African Cichlids Size – How Big do They Get?

There are hundreds of different species in the African Cichlid family. This offers some of the most amazing colors and patterns to choose from to every fish enthusiast.

The vast majority of African cichlids can reach a size between 2 to 6 inches (5-15 cm), however, some species can grow up to 10-12 inches (25-30 cm) in size.

There are a few species that are significantly bigger than that, making them an ideal choice for the owners of large aquariums.

For example, the biggest fish from Lake Malawi is the Buccochromis Lepturus with its 16 inches. It flourishes in beautiful shades of blue with a bright yellow and green pattern on its scales.

Our other example is the Boulengerochromis Microlepis, which is a green and yellow-colored fish that can grow to a size of 30 inches.

The problem with this one is that it requires a huge aquarium and the chances of breeding this species are very slim.

Common Reasons Why African Cichlids Stop Growing

The first thing to consider here is proper nutrition. What you feed your African Cichlids is what they will become.

If you feed them healthy foods that are full of vitamins and proteins, they are going to grow quickly. By giving them bad quality food that they are not supposed to eat, you also hinder their growth.

The rest of the factors that affect the growth of cichlids are pretty much all environmental.

Throughout their lives, they are affected by their tank mates, the water conditions, the aquarium setup, the size of the aquarium and such factors.

In this article, we are going to talk about all of them so that you can learn how to make your African Cichlids go fast. Many of the information we are going to share can be applied to most of the other fish species as well.

– Aquarium Size

The size of your aquarium needs to be in accordance with the size of the particular African Cichlid species you keep.

If we average them all out, it turns out that a 30-gallon fish tank has to be big enough for most of these cichlids.

Either way, make sure to check the recommended aquarium size for each of the species you want to keep. If a tank is too small for them, it is going to hinder their growth.

It is simply going to be too much stress for them to handle, especially if there are tank mates that they are too close to.

In case you are not sure about the ideal tank size for your fish, then buying the bigger one in the shop is always a great idea.

Problems arise only if the tank is too small for them. The bigger the tank, the lower the chance that they are going to be aggressive towards each other.

– Water Parameters

For African Cichlids, the perfect water acidity is a pH of 7.5. This has been discovered by the scientists of MIT and now many fish keepers follow their advice around the World.

For this, you are probably going to need a carbonate buffer.

Now the problem with raising alkaline so much is that it’s not good for your fish. Suddenly raising alkaline also increases the water’s ammonia levels.

As a result, your cichlids will stop growing. This is why carbonate buffers should be added in small amounts every day for one week.

A commonly recommended temperature by fish experts is 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, African Cichlids will thrive in temperatures between 74 to 82 degrees so there is no single preferred number. When it comes to heaters, the best idea is to buy two and install them to opposite sides.

If one of them breaks down, there is the other one for backup.

– Crowded Tank

Keeping too many African Cichlids in the same tank is never a good idea. It makes them vulnerable to diseases and causes stress, which both can greatly hinder their growth.

You should provide enough space for each of your individual fish according to their size.

Overcrowding actually can be done in a good way but you need to be smart about it. It can be used as a method to reduce aggression between cichlids in a community aquarium.

Since they don’t have enough space to establish their own territory, there will be less tension between them.

But this method still allows them enough space to live comfortably. In such a crowded tank, it is important to set it up in a way so that there are enough hiding places.

You need to break the line of sight and to also give them potential safe spots.

– Genetics

The final size of any African Cichlid species is pre-determined by its gene pool. If we average out all the species, it turns out that they grow to around 10 inches in size.

This applies to cichlids that live out in the wild and the ones that live in your fish tank too.

Since they are pre-determined to grow in a certain pace, you should keep them in a big enough aquarium.

In case it is too small, their organs will keep growing while their overall body size won’t change as much. This can cause great stress in African Cichlids.

– Diet and Feeding

The perfect diet for African Cichlids has been figured out by scientists a long while ago.

What they have discovered is that their diet should consist of about 40 percent protein and 10 percent fat. This applies to cichlids that are younger than 8 months.

Anything other than this type of diet will only slow down their growth. We would recommend you to buy some commercial trout food in the fish store and feed it to your African Cichlids.

It will not only help them reach their maximum size but will also bring out their true colors.

When it comes to fish food, it is all about the ingredients. If you feed them something that they are not even supposed to eat, then they will probably grow a lot slower.

Anything that has little to no protein or fat in it will hinder the growth of your cichlids.

When do African Cichlids Reach Full Size?

For the average African Cichlid, it takes about 2 years to reach full size. This, of course, depends on the particular species we are talking about and plenty of other factors as well.

They need to live in clean water that contains beneficial bacteria.

Furthermore, they need to be kept in the temperature, acidity and water hardness they prefer.

Given that you meet all these requirements for them, all you need to do is to feed them a healthy diet. All these factors facilitate their growth.

How to Breed African Cichlids for Size?

The general rule of thumb is that the bigger the male and female pair, the bigger their juveniles will be. Also, the juvenile African Cichlids of bigger males grow faster out in the wild.

Their father can defend them and get food more effectively, thus ensuring better nutrition and faster growth.

The size of the eggs laid down by the female cichlid depends on the female’s body size. In general, the juveniles of a strong male parent have a bigger chance to survive and grow faster than the ones with a weaker father.


You can contribute to the growth of your African Cichlids in many different ways.

In this article, we did our best to share you some useful tips and tricks on how to facilitate the growth of your fish. We have also discussed all the things that can hinder their growth and how to avoid them.

With this information, you will not only walk away as a better cichlid keeper but as a better fish keeper in general.

A good diet, ideal water parameters and a big enough tank will pretty much guarantee fast growth for your African Cichlids.

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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