Are African Cichlids Aggressive Fish?

Right now, you might be amazed about how colorful and exciting African Cichlids are in general. However, we are here to tell you that keeping them is not as straightforward because of their aggression.

Some African cichlids can have such an aggressive behavior that will stress out all of their mates, making them sick and eventually kill them.

If you don’t follow some guidelines while setting up your community tank, the whole project can easily end in a disaster.

With a well-established plan, you can become a successful African Cichlid fish keeper. Although you can’t turn them into peaceful fish, there are certain methods that can help you reduce their aggression.

Not to mention that their aggressive temperament is one of the things that makes them so interesting.

In this article, we are going to talk about some of the most aggressive African Cichlids while mentioning a few of the peaceful ones as well.

Then, you are going to learn the simplest and most effective methods that will help you reduce their aggression.

As a result, you are going to be able to set up a colorful community tank where these cichlids can live together.

Most Aggressive African Cichlids

African Cichlids come from three huge lakes including Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria. From these three, the most aggressive cichlids come from Lake Malawi without doubt.

Just read a bit about the Golden Mbuna, Chipokae or the Bumblebee Cichlid and you are going to find out how aggressive they are.

In general, if your cichlids are from the genus Melanochromis or Maylandia, then you can be sure that those are very aggressive.

It is a challenging task even for the most experienced fish keepers to keep these species together. The problem is that they are eventually going to kill each other in territorial debates.

Each male is only aggressive towards their own species. Therefore, it is a great idea to buy only one male of each species.

If you want to keep Mbuna Cichlids at home, then you need to do quite a lot of research if you don’t want it to end in a blood bath.

What makes it a great idea to keep them is the fact that they are very easy to breed.

Calm, Peaceful African Cichlids

Fortunately, some of the cichlids that can be found in the abovementioned lakes are quite peaceful. This gives fish keepers the opportunity to set up a pretty neat community aquarium with peaceful fish.

We are talking about the Jalo Reef (Placidochromis), the Mdoka White Lip, the Deepwater Hap and the Electric Yellow Cichlid.

These are all eye-catchy cichlids that are easy to breed and easy to take care of. However, it is important to note that peaceful species come with peaceful behaviors.

There is going to be less tension between your fish and less interaction as well. It is going to be more like a hide and seek game.

From the abovementioned species, the Electric Yellow is definitely the least aggressive one. This African Cichlid opens you the possibility to set up a pretty interesting community tank of various species.

How to Reduce Aggressive Behavior of African Cichlids?

The rule of thumb when it comes to reducing aggression is to provide hiding places. You can put rocks of various sizes, caves, driftwood and plants in the aquarium as well.

Furthermore, it always helps to ensure there is enough space in the tank for all the different species that you keep.

The reason why hiding places, plants and other decoration are so effective is because they break the line of sight. The tension only rises if your fish can constantly see each other.

If they have a place where they can hide or even establish a territory at, then they are not going to do harm to each other.

It also helps to keep African Cichlids together with species that have a similar temperament. A peaceful fish often can’t defend himself, especially if it is smaller.

In case you want to add a peaceful fish, it has to be much bigger than the aggressive cichlids you keep.

The method that requires the most experience is when you keep many aggressive fish in the same tank.

You reduce their personal space to the point when they still feel comfortable yet they don’t have enough space to establish their own territory. Therefore, there will be nothing to be stressed about.

What to Do with Aggressive Fish?

Unfortunately, there is not much you can do. If you notice that one of your African Cichlids is particularly aggressive towards others, you need to remove it.

Put it into a separate tank for a few days and keep it well-fed there. Then, try to return it to the main tank to see if its behavior has changed.

Also make sure that the water conditions are correct and that there is enough space for all the fish in your community aquarium.

Despite the conditions being ideal, it might happen that the behavior of the aggressive fish still won’t change. In that case, you need to keep the fish in a separate tank or even return it to the store.

Make sure to do some research before you set up your tank and add only those species that have a similar temperament.

If they differ in aggression, then there are going to be huge problems in the long run.


Of course, not all African Cichlids have the same temperament and behaviors. What we did here is we summarized the temperament of this family of species as best as we can.

The tips we shared here can be more or less applied to all cichlids that are from Lake Malawi, Tanganyika or Victoria.

In fact, the same tactics apply to most fish species that tend to be aggressive. You can overcrowd them and break their line of sight in the exact same way.

Also, if they are of similar size, none of the will be too helpless if he has to defend himself.

All in all, it is important to do the research and apply the tips we shared if you want your fish to get along well with each other.

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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