Top 10 Cichlids We Love to Keep in 29-Gallon Aquariums
Cichlids are a very diverse group of primarily freshwater fish that are known for their brilliant coloration and feisty personalities. Although many of these fish require large tanks in order to accommodate their size or territorial behavior, some species can fit in a smaller tank (e.g., a 29-gallon aquarium) to be able to house them. Discover which of these tiny cichlids made it onto our top 10 list.
South American Cichlids
1. German Blue Ram
The dwarf cichlid is 2-2.5 inches (5-6 cm) in length and has an incredible array of colors. It has a red eye and black markings on its head and body, as well as a yellow head and blue iridescent fins. You can also find them in different colors, including black, electric blue, or gold. The key thing to remember is get an aquarium heater that can raise the temperature to 84-86degF (29-30degC). Warmer water requirements can limit your options for tank mates. You might consider keeping them with cardinal tetras, discus, and Sterbai cory cats. See their complete care guide for more information.
2. Bolivian Ram
Robert loves this less-known, but more robust cousin to the German blueram. It grows up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) long, has striking yellow and black coloration, and features long, trailing tips on its fins and tail. They are more easy to breed than German blue rams and can survive in colder temperatures of 73-79°F (23-26°C). This easy-going cichlid is great with other community fish of similar size, such as tetras and corydoras.
3. Apistogramma Cichlid
This colorful genus includes dwarf cichlids in almost every possible color and pattern. A. cacatuoides (or cockatoo cichlid), A. agassiziii, and A. borellii make up the majority of these species. Like the German blue ram, they prefer hanging around the bottom third of the aquarium and want slightly warmer temperatures at 82degF (28degC). Hobbyists often breed them by making an apisto cave for them or a coconut hut to house their eggs. You can find more information on how to keep apistogrammas here.
4. Lyretail Checkerboard Cichlid
You are looking for something more difficult? The chessboard or checkerboard cichlid is a more difficult choice. Its name refers to the rows of black squares that run along its body. They prefer soft water with lower pH, so add catappa leaves and driftwood to naturally acidify the water. They are shyer and can get along well with other fish in the community. However, they may be territorial towards their own species so keep more females than men.
5. Golden Dwarf Cichlid
This South American species displays some serious sexual dimorphism, such that the two sexes look very different from each other. The male measures about 3 inches (7.6cm) in length and has flashy neon blue-green scales. The female is roughly half the size and has a golden-tan physique and black horizontal stripes. They enjoy Repashy gel food, slow-sinking pellets and frozen foods. To encourage breeding, match one male to multiple females and provide spawning caves (similar to apistos).
6. Lyretail Fairy Cichlid
The cichlid is beautiful with a long tail, long fin tips and a sleek body. You can keep a breeding pair in a 20-gallon tank or a group of four to five in a 29-gallon tank. We recommend that they be kept alone in a tank with only their species, and no other fish mates, unless you are planning on increasing their aquarium size to 55 gallon or more.
The Brichardi and other smaller African cichlids are from Lake Tanganyika. Therefore, they require hard water that is between 7.8-9.0 pH and above 160ppm (9 degree) GH. For water with a soft pH, you can use cichlid salts or substrates like crushed coral or aragonite to achieve the desired water parameters. If you have lots of cave-like rockswork to allow the cichlids spawn in, you can enjoy the sight of the babies being watched closely by their parents and other older siblings.
7. Lemon Cichlid
If you enjoy the vibrant colors of bigger African cichlids, you can’t go wrong with the Leleupi cichlid. This eye-catching species has a bold, lemony yellow to fiery orange body that reaches 3-4 inches (8-10 cm). Like the lyretail, this species enjoys nesting and breeding in cracks and crevices created by piles rock. They don’t have a preference for food and will happily eat cichlid pellets or frozen foods.
Because of its ease-of-breeding and numerous color options, this popular aquarium fish is loved by many. Similar to Apistogramma cichlids they spawn in apisto huts and coconut huts. They also care about their offspring. Unlike all the other African cichlids in this article, kribs do not come from Lake Tanganyika and therefore do well in slightly alkaline waters with pH levels of 7-8. They can be peacefully kept in a tank with other kribs, but they may become territorial during breeding.
9. Julidochromis Cichlid
The striking black and white fins of Julidochromis cichlids, which are surrounded with iridescent-blue fins, and their long, cigar-shaped bodies, are what make them so popular. Rock dwellers, they are known for hovering around the edges of stones and taking care of their children. To provide extra cover for your julies, and purify the water, you might consider adding live aquarium plants.
10. Shell Dwellers
Shell dwellers are some of the smallest cichlids in the world, with Neolamprologus multifasciatus (or multis) coming in at 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm). Their common name refers to the fact that they live and breed in empty snail shells instead of rock crevices. They love to dig and redecorate constantly, so make sure you use sand as the tank’s bottom and add live plants that don’t need substrate (e.g., anubias and java ferns). You can feed the fry tiny, slow-sink foods such as baby brine shrimps, nano pellets and crushed flakes because they will stay close to their homes and wait for food. Our shell dweller article provides more information.
Cichlids are some of our favorite fish because of their bold personalities and unique appearances. Aquarium Co-Op doesn’t ship fish but we do have a list trusted vendors who sell them online. Check out their selection to see if they have the right cichlids for you.