Dwarf cichlid suggestions for community tank

Q&A about cichlids in community tanks

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Dwarf cichlid suggestions for community tank

Post by SharonPage »

Hi Pam,

I've never kept any cichlids, but would love to hear your ideas about one or more dwarf species (and which sexes) to keep in my new 50g living room display tank.
  • Current low-tech aquascaped 55g tank in my office has 35 tiny fish (avg. 1-2")--appropriately-sized schools of tiny tetras, cories, otos; loaches, 1 female betta, and a few male guppies. Everybody gets along great and there is a lot of fun but peaceful activity to watch.

    New low-tech aquascaped 50g tank in the living room has no critters yet. For this one, I'd like bigger (avg. 2-4"), colorful fish. I'd still like to have a group each of cories, tetras (or substitute pencilfish), otos (or substitute SAEs). But for this tank, I want the highlight to be a group of S. American dwarf cichlids or rainbow kribs.
Online, I'm seeing lots of contradictory information about which dwarf cichlids (if any) will work in a community, whether you can keep mixed sexes (vs. all males) in the community, whether you can keep multiple dwarf species, and whether dwarf species are "great" with cories/otos or will eat their eyes or even kill every fish in the tank once they spawn. I'm not interested in breeding, but mixed-sex would be okay as long as they don't go on a killing spree when spawning.

Note: Our local water stays at pH 8.2 despite plants, peat in the filter, oak leaves and driftwood. Many fish hobbyists in my area successfully keep and even breed soft-water species in this high-pH water. But, all-else being equal, I'd prefer a species that would be happy in high-pH water.

A. borelli, A. cacatuoides, A. aggasiz, P. pulcher and Keyhole cichlids are often suggested as possibilities for community tanks. Would any of these work, or do you have different ones to suggest? Could I successfully keep something like 4 males of 2 species, as long as no females are present? If not and I get one group of one species (whatever you recommend), what would be the ideal sex ratio?


Pam Chin
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Re: Dwarf cichlid suggestions for community tank

Post by Pam Chin »

Hi Sharon,

Sounds like a fun couple tanks in the making.

It can be a bit confusing, part of it is the word dwarf. To me a real dwarf is any cichlid 3" or under. Some cichlids are known as dwarfs, and some even have dwarf in their common name. Many people think there are only dwarf cichlids in South America, but there are smaller cichlids found in Central America, West Africa, and the African Rift Lakes. From Lake Tanganyika there is a group that are called shell dwellers and a few of them max out 1-/2 - 2", their habitat is empty snail shell beds. There is a wide variety of cichlids 3" and under and it just depends on what you like, afterall you are the one who is going to be watching them.

For your 55 Gal Tank at your office. I think you are on the right track looking at Apisto's and kribs. One other possibility might be some rams (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus). These choices will work well with the other fish you have going. While your tank is not that large and you have a lot of fish, so I would suggest one pair or two males.

For your 50 gal tank at your home. Here you have a clean canvas to start with and I think picking your favorite fish and then building a tank around them is a good way to go. Sounds like you have already done some research on the Apisto's, I would suggest also researching these groups of South American Cichlids: Laetacara (several species might be of interest), Mesonauta festivus, Geophagus sp. "Tapajos Orange Head", Ivanacara adoketa. Again I would do only one pair or two males. Then a couple cories and school of medium sized tetra's and that is going to fill your tank.

There are probably a few possibilities that I am missing, but this should give you a good start.

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