Black Nasty Cichlid Care 101: Size, Tank Mates, Food & Other Tips

Black Nasty Cichlid

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Like most cichlids, the Haitian cichlid is an extremely unique cichlid among the aquarist community. It is also widely known as “black nasty” and its name tells you what they are – one of the most aggressive cichlids in this world.

If you’re looking for a large, solitary cichlid from the popular aquarium options, the black nasty could be exactly what you’re looking for. In this guide, you’ll learn everything about Haitian cichlid care. Managing the size and potential aggression of these fish can be tricky, but we cover it at length.

Read our guide to know the essential features of this violent species.

Species Summary

The Black Nasty Cichlid is a big and beautiful species that originated in Haiti where it can be found in rivers and lakes. The Haitian cichlid is rare in the trade because it needs to live in large tanks, which makes them hard for many people.

How long do Black Nasty Cichlid live for?

The Black Nasty Cichlids live for ten to eleven years on average. Considering the usual lifespans of fish, a decade is quite a long time for a species to stick around in an aquarium. They will be your buddy for years if you look after them well. 

However, their longevity depends on several parameters, majorly on how well you cater to their fundamental needs. Now, they are fairly easy to look after; you mainly need to take care of their aggression and the size of your tank as they grow up to be quite large. 


Also known as Odo fish, black nasty are typically seen in black and white colors. The males have a white body with black pepper-like spots, and females have a white mouth with a dominantly black body. They are large-sized and do not have prominent genitalia, which makes sexing them a little complicated. 

The species’ nature can accurately be judged by its name itself, as they are black in appearance and have a nasty temperament. They are difficult to breed and, as a result, are difficult to get on the market.

How to Tell if My Black Nasty is Male or Female?

The sexes are slightly difficult to identify but can be demarcated by looking at the genitalia of the fish. Mature males have a hump on their heads, which distinguishes them from the other sex. They are much larger than their female counterparts and much more aggressive. 

Females, on the other hand, are large as compared to other species but still smaller than the cichlid males. However, their genitalia are more prominent and rounder. 

How Big Do Black Nasty Cichlids Get?

Nasties grow up to 15 inches in size, and that is considered quite big in the category of aquarium fish. Because of their colossal size, they need a bigger tank, frequent cleaning, and only a select few tankmates. 

People look at baby cichlids and often get the impression of them being a small species, but that is definitely not the case. Their growth rate exponentially increases in the later stages of their life cycle. 

Black Nasty Cichlid Care

First of all, count yourself lucky if you found a black nasty cichlid as it is not readily available on the market. Aquarists have to spend tons of hours researching where to get them from.

It is reasonably easy to take care of these giant fish types, provided you stay alert of their essential needs. The more challenging part is to sex them and find buddies to live with them in the tank, but we’ll get to that later. 

Tank Size

For every full-grown Haitian cichlid specimen, we recommend a tank of 105 gallons. The size should be directly proportional to the number of individuals you’ll be keeping. Double or triple the aquarium size according to total fish, although we highly doubt if anyone can handle more than two black nasties in their tank. 

Water Parameters

Plant your tank in such a way that there are natural borders for the territory for each of your fish. This will ensure that every specimen gets its own space to feed, dwell, and rest without disturbing the others. 

Haitian Odo fish need a lot of hiding places to rest peacefully, or else they tend to get even more aggressive than usual. Fill your tank with hardy plants like Crinum or tough ferns like Java, as the species won’t eat them, and borders will be maintained. 

As we discussed, this species is giant-sized, eats a lot, and consequently excretes a lot. That’s why it’s crucial to filter the water regularly and aerate it well, keeping moderate hardness. The ideal pH lies between 6 and 7.5, and the temperature should be kept between 73 degrees and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Common & Potential Diseases

Aquarium fish are prone to developing infectious diseases, and their treatment can take up a lot of time and energy. A few disorders commonly found in Haitian Cichlids are:

  • Malawi bloat
  • Swim bladder disease
  • Cotton wool disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Hole in the head disease

Food & Diet

Black nasty cichlids are omnivore species, which means they eat whatever comes their way, be it plants or other small creatures. Make sure that you give your fish a varied diet with both plant and meat content. 

Although your pets will love you for giving them live food material, that isn’t strictly necessary. It increases their aggression, so it’s totally up to you. 

Black Nasty Cichlid Tank Mates

Keeping small fish species near these aggressive beings is a huge no. They are lone dwellers but survive best when kept in a pair of two, preferably a male and a female. 

Furthermore, it’ll be smart to create visual barriers in your aquarium so that the black nasties don’t see their tankmates directly. These fish are legitimately the anti-social cranky beings of the aquatic kingdom. 


These creatures aren’t bred regularly because of which they are pretty scarce. Breeding black nasties is particularly a task as you already know that they do not get along very well with their partners and are picky when it comes to mating. Your best bet to breed them is by keeping the pair together since their young phase. 


Well, that’s about it for our guide on this fatally beautiful species. To wrap it up, we’ll say black nasty cichlids are a good companion if you are fond of big fish. 

Furthermore, they are easy to look after but not great tank mates because of their violent behavior. But one thing that’s good about these fish is, they have a long lifespan. 

That’s it for us!

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Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt

Hello, I'm Jeff- an aquarium enthusiast with over ten years of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish, including koi, goldfish bettas, cichlids and more! For me: Aquariums are like jello - there's always room for more!

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