Freshwater Fish

Green Terror Cichlids (Andinoacara rivulatus): Aquarium Care Guide

Green Terror Cichlids are a unique (and misunderstood) freshwater fish that have a large fan base in the aquarium community.

Like so many aquarists, we were drawn to the Green Terror because of its gorgeous colors and patterns. This species stands out from the crowd and is highly addictive to viewers. We know a couple of owners who said it really affected their productivity at home because they couldn’t take their eyes off the tank!

But if you are interested in owning this fish, you will need to educate yourself on how to care for it properly.

Green Terror Cichlids are both easy and difficult to care for. His general tank and water requirements are a no brainer, but his aggression is where you need to know your stuff as an owner.

Adding to the complexity is the fact that a lot of misinformation about this species is being passed around online. That’s why we created the ultimate guide to Green Terror Cichlid care.


Species Summary

First of all, don’t let the intimidating name of these freshwater fish completely scare you off. Green Terror Cichlids (Andinoacara rivulatus) are an impressive species that can add tons of color to your tank. While they do require a bit more work to care for due to their temperament, Green Terrors are very manageable for aquarists with some experience.

Native to the tranquil tropical river basins of Peru and Ecuador, these fish are revered around the world for their stunning appearance. As you may have guessed, Green Terrors are part of the Cichlid family. Therefore, they can be a handful and are often prone to aggressive behavior.

That said, their inquisitive nature makes them a joy to watch. Unlike other fish that only occupy part of the water column, Green Terror Cichlids will spend their days exploring every part of the tank.

Like any fish, the key to keeping Green Terrors happy and healthy is providing them with a pristine environment and top-notch water quality.

Life expectancy

The average lifespan of Green Terror Cichlids is between 7-10 years in captivity!This means that getting one is a commitment, as you will likely have it for a while.

Several factors can contribute to its overall lifespan. Many aquarists have been able to help these fish live long and fulfilling lives by staying committed to maintaining good water conditions.

Author’s Note: There is no need to complicate this. Just give them the best possible care and follow the guidelines in this guide! Buying from a reputable breeder or store is always recommended.


These are one of the most beautiful freshwater fish species you can get your hands on. As the name suggests, most specimens are quite colorful, covered in a striking metallic green. This is complemented by brighter blue markings throughout the face and body.

Bright orange stripes are also very common. These stripes can be found at the tip of its pointed dorsal fin and outlining the tail fin.

Color patterns may vary slightly. This is especially true with women. Females tend to be duller in color than males. Not only that, but those iconic orange stripes are sometimes absent on females.

Even juvenile fish have a distinct appearance. Young fish tend to have a silvery-blue hue. This usually deepens to the metallic green color as the fish ages.

The fins of the Green Terror cichlid are also unique. They are ray-finned fish. The fins are supported by fine spines. This is most evident in the expansive dorsal fin.

Green Terror cichlids are sexually dimorphic. Aside from the different color patterns, the females are usually smaller than the males.

Males also have a distinct hump on their forehead. It is made of adipose tissue and can become very pronounced. In the wild, these humps enlarge during the breeding season. However, captive fish often have large humps that last a lifetime.

Green Terror Cichlid Size

Typical Green Terror Cichlid size is around 8 inches (they will rarely be larger than that in normal tanks). That means these are not fish you can keep in a small tank. In captivity, adult males can reach a length of 8 inches.

If you keep them in a very large tank, they are capable of growing larger than this. This species can reach up to 12 inches in length in the wild, and some owners have gotten theirs to exceed 10 inches in large home tanks.

The growth rate of Green Terror Cichlids is pretty average for this family of fish. However, this is not a fish that we recommend working in a large tank as it grows.

Green Terror Cichlid Care

For the most part, Green Terror Cichlid care is relatively easy when it comes to maintaining their primary habitat. Like many other species that belong to the cichlid family, these fish are hardy creatures. They can do well in a variety of water conditions.

Still, there are some guidelines you should follow. Like all fish, Green Terror Cichlids thrive best when in a carefully designed environment with optimal water quality.

tank size

Due to its large adult size, a sizable tank is a must. At a minimum, most aquarists say you need a 35-gallon tank.However, we recommend going up to 50 gallons for best results.

This is why:

Green Terror Cichlids are free swimmers that need plenty of room to move. A larger 50 gallon tank will provide ample space for comfortable living. Also, you can avoid aggressive behavior (a big plus).

If you plan on keeping two Green Terror Cichlids, aim for a tank that is at least 75 gallons. As a general rule of thumb, add 35 gallons of space for each Green Terror Cichlid you have.

water parameters

The key to keeping Green Terror Cichlids happy and healthy is to recreate their natural habitat in your aquarium. In the wild, these fish live in slow moving rivers.

The water is warm and relatively resistant. Before you introduce your fish to the tank, make sure it is fully cycled. Check your water parameters regularly and invest in equipment to help you maintain optimal conditions at all times.

As for cleaning, we recommend doing a 20 percent water change every two weeks.

These fish are hardy, so you have plenty of wiggle room to make things right for them. These are the important parameters to follow:

  • Water temperature: 68 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (ideal temperatures are between 72 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 8.0
  • Water hardness: 5 to 20 dGH

What to include in your tank

When planning your tank décor, it’s best to stick with natural elements. Green Terror Cichlids are tropical freshwater fish that need everything from plants to rock formations.

Starting at the bottom of your tank, a sandy substrate is preferred.Green Terror Cichlids have been known to burrow (this is a fairly common cichlid behavior). Sand is a safe and comfortable material that allows this behavior without causing any damage.

Avoid using large pieces of gravel. The fish can sometimes eat the small rocks, causing physical injury to them.

When it comes to plant life, opt for floating greenery over rooted options. As we mentioned earlier, these fish will dig into the substrate. They are known for uprooting plants and eating them.

Java ferns and anubias are popular floating plants used in Green Terror cichlid tanks. They provide sufficient shade and protection from light. Just make sure all roots are protected with pots to prevent damage.

Speaking of light, green terror cichlids are not fans of well-lit tanks. They are not light sensitive like other species, but prefer lower light levels. Don’t use harsh lights and also make sure to provide plenty of shade through plants and rocks.

Large rocks and driftwood are also good items to have in the tank. Not only do they give your fish something to investigate, but they can also act as natural barriers. Green Terror Cichlids are very territorial so having a few items to part with is always a good idea.

Author’s Note: Another important thing to consider is filtration. Powerful filters are paramount. Thanks to their large size, Green Terror Cichlids produce a significant amount of waste. A high-quality filter can keep ammonia and nitrate levels low.

There is no specific type of filter that you must have. You can see success with in-tank cartridge filters (such as the Fluval FX4) or external filters. Regardless of what you choose, just make sure the pumps don’t produce too much water flow.

Diseases to be aware of

Fortunately, Green Terror Cichlids are a pretty hardy species. However, they can suffer from all the major freshwater ailments. This includes Ich, parasitic infections, and various skin conditions.

There are also a couple of common illnesses to watch out for. The first is HLLE, or Head and Lateral Line Erosion. This problem is also commonly known as hole-in-the-head disease.

With this condition, fish can suffer from meat spoilage. Deep holes and spikes can run all over its head and body. Usually this disease is caused by poor water conditions. High levels of hardness are believed to be to blame.

Another disease to watch out for is Lymphocystis disease. This condition manifests itself through white lesions on the body and fins. These lesions can even appear on the mouth or gills.

Not to be confused with Ich, this disease is a viral infection that affects the connective tissue

Lymphocystis disease usually affects fish that are stressed due to unsuitable water conditions. Lack of oxygen and poor pH levels can have a significant effect on your fish, so it’s important to monitor conditions regularly and make adjustments as necessary.

The best way to avoid this is to simply provide excellent care for your Green Terror Cichlid. A happy, healthy fish that lives in a great environment is much less likely to get sick than a fish in a suboptimal habitat.

Food and diet recommendations

In the wild, Green Terror Cichlids lean on the carnivorous side. However, in captivity, they are very opportunistic eaters. They are omnivores who like to have a diverse diet of foods.

For your main supply, you can provide high quality fish pellets or flakes. The best foods available on the market are balanced and provide all the nutrients they need.

To give your meals some variety, you can supplement with some live or frozen food. They’re not very picky, so feel free to experiment with all sorts of high-protein foods.

Brine shrimp, bloodworms, feeder fish, and even crickets are good choices. Try to give your fish something other than dry food from time to time. They will appreciate the gift.

Author’s Note: Just don’t overdo it! Green Terror Cichlids will overeat if given the chance and this can lead to serious digestive problems.

We recommend feeding your fish twice a day and only giving them enough food that they can eat in a couple of minutes. If you are raising juveniles, you can provide them with three meals to help them grow.

Temperament and general behavior

These fish are aptly named.If you put them in poor habitat, they can be aggressive and terrorize any other fish in the vicinity. This is especially true if the fish are smaller. You may also witness even more aggressive behavior during breeding times.

You can keep aggressiveness to a minimum by providing plenty of good food. Ample space in the tank is also important.

In fact, territory is at the root of almost all aggressive behavior you’ll see. The fish will claim parts of the tank as their own and protect them at all costs. That’s why large tanks with plenty of natural decoration are essential.

In terms of their general level of activity and behavior, they are likely to spend their time exploring the tank. They are benthopelagic fish. Therefore, they do not stay in one part of the water column. They will swim through the tank, come to the surface in search of food, and explore any nooks and crannies they can.

Author’s Note: This means that choosing tankmates can be a bit trickier because you can’t trust them to stay in one part of the tank. One second they may be near the surface and the next they will be swimming with bottom feeders.

Green Terror Cichlid Tank Mates

Despite its aggressive tendencies, there are a number of potential Green Terror Cichlid tankmates you can consider. As long as the tank is large enough and designed with territorial claims in mind, they can do well with fish of similar size.

However, you will definitely want to avoid putting this fish with smaller species. The smaller fish will turn into food very quickly. Large fish that don’t look like food are best.

You can also have other green terror cichlids in the same tank.In fact, we recommend keeping a pair together.Males and females can develop a bond and remain together throughout their lives.

They will not fight and may even share territorial claims. This happens a lot during the breeding season. The only thing you need to be careful about is keeping the pair separated from other fish when they start to breed.

Here are some species that are good tankmates for Green Terror Cichlids:

  • fire mouth cichlid
  • Jack Dempsey Cichlids
  • flowerhorn cichlid
  • silver dollar fish
  • prickly nose pleco
  • pleco clown
  • striped raphael catfish
  • Servrum
  • sinodontis
  • convict cichlids
  • herons
  • Pacus

The most important thing to remember when choosing Green Terror tankmates is to respect the individual temperament of each specimen. Some aquarists have made certain species work that others have not been able to replicate.

Always keep a close eye on your fish (especially during the beginning) and don’t be afraid to end the experiment if things look iffy.


As we mentioned earlier, Green Terror Cichlids will mate. This makes the playback process quite easy. In fact, conjoined pairs can breed very frequently if water conditions are good.

Green terror cichlids are egg layers. The females can lay over 600 eggs at a time! The good thing about these fish is that they are very protective of their young. The females will generally guard the eggs and young, while the males spend their time defending the breeding site.

To trigger the breeding process, you can raise the temperature of the water a little. Many breeders will aim for temperatures between 77 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Frequent feeding of live foods is known to start the process as well.

You will know when your fish are ready to spawn. Not only do they become more vibrant in color, but their behavior changes. Males and females will clean the substrate for their future young and look for places to lay eggs.

The females usually lay transparent yellow eggs on a flat rock. Sometimes they will remove the sand from the bottom of the tank and lay the eggs directly on the glass.

Once the eggs are laid, the male will fertilize them. After about 3-4 days, the little fry will emerge! In another 2-4 days, you can start feeding microplankton, infusoria, and brine shrimp to the minnows.

While separating the fry from the parents is important with other species of fish, that is not the case with Green Terror Cichlids. They are good parents and will care for their young until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

What do you think?

Now that you know the essentials of Green Terror cichlid care, it’s time to decide if they’re right for you.

While their beauty is absolutely undeniable, their aggressive tendencies are something not all aquarists want to deal with. There are a lot of pretty species that are downright pacifists, you know!

But, if you are someone who enjoys the rewarding aspect of keeping a fish that requires careful planning, we encourage you to give Terror Verde a try. The satisfaction you get from successfully keeping semi-difficult fish is hard to explain until you’ve done it yourself.

If you’re still undecided about this species or have a question you’d like help with, we’d be more than happy to chat. Talking about fish is great for us!

Publicaciones relacionadas

Deja una respuesta

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *

Botón volver arriba