Top 10 Cichlids We Love to Keep in 29-Gallon Aquariums
Cichlids are a very diverse group of primarily freshwater fish that are known for their brilliant coloration and feisty personalities. Although many of these fish require large tanks in order to accommodate their size or territorial behavior, some species can fit in a smaller tank (e.g., a 29-gallon aquarium) to be able to house them. Find out which of these diminutive Cichlids made our Top 10 List.
South American Cichlids
1. German Blue Ram
This 2-2.5-inch (5-6 cm) dwarf cichlid boasts an amazing array of colors, such as a red eye, black markings, yellow head, and blue iridescent speckling on the body and fins. There are many color options, including black, electric and gold. The key thing to remember is get an aquarium heater that can raise the temperature to 84-86degF (29-30degC). You will need to have a warmer water temperature in order to keep them happy. See their complete care guide for more information.
2. Bolivian Ram
This underrated, hardier cousin of the German blue ram is a favorite of our warehouse manager Robert. It grows up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) long, has striking yellow and black coloration, and features long, trailing tips on its fins and tail. They are much easier to breed than German Blue Rams. They can also live in lower temperatures (73-79degF/23-26degC). This easy-going cichlid goes well with other similar-sized community fish, like tetras, corydoras, livebearers, and barbs.
3. Apistogramma Cichlid
This genus of dwarf-cichlids is brightly colored and comes in nearly every color or pattern possible. A. cacatuoides, also known as the cockatoo cichlid, A. agassizii and A. borellii are some of the most common species. Like the German blue ram, they prefer hanging around the bottom third of the aquarium and want slightly warmer temperatures at 82degF (28degC). Hobbyists often breed them by making an apisto cave for them or a coconut hut to house their eggs. For more information on keeping apistogrammas, read our care sheet.
4. Lyretail Checkerboard Cichlid
Are you looking for something a bit more difficult? You might like the checkerboard, or chessboard, cichlid. This is named for the alternating rows and columns of black squares that run its length. They prefer soft water with lower pH, so add catappa leaves and driftwood to naturally acidify the water. While they have a shyer disposition and get along with other community fish, they may squabble amongst their own species, so try to keep more females than males.
5. Golden Dwarf Cichlid
This South American species exhibits serious sexual dimorphism. The sexes appear very different from one another. The male is approximately 3″ (7.6 cm) long and features flashy, neon blue-green scales, whereas the female is half the size with a golden-tan body and black horizontal lines. Like most of the South American cichlids on this list, they enjoy slow-sinking pellets, frozen foods, and Repashy gel food. To encourage breeding, match one male to multiple females and provide spawning caves (similar to apistos).
6. Lyretail Fairy Cichlid
This gorgeous cichlid has a sleek body, long fin tips, and lyre-shaped tail. You can keep a breeding pair in a 20-gallon tank or a group of four to five in a 29-gallon tank. They can be aggressive and should be kept in a single tank.
The Brichardi and other smaller African cichlids are from Lake Tanganyika. Therefore, they require hard water that is between 7.8-9.0 pH and above 160ppm (9 degree) GH. Cichlid salts, substrates such as crushed coral or aragonite are useful for water that is not very hard. If you have lots of cave-like rockswork to allow the cichlids spawn in, you can enjoy the sight of the babies being watched closely by their parents and other older siblings.
7. Lemon Cichlid
Leleupi is the cichlid that will appeal to those who enjoy the vivid colors of larger African cichlids. The striking Leleupi cichlid has a bold, bright yellow-to-feire orange body that measures 3-4 inches (8-10cm). It is similar to the lyretail Cichlid and enjoys living in cracks and caves made by rock piles. They are not picky eaters and will happily feed on an omnivore diet of cichlid pellets, frozen foods, and spirulina flakes.
This popular aquarium fish is well-loved because of its ease of breeding and many color variations. Similar to the Apistogramma cichlids, they like to spawn in apisto caves and coconut huts and will display parental care toward their offspring. Kribs are not like other African cichlids and can live in water pH levels between 7-8. They can be peacefully kept in a tank with other kribs, but they may become territorial during breeding.
9. Julidochromis Cichlid
The striking black and white fins of Julidochromis cichlids, which are surrounded with iridescent-blue fins, and their long, cigar-shaped bodies, are what make them so popular. Rock dwellers, they are known for hovering around the edges of stones and taking care of their children. Live aquarium plants can be added to your water purification system and provide additional protection for your julies.
10. Shell Dwellers
Shell dwellers are some of the smallest cichlids in the world, with Neolamprologus multifasciatus (or multis) coming in at 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm). They are known by their common name because they breed and live in empty snail shells, rather than rock crevices. They also like to constantly dig and redecorate, so use sand for the tank bottom and add live plants that don’t require substrate (e.g., java fern, anubias, and floating plants). The fry will wait to be fed and then return to the tank to eat. For more details, read our shell dweller article.
Cichlids are some of our favorite fish because of their bold personalities and unique appearances. Aquarium Co-Op cannot ship fish, but we have a list with trusted vendors who can sell them online. Take a look at their selection and find the perfect cichlid to add to your next aquarium.