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The best beginner Cichlid? – The Convict Cichlid

convict cichlid best beginner cichlid

Convict Cichlids are very numerous within the aquarium hobby. They are boisterous, inquisitive and full of personality. Their small size in comparison to other CA Cichlids makes them very popular. But are they the best Cichlid for beginners?

The Convict Cichlid

The Convict Cichlid is often described as the best beginner Cichlid in the hobby.

There are loads of reasons why this is the case, they are robust, adaptable, and downright amusing most of the time.

Convicts are small, easy to keep, easy to feed and they are readily available in shops. It’s very rare to walk around an aquarium shop without seeing a convict or two.

It’s easy to see why Convicts are so popular and I am a huge fan of them myself. They get the name Convict from their colouration, the black and white striped body resembles the classic prisoner’s outfit, and they have an attitude to match.

So is the Convict the best beginner Cichlid?


convict cichlid best beginner cichlid


The best beginner Cichlid?

Convict Cichlid Size:

The Convict Cichlid stays small, so it can be housed in smaller aquariums than many other Central American (CA) Cichlids.

They tend to top out at around 15cm for a large male, females tend to be slightly smaller.

This makes it ideal for those looking into Cichlid keeping as you won’t need to invest in a gigantic tank before even giving Central American (CA) Cichlids a try.

If you’re looking to try out keeping CA Cichlids, then a pair of convicts will require a tank of around 200 litres. That is pretty small in comparison to many of their larger cousins.


Are Convict Cichlids easy to keep?

Convicts are pretty unfussy fish. They will eat just about anything that you throw at them and are pretty tolerant of a wide range of water parameters.

They certainly aren’t sensitive fish and they will adapt to many environments within the aquarium.


Are Convict Cichlids Easy to breed?

The Convict Cichlid is very easy to breed. In fact, they breed like guppies. So if you are looking for your first Cichlid breeding project then Convicts are a great place to start.

Most CA Cichlids will breed relatively easily, but with their smaller tank requirement and unfussy behaviour, Convicts certainly fit into the easy category.


Convict Cichlid Character

Once settled, Convict Cichlids show a lot of character. They have all the character of their bigger cousins in a smaller package.

They are always busy doing something unless they’re at the glass begging for food and are a real entertainers.

The Convict Cichlid certainly makes a great wet pet and are definitely a good starting point if you are looking to keep CA or American Cichlids.


convict cichlid best beginner cichlid 2


Additional things to consider before buying Convict Cichlids

You may have read this and thought “They sound great, I’ll go get some”. But there are a few things to consider before you rush out to the nearest shop.

The Convict Cichlid may be small and is certainly a good starter Cichlid, but they are still an aggressive little CA Cichlid that does have some additional care requirements.


Convict Cichlid Tankmates

Tankmates needed to be carefully considered. If you throw a pair of Convicts into a 200-litre community tank, it is likely that before long your community will consist of 2 Convicts.

For their small size, they pack quite a punch, and they should only be kept with other robust fish that are too large to be viewed as food. Other, larger CA Cichlids tend to work well, but I wouldn’t advise that if this is your first time keeping them.

If your Convicts start breeding, which they will, they will happily murder anything that ventures into their territory, so the tank needs to be a size that will allow any other fish to stay away.


Convict Cichlid Decor

The decor in your aquarium may need to be looked at. CA Cichlids tend to move a tank around to suit themselves. That means that anything they could knock over needs to be removed, or well fixed in position.

CA Cichlids do tend to fight, so if you’re intending to keep more than one, you will need to make sure there are lots of hiding places. That means that if a fight breaks out, there are refuges nearby for the weaker fish to escape.


See our care guide in the knowledge base for more information: HERE


The best beginner Cichlid?

There’s no argument from me that if you’re looking to keep American Cichlids, particularly CA Cichlids, then the Convict Cichlid is a great place to start.

They are easy to keep, easy to breed and full of attitude.

But……there are other Cichlids, even other CA Cichlids that are arguably just as good. The issue with the other being that they are hard to find.

That means that there are other Cichlids that could fit the bill if you are looking for an easy to keep CA Cichlid before moving onto bigger fish. But you may have to look long and hard to find them.

One example of another option is the Topaz Cichlid, it is often classified as Amatitlania (same family as Convicts), or Cryptoheros. I have just managed to find a group of these guys and they’re great! I’ll get a profile done on them soon!


So, The Convict is definitely up there with the best options for a starter CA Cichlid, and they tend to be the easiest to find.


Here is a great video I found from Mr Andy Woods, which shows how adaptable the Convict Cichlid can be, and just what a survivor it is:



Andy Woods Cichlids

Mr Andy Woods runs a very popular Youtube channel where he shows off his vast collection of CA Cichlids.

If you are looking at keeping CA Cichlids in the future then I would highly recommend watching some of his entertaining, yet informative videos.


You can find his channel HERE.

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About the author

James @Seriously Fishy

I am a fish keeping enthusiast with over 20 years experience. I currently keep American Cichlids (CA) which are my favourite fish to keep so far. I started Seriously Fishy as I noticed a large volume of people on various web pages looking for help with Aquarium basics. I created the first Seriously Fishy book to solve the issue in 28 pages, that led to the Seriously Fishy UK fish forum and blog.

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