Can Cichlids Live with Goldfish?

One of the most common questions I get from beginning aquatics hobbyists is, can cichlids live with goldfish? I can understand the apprehension. After all, cichlids and goldfish are two of the most popular aquarium fishes in the world. 

Unfortunately, there is more to these two species than excellent tank mates. I am confident we all would like to know the answer to this beguiling question. Join me in learning the truth about goldfish and cichlids living in the same tank.

Can Cichlids Live with Goldfish?

Cichlids cannot live with goldfish in the same environment because they have different temperaments that can be disastrous for one species. They also have contradictory water temperature requirements, making it challenging to find the right balance for both aquatic pets to thrive in the same ecosystem.

Although the information I shared might dishearten some aquatics hobbyists, it is possible to let these two fish species live together. However, it would take great skill and care to find the correct balance to ensure a living environment conducive to both. 

Why Cichlids and Goldfish Can’t Live Together

I’ll cover below the most important reasons why these species cannot co-exist in the same aquarium. 

Different Temperature


Goldfish are one of the most common cold-water fish species that thrive best in 68-degree to 74-degree Fahrenheit water. Some goldfish species require a lower water temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, such as the Shubunkins and Comets.

On the other hand, cichlids thrive best in warm tropical waters with a temperature of 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Some species can live in water temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The temperature difference makes it impossible to set the water temperature at a level conducive to both species. While it is possible to maintain the water temperature at 75 degrees Fahrenheit, it will stress the cichlids and goldfish.

Cichlids, by Nature, are Aggressive

Goldfish are docile and peaceful, making them excellent aquatic pets for beginners. This fish species can co-exist with other peace-loving and active fishes, such as Barbs, Platies, Hoplo catfish, and Bristlenose Plecos.  

Although not all cichlids are very active and aggressive, some species are. For example, African Mbunas are famous as aquatic bullies. These cichlids thrive in Africa’s Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Victoria. Only the fiercest species get to keep the food. Cichlids are territorial and will not hesitate to attack other fish species to guard their food.

I do not think letting a peaceful goldfish live with an aggressive cichlid is a good idea. Even if the cichlid does not eat the goldfish, frequent attacks and other aggressive behaviors can make life miserable for the goldfish. 

The goldfish might also become malnourished because the cichlid will consume all the food. It will also be unsafe for the goldfish to compete for the pellets because the cichlid is overly protective of its resources. 

If the cichlid is sufficiently aggressive, there is the chance of killing the goldfish. I would not risk it.

Cichlids Need Big Tanks

Cichlids can grow anywhere from 4 to 10 inches, depending on the species. As you can see, they are quite large in size, which means they require a big tank to serve as their home. 

On the other hand, goldfish are small-sized fish, can be one to six inches long, and need comparatively small tanks for housing. However, it is not unusual to see a 20-inch goldfish in the wild.

Their size difference translates to different tank requirements. A single cichlid needs at least a 35-gallon tank, while one goldfish can thrive in a smaller 20-gallon aquarium. Bigger cichlids require at least 100 gallons of water to swim freely and live happily.

I can imagine the challenge among aquatics hobbyists trying to find a large enough tank to accommodate goldfish and cichlids together.

They Create a Lot of Waste

Seasoned goldfish keepers know this species is without a doubt one of the dirt machines in the world. Although all fish excrete ammonia, very few can surpass a goldfish’s amount of ammonia excretion. They are heavy-bodied fish species that eat a lot. Hence, they also eliminate more waste and more frequently. I often do a weekly 25% water change to keep my goldfish healthy.

Author note: The amount of water change should be whatever is needed to keep nitrate levels under 20ppm.

While goldfish are hardy and can live in a messy environment, cichlids cannot. Dirty water weakens the cichlid’s immunity, making it susceptible to infections and other diseases. Cichlids will not last long in an ammonia-filled aquatic environment.

Final Thoughts

I do not recommend keeping goldfish and cichlids in a single fish tank. The differences in water temperature requirements, temperaments, space requirements, and waste elimination can make life difficult for either species.

Highly experienced fish keepers might successfully keep goldfish and cichlids in the same living environment. They use their knowledge about these fish species to create a safe environment, including using a sufficiently large tank, hiding spots, and ideal pairing.

If you lack the experience and knowledge, I recommend looking for a more compatible tank mate for either fish species.

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