Convict Cichlids! From Central America, now it’s spread all over the world. Popular with fish enthusiasts all across the globe.
They’re an easy fish to look after and don’t need much maintenance, and, they’re aesthetically pleasing.
Table Of Contents:
- Basic Facts
- Looking After Convict Cichlids
- Convict Cichlid TankMates
- Popular Types Of Convict Cichlids
Convict cichlids breeding: Eggs hatching and taking care of the new born fry
Name: Convict Cichlid
Scientific Name: Amatitlania nigrofasciata
Size Of The Fish: Small/Medium
Temperament: Aggressive and Territorial
Aquarium Size Required: Medium
Where It Swims: All Areas
Care Difficulty Rating: Easy
They come from several countries in Central American region. Guatemala, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras.
They’re freshwater fish, usually found in streams and creeks. They seem to prefer water bodies with a steady stream of running water.
They prefer habitats with hiding spots and protection. Such as rocks and branches that have fallen into the water.
The origin of the common name is simple. They have black stripes vertically across the body, similar to the uniform prisoners in Britain wore. These people were called convicts, hence the name.
They’re sometimes known as Zebra Cichlids.
Their stripes and dark to light gray skin make them recognizable. Though they’re not vibrant, they’re still an aesthetically pleasing fish.
How Do You Tell The Difference Between A Male And Female Convict Cichlid?
Here are a few pointers on how to tell the difference between a male and female convict cichlid, (or zebra cichlid.)
Markings and Colours: Although males and females have the same characteristic stripes, they’re colored differently. A male has grey scales, and paler black lines than the females.
What’s unusual about this cichlid fish is the female has more colors. When the female is breeding, she has an orange spot on her body.
She has dark stripes and orange to pink coloration on her dorsal fin and belly.
If the fish has spots on their dorsal fin or anal fin, they’re a male.
Size and Shape: The males are larger than females. Their fins are more longer and pointer, and often they end in tendrils. When a male matures; he develops a fatty lump on his head.
So, his cranium is bigger than females.
Behavior: Males have much more aggressive behavior and territorial in the breeding season.
(Even after you’ve followed the pointers listed above, and you still can’t tell, ask your local vet or expert.)
The usual coloration is blue-grey with around 8-9 black stripes. There are no differences between males and females until the fish reach maturity.
Convict Cichlids aren’t as big as some others. In the wild, they’re much smaller than in the aquarium, the usual range being 1.5-3″ (4-7cm).
In the tank, males usually grow to about 6.5″ (17cm) long. Females are around 4.5″ long (11cm).
These fish breed readily, but they’re difficult to manage. This is due to Convict Cichlids becoming very aggressive during the breeding season.
It’s crucial to monitor the fish. If you plan on breeding them, it’s best you aren’t a complete beginner.
Before the breeding season, raise the water temperature to 84 °F. Make sure you have flat rocks through the tank. These will be used to lay the eggs.
Have a separate breeding tank or a divider to separate the breeding pair from other fish.
The animal behavior of the males change, and they begin to pair off. (The courtship takes a long time.) Once there’s a pair, take them away from the others.
(Convicts have a different partner each breeding season, but only 1 at a time.) When they have begun breeding, renew ¼ of tank water regularly.
The female will lay her eggs in a spot of her choosing, usually one with a flat surface. The male will fertilize the eggs. The average clutch amount is around 100-200. Then, they split the responsibility.
She looks after the eggs, and he guards her and their unhatched offspring fiercely.
(This is why it’s important to separate them from other fish.)
Like other cichlid species, these fish are attentive parents. The eggs hatch in around three days. The hatchlings can’t swim for another 2-3 days until they are freed from the yolk.
When this happens, they become free-swimming.
During this period, they are guarded by their parents. After this time, (it’s quite rare,) the male might become skittish, and could eat the juveniles.
If this happens, separate him from the female and the eggs.
The parents will continue to look after their offspring for another 10-14 days. After that, they look after themselves. Once this happens, move the mother back into the usual tank.
Introduce the juveniles into the tank over time.
Once the fry have established themselves, start feeding them. You should feed them with milled live food and dry flakes and pellets. Also renew the water twice a week.
Looking After Your Convict Cichlids
They are remarkable when it comes to adaptability. In the wild, they live in a variety of habitats and conditions.
When you plan the tank, there are a few things you should take into account. First, the layout of the decor. They prefer habitats with spaces they can hide. There should be plenty of hidey-holes.
(Arranging rocks or lying flower pots is a good idea.)
Other essential items in decor include plants and flat stones. (This is for the females to lay their eggs on if you choose to breed them.) Make sure the plants are tough and hardy.
These fish like to dig, delicate plants could be ripped out.
Second, is the size of the tank. 52 gallons, (200 L) is an excellent place to start, for a pair. If you have a group or more fish in a community tank, go bigger.
It’s essential to have a powerful, external filter. The constant flow of substrate into the water from the fish digging can make it clogged.
Temperature – They’re a tropical freshwater fish, from a warm climate. The best temperature range is 79–84 °F (26–29 °C).
Convict Cichlid TankMates
Convict Cichlids are some of the most aggressive fish. They attack most fish, sometimes for no reason at all. If provoked, they can and will do damage.
They have sharp teeth and could injure the fish they are bullying.
This isn’t the best fish to keep with others. However, you can keep them with some, but under specific conditions, and particular species.
The community aquarium must be large enough for all the fish. You should also introduce your fish to their tank mates as early in their life as possible.
Adults are more aggressive than juveniles. The aggressiveness decreases if you introduce them early.
Make sure the fish you choose are large, as large as you can afford/accommodate. This minimizes the risk of them being attacked.
Keep them in pairs, not groups. If you have an established couple, don’t bother with tank mates.
Here is a list of the best tank mates.
- More Of Their Species.
- Other Cichlids. Make sure they are large and have aggressive/semi-aggressive demeanors. Like Firemouth Cichlids, Jewel Cichlids, Blue Acara, the Red Terror, Green Terror, Jack Dempsey and Yellow Lab Cichlids.
- Flowerhorn Cichlids
- Other Large Fish. Like Tinfoils, Plecos, Irridescent Shark and Clarias.
What To Feed Convict Cichlid?
Convict Cichlids are classified as omnivorous. In the wild, they eat a variety of things. Invertebrates, such as small insects and worms and they eat many types of algae and plant matter.
They aren’t fussy. Some have compared this fish to the Labrador, as it eats nearly everything you give them.
However, put thought and planning into their food. You don’t want a sick fish. These fish need a plentiful and varied diet.
Feeding them twice a day is best. Don’t make the amount otoo big.
(Make sure you remove any uneaten food within 24 hours from the tank.)
Flake and Pellets: Many aquarists recommend Flake and Pellet Foods. Make sure the foods that you choose are high-quality, and well-rated by users. Remember to make sure it’s designed for this type of fish.
Live Foods: These fulfill the meaty requirements in their diet. Like Tubifex worms, brine shrimp, ghost shrimp, bloodworms, and Daphnia. They enjoy these. However, remember everything in moderation.
Other Options To Consider
Frozen Foods: Feeding them the same foods (Tubifex worms, brine shrimp blood worms, Daphnia,) just frozen, is an easy and convenient alternative.
Insects & Invertebrates: As we mentioned earlier, an integral part of their diet. If you can, feed them a few live insects every so often. They like Mosquito Larvae.
Things To Avoid
Overfeeding: This could make your fish sick.
Meaty Foods: Don’t feed them any meats humans eat, (lamb, chicken, beef, pork.) It’s bad for their digestive systems.
Popular Types Of Convict Cichlids
They’re a single species. However, there a few variants. They look quite different from the original, the black convict, because they’ve been bred with other colors.
Sometimes, there is a mutation in these fish known as “Leucism.” It happens in many animals, not only fish.
When an individual has this, the pigments in their skin and scales are weak. So the animal seems pale. (It’s not to be confused with Albinism, which is a complete lack of pigments.)
The colorations breeders have developed are gold, white and pink
Pink Convict Cichlids are the only variant to have an official classification, it being Convict Cichlid archocentrus nigrofasciatus.
Name: Pink Convict
Other name: Zebra Cichlid
Scientific name: Archocentrus nigrofasciatus
Convict Cichlids are a staple in the aquarium trade.
Many fish-keepers find them an excellent fish. If you choose to keep them, you won’t be disappointed. They’re are easy to look after.
Do you have a Convict Cichlid, or are planning on getting one? Let me know.
Is there something missing from this article, or do you have a question? Let me know in a comment below.