Convict cichlids occupy a strange niche between peaceful and aggressive fish. If a convict cichlid is placed with any species of non-aggressive fish, they will bully them relentlessly and may even kill them. But if a convict cichlid is placed with an aggressive fish, the convict will likely be harassed and may spend all its time in hiding.
This leaves fishkeepers with a problem – what fish can they keep with convict cichlids?
Thankfully, there are several fish that should work in a convict cichlid tank, though it’s important to understand these tankmates will only work with non-breedingconvicts. If a paired male and female convict are kept together in an aquarium, all bets are off.
A pair of breeding convicts will do their best to drive away or kill any fish they share a tank with, regardless of the size of the fish. And while larger tanks may alleviate this problem somewhat, it’s still not recommended to keep mating convicts with any other fish.
It’s also important to realize that every fish is different. While some convicts have a calm temperament – especially those raised from a young age with other fish – some convicts are naturally so aggressive they can’t share a tank with anything else. So, while the fish on this list will work with most convicts, there may be instances where a convict won’t accept any tank mates.
Many people are often surprised to hear that oscar fish – often referred to as a football with fins – are one of the best convict cichlid tank mates. Like convicts, oscar fish are difficult to keep in a community tank, as they are too aggressive for peaceful fish, but too docile for aggressive fish. But this semi-aggressive behavior makes them the perfect candidate for a convict tank.
If possible, it’s best to purchase both fish as juveniles and raise them together. This often helps to reduce any aggression the fish will have towards each other and should result in a somewhat quiet aquarium.
It’s also important to include decorations in their fish tank, such as driftwood, rocks, and plants to create separate ‘areas’ for the fish. These areas will allow the fish to escape any aggression, as fish often break off pursuit when they lose sight of the other fish.
The pictus catfish is a non-aggressive catfish that at first glance might seem like a strange choice to keep with convict cichlids. But the key to their success at being kept with convict cichlids is their behavior.
Pictus catfish primarily inhabit the bottom of an aquarium, spending much of their time hiding in caves and under plants. And like most catfish, they are nocturnal feeders. Because of these habits, they will rarely cross paths with a convict cichlid, and shouldn’t experience any aggression from a convict tank mate.
These attractive and fascinating fish are a strong contender for the best tank mate to keep with convict cichlids. Firemouth cichlids and convicts share similar temperaments, meaning both are more than capable of standing up to each other, but usually without the aggression getting out of hand. And both species hail from rivers in Central America, which means their aquarium requirements are incredibly similar – a major plus when keeping fish together.
Some fishkeepers have even reported success at keeping firemouth cichlids with a breeding pair of convicts, as long as both fish have separate territories in a large aquarium. With that being said, it’s best to avoid trying this unless someone is very experience at fishkeeping.
While it’s rare to see anyone recommending African cichlids for community tanks, jewel cichlids actually make a good tank mate for a convict cichlid. Unlike the other fish on this list, the odds of convicts and jewel cichlids being kept together is highly dependent on several factors.
First, the aquarium must be set up to provide several ‘territories’, which the fish can claim as their own. This can be done by placing live plants and rocks to create breaks in the line of sight.
Secondly, the individual fish themselves must be relatively peaceful. There are many instances where jewel cichlids simply can’t be kept with convicts, as the individuals are too aggressive.
And finally, it’s recommended to raise the convict and jewel cichlid together, as if adults are placed together in the same aquarium, they’re less likely to tolerate the other fish.
The common pleco, a notable tank buster, is not a fish that the average person can keep. The minimum tank size for a common pleco is 100 gallons – yes, that’s the minimum size. But if you have a tank large enough for a common pleco, then these fish make great tank mates for convict cichlids.
Common plecos grow more aggressive as they age, and while they can more than handle a convict cichlid, their behavior means these fish will rarely interact with each other. These catfish spend much of their time hiding during the day and are most active at night. If common plecos are provided with ample caves and hiding places, there should be very little aggression between these fish and convict cichlids.
The bristlenose plecos are another excellent tank mate for convict cichlids, and unlike common plecos, they grow to a more manageable size. And since they are nocturnal (though some become more active during the day as they get used to an aquarium), there are rarely any aggression issues between bristlenose plecos and convict cichlids.
But since bristlenose plecos are more docile than convicts, they should be provided with small caves and hiding places throughout the aquarium. These are especially important when they are small, as convicts are known to do permanent damage to juvenile pleco’s bristles if they can’t escape.
Tiger barbs are another fish that are difficult to keep outside of a species only aquarium. They are too aggressive for most other barbs and minnows but are too meek around most large cichlids. And that semi-aggressive behavior is what makes them an excellent tank mate for convict cichlids.
But if tiger barbs are going to be kept with a convict cichlid, they must be kept in a large school. The schooling behavior will help to protect them from an aggressive convict and will lessen the likelihood of the tiger barbs nipping at a convict’s fins. When adding these fish, make sure they are adults as the juveniles may have a difficult time around a large convict.
Convict cichlids can be a difficult fish to find tank mates for, but if you follow the advice in this article, you should be able to set up an attractive convict community tank. However, always remember that every fish has a different personality and it may take some trial or error before you find what works for your fish.