Fish Files: New world Cichlids – South, North and Central American

American cichlids are a brilliant fish choice; they come in many diverse shapes, sizes and stunning colours, they are also intelligent and easy to breed. Some species that you may already have heard about include Angelfish, Rams, Parrot Cichlid, Firemouths and Oscars. This group of fish have an aggressive nature, so it is vital that you do the correct research on compatibility, tank size and preferred habitat/aquascaping. Here we have created an article that we hope will help you in choosing which of our American cichlids is suited to you!


The majority of New World Cichlids get quite large, with Oscars growing to a very large 45cm in size when fully mature. Most other species will reach an average of 15-20cm, these species include the Firemouth, Jack Dempsey and Sevrum. If you are looking for something smaller, then Apistogramma or Ramirezi are a good choice. Some of the bigger species can live up to 10-20 years, so be prepared as they are a long term investment!

Aquarium requirements

We always say the bigger the better in regards to tank size and filtration, larger tanks are easier to control water parameters and also they are great for the welfare of the fish. As this group of fish generally grow quite large we would recommend at least 90-240 litres, dependant on other stock and the species you choose. Cichlids require a heated aquarium of temperatures from 22 to 28 degrees; they will also require some standard lighting. As these fish grow quite large they can be quite messy inhabitants so plenty of filtration is beneficial. American cichlids prefer a planted aquarium with cover in the form of bogwood and/or large rocks. Be careful as some of these species will dig up live plants, so plastic plants are advised with species such as convicts and Sevrums. The water should be tested regularly for ammonia and nitrates and water changes should be regular (once every two weeks at least) to ensure these levels stay low and the fish stay happy and healthy.


Choosing the right group or individual can be tough, as compatibility with cichlids is a bit of a juggling act. Species such as Oscars, Firemouths and Jack Dempsey, for example, are known for their aggression and will pretty much eat anything they can fit in their mouths. They can be kept with conspecifics, Syndontis catfish, large plecos – if keeping with other cichlid species make sure they are compatible and you have the space to accommodate their aggressive tendencies. Species such as Angelfish, Rams and Kribensis are generally community friendly; however, some can become territorial when spawning.


Cichlids will happily accept flakes, pelleted food and fresh/frozen foods. Cichlids are mostly omnivores and opportunistic feeders, meaning they should be fed a good varied diet. Feed your fish the right amount by monitoring how much they eat in 2-3 minutes and do this feed twice daily.


Cichlids are egg layers and become very territorial when breeding and raising young. If you have a breeding pair they will need plenty of tank space or should be kept in a tank on their own. Some will lay their eggs over plants or substrate whereas other species such as Firemouths will mouth brood, the majority of parents will look after their fry for some time after hatching.

Here are some of our favourite species to have a look at:

- Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus)

- Gold Sevrum (Heros severus)

- Green terror (Andinoacara rivulatus)

- Jack Dempsey (Rocio octofasciata)

- Firemouth (Thorichthys meeki)

- Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher)

- Jaguar Cichlid (Parachromis managuensis)