The Convict Cichlid (Amatitlania nigrofasciata), also known as the zebra cichlid, is a freshwater fish native to the warm rivers of Central America, ranging from Costa Rica across to Panama..They are one of the most popular species of cichlid you can find. Due to their unique look and straightforward care requirements, it’s only natural that they’re a very popular fish for many freshwater aquarists. It is an incredibly hardy fish, which is easy to care for, making it ideal for beginner fish keepers. Due to their wide natural habitat, they have learned to survive in a wide variety of water conditions and because of this, they are very hardy fish.
Generally for beginners, they should only be placed in a tank with other Convicts due to their aggressive and territorial nature. The Convict Cichlid is an active fish that is known for its aggressive and territorial behavior. This behavior is common amongst many cichlids. If a fish encroaches on its territory, it will defend itself by chasing and harassing the other fish. They will spend most of their time near their territory inside caves and plant matter.
Convicts are strong swimmers and like to ‘re-arrange’tanks, so make sure you use strong plants (Amazon Swords or Java Ferns) and anchor them. They have even been known at times to dig out the substrate and create a lot of mess! Because of this, you should make sure to have a strong filtration setup to stop the water getting murky. A good quality hang on back is the bare minimum you should use.
They are a natural omnivore and aren’t fussy eaters; they will eat most things that are placed in the aquarium. In addition to their flake/pellet, you can feed them live foods such as Blood Worms, Black Worms, Daphnia and Brine Shrimp. If you can’t find the fresh variety, then the frozen ones will suffice. In addition to the meat, you can feed them blanched vegetables such as:lettuce, broccoli and carrots.
Convict Cichlids may appear timid, however they are extremely territorial and will be very hostile and aggressive, if fish enter ‘their’ territory. Generally speaking they do not make a good choice for a community tank. If you’re a beginner then we would recommend you keep Cichlids in their own tank with no other species. This is the easiest way to prevent any issues arising with other fish.
If you have some experience and are looking to add Convicts to a community tank then there here are some suggestions. First, don’t keep them with any smaller or less aggressive fish. Second, only keep them with larger species that can stand their own ground, for example:
- Green Terror
- Jack Dempsey
- Pictus Catfish
- Giant Danio
- Other South American Cichlids (Jewel and Firemouth).
- Silver Dollars
Convict cichlids do best with a sandy substrate. This is because these fish will periodically do a bit of digging and rooting around, and a coarse substrate will end up scratching them. It’s also a good idea to include some plants, rocks and driftwood. The waters where convict cichlids come from have these in abundance. Including them will help your fish feel comfortable and give them places to hide and get their own space (this is also useful for managing aggression). Their temperament is also why including hiding spots in their tank is so important. Plants, rocks, and driftwood can help give all the tank inhabitants some element of privacy. In our experience convict cichlids are much less territorial when living in a large tank with plenty of places to hunker down.
|Adult Size:||15 cm males, 11 cm females|
|Aquarist Experience Level:||Moderate|
|Minimum Tank Size:||120 litres|
|Aquarium Hardiness:||Moderately Difficult – delicate skin easily damaged|
|Temperature:||26 to 29°C|
|pH:||6.5 – 8.0|
|Hardness:||10-15 dGH (soft)|