Most cichlids are aggressive and indulge in chasing and bullying their tankmates. So, can cichlids live with other fish?
Yes, cichlids can live with other fish. However, they will be aggressive toward them. Redeye Tetra, Australian Rainbowfish, Dwarf Gourami, Giant Danio, Clown Loach, Otocinclus, etc., are ideal tankmates for cichlids. These fish have the ideal size and temperament to deal with aggressive cichlids.
Let’s now talk about all the fish that you can keep with cichlids.
What Fish Can You Keep With Cichlids?
Cichlids are aggressive and are known to bully their tankmates.
Fish that stand up against cichlids’ aggression or avoid confrontation will likely thrive with them.
Below are some of the fish that can live with cichlids.
1. Australian Rainbowfish
The Australian rainbowfish, also known as Murray river rainbowfish, is a crimson spotted species from Australia.
This fish is colorful and compliments the vibrant cichlids.
Several types of rainbowfish can co-exist peacefully with cichlids.
However, only one type of rainbowfish, the Australian rainbow, can live with aggressive species like African cichlids.
Most of the other rainbowfish can’t match the aggression of African cichlids and should be kept with non-aggressive and peaceful cichlid species like kribensis and apistos.
2. Dwarf Gourami
Dwarf gouramis are peaceful fish that enjoy the company of other fish.
They are small in size, which makes them easy to handle.
You can keep dwarf gouramis with small South American cichlids.
Dwarf gouramis are active fish and require plenty of hiding places inside the tank.
If you keep a pair of dwarf gouramis, you will always find them swimming together inside the tank.
They usually keep to their territory by nibbling on plants and poking the soil.
However, there can be aggressive confrontations with cichlids since dwarf gouramis are active swimmers.
3. Flying Fox
The flying fox fish is friendly and peaceful. You can keep it with other fish species and aggressive cichlids.
It’s best to keep the flying fox fish and African cichlids in a large aquarium with many plants, driftwood, and small caves.
This will help the flying fox fish take shelter when the aggressive cichlids threaten them.
Flying fox fish are algae eaters, which is an excellent source of nutrition for fish.
As bottom dwellers, they will clear the algae from the tank and help maintain the water quality.
4. Giant Danios
The giant danio is one of the most beautiful fish. The fish is active and capable of handling the aggression of cichlids.
The danio, which is somewhat aggressive, is used as a dither fish in South and Central American cichlid aquariums.
The cichlids have to chase and defend their territory against danios, which allows the cichlids to bring out their natural behavior.
Giant danios are peaceful fish co-existing with both the aggressive and peaceful cichlids.
However, it’s best to keep them in a school of at least six when kept with aggressive cichlids.
5. Pearl Gourami
Pearl gouramis are peaceful, non-aggressive fish and an excellent option for community tanks.
You can pair them with different cichlids, but make sure to keep them away from larger aggressive cichlids.
These fish are vibrant and colorful, making them attractive for many fish owners.
Pearl gouramis are social and do well with fish that are similar in size and temperament.
If you plan to include pearl gouramis in your cichlid tank, then provide plenty of hiding spots in the tank.
Pearl gouramis can seek refuge whenever they feel threatened by cichlids’ aggression.
6. Redeye Tetra
Redeye tetras are peaceful fish that need to be kept in groups of at least six. They will usually claim the middle portion of the tank.
Redeye tetras are probably the only type of tetras that can co-exist even with the most aggressive cichlid species.
Their immense size makes them less susceptible to cichlid attacks.
Like cichlids, the redeye tetras have a vibrant color pattern that adds to the beauty of an aquarium.
These fish also have a wide tolerance for various water conditions.
7. Red Tail Shark
A single red tail shark can live in a community tank. You can also keep it in a mixed cichlid tank.
However, don’t keep two red tail sharks as they will fight with each other.
Red tail sharks are semi-aggressive and will chase and bully other fish that can’t outrun them.
However, a red tail shark will never bully a bigger or stronger schooling fish.
At the same time, the red tail sharks can withstand aggression displayed by larger fish without backing off. This makes them good companions for cichlids.
8. Salmon Red Rainbowfish
Salmon red rainbowfish is also known as salmon red or New Guinea rainbowfish and is closely related to the Australian rainbow.
This fish is an excellent companion for cichlids.
The salmon red rainbowfish are schooling fish.
If you keep this fish, then having the correct ratio of males and females is critical for maintaining peace in the tank.
You will also need to provide plenty of hiding spots for them.
This way, they can seek shelter when they feel threatened by the aggressive cichlids.
9. Silver Dollar Fish
Silver dollar fish are schooling fish, so they like to remain in a group.
So if you put a single silver dollar fish in a community tank, it will feel left out and can become sluggish.
Silver dollar fish are friendly enough to be kept with smaller South American cichlid species.
However, you can also keep them with large and aggressive cichlids due to their larger size.
They are primarily peaceful for their size. However, you must ensure proper swimming space with adequate tank conditions.
In the absence of proper space, these fish can become aggressive.
10 .Upside-down Catfish
Upside-down catfish are good community fish.
They are peaceful species and can be combined with many other species in a community aquarium.
They are best kept in small schools of at least three to four fish.
It will make them feel confident and encourage them to come out of hiding.
They can be kept with aggressive cichlids.
However, the problem is, if a large cichlid attempts to eat this catfish, it will raise its spines and get lodged in the cichlid’s throat.
So keeping this catfish with non-aggressive, smaller, and peaceful cichlid species is safe for both the fish.
What Bottom Feeders Can Live With Cichlids?
Bottom feeders are probably most suitable for cichlid tanks because they occupy different water levels inside the tank and are too large to eat when fully grown.
They are also excellent tankmates because they perform various functions such as removing the algae, cleaning the tank, and maintaining the water quality.
Given below are the bottom feeders that can live with cichlids.
1. Clown Loach
Clown loaches are peaceful fish that usually occupy the middle or bottom part of the aquarium.
As a result, they will not intrude in a cichlid’s territory and avoid confrontations.
On the other hand, clown loaches mostly display aggression or confront each other, but not the other species.
However, they don’t back off when confronted by aggressive cichlids.
These fish need a lot of hiding places inside the tank.
Although clown loaches are intelligent and can sense threats, they can get easily scared and need cover to hide whenever threatened.
2. Corydoras Catfish
Corydoras catfish are known for their peaceful, calm, and gentle temperament.
They can be excellent tankmates for small and medium-sized cichlids.
Corydoras are diurnal fish and are usually active during the day.
However, corydoras can be sluggish even during day time.
They are bottom dwellers, and so the chances of their territorial confrontations with cichlids are low.
These fish need a lot of hiding spaces inside the aquarium. So you need to add rocks, caves, and live plants to your tank.
Besides, corydoras are schooling fish and must be kept in a group.
3. Cuckoo Catfish
Cuckoo catfish are a popular addition to aquariums as they are native to the same region as African cichlids.
Cuckoo catfish seek refuge or hide most of the day and are less seen by cichlids.
These catfish handle cichlid aggression by ignoring them.
However, it’s best to keep catfish in a trio and avoid other catfish because the cuckoo is a bully and will go after other catfish species.
As the cuckoo catfish come from one of the lakes in the Great Rift Valley system in Africa, they can be successfully maintained with Malawi, Tanganyika, and even with cichlids from Lake Victoria.
4. Leopard Bushfish
Leopard bushfish are peaceful and docile. Their coloration helps them blend with the background.
They are active at night and hide in the thick underwater vegetation during the day.
They are bottom dwellers and will not get into territorial aggression or confrontations with cichlids.
However, they tend to defend their territory at the bottom. So add a lot of cover inside the tank.
These fish have unique colorations and patterns that help them camouflage easily in the tank.
So they are less likely to be attacked as they can easily disguise themselves.
5. Leopard Catfish
The leopard catfish is closely related to the cuckoo catfish.
They both come from Lake Tanganyika, in the Great Rift Valley system.
However, the leopard catfish is smaller than the cuckoo catfish.
This fish is petite and must be kept with smaller cichlids so that they can cohabitate peacefully.
Keeping leopard catfish with large cichlids can stress them.
These bottom-dwelling catfish are often very active, especially for a catfish species.
You can add them to a community fish tank as they are compatible with a wide variety of fish.
Otocinclus are peaceful fish that prefer to stay away from all other fish.
They are usually seen swimming together as a school, so you need to add them in groups to an aquarium.
These fish are small and agile and can fit in most tanks.
They are skittish, so they will dart across the tank whenever they feel threatened.
You can pair them with small cichlids. However, don’t pair them with big or medium-sized cichlids.
Otocinclus are bottom feeders, so the chances of any face-off with cichlids will be minimal.
Besides, due to their skittish nature, these fish need a lot of hiding places in the tank.
7. Bristlenose Pleco
Bristlenose plecos are bottom dwellers that can cohabitate with dwarf cichlids and South American cichlids.
However, African and Central American cichlids are too aggressive for them.
As they are native to South America, they are comfortable in aquariums with other South American cichlids.
However, if you keep them with the aggressive cichlids, they can get stressed.
Besides adequate oxygen levels, bristlenose plecos need plenty of hiding places to seek shelter.
These fish enjoy caves, rocks, and other hideouts in the aquarium.
Do Cichlids Eat Other Fish?
Yes, cichlids eat other fish as they are bullies by nature. You must avoid keeping small and peaceful fish with large, aggressive cichlids. Consider the size and temperament of the fish before choosing tankmates for cichlids.
Piscivorous cichlids eat other fish, fry, larvae, and eggs.
Some piscivorous cichlids are territorial and attack intruders in their territory.
In contrast, omnivorous cichlids are more tolerant. Besides eating meat or fish, omnivores also eat algae and plants.
Cichlids need to be tough to survive the harsh environment in the wild.
The aggression that cichlids display is either for protecting their feeding territory, getting a mate, or defending their offspring.
What Fish Should You Avoid Keeping With Cichlids?
There are only a few types of fish that you can keep with cichlids in an aquarium.
Given below are some types of fish that won’t survive with aggressive cichlids:
- Fish that are non-aggressive, docile, peaceful, and shy.
- Fish that aren’t territorial but move around carefree, thus intruding in cichlid territories.
- Fish that look similar to the specific kind of cichlid in question.
Due to the reasons mentioned above, the following fish species should be avoided as cichlid tankmates:
- Guppy fish,
- Small Tetras, and
- Tiny Danios.