African and American Cichlids Crossbreed – Is it Really Possible?

African and American cichlids live in different environments out in the wild. Their natural habitat differs in water parameters such as temperature, acidity and hardness.

Not to mention that they didn’t have the same options when it comes to food as they evolved.

This is why their intestinal tracts are different too. While American cichlids mainly live on animal proteins, African cichlids prefer to live on a plant-based diet.

Another thing that signifies their incompatibility is the fact that African cichlids are mainly aggressive while American cichlids are rather peaceful.

These differences are crystal clear when you take a look at their gene pool as well. Since they are different genetically, the chance that you can crossbreed them is literally zero.

They have to be genetically compatible for crossbreeding.

What Cichlids can You Crossbreed?

When we say genus, what we mean is that there are certain traits that link species together.

For example, if African and American cichlids would fall under the same genus, then they would have many similar traits. It would mean that their organism is so similar that they are able to breed with each other.

Unfortunately, this is not the case with the abovementioned example. African Peacocks are great examples for crossbreeding because they fall under the Aulonocara genus.

By definition, every species that is a member of the Aulonocara genus is likely to crossbreed within the genus.

When it comes to American cichlids, there is a popular example for them as well. A highly successful experiment was to crossbreed the Midas and the Redhead cichlid.

The result was the now widely popular Blood-Red Parrot cichlid.

Although this fish has its own deficiencies, it looks beautiful and can live a wholesome life with proper care.

What is the Difference Between African and American Cichlids?

One of the main differences between African and American cichlids is that they live in completely different environments.

Out in the wild, they got accustomed to a specific water temperature, acidity and hardness. There are different plants and animals around them, therefore their diet differs as well.

Furthermore, a lot of them differ in size, in the way their body is structured and in temperament. African cichlids are well-known to be aggressive, yet mainly herbivorous fish.

American cichlids are rather peaceful but carnivorous.

Because of these differences, you can’t keep them together and can’t crossbreed them either.

The fact that both African and American cichlids belong to the cichlidae family is simply not enough. In fact, it doesn’t say anything about their compatibility at all.

What says a bit more about their compatibility is whether they belong to the same genus. That is the first thing you need to check if you ever want to crossbreed two fish species.

From a genetic perspective, trying to crossbreed African and American cichlids is like trying to crossbreed a domestic cat with a lion or a tiger.

Can Peacock Cichlids Crossbreed?

Peacock Cichlids can absolutely crossbreed but not with any of the American cichlids. As we have mentioned in our example above, they belong to the Aulonocara genus. This means that you can only try to crossbreed them with other Aulonocaras.

Even then, the success rate probably won’t be a 100%. If the species you try to crossbreed them with belongs to another genus, then there is basically a zero chance that you are going to succeed.

How do You Know if Cichlids are Mating?

You know that cichlids are about to mate when they suddenly become unusually aggressive. They start to perform a dance-like ritual that includes the male chasing the female.

If there is more than one male in the aquarium, they will become more aggressive towards each other.

You will also notice that the colors of the male become paler at the time when his intention is to breed. Once the dominant male successfully chases the other males away, he wins the female.

Then he is going to begin to create a nest for the eggs at the bottom of the tank.

Following his preparations, the female is going to lay down the eggs. If she is a mouth brooder cichlid, then she is going to swallow all the eggs.

Then the male deceives her into thinking that he has more eggs near his anal fin. He has a few spots there that look like eggs.

Once the female gets closer, he fertilizes the eggs that she holds in her mouth. The eggs are going to stay in her mouth until they hatch.

If the female is not a mouth brooder, then she is just going to lay down the eggs in the nest and let the male fertilize them.

Can You Mix African and American Cichlids?

African and American cichlids are so incompatible that you can’t even keep them in the same tank.

There are three reasons why you can’t keep them together, including their diet, temperament and water parameter preferences.

The waters that American cichlids live in are less acidic, super soft and darker.

Lake Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria, on the other hand, are clearer waters that are acidic, hard and the sun penetrates the water.

While American cichlids are mainly carnivores, African cichlids are rather on the herbivorous side. Feeding them a lot of animal proteins can literally make them sick.

There are huge differences in temperament as well, with the African cichlids being territorial and aggressive.

American cichlids are much more peaceful even though most of them grow bigger.


Breeding is really specific for every cichlid genus and there can be differences even within the African and American cichlid family.

Crossbreeding is, in fact, something that you can rarely do between fish species. The first requirement is that both fish need to belong to the same genus.

Unfortunately, this is not true for African and American cichlids. They are completely incompatible when it comes to breeding.

There are differences in size, temperament, breeding habits and – most importantly – genetics. Hopefully this article has helped you understand the breeding process of cichlids and how crossbreeding works.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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