Are Convict Cichlids Aggressive? (Males Vs Females)

The Convict Cichlid is one of the most aggressive and colorful Central American freshwater fish. They got their name because of their striking black bars that give them an intriguing look.

Among first-time fishkeepers, convict cichlids have had a bad reputation because of their aggressive nature, but you will enjoy observing these fish with the right tank mates and an adequate fish tank environment. That’s a guarantee. 

This article will tell you what to expect from convict cichlid’s aggressive nature, based on my experience. 

Are Convict Cichlids Aggressive?

Photo: JAXX

Yes, the convict cichlids (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) are very aggressive by nature. They are known to attack almost any other fish in their territory, including ones up to three times the size!

In my experience, I’ve seen their spunky behavior: one fish encroaches on a convict cichlids’ territory, and you will see them chasing and annoying the other fish as a reprimand. 

Due to their aggressive nature, they’re not the kind of fish you want to keep in your community tank, especially when mating. These guys can be very aggressive, and they will do anything to protect the fry, even kill their own species if need be! 

Is Male or Female Convict Cichlids More Aggressive?

Convict Cichlids, whether male or female, generally engage in territory encounters. The only difference between them is how they show their aggressiveness versus other fishes, both different and intra-species. 

Females used more frontal confrontation and biting. They also spend more time showing their aggressiveness to other species in close proximity. 

On the other hand, the male convict cichlids move around their opponents; they show dominance in a lateral display and are more prone to tail beating than the female Convict Cichlids during agonistic encounters. 

Are Convict Cichlids Juvenile Aggressive?

Photo: MyEvilMonkeys

Studies found that young convict cichlids are prone to high aggressiveness when food is abundant and a low rate of aggression when food is excess or scarce. This dome-shaped pattern of aggression is the response to changes in food abundance. 

Are Convict Cichlids Aggressive Towards Other Fish?

Like any other member of the Cichlidae family, Convict Cichlids are aggressive around other fishes. This aggressiveness comes with direct fight instinct when they feel like their territory is threatened. Among juvenile cichlids, the aggression is more on interaction and food competition. 

Although breeding this species is a breeze, most breeding pairs should be kept in a species only tanks. They’re the best cichlid parents around here, and they’ll protect them to the death.

How to Reduce Convict Cichlids Aggression? 

I have been keeping CA cichlids for over 10 years. One of the biggest challenges is figuring out how to keep them from getting aggressive no matter which species is in the aquarium. In my experience, nothing else has worked in the long term. It’s finally come down to just that: removing or shuffling fish. 

Unlike most South American Cichlids and Lake Malawi Cichlids, which often fight to the death in aquariums (there are some exceptions), Central American ones are adapting in their ways, including convict cichlids. 

At the end of the day, there are few solutions that can only reduce aggression for a CA or convict cichlids tank but never end it.

Get a Bigger Tank

When territorial aggression is triggered by a desire to protect something that’s special, such as a particular plant, rock, or other decoration, the convicts will often go into attack mode. The solution to this problem is as easy and straightforward – just invest in a larger fish aquarium!

The larger the tank, the happier your convict cichlids will be. They’re much more territorial in large tanks and can tolerate other peaceful fish without feeling threatened or insecure about their space- which is why it’s important to give these guys enough room!

A minimum of 30 gallons is recommended for convict cichlids. If you want to keep a mated pair, invest in a bigger 40-gallon tank.

Consider the Personality and Temperament

Do convict cichlids have personalities? They do! We all know that cichlids are typically territorial and sometimes aggressive, especially towards their own kind.

However, just like people, there are always exceptions. They all have their own complicated personalities. When you’re dealing with living creatures, the world is not simply black or white. Sometimes, a passive convict cichlid will be peaceful, amiable, and won’t bother other inhabitants in an aquarium. 

Be prepared to deal with varying personalities! 

Convict Cichlid-Only Tank

The ideal way to counter Convict Cichlid’s aggressiveness is by keeping and taking care of one pair at a time. When they reproduce and their offsprings start to grow, keep them in the tank until they pair up in their juvenile stage, then it’s time to separate them again. 

If you want to keep a Convict Cichlid-only tank, keep the ratio of male to female Convict Cichlid to 1 is to 3, one male for every three females. More females in a sizeable tank of Convict Cichlid will cause less trouble. 

Create a Barrier

Convict cichlids are known for their aggressive tendencies and love of territory, which is why a barrier is always desirable. However, it only works in large tanks. 

With a large barrier, more docile cichlids are able to escape scrutiny. It also breaks up the line of sight for their dominant aggressors.

When I got this big “Greek Ruin” decor, it really helped me out with this problem. The smaller ones would go through these pillars and escape from their chasers, while the bigger ones just went round and round the ruins until they gave up. 

A Separate Tank for Breeding Pairs

As a convict cichlid enthusiast, I observed that convict cichlid is extremely easy to breed, making these fish a popular choice among many experienced aquarists. They’re known as the ‘rabbits of the fish world’. 

Convict cichlid parents are very aggressive when there are eggs and fries involved. You will need to move the breeding pair into a separate tank and bring them back after the eggs have hatched.

There is the option of keeping multiple pairs to keep a vibrant tank but make sure that the tank is growing with the population to decrease aggressiveness among one and the other. 

You can keep an already paired Convict Cichlid straight from the fish store. At the same time, you could get a bunch of juveniles, watch them pair up, and separate the outcasts from the pairs to keep them from getting hurt. 

Final Thoughts

So, are convict cichlids aggressive? Yes, Convict Cichlids can be aggressive, but with the right tank conditions, whether solitary, in pair, or a tank full of predators, this fish will thrive. 

Follow the tips I shared above to ensure that your convict cichlids will live happily and healthily.

I am always open to new ideas and suggestions, so please feel free to leave me a comment if you have any thoughts or opinions on this!

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