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What is a Convict Cichlid?

The Convict Cichlid is a vibrant freshwater fish, named for its striking black stripes that resemble a convict's uniform. Native to Central America, these hardy creatures are a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts due to their unique appearance and intriguing behaviors. Discover how the Convict Cichlid can enliven your tank and what it takes to care for them. Ready to learn more?
Janis Bennett
Janis Bennett

A convict cichlid, or Amatitlania nigrofasciata, is an aggressive freshwater fish species from Central America that commonly is kept as pets in an aquarium. Convict cichlids are also known as a zebra cichlids because they have black vertical stripes on a bluish-gray body. They are amazing survivors and adapters, making them great fish to have in an aggressive fish aquarium. Convict cichlid fish are easy to breed, often producing 100 or more offspring at a time.

The convict cichlid has a bluish-gray body with vertical black stripes from the tail to the nose, an iridescent pattern on their fins and sides and a pink tint to its belly. Male convict cichlids grow to be about 6 inches (15 cm) long, with females being a bit smaller. Males typically are not as colorful as females, and they develop longer, pointier dorsal and anal fins. Females are more likely to display orange patterns on their bellies and dorsal fins.


Convict cichlid fish are easy to keep because they are very hardy and do not require any special considerations. They should be kept in at least 25 gallons (about 94 l) of water. A basic fish tank set up with hiding places and plants will do fine. These fish eat a variety of foods, such as live aquarium plants, flake food, powdered fish food, blood worms, cichlid pellets, beef heart, frozen/live brine shrimp and vegetables such as blanched lettuce and chopped-up spinach leaves. They are greedy eaters, but they are not picky.

Convict cichlid are an aggressive breed of fish. These fish should be kept with other aggressive fish or larger fish that can hold their own. The convict cichlid is known to be a bully in the fish world, and it might pick fights with larger fish — and win.

For people looking to breed fish, convict cichlids are an excellent species to start with because they can be bred easily and will produce many offspring. A breeding pair of cichlids will defend its territory and its offspring against other fish in the tank. Fish tank owners will notice that the other fish in the aquarium are staying at the opposite end of the tank from where the cichlids reside, so they might wish to put the cichlids in their own tank. When a pair is ready to reproduce, the fish will do a mating dance in which they shake their heads at each other. The eggs will hatch in less than a week, but it will be another three to four days before the young fish become free-swimming.

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Discussion Comments


You also have to keep convict cichlids away from passive fish, Talentryto. They will see them as dinner if you don't!

I like convict cichlids because they are easy to care for and look great in an aquarium. Convict cichlid fry also thrive easily, though you have to remove them into a separate aquarium from the adult cichlids to keep the adults from eating the fry.
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