10 Most Popular Central American Cichlids 

Let us present you our comprehensive list of the most popular cichlids in Central America! We have included some of the most colorful and exciting fish here that people like to keep at home. Besides their eye-catchy looks, they are easy to breed and easy to take care of in general.

The 10 species we are going to talk about come from a wide range of different American waters. They live in lakes, river beds and some of the fastest flowing rivers as well. We are going to introduce you to some fish that actually find it comfortable to live in captivity and interact with humans.

Central American Cichlids live in hard water and they need a stable pH level in order to thrive. As long as the water conditions are kept constant, you are not going to have much of an issue keeping them in your aquarium. Without further ado, let’s get to our top list that might prove helpful for those who are about to choose their next pet.

1. Firemouth Cichlid

Let us start with one of the most popular cichlids among fish keepers, which is the Firemouth Cichlid. The first thing you need to know about it is that it can endure an unusually low pH level of only 6.5. If a fish is breathtakingly beautiful and hardy at the same time, then you know you’ve hit the jackpot.

They are also flexible when it comes to the water temperature, which can be as low as 75 degrees Fahrenheit. What makes living in an aquarium ideal for them is their preference for slow moving waters. They flourish in an amazing bright orange color over black and white stripes.

The Firemouth Cichlid is a monogamous, semi-aggressive fish. The female can spawn as much as 100-500 eggs and they are easy to breed. Although it is best to keep them in a single species tank, there are quite a few compatible tank mates for them as well.

They are omnivores that can be rather dangerous to other fish if the aquarium is not big enough during breeding season.

2. Jack Dempsey

If you didn’t know this, the Jack Dempsey got its name after a boxing champion from the 1920’s. This one will be the heavyweight boxer of your home aquarium. Besides it being quite bulky, this species has a beautiful coloration with shades of blue and green all over her scales.

In order to make this fish feel comfortable in the aquarium, you need to buy at least a 55-gallon tank. A soft, sandy substrate is ideal for them while you should also put plenty of hiding places in there. Those can be rocks, caves, plants or driftwood.

The interesting thing about the Jack Dempsey is that it displays different colors when it is stressful or when it is about to breed. Feeding this species is not difficult at all, as it lives on a simple carnivorous diet. You can give them some typical foods such as tubifex, brine shrimp and bloodworms.

There are plenty of different pellets and freeze-dried foods available for them as well.

3. Convict Cichlid

The Convict Cichlid is a little zebra-looking fish that is very popular among fish keepers. Americans simply love to keep this one in a home aquarium. Besides being a beautiful fish, it is also quite hardy and is not difficult to take care of.

Although it is always good to buy a bigger aquarium for any fish, you can get away with buying only a 30-gallon one for this one. In the Convict Cichlid’s case, the female is the more colorful one, which is quite rare among fish species. If you are looking to set up a community tank, then you need to make sure every one of your fish has enough space.

Otherwise, your Convict will bully the others, nipping on their fins and teasing them in various ways. For those who are looking for a fish that is easy to breed, this one is definitely a great choice. They also care a lot about their fry, making them one of the better parents among aquarium fish.

4. Jaguar Cichlid

The Jaguar Cichlid is well-known among Central American fish enthusiasts. It is a rather important piscivore that inhabits the Nicaraguan lakes. There, it keeps the lake population in balance by eating plenty of small fish. Without them, the lake would be overpopulated by various species.

This species can be a lovely one for those who don’t mind keeping a bigger fish at home. Although it is not the easiest fish to take care of, you have plenty of resources out there that can help. The main difficulty is going to be the Jaguar Cichlid’s dependency on specific water conditions and its aggressive temperament.

The unusual black pattern running through the white, yellow and brownish background on its body makes this fish an attractive aquarium pet. If you are willing to buy a fish tank that is a minimum of 100 gallons of size, then you should consider buying a Jaguar.

You can include some tank mates as well as long as they don’t differ much in size.

5. Wolf Cichlid

Here is one of the biggest in the Central American Cichlid category, the Wolf Cichlid. This one can get as big as 30 inches, which is huge compared to most fish species that people usually keep at home. You are going to have a lot of fun with its interesting personality.

Wolf Cichlids tend to get quite impatient when they want food and they signal it to you by getting very active. They even splash some water out of the aquarium if they can. As you might suspect, this species is a piscivore, meaning that it eats other fish.

This is an important role for them in the Nicaraguan lakes because thanks to them, the population of other cichlids is kept at bay. The Wolf Cichlid has an interesting appearance with black patches covering its elongated body in a decorative pattern.

Since this species is rather hardy, you won’t need to worry that much about the water parameters.

6. Rainbow Cichlid

The Rainbow Cichlid lives in swamps and lakes out in nature and it likes to eat algae. In fact, it is what makes up a huge part of its diet. People absolutely love this fish because of its ability to change colors based on its stress levels.

It is one of the smallest and most peaceful fish among all the Central American Cichlids out there. When it is full-grown, it reaches only 3 inches in size. If you are looking to set up a community aquarium with peaceful fish in it, then consider adding this one as well.

Unlike most of the other cichlids from the same family, this one actually won’t nip on or root up your plants. We recommend keeping them with Firemouths and Convicts as those were proven to be the best tank mates for them. For one male and one female Rainbow Cichlid, you will need to get at least a 30-gallon fish tank.

7. Redhead Cichlid

Looking for a smaller, colorful cichlid to keep at home? Then you are going to be amazed by the colors of the Redhead Cichlid. Their colors appear in various patches, with their head being mainly red and orange while the rest can be a mix of yellow, blue, purple and black.

So many different shades on a single fish. This one is going to be one of the most decorative additions to your aquarium. Another interesting thing about the Redhead is that it develops a hump on its head which gives it a rather characteristic look.

The whole picture is complemented by its wonderful fins. With proper care, this species can live a long and healthy life of 10 years in your tank. Although they like to rearrange the decoration in the aquarium, this problem can be solved by fixing everything and buying some stronger plants.

The Jaguar Cichlid is the most compatible with other cichlids from Central American waters.

8. Salvini Cichlid

The Salvini Cichlid looks like something completely out of this world with its unique patterns and colors. The mix of gold, orange, black and neon blue that runs through its body is a delight to look at. It is definitely not the biggest Central American Cichlids with its 6 inches, yet it can be quite aggressive.

Keeping it together with smaller fish is a huge mistake, as the Salvini is a vicious predator who is going to eat them in no time. Just like any other aggressive fish, it is territorial so keeping it in a big tank is mandatory. It requires at least a 50-gallon aquarium in order to stay somewhat calm.

More experienced fish keepers know that it’s not worth the risk so they usually keep it in a 100-gallon tank. The aggression of the Salvini Cichlid indeed knows no limits so it’s best to keep them in a single species tank. Including some hiding places such as caves, rocks and plants is also recommended.

They won’t touch your plants at all, which is great because they look even more amazing in the contrast of such greenery.

9. Texas Cichlid

As its name suggests, the Texas Cichlid is mainly found in Texas, while the rest of them live in Northern Mexican waters out in nature. What people like about it the most is its unique turquoise color and the dotted pattern going through its body.

Another interesting fact is that it can reach as much as 13 inches in size. They might look innocent but in fact, they are known to be rather dangerous. They are literally willing to fight to death with other fish because that’s how aggressive they are all the time.

For this reason, it is recommended to keep them in a single species aquarium at home. If you insist on keeping them with tank mates, you have to get it familiar with them. Either way, you need to get a big enough tank for them for breeding and for keeping them with tank mates as well.

They are not only dangerous to other fish but to aquarium décor and plants as well so make sure everything is fixed.

10. Red Devil Cichlid

The Red Devil Cichlid looks like a completely innocent fish that flourishes in shades of orange and yellow contrasted by its black eyes. In fact, we are talking about the most aggressive cichlid you can find in the region. No wonder they call it Red Devil, right?

It is not small either, reaching about 15 inches in size after it matured. Since it is so big, there is no way you can include any other species in the tank without them being seriously hurt. Although they might not be visible, the Red Devil has really sharp teeth that can easily cause damage to other fish.

You definitely don’t want to see its predatory tendencies so it would best if you keep this little guy in a single species aquarium. Rocks, driftwood, caves and plants are all going to be rearranged shortly after this fish discovers them. We can only recommend it for those who are strictly looking for an aggressive and dangerous fish to keep at home.

Wrapping up

What a wonderful list of Central American Cichlids to keep at home! There are numerous colors and interesting personalities to choose from in a single top list. The reason why these fish are so popular is that they are decorative and easy to look after at the same time.

Not to mention that this family of fish species has a wide range of intelligent fish that interact with each other in various ways. However, not all of them are peaceful fish so you might really need to think things through if you want to keep some tank mates with them.

What is most important here is to plan things out in advance. Choose the fish you mostly like from our list before you even buy a fish tank. Once you have made the decision, buy the recommended tank for the fish and set it up depending on the needs of the fish of your choice. If you do things right, your fish is going to live a long and healthy life.

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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