Discus Fish and African Cichlids – Can They Live Together?

Unfortunately, Discus Fish and African cichlids are not compatible with each other at all. If you want to set up an exciting home aquarium, then you need to look for a different set of fish species to keep. Don’t worry, we have plenty of recommendations for you right here.

We are not only going to answer your question about why they are not compatible but also recommend some decorative tank mates.

No matter how experienced of a fish keeper you are, keeping Discus and African cichlids will be a complete disaster every time.

Although there are hundreds of species to choose from, the region they live in and their genetics completely differ.

You would literally need to set up two separate tanks if you want to keep species from both families at home.

Why Should You Avoid Keeping Them Together?

Discus fish can quickly become stressed out when bullied by aggressive fish.

This is because they are rather timid and shy and keeping them together with territorial and aggressive fish simply doesn’t work for them. For the exact same reason, you can’t keep them with African cichlids either.

In general, you are not going to be able to keep African cichlids with American fish species. Even if they are compatible with regards to temperament, there are going to be other issues.

They might prefer different water parameters and their diet probably won’t be the same either.

No matter which species of fish you keep in the aquarium, they are going to eat pretty much everything you feed them. They are going to eat it even if it’s not good for them.

Therefore, keeping fish that prefer different diets can be dangerous.

Not to mention that African cichlids would bully Discus Fish to the point of dying. If they won’t die as a result of stress, then they are going to because of the injuries those cichlids cause to them.

Can You Keep Peaceful African Cichlids with Discus?

There is no such thing as a totally peaceful African cichlid. If you want your Discus Fish to be truly happy, then you should avoid keeping them with African species altogether.

What might be considered peaceful for one fish can be completely disastrous for the other one.

For Discus Fish, all African cichlids are intolerable. All of them are too active and they will cause the Discus to feel uncomfortable and stressful all the time.

If you still want to force it, you can try keeping Discus fish with Kribensis.

Although this is your best choice, they are still not the best tank mates for sure. Even a seemingly harmless fish such as the Kribensis can make things uncomfortable for the Discus.

Tank Mates for Discus Fish

The problem with the Discus fish is that it’s incredibly shy. You need to surround this fish with tank mates that make him comfortable instead of the ones that are territorial or aggressive.

They become very stressful once they sense a tiny bit of danger in the aquarium.

Try to choose some other species that live in the Amazon waters. For example, keeping the Discus with tetras is a great idea.

You can set up an amazing community tank only with Tetras and Discus fish. People usually pick Rummy-nose, Ember and Neon Tetras for their home aquarium.

And that’s not all, since there are so many more species you can keep them with. The point is to pick those fish that occupy the other levels of the tank.

This way, there will be a decorative fish on every level of your aquarium.

Other fish that we recommend include Bolivian Rams, Neon Hatchets, Gouramis, Cory Catfish and Pencil Fish.

You can also try Angelfish but our experiences are definitely not the best with this one. Chances are that the Angelfish is eventually going to bully the Discus.

This usually happens when you feed them and the Angelfish wants to compete for the food.

Keeping them with Corydoras is also an option but make sure to choose the ones that prefer a similar water temperature. Most Corydoras species are accustomed to colder water.

Other than that, you can consider keeping your Discus with bigger shrimp or snails. The smaller ones usually get eaten by them.

Tank Mates for African Cichlids

African cichlids are widely known as territorial fish and this is precisely true for all of them.

In case there is any other fish swimming peacefully in their tank, they are most likely going to attack it. For them, the aquarium is divided into different territories and they take it very seriously.

When it comes to tank mates, you either need to get some bottom-dwelling species or other African cichlid species, preferably from the same lake.

The point is to pick those species that are similar to them in size and temperament as well.

For example, the African catfish is a popular choice. They are outstanding tank mates for every African cichlid. They are quick, quite large and also aggressive enough to defend themselves.

Keeping more than one African cichlid species in one aquarium is a bit hard so we would recommend you to keep only one.


As you can see, it is not possible to keep African cichlids and Discus fish together for multiple reasons. They prefer different water temperatures, acidity and hardness.

They live on different diets and simply can’t tolerate each other.

Once the size, the temperament or both differs between the fish you keep, many problems can arise. What the Discus fish wants is to peacefully swim around while no one bothers him.

African cichlids, on the other hand, like to fight for territory and to bully other fish that invade it.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of options when it comes to tank mates for each of the two fish families.

Hopefully, you can set up a colorful and exciting aquarium after reading our recommendations. We have mentioned plenty of colorful fish that can make fish keeping a fun hobby for you.

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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