Are Cichlids Aggressive? [Ways To Reduce Their Aggression]

Image of an aggressive cichlid

Cichlids are aggressive toward each other and other fish species. They constantly compete with other fish for food, territory, and mating rights in their natural habitat. Aggression is deeply ingrained in their attitude, and they often display aggression toward other fish, even in captivity.

Let’s now understand in more detail why cichlids are aggressive.

Main Reasons Why Cichlids Are Aggressive

Most cichlid species are aggressive. They attack each other and their tank mates.

Although they are vibrant and add colors to a fish tank, they are also tough to handle in certain situations.

Below are the main reasons why cichlids are aggressive.

Mating And Reproduction

Cichlids tend to be quite aggressive in competing with other males of the same species.

The primary reason behind this behavior is their desire to mate and reproduce.

During the mating season, the male cichlid digs a nest for the female to lay her eggs that they fertilize.

So they usually get in a face-off with other males to earn the right to mate with the female fish.

The chances of fights and injuries tend to increase if more male cichlids of the same species are in the tank.

The fights can sometimes be brutal and fatal for a male cichlid.


The other reason for cichlids’ aggression toward each other is the competition for food.

Feeding cichlids at irregular intervals will make them competitive and aggressive toward others.

However, if you feed cichlids at regular intervals, you can curtail their aggression.

They won’t display aggression if there’s enough food for every fish in the tank.


Territoriality is also one of the reasons why cichlids attack each other. Cichlids often perceive the tank as their territory.

So they will vigorously defend it by warning or threatening the intruders.

The best way to control such aggressive behavior is to create barriers inside the tank.

By using rocks, caves, and aquatic plants, you can create covers and divide the tank into sections.

How To Reduce Aggression In Cichlids?

The vast majority of cichlids species are aggressive in behavior.

These cichlid species fight for territory, mating rights, food, and almost everything.

Although it’s impossible to change their behavior, there are ways to curb their aggression.

Given below are some ways to reduce cichlid aggression.

Keep Different Cichlid Species

Cichlids tend to compete with other members of their own species.

They fight and bully their own species most of the time to establish their dominance.

So make sure you have varied cichlid species in your aquarium with different colors and patterns.

The more the variation, the more likely the cichlids will get along with each other.

Satiate Food Requirement

Food is one of the reasons that make cichlids aggressive.

Cichlids constantly compete with their own and other fish species for food in their natural habitat.

It’s deeply ingrained in their behavior.

However, If your cichlids are well fed and feel satiated, they won’t behave aggressively to protect the food.

It will curb their aggression as they no longer need to compete hard to get their food.

Limit The Number Of Male Cichlids

Males cichlids often indulge in face-offs to establish the pecking order or social hierarchy.

It allows them to establish control over their territory and the female fish for mating and reproduction.

There will be severe aggression and bullying inside your aquarium if there are more male cichlids.

The best way to handle this situation is to limit the number of male cichlids compared to female cichlids.

Try to maintain a ratio of 2 or 3 females per male cichlid. By doing this, each male cichlid can choose from several females.

This will help reduce their aggressive behavior.

Provide Cover And Shelter

Cichlids are territorial and display aggression toward intruders.

They keep bullying the weaker cichlids by constantly chasing and biting them.

To reduce bullying and aggression, provide the docile fish with plenty of cover and hiding places.

This will also diffuse the bully cichlid’s aggression as these hiding spaces will keep the timid fish out of their sight.

Keep Cichlids At Different Aquarium Levels

Cichlids swimming at different levels

Another thing to consider is that in nature, many cichlids are bottom dwellers and occupy the lower regions of the water body.

However, some species prefer to swim in open waters.

The idea is to distribute the cichlid population into different levels within the aquarium.

If you spread them out, there will be fewer face-offs and displays of aggression.

Try to keep those cichlid species in the aquarium that occupy different tank levels, some at the bottom, some in the middle, and others at the top.

By getting the right mix, you can curb the aggression and fights.

Provide More Horizontal Space

Cichlids like to occupy the horizontal space inside the tank more than the vertical space.

So you must get a longer and broader tank to reduce confrontation and aggression.

Tank height doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to the size of a cichlid tank.

So choose a long and wide tank for your cichlids.


Slightly overcrowding or overstocking a cichlid tank can help reduce the aggression of dominant cichlids and provide respite to the submissive fish.

The more crowded a cichlid aquarium is, the busier and more energetic the environment.

As a result, it will be difficult for a cichlid to focus on one fish.

Although overstocking is generally avoided in fish keeping, it has its benefits when used in a cichlid tank.

For example, the aggressor cichlid won’t focus on a single fish, which reduces bullying.

Introduce New Fish In Groups

If you add a few new fish in an aquarium that contains cichlids, those new fish will get bullied by the existing cichlids.

So add at least three or four different types of fish at once.

The more fish you add at once, the less likely it is for one of them to get singled out and targeted.

Rearrange The Setup Before Adding New Cichlids

Adding new cichlids in an aquarium with existing cichlids can result in bullying of the new entrants.

As cichlids are territorial, they aggressively guard their territories against intruders.

So to reduce aggression and bullying of the new cichlids, it’s best to change the aquarium set up before adding the new cichlids.

You can start by changing the background, adding new decorations, or rearranging the tank setup.

This will ensure that no fish becomes territorial and there’s plenty of space for everyone.

Remove The Aggressive Cichlid

In most cichlid tanks, a dominant cichlid controls the entire tank.

The aggressor chases the intruders and also invades other cichlids’ territory.

You must separate the aggressive fish and keep it in a different tank in such a situation.

This will allow other fish to grow up in their social hierarchy and establish dominance.

Once the new hierarchy is set, re-introduce the aggressor back in the tank.

The aggressor is no longer the dominant fish and will fall back into the social hierarchy.

What Are The Least Aggressive Cichlids?

The vast majority of cichlid species are aggressive in behavior.

However, a few cichlid species are relatively peaceful, non-aggressive, and live amicably with their own and other species.

Given below are some of the non-aggressive cichlids:

Are Convict Cichlids Aggressive?

Convict cichlids are highly aggressive and territorial.

So you must add cover and hiding places in the tank to provide the submissive fish a chance to seek refuge and stay safe.

Are African Cichlids Aggressive?

African cichlids are very aggressive in behavior. They are territorial and become highly aggressive during mating time.

So they are relatively difficult to maintain compared to other tropical freshwater fish.

Are Peacock Cichlids Aggressive?

Peacock cichlids are not aggressive.

They are calm, peaceful, and one of the friendliest members of the cichlid family.

Although male peacock cichlids are territorial, they are relatively peaceful.

Are Firemouth Cichlids Aggressive?

Firemouth cichlids are peaceful. However, they become aggressive during the spawning season.

They can also get territorial and should be kept in larger tanks to control their behavior.

Are Jewel Cichlids Aggressive?

Jewel cichlids are incredibly aggressive. They are beautiful and come in different color variations.

However, it can be challenging to manage them in certain situations despite their good looks.

Are Ram Cichlids Aggressive?

Ram cichlids are non-aggressive fish. They are peaceful and can be kept with other peaceful fish.

However, you shouldn’t keep them with fast-moving or aggressive cichlids, as ram cichlids are slow and unable to defend themselves.

Are Parrot Cichlids Aggressive?

Parrot cichlids are semi-aggressive.

They are mostly calm but can become aggressive and territorial if the tank is overstocked, leaving very little space for movement.

Are Texas Cichlids Aggressive?

Texas cichlids are beautiful but aggressive toward other tank mates. They are big in size and exhibit territorial behavior.

Texas cichlids are also invasive species and can be a potential threat to other fish due to their dominating nature.

Are All Cichlids Aggressive?

All cichlids aren’t aggressive. Cichlids are the most diverse group of fish in the world.

However, the vast majority of the cichlid species are aggressive.

So avoid keeping them in a community tank as other fish can become easy pickings for them.

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