Raising Convict Cichlids

raising convict cichlidsConvict Cichlids named for their black and white stripes, are a very popular fish for home aquariums. People like them because they are one of the easiest fish to take care of and do not get as large as other cichlids.

They are fascinating to watch and will come out for feeding time when you approach the tank.

Convict cichlids are terrific breeders, so with just a little attention you will see your cichlid collection grow and grow.

Convicts sell in Pet stores for about $4.00 to $8.00 apiece and when the tank gets a little crowded, one can sell half of them on Craigslist for $1-2 a piece or give them to friends.

When at capacity, a 40 gallon tank can produce about 30 cichlids. Here are some steps you can follow to raise these fish:


Initially we went with round rocks and a gravel bottom, but later discovered that stacking flat rocks is better, as well as moving to a sand bottom.

Get a tank set-up. I keep my Convicts in a tall 40 gallon tank with our DIY canister filter (build it here) and small air bubbler, nothing fancy. I keep a heater set at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The tank has a standard hood with a fluorescent light.

{Tip: Incorporate the tank into an indoor micro aquaponics system if you want to get adventurous!  See our post about how to build your own Micro Aquaponics system (here)}

Set up a nice environment.  Although they will most likely thrive under any condition, Convict Cichlids prefer a rocky environment which mimics their Central American river habitat.

They prefer a sand bottom and will dig furrows in the sand to raise and defend their young. Gravel will work just fine, but do not be afraid to experiment with a sand bottom.

Feed them. I feed them a combination of floating cichlid sticks and tropical fish flakes from a big-box store about 2-3 times per day. The classic rule of thumb for feeding aquarium fish is to give them as much as they can eat in 2 minutes and no more.

Sell them off as needed, forever!  …Or give them to friends…

Additional Facts about Convict Cichlids

Temperament: Aggressive. They will kill most other fish. Definitely not a community fish.

Habitat:  They are from Central American freshwater rivers and prefer flat rocks and caves for breeding. I collected my rocks from a river bed.  (Make sure you sterilize rocks by boiling in water for about 15 minutes)

Breeding:  If they are happy, they will pretty much breed on their own.  The female gets a reddish glow to the stomach as a sign of pregnancy.

They will eat the young baby fish, but generally they have so many babies that some will live. Putting in stacked flat rocks provides extra cover.

Feeding:  For a special treat give them blood worms, dried river shrimp, beef heart (yuck), or even the occasional earthworm.

You can give them fresh green chopped vegetables such as spinach, peas and broccoli stems. Floating pellets are also fine.

Live Plants: They do not require live plants to be growing in the tank and they will eat (destroy) almost any live plant that you do put in there.  However, I read that some people have success with the “Amazonian swords” plant and “java fern.” (Update: We tried both of these and they ate both!)

Life Expectancy:  They can live for 10 years.

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