What pH Range for South American Cichlids?

If you wish to grow a unique and somewhat peculiar and diverse fish, look no further than cichlids. Cichlids are some of the most vibrant-looking fish with. The cichlid family encompasses thousands of species, and each one has unique characteristics and behaviors. South American cichlids include some of the popular species like the ram cichlid, hefty Oscars, etc.

Some cichlids work well in peaceful community tanks, while a few others thrive better in a single species tank. Studies state that there are about 450 cichlid species in South America.

South American cichlids today have adapted to different habitats, ecological niches, and water parameters. Some South American cichlids are herbivorous and can come in different shapes and sizes. Their size can range from 1 to 25 inches.

Best pH Range For South American Cichlids

Water pH plays a critical role in how comfortable your fish feels in their habitat. The pH also regulates the internal chemical reactions in your tank. Most South American cichlids prefer a pH between 5.5 and 7.0, but it’s not the same for all cichlids. Here is a table consisting of some of the most famous American cichlids and the pH range they prefer:

South American Cichlid Species pH Range
Cockatoo (apistograma cacatuides) 6.0-7.5
Blue Ram or Butterfly Cichlid 5.5-6.5
Rainbow Cichlids (Hertilapia multispinosa) 7.0–8.0
Blue Acaras (Aequidens pulcher) 7.0-7.5
Severum (Heros serverus) 6.0-6.5
Bolivian Ram 6.0-7.5
German Blue Ram 5.0-7.0
Green Terror 6.5–8.0
Jack Dempsey 6.0-7.0
Oscar 6.0-7.5
Convicts 6.6-7.8
Red devil 6.5-7.5
Blood parrot fish 6.5-7.4
Angel Fish 6.0-7.0
Geophagus 6.0-6.5
Discus 5.0-7.0
Festive Cichlid 5.5-7.0

Maintaining the perfect water pH can ensure long and healthy life for your cichlids. Some South American cichlid goes on to live beyond 20 years with proper care and ideal water parameters. Make sure you create the best habitat for your cichlids to help them live their best lives.

What Happens If pH Level Is Too Low?

Each aquatic species has a specific pH tolerance level. Significant fluctuations can lead to dangerous health consequences for the fish and other forms of aquatic life. Here are a few things that can happen when the pH level becomes dangerously low in your aquarium tank:

– Algae Growth 

Algae love acidic water, and they will begin to grow in tanks with low pH levels. Lowering pH levels and not controlling the light levels can cause algae to spread like wildfire in an aquarium. If the algae in your tank are uncontrollable, your fish will become sick within a few days, leading to worse problems.

– Dirt Buildup

Dirt or sludge can accumulate in an aquarium fast due to uneaten food and fecal matter. All this matter will usually sink to the bottom of the tank and turn grey. The decaying organic matter will reduce the oxygen levels at the bottom of the tank, prevent water flow, block the tank filter, and release a foul smell, causing stress to your fish and affecting their overall wellbeing.

– Stressed Fish

Low water pH can cause stress to your fish and affect their ability to swim, eat, reproduce, or grow. Stressed fish become sluggish and spend more time sleeping than usual.

Some fish species spend most of their time at the bottom of the aquarium, which can also be a sign of poor breathing due to extreme acidic water conditions. Make sure to provide your fish with the perfect pH levels to help them absorb oxygen via their gills more easily.

How To Increase pH Level In Cichlids Tank?

There are several effective and reliable ways of boosting your tank water’s pH, including:

  1. Using reverse osmosis (RO) or deionizing the water and buffering works quite well in increasing the pH.
  2. Use crushed coral or dolomite gravels instead of substrate. The calcium carbonate-based gravels dissolve gradually over time and raise the buffering pH.
  3. Decorate your aquarium with limestone or coral rock. You must use a healthy amount of limestone rocks to achieve the desired pH.

You may also place a mesh media bag with crushed coral or dolomite gravel in your filter to increase the tank’s pH. When you buy new fish, compare your tank’s pH to the water in the shop’s tank.

Acclimate your fish to their new home by slowly adding small amounts of your aquarium water to the bag or shipping container. You want to match the pH as close as possible to your fish’s last habitat to help them thrive best.

What Happens If pH Level Is Too High?

If the pH levels are too high in a fish tank, it will make the water more alkaline and cause a sudden increase in algae growth on the aquarium walls. High pH levels may also lead to algae and slime growth on the plants and fixtures, making the water toxic for fish and invertebrates.

And that’s not the only issue. Alkalosis is another headache – a disorder that affects fish and results from high levels of pH. The affected fish will exhibit erratic swimming pattern, struggle to breathe, and secrete excess mucus. When lacking proper care, the fish will begin to die.

It’s also worth noting that alkalosis will affect the fish’s immune system. This will stress the fish and make it vulnerable to ich and other parasites and bacteria.

If your fish display signs of alkalosis, verify the water pH and take appropriate measures immediately. The most obvious signs that something’s not right relate to fish stress.

How To Decrease pH Level In Cichlids Tank?

If you wish to adjust the pH in your fish tank, do it before introducing fish into the aquarium. Also, test the water pH regularly to find if it is stable. Do not make sudden or sizeable changes to your fish tank’s water pH, as it can stress the fish.

But what should you do if the pH becomes unbalanced at a later date, despite all your precautions? Some natural methods of adjusting the water pH in your tank include:

  1. Use reverse osmosis water or decorate your tank with driftwood to maintain a low pH.
  2. You may also try deionizing your tank water and buffering to create the desired pH level in your aquarium.
  3. Add peat moss or peat pellets to your fish tank filter. Peat moss contains tannins, which help lower the water pH. Remember to use peat products specially designed for aquariums. Use a mesh media bag to keep the peat moss contained. Be sure to replenish as needed to maintain the specific pH for your fish.


South American cichlids encompass a mixed species of intelligent and easy-to-breed fish. Some of these species are great for community tanks and have a peaceful temperament. Some cichlids can require specific water conditions, making them unsuitable for beginners.

Remember to research this species before deciding whether it’s right for you or not. If you are looking for colorful, yet peaceful fish species with a peculiar personality, South American Cichlids can fit the bill. These beautiful showpieces will make your guests and friends envious.

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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