Top 10 Cichlids we Love to Keep In 29-Gallon Fish Tanks

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Top 10 Cichlids We Love to Keep in 29-Gallon Aquariums

Cichlids are a very diverse group of primarily freshwater fish that are known for their brilliant coloration and feisty personalities. While many species require larger tanks due to their territorial behavior and large size, others can be kept in smaller aquariums (up to 29 gallons). Find out which of these diminutive Cichlids made our Top 10 List.


South American Cichlids

1. German Blue Ram

Mikrogeophagus ramirezi

This dwarf cichlid measures in at 22.5 inches (5-6cm) and boasts a wide range of colors including a red eyes, black markings and a yellow head. There is also blue iridescent spekling on the body as well as its fins. They also come in different color variations, such as gold, electric blue, and even black. It is important to choose an aquarium heater capable of raising the temperature to between 84 and 86 degrees F (29-30 degrees Celsius). You will need to have a warmer water temperature in order to keep them happy. You can find more information in their care guide.

2. Bolivian Ram

Mikrogeophagus altispinosus

Robert loves this less-known, but more robust cousin to the German blueram. It grows up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) long, has striking yellow and black coloration, and features long, trailing tips on its fins and tail. They are much easier to breed than German Blue Rams. They can also live in lower temperatures (73-79degF/23-26degC). This easy-going cichlid goes well with other similar-sized community fish, like tetras, corydoras, livebearers, and barbs.

3. Apistogramma Cichlid

Apistogramma cacatuoides

This brightly colored genus of dwarf cichlids comes in almost every color and pattern imaginable. Some of the most popular species include A. cacatuoides (or cockatoo cichlid), A. agassizii, and A. borellii. Like the German blue ram, they prefer hanging around the bottom third of the aquarium and want slightly warmer temperatures at 82degF (28degC). Many hobbyists enjoy breeding them by adding an apisto cave or coconut hut for them to lay their eggs. Our care sheet contains more information about keeping apistogrammas.

4. Lyretail Checkerboard Cichlid

Dicrossus filamentosus

You are looking for something more difficult? Try the checkerboard or chessboard cichlid, named after the alternating rows of black squares running along its body. They are more comfortable with low pH water so they can be added catappa leaves or driftwood to help naturally acidify it. They are shyer and can get along well with other fish in the community. However, they may be territorial towards their own species so keep more females than men.

5. Golden Dwarf Cichlid

Nannacara anomala

This South American species exhibits serious sexual dimorphism. The sexes appear very different from one another. The male measures approximately 3 inches (7.6 cm), and has flashy, neon-blue-green scales. The female is about half that size, with a golden-tan body, and black horizontal lines. They are slow-sinking and enjoy frozen foods, Repashy gel food, and slow-sinking pellets. To encourage breeding, match one male to multiple females and provide spawning caves (similar to apistos).

African Cichlids

6. Lyretail Fairy Cichlid

Neolamprologus brichardi

This gorgeous cichlid has a sleek body, long fin tips, and lyre-shaped tail. A breeding pair can be kept in a 20-gallon aquarium, or a group of four to six in a 29 gallon tank. They can be aggressive and should be kept in a single tank.

The Brichardi and other smaller African cichlids are from Lake Tanganyika. Therefore, they require hard water that is between 7.8-9.0 pH and above 160ppm (9 degree) GH. If you have softer water, use cichlid salts and substrates like crushed coral and aragonite sand to reach the necessary water parameters. Add lots of cave-like rockwork for the cichlids to spawn in, and you can enjoy watching the baby fry being closely guarded by their parents and even older siblings.

7. Lemon Cichlid

Neolamprologus leleupi

If you enjoy the vibrant colors of bigger African cichlids, you can’t go wrong with the Leleupi cichlid. This eye-catching species has a bold, lemony yellow to fiery orange body that reaches 3-4 inches (8-10 cm). As with the lyretail cichlid, it enjoys dwelling and breeding in the cracks and caves formed by piles of rock. They do not eat picky foods and will happily eat omnivore food, including frozen foods and cichlid pellets.

8. Kribensis

Pelvicachromis pulcher

Because of its ease-of-breeding and numerous color options, this popular aquarium fish is loved by many. Similar to the Apistogramma cichlids, they like to spawn in apisto caves and coconut huts and will display parental care toward their offspring. Kribs are not like other African cichlids and can live in water pH levels between 7-8. They are also peaceful enough to live in a community tank but may become a bit territorial during breeding periods.

9. Julidochromis Cichlid

Julidochromis marlieri

Julidochromis Cichylids are well-known for their striking black and/or white patterns, iridescent blue fins and long, cigar-shaped bodies. Rock dwellers, they are known for hovering around the edges of stones and taking care of their children. To provide extra cover for your julies, and purify the water, you might consider adding live aquarium plants.

10. Shell Dwellers

Neolamprologus multifasciatus

Shell dwellers are the smallest of all cichlids, measuring in at 2.5-5 cm (2.5-2.5 inches) They are known by their common name because they breed and live in empty snail shells, rather than rock crevices. They love to dig and redecorate constantly, so make sure you use sand as the tank’s bottom and add live plants that don’t need substrate (e.g., anubias and java ferns). The fry will wait to be fed and then return to the tank to eat. For more details, read our shell dweller article.

Cichlids are some of our favorite fish because of their bold personalities and unique appearances. While Aquarium Co-Op does not ship fish, we have a list of trusted vendors that sell them online, so check out their selection and see if you can find the perfect cichlid for your next aquarium.