Hot Water Fish

Convicted Cichlid

  • Scientific name:  Cichlasoma Nigrofasciatum
  • Common Name:  Convict Cichlid, Zebra Cichlid
  • Aquarium size:  Minimum 150 liters
  • Temperament:  Aggressive
  • Temperature:  Between 22º and 27ºC
  • pH: Between 6.5 and 8
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Length:  Up to 15 cm



The Convict Cichlid, also known as the Zebra Cichlid , is a fairly aggressive American cichlid that is not well adapted to living in community aquariums.
This aggressiveness rises in tone in the breeding season, so it is not advisable to value these fish for an aquarium in which they have to share space closely with other fish.
For the rest, it is a fish that is quite resistant to different water conditions, which makes it a suitable acquisition for aquarists without much experience, but who want to start in a Cichlid aquarium .


They are fish that in the aquarium do not usually exceed 15 centimeters in length.
It is possible to distinguish the females from the males (sexual dimorphism) by their elongated dorsal and anal fins, which in the male have a more pointed formation.
The females are also somewhat smaller, usually not exceeding 10 centimeters in length.
The female specimens also differ from the males, because the ventral area is orange.


Young specimens of the Convict cichlid have a grayish color, and present up to 10 dark bands that vertically cross their body, and that with age end up completely disappearing.
As a curiosity, the Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum sometimes undergoes a mutation, in which the fry do not have their typical stripes, but always remain a pinkish beige color.
This albino mutation is known as the white Zebra cichlid and has a uniform coloration, except for its totally black eyes.

Distribution and habitat

The Convicto cichlid can be found in much of Central America, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. Its natural habitat includes rivers and lagoons, even Zebra cichlids are found in springs.

Aquarium conditions

An aquarium of at least 150 liters is needed to care for a single couple.
They also need a good contribution of decoration , with stones, trunks and roots that serve as a hiding place and that help them to delimit their territories.
They are fish that need an aquarium with a sandy bottom, since, during the breeding season the males usually dig nests, where they lay their eggs and protect the newly hatched fry.
As for aquarium plants , they are not usually very respectful of them. Since they like to dig, they are able to dig them up.
For these cases it is better to look for plants that do not need to be anchored to the substrate, even that are floating, such as duckweed .
Ideal water conditions are:

  • pH: 6.5 to 8
  • Temperature: between 22ºC and 27ºC
  • gH: 10º to 20º

In the aquarium they like to occupy the intermediate areas and near the bottom.

Aquarium decoration

  • Best aquarium sand
  • Best gravel for aquarium
  • Best akadama for aquarium
  • Best Aquarium Ornaments 
  • Best logs for aquariums
  • Best rocks for aquariums
  • Best backgrounds for aquariums
  • Best artificial plants


Zebra cichlids are omnivores, they will gladly accept all kinds of dry food: flakes, sticks, frozen and of course, live food, such as brine shrimp .
It is recommended to give them a varied diet, so that it presents a more attractive coloration.

Everything you need to maintain your aquarium

  • Best digital pH meter
  • Best Aquarium Test
  • Best anti-algae
  • Best bacteria for aquarium
  • Best siphoner for aquarium
  • Best Aquarium Water Clarifiers
  • Best reverse osmosis filters for aquarium
  • Best UV lamps for aquariums

Behavior and compatibility

They are aggressive and territorial fish , not very recommended for a community aquarium. There are other more peaceful cichlids, but if we want to place them in the company of other specimens , we have to make sure that they have enough space so that they can define their territory.
During the breeding season they become even more territorial, not allowing any fish to get near their nest and their young.

Fish compatible with convict cichlids

I said, in an aquarium with enough space it can coexist with:

  • Pool Cleaner Fish
  • Gourami Pearl
  • Botia Clown
  • Silver dollar
  • Bicolor labeo


They are fish that reproduce easily as soon as they reach 5 or 6 centimeters in length.
When the spawning season arrives, the male chooses a place in the aquarium where he makes a nest, digging in the sand.
Once the laying is done, the couple takes turns not letting any fish come near the nest and their young.
Once the fry appear, they can be fed with artemia infusoria and nauplii.

Photos and images of convict cichlid

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