, if you select a very large tank, it will provide your fish with enough space to explore, but it will be hard to maintain and clean properly and regularly. That is also not an ideal situation. For that reason, you need to select a tank size that can accommodate your fish and is easy to maintain.

There are a few things that can help you select a perfect size for that tank of convict cichlids. These include the fish per gallon ratio and the total number of fish that you plan to keep in that tank. Also, you can include room for further expansion in the future. The fish per gallon ratio of 15 gallons for convict cichlids, which means you can keep two in a tank of 30 gallons capacity. But if you want to add more fish to the tank to build a community tank, you should know these measures for other fish species, and add them to the current tank size. For example, if you are adding 5 fish in the tank of convict cichlids, and they have 15 gallons ratio, then you should select a 75 gallons tank for that community. The recommended size for the tank of convict cichlids is 30 gallons per pair.

Tank Setup

The next step in this process is to create a suitable tank setup for the convict cichlid in your aquarium. You can do that by making the right choices when it comes to putting things in the tank. You should start with the bottom layer of the tank which should be covered with layers of stones, pebbles, sand, and a soft substrate. After that, you can start planting some freshwater aquarium species of plants or grass in the aquarium. Once you are done with that, you can start putting decorations such as caves, driftwood, and others. These will provide your fish with an interesting, and natural-looking habitat that it can live in and explore. After that, you should start working on putting important devices in the tank.

These devices are useful as they will help you monitor your tank conditions and will help you optimize them. For example, a temperature monitoring device will keep you updated on the temperature of the tank. So that if it ever goes below the recommended limits, you can take measures to control it. Some aquarists also use temperature controllers i.e heaters in the tank to manage the low-temperature problem in cold regions. Apart from these, you should also put a powerful filter in the tank to keep water cycling. This will not only provide filtration but will keep the flow that is necessary for this fish. After the setup has been completed, you can use aquatic lights to keep it lit and use a cover to make sure your fish won’t jump out of the water.

Water Conditions/Parameters

Here is a list of the parameters or tank conditions that you will need to maintain.

  • Temperature = between 79 to 84°F
  • Ph level = neutral or between 6.5 to 7.5
  • Hardness of water = between 10 to 15 dH.

You need to carefully maintain these parameters to ensure the safety, and well-being of your convict cichlids in the tank. Any changes can lead to the death of the fish as they can only survive in these specific conditions.

Water Source

You can use water from any fresh water source, including clean tap water, water from streams, rivers, lakes, and aquifers. It is better to test and filter the water before using it.

Behavior and Temperament

The convict cichlid is known for being joyous, but slightly aggressive. It is an active fish species, which means you will always find it swimming and exploring your tank. But it is also territorial, so if you keep them in a community tank there is a chance of aggression and fights. The convict cichlid can live with a few species. If you want to keep more than one or more a pair in the same tank, you should select a larger tank. So that they will be able to create and mark different territories. In a smaller tank, this type of situation can be disastrous as they would keep fighting. For that reason, you should not put more than two or three convict cichlids in the same tank.

Breeding Convict Cichlid

The convict cichlid is one of the easy-to-breed species. You do not need anything special or have to create any special environment for them to breed. They are natural breeders when kept in pairs. You only need to make sure that the pair you have selected has one male and one female in it. Male and female convict cichlids will spawn, and females will produce eggs.

Eggs and Fry Care

You will have to watch the eggs for a few days until they hatch. After that, the fry will come out and eat the egg sacs. Afterward, you can feed them the liquid diet recommended for fish babies.

Diet of Convict Cichlid

The convict cichlids have a varied or omnivorous diet, which means they eat everything that they can find in the water including algae, phytoplanktons, worms, snails, shrimps, and sometimes fry of other fish species as well. To keep your convict cichlids healthy, you should feed them a varied and balanced diet, that should include pellets, frozen food, and live food as well.

Diseases of Convict Cichlid

Here is a list of the diseases that can impact the health of convict cichlids.

  • Ich: It is known by many names, and is a very serious illness. It can cause white spots formation on the scales of the fish and can lead to several infections and problems. This is also a contagious disease that needs quarantine and proper treatment.
  • Fin Rot: Fin rot is caused by infectious bacteria. They mostly attack the fins that are hurt and cause an infection that leads to the deterioration of fins. It can cause many problems in your tank. That is why you should quarantine infected fish, recycle your water, and clean the whole tank. Also, you should treat the fish as well.

What is the Ideal Size For The Tank?

The ideal size for the tank of convict cichlids is 30 gallons or more. It is better to use a larger tank for a pair as they both would need the territory. Also, a large tank ensures a better quality of life for the fish in most cases as it is easier to maintain certain conditions that are vital for the fish to live.

Is Convict Cichlid Saltwater or Freshwater Species?

The convict cichlid is a freshwater fish species that are found in Central America’s rivers and lakes.

Is Convict Cichlid schooling species or not?

No, it is not a schooling species. But it is one of the highly active species and you will notice it swimming from one part to another quickly.

Conclusion – Is Convict Cichlid Suitable For Your Aquarium?

Yes, it is one of the most beautiful fish species and is certainly worthy of choice for your aquarium. This fish has many traits that make it a suitable match, including the fact that it is easy for anyone to take care of this. That means, it does not require extreme fishkeeping skills and is suitable for both new and experienced fish keepers. Also, this fish is easy to breed. So, if you are a new fishkeeper or an experienced fish keeper who is interested in breeding aquarium species, you should select this one. Based on these arguments, it can be said that this is one of the suitable species for anyone’s aquarium.


Question: How often do Convict Cichlids breed?

Answer: The convict cichlid rebreed every 13 to 14 days after they reach maturity. But for that, you will have to arrange a male, and female and put them in the same tank. As long as conditions are suitable, they will keep breeding.

Question: Are Convict Cichlids aggressive?

Answer: Yes, this fish is known for being partially aggressive and territorial. They show aggression towards many fish species.

Question: Can you keep Convict Cichlids with African Cichlids?

Answer: Yes, you can keep them in the same tank, but you will have to select a larger tank as both of these fish are territorial and partially aggressive. So, to avoid fights in the tank, you should get a tank that is large enough to provide separate territories for each one.

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