Convict Cichlid Care Guide – Diet, Breeding & More

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The Convict Cichlid, or Zebra Cichlid, is an interesting fish that is perfect for beginners because of its low maintenance nature. 

There are, however, certain aspects of this fish that you really need to know about prior to getting one. This information will help you care for your wet pet more effectively.

Convict Cichlid Appearance

These cichlids get their name from their white body and black vertical stripes, which somewhat resembles a traditional convict uniform. Sometimes their body can take on a grey, almost metallic sheen in the right lighting.

Males have bigger dorsal and anal fins than females. Some of these fish have little flecks of gold or pink, which only adds to their overall beauty.

Male convict cichlids can grow up to six inches, while females usually grow to be 4.5 inches at the most. These fish are actually pretty small when compared to others in the same family.


Convict Cichlids definitely have a reputation for being aggressive. While they can be fairly peaceful, they do have strong territorial instincts that can be triggered very easily. It is common for these fish to chase and bother others when they feel like they have invaded their territory. This is pretty standard when it comes to cichlids, but it can make finding suitable tank mates a bit challenging.

These fish spend a good amount of their time swimming around the middle part of the tank. They do enjoy swimming around and can be quite entertaining to watch at times. It is crucial that you have lots of places for them to hide, as they do enjoy their privacy.

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Natural Habitat

You can naturally find these cichlids in warmer rivers throughout Central America, as well as Panama and Costa Rica. They also tend to be found in streams and rivers with moderately strong flowing water.

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Convict Cichlid Care Guide

1. Tank Setup

You will need a minimum 30 gallon tank if you want to keep a convict cichlid, but 40 gallons is considered ideal. The more fish you keep with them, the larger the aquarium must be. The last thing you want is to spark a dispute over territory, as it can turn ugly very fast.

You should use a hang-on-the-back filter that is very powerful. This will prevent the tank from getting dirty, which can lead to all sorts of life-threatening infections. It is a good idea to use a secondary filter as well, just to be safe.

Keep in mind that these fish tend to rearrange their surroundings fairly often, so nothing will stay in place for very long. These fish should be given multiple types of shelter, including plants and caves.

2. Water Conditions

It is crucial that you keep the temperature of your cichlid’s water within a range of 79 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. A pH range of 6.6 to 7.8 will be just fine. These fish are not particularly sensitive, so you won’t have to worry about the acidity of the tank too much.

3. Convict Cichlid Tank mates

The aggressive and territorial nature of Convict Cichlids means that you have to be careful about which fish you put them in with. You’ll want to avoid keeping them with any fish that are very small and/or timid.

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Some of the best tank mate options to consider for these fish include the Pictus Catfish, Green Terror, and Firemouth Cichlid. All of these fish will be able to hold their own in a tank. You should ideally avoid keeping them with any other fish at all.

4. Convict Cichlid Food

Since these fish are omnivores, you can (and should) provide them with both plant matter and meat on a regular basis. It is fine to give them pellets or flakes, provided they are high quality and properly formulated.

In addition to the dry food, these cichlids should also be given blood worms, brine shrimp, and daphnia from time to time. A good variety of food is essential to maintaining your wet pet’s overall health.

Make sure that you feed these fish three times a day with small portions each time. This will reduce the chances of digestive issues, as well as causing problems with the water quality.

Common Health Problems

There are certain health issues that are particularly common with cichlids, including Swim Bladder Disease. This condition makes it hard for the fish to remain submerged, which is a problem for many reasons. This is sometimes caused by cancer, or physical trauma.

White Spot or ich is another issue that a lot of cichlids develop, including convicts. As the name suggests, it causes white spots to form on the fish, and it’s caused by parasites. This infection is very contagious, so it can quickly spread to other fish in your tank if it is not dealt with quickly and properly.

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Convict Cichlid Breeding

Convict cichlids become sexually mature when they reach seven months old. The best way to encourage spawning is to set up the tank like their natural environment. This means keeping the water at a steady 84 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as plenty of flat stones. Each birth produces around 30 of these fish.


  • The Convict Cichlid gets its name from its white body with vertical stripes, resembling a prisoner’s outfit.
  • Sometimes these fish have little spots of gold or pink, making them appear even more vibrant and beautiful.
  • While these fish can appear very peaceful, they are fiercely territorial and can become aggressive quickly around other fish.
  • It is recommended that you keep these fish in a tank that is no smaller than 40 gallons.
  • The water in your cichlid’s tank should be kept within a range of 79 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The Firemouth Cichlid and Green Terror are both excellent tank mates for these fish.
  • Avoid keeping any smaller or timid fish with these cichlids.
  • In addition to their regular dry food, you should give these fish brine shrimp, blood worms, and other live food that is packed with protein.
  • Swim Bladder Disease and ich are both common cichlid diseases that you need to keep a close eye out for.