10 Most Popular South American Cichlids

No wonder people like to keep South American Cichlids in a home aquarium. They tend to be quite interactive with their owners in addition to their fascinating looks. Not to mention that they are curious about everything, constantly looking around in the tank especially if there is a lot of decoration.

Although these cichlids are rather territorial by nature, you can reduce this tendency by adding many tank mates. Basically, there will be not enough space for them to set their own territory. Therefore, there won’t be any territorial disputes.

But this is just one of the many interesting facts about these beautiful cichlids. We are here to introduce you to the various South American Cichlids that people like to keep at home. This article also provides you an easy way to pick your next little pet.

All you need to do is to keep on reading and you will find out more about the most popular cichlids. Without further ado, let’s start with the most popular one!

1. Angelfish

The most popular one here is without doubt the Angelfish. It is one of the most decorative species straight from the Amazon river. In their natural habitat, they are swimming around bulrushes all the time. The colors and patterns on their body nicely mimics their environment.

We would recommend you to keep a whole school of Angelfish, which is 6-7 individuals. It is more natural for them because that is how they live out in the wild. Although keeping them in a 60-gallon tank is acceptable, it is better to keep them in an even bigger one.

If you keep them in a single species tank, they will get territorial with each other. Therefore, you should keep them together with tank mates which will moderate their attitude. It depends on the size of the other fish whether they will attack them or not. If the tank mate is as small as a Guppy or a Neon fish, it is going to be eaten.

2. Discus Fish

In the case of the Discus, we have a breathtaking-looking fish that is also rather difficult to keep. What makes this fish special is its laterally compressed body, its bright colors and unusual patterns. They are available in a wide range of colors, which is why people like to keep many of them in the same tank.

Breeders can even achieve specific colors with this species by breeding them selectively. You will need to mirror the conditions provided by the Amazon basin they live in. This means slightly acidic water with a pH of 5-7, high temperature and soft water.

Choosing the Discus Fish comes with the advantage that it is completely peaceful. They are one of those species that take good care of their fry after hatching. They might seem small at first, but they can grow as big as 8-9 inches. This also means that you should buy a bigger tank, which then should be filled with plenty of driftwood and plants.

3. Oscar Fish

The Oscar is a beautiful fish that has the soul of a dog. It has such an interesting personality that will keep you entertained for hours. In terms of intelligence, you can hardly find a smarter fish than this one. It is enough for them to see you a couple of times and they are going to recognize you every time in the future.

If you are patient enough, you can teach your Oscar various tricks and reward him with treats afterward. Since they are widely popular, you can usually find one in the local fish store. People tend to buy this fish without realizing that they are actually buying a juvenile one.

You need to be aware of the fact that the Oscar is going to grow a lot in your aquarium. When it matures, it can reach 16 inches in size. The main challenge is going to be keeping the tank clean of all the leftover food thanks to their untidy eating habits.

4. Ram Cichlids

Rams can flourish in such crazy bright colors that they look like they are something completely out of this world. As the bright yellow turns into blue, orange and black with bright neon dots, you will realize that you can’t stop staring at this little beauty.

No wonder that the Ram Cichlid is so popular among fish keepers. And they only grow to a size of 3 inches, which means that you can keep a lot of them at home. Just buy a bigger tank and buy a bunch of these breathtaking little pets.

The downside of keeping them is that they are sensitive to water conditions. If it deviates a little from 5.5-6.5 pH and the water gets a bit contaminated, they can potentially get sick. Keeping good care of them means frequent water changes and monitoring the hardness, acidity and temperature.

They are not only peaceful but also easy to breed so keeping a lot of them will also increase your chances of ending up with a lot more.

5. Apistogramma

The Apistogramma is basically a dwarf cichlid that people like to keep because of its colors and interesting personality. Its elongated body is usually brownish with a horizontal black stripe running through it. Its bright yellow, blue, orange and red colors appear on its head and fins.

It might not be the easiest fish to take care of for beginners but it’s certainly worth the effort. You are going to have a lot of fun watching it interact with other fish in the tank. The peaceful temperature of the Apistogramma will allow you to keep them with numerous other cichlids.

Since they are social and curious in nature, they are the perfect pets for kids. They are not only interested in the things going on in the aquarium but in the outside world as well. The only thing that can make them a bit aggressive is if there is not enough space for them to comfortably swim around.

6. Blue Acara

There can be many beautiful shades of blue on the Blue Acara complemented with dark vertical stripes. Not to mention that it has some fascinating fins on its elongated body. As calming as its blue colors are, this species is indeed one of them most peaceful ones to keep in a home aquarium.

Since the Blue Acara is so popular, you can get one in pretty much any fish shop near you. It is one of the many eye-catching fish that is accessible to everyone. Choosing tank mates for them is pretty easy. All you need to do is to look for some bigger or similar sized fish.

First, they bully smaller fish and then it eventually comes to the point when they eat them. This species only gets as big as 6.5 inches so it’s not going to be hard to find some compatible tank mates. The Blue Acara definitely needs a few hiding spots to be available in the aquarium.

7. Green Terror Cichlid

The Green Terror typically has neon blue scales with shades of matte yellow, brown or cream around its head. Their fins are usually highlighted with bright orange, red or yellow. Quite a decorative fish overall, which is why so many people like to keep it in a home aquarium.

It is not the smallest either, as full-grown individuals can reach 12 inches in size. The looks and the name of the Green Terror indicate that it’s dangerous, which is actually true. They tend to show aggressive behaviors toward other fish.

What further complements its appearance is the hump that develops on its forehead. Although it is not that dependent on water conditions, you will still need to change the water on a regular basis. Setting up the tank for them is not difficult, as you only need ot make sure there are enough rocks and a sandy substrate.

Since they can become very aggressive during breeding season, they should be kept in a separate tank in the meanwhile.

8. Banded Cichlid (Severum)

The body shape of the Severum makes it rather similar to the Discus Fish, except that they have different colors and patterns. You can consider them the smaller version of the Discus, as they grow only up to 7 inches in size. The reason why people like to keep this species is the wide temperature range it tolerates and that it only requires slightly acidic water.

And, of course, it looks marvelous with its colorful scales and red eye. A medium tank of 50-60 gallons is more than enough for the Branded Cichlid. When it comes to tank mates, there are many of them to choose from. The rule of thumb is to keep them with fish that are not smaller than them.

If there is a smaller fish near them, they won’t hesitate to eat it. Since this species likes to hide, you need to place driftwood, caves and rocks in the aquarium that they can use as shelter. The reason why we didn’t mention plants is that they usually root them up so there are very few plants you can actually use.

9. Uaru Cichlid

Although the Uaru Cichlid is quite a decorative species with its wide fins and the blue patches on its side, people rarely keep it at home. Around the part of the Amazon basin where this fish can be found, there are people living there who prefer eating this fish. In fact, it is one of their main meals.

Therefore, not many fish keepers get to buy one for their home aquarium. It is unfortunate because the Uaru Cichlid is the home fish keeper’s dream. It is hardy when it comes to water conditions, it is decorative and it can eat a very diverse diet of fish foods.

This is a medium-sized species with its 10 inches that requires a medium-sized fish tank. If you already have cichlids at home and looking for a compatible tank mate, then look no further. The Uaru is the perfect tank mate for most other cichlids.

Even if the aquarium conditions slightly differ from what they prefer, they can adjust themselves to it.

10. Emerald Cichlid

Before you start looking for an Emerald Cichlid, keep in mind that many fish keepers like to call it Chocolate Cichlid. Some people just find it easier to call it like that based on its reddish-brown colors. It is without doubt one of the easiest to keep and most peaceful fish in South America.

Just like the Uaru Cichlid, this one is also highly recommended as a tank mate for a Cichlid community tank. Since they can recognize their owners after a short while, Emeralds are eventually going to eat from your hand if you want them to.

Now you will definitely need a huge tank for this one since it can get as big as 12 inches. It is not recommended to keep them together with tank mates in a tank less than 100 gallons of size. In their natural habitat, Uarus live in warm waters so you will need to install a heater or two.

Warm water is essential for their growth until they reach adulthood.

Wrapping up

South American Cichlids are among the most intelligent fish you can keep at home. They further prove this by being outstanding parents while getting them to breed is not hard at all. The species we talked about come with a wide range of benefits and all they ask for in return is clean water with precise parameters.

We can only encourage you to set up a community tank with many of the cichlids we mentioned. They are peaceful and compatible with many other fish, only seldom being semi-aggressive which is during breeding. However, you will need to sort of cherry-pick from this list because not all of them are recommended for beginners.

All in all, you are going to quickly fall in love with their colors and personality. Their intelligence also allows you to teach them a couple of tricks to show off to your friends. We hope this article has helped you choose the next fish for your home aquarium.

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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