Silver Cichlid (Maskaheros argenteus): Care, Tank Size, Food & Tank Mates

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The Silver Cichlid (Maskaheros argenteus), formerly described as Vieja argentea, is a large Central American Cichlid known for its pearly silvery coloration. It’s a stunning fish that brings a special splash of color to any tank.

Due to the large adult size and aggressive and territorial behavior, the Silver Cichlid is recommended for more experienced hobbyists with larger aquariums.

If you are looking forward to adding this giant fish to your aquarium, make sure you know every aspect to avoid any hassle later on. The comprehensive Silver Cichlid care guide covers their appearance, size, lifespan, tank size, and more. 

Species Summary

Silver Cichlids (Maskaheros argenteus) are known from the Usumacinta River drainage systems of western Mexico. Like many of its relatives in Central America, the Silver Cichlid is facing significant threats to its survival due to habitat degradation and competition with nonnative species in their native habitat.

Despite these challenges, this striking freshwater fish has been bred intensively through the commercial aquarium industry for many years. In addition to Silver Cichlid, these fish are also commonly sold by the common names White Cichlid, Vieja Cichlid Vieja Argentea Cichlid as well as additional scientific names Cichlasoma argentea, Paraneetroplus argenteus, Vieja argentea.

Most Central American Cichlids are adaptable, aggressive, and territorial; the Silver Cichlid is no different. They are not the most recommended fish for community tanks and should only be kept with other large, semi-aggressive, aggressive species that can defend themselves.

Scientific Name:Maskaheros argenteus, Vieja argentea, Cichlasoma argentea, Paraneetroplus argenteus
Common Name:Silver Cichlid, White Cichlid, Vieja Cichlid, Vieja Argentea Cichlid
Care Level:Intermediate
Lifespan:10 years
Max Size:12 inches (30 cm)
Temperature:79° – 86° F (26° – 30° C)
PH:6.8 – 7.8
Water hardness:10 – 15 gH
Minimum Tank Size:Single: 75 gallons; A pair: 125 gallons


Female Silver Cichlid
Female Silver Cichlid (Photo: Kooky Cichlids)

Silver Cichlids look incredibly beautiful, making them popular among the aquarium community. Both males and females have a beautiful white/ silver coloration with unique black and blue markings. 

Male Silver Cichlid also exhibits a nuchal hump, making them look different from female species; they also have impressive elongated anal finnage and larger overall size. 

There are numerous small black spots on its body and fins. You can also find additional black patches on the flanks, forehead, and base of the tail. 

This species has a metallic sheen that gives it different colors based on mood and lighting. Their bodies are flat, giving them a somewhat circular appearance from the side. The dorsal fins look like tilted equilateral triangles that begin at the body’s highest point. 

Male Silver Cichlid
Male Silver Cichlid (Photo: Kooky Cichlids)

Silver Cichlid (Maskaheros Argenteus) Size

The average size of a Silver Cichlid is around 12 inches (30 cm) in length when fully grown. That means that if you’re thinking of adding one to your home aquarium, you’ll need to make sure you have enough space to accommodate a fish that could potentially grow to be more than a foot long. 

Despite Silver cichlids eventually reaching a large size, they grow relatively slowly. When sold in stores, they are usually 1-2 inches in size and will reach sexual maturity in about 3 years.

The growth rate of Silver Cichlids is fairly slow compared with some of their larger relatives. This might be good news for those who don’t have the space to house a giant fish.

Like any species, the quality of care they receive will affect their lifespan and growth rate. Regular water changes will significantly affect their growth rates.


Silver Cichlids are majestic and rewarding species, long-lived and worthy of centerpiece display in the large aquarium. The average lifespan of these fishes is up to 10 years; however, you can prolong their life by taking optimal care of them. 

However, since they have a good lifespan, it doesn’t mean that they are immune to health concerns. Therefore, fishkeepers need to feed them a balanced diet and maintain the right tank and water conditions to see them live long and happy. 

Silver Cichlid Care

Taking care of Silver Cichlid is not rocket science. Moreover, this fish is a hardy, durable fish that can easily adjust to standard aquarium conditions.

In the wild, these fish live on river banks with rock and submerged wood where submerged aquatic vegetation are rooted.

The key to keeping Silver Cichlids happy and healthy is to mimic their natural environment as closely as possible in the home aquarium.

Here are some of the necessary considerations that you should keep in mind while choosing an aquarium for Silver Cichlids. 

Tank Size

Due to their full-grown size, the aquarium should be large enough to provide both open swimming areas and rocky structures where these fish can retreat for shelter. 

The minimum tank size for a single adult Silver Cichlid is 75 gallons (48″ x 18″ x 21″). If you plan on having a breeding pair, you should get a tank that’s at least 125 gallons (72″ x 18″ x 21″). For multi-fish community tanks, you may need upwards of 200 gallons.

As always, larger tanks that offer multiple territorial areas are ideal as they will help lessen aggression and allows you to add more tank mates with them.

Water Parameters

Maintaining the right water conditions is mandatory for Silver Cichlid care. They are tropical fish that prefer warm water temperatures.

Stick to these water parameters to keep your fish healthy. 

  • pH: 6.8 – 7.8
  • Temperature: 79° – 86° F (26° – 30° C)
  • Hardness: 10-15°H
  • Ammonia: 0ppm
  • Nitrite: 0ppm
  • Nitrate: <30ppm

As we mentioned earlier, Silver Cichlids are quite hardy and can live in a wide range of water parameters without issue. However, it’s important to perform partial water changes on a consistent basis. 

I highly recommend an aggressive schedule of 30% water changes every other day. In my humble opinion, this is the most important factor in their growth rate.

Substrate & Decor

The tank should be set up with a sandy substrate with stones, driftwood, and roots that create sheltered areas. Make sure that the stones and driftwood are securely anchored, as Silver Cichlids are known for their rearranging behavior. 

As these fish will consume and uproot plants in their natural environment, planting live plants can be difficult. However, you can use artificial plants that are well-rooted in the aquarium. 

Powerful filtration is a must as Silver Cichlids are messy eaters and can quickly pollute the water. I would recommend using a canister filter with carbon filtration media. If you want your aquarium clear and clean, investing in a good quality surface aquarium skimmer is smart.

Food & Diet

Silver Cichlids (Maskaheros argenteus) are primarily herbivorous, and should be provided with a diet rich in plant material and Spirulina.

To add variety to their diet, you can feed them blanched vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber, squash, blanched lettuce, and peas.

They will readily accept commercial items like slow sinking pellets & wafers. In order to boost good color, you’ll want to give them some protein-rich foods, brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, krill, and worms, but be cautious.

Silver Cichlids (Maskaheros argenteus) Tank Mates

The Silver Cichlid is a large, territorial cichlid notorious for its aggression in the aquarium, especially during spawning. 

These “centerpiece” fish are best kept alone or in male-female pairs. They cannot tolerate their own kind; hence should be placed with other similar cichlids if the tank is spacious. 

Silver Cichlids shouldn’t be kept with small fish, and other Central or South American Cichlids of a similar size and temperament are preferred. 

Here are some potential Silver Cichlids tank mates:


The best thing about keeping Silver Cichlids in the aquarium is that you might get a chance to see them spawning. Both males and females are highly aggressive while breeding. Before spawning, females clear an area of flat rock on which they have to lay eggs. The male will fertilize them, and eggs should hatch within 2-3 days. 

The parents will fiercely protect the young, which become free-swimming after a week. A bonded pair will reproduce regularly, and the parental care continues for 4-6 weeks. 

Final Thoughts

That concludes with Silver Cichlid care. This cichlid specimen has become a popular choice amongst fish keepers due to its stunning appearance and many personalities. They are unique, fun to look at, and require proper maintenance. 

Caring for them is not much challenging but is only recommended for advanced fishkeepers. Silver Cichlids are not suitable for a community aquarium and should only be kept with other semi-aggressive cichlids.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article, and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.

Happy Fishkeeping!

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Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt

Hello, I'm Jeff- an aquarium enthusiast with over 25 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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