Large South American Cichlids
Large Cichlids from Central and South AmericaFamily: Cichlidae OscarAstronotus ocellatusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
The Large South American Cichlids are some of the most majestic looking fish and make impressive show specimens!
All the large American cichlids, with their personalities, temperaments, and size, are great specimens for an awesome show tank. Many will interact with their keepers and their environment. Many aquarists thoroughly enjoy these large specimens for their intriguing behaviors and friendly, companionable personalities.
Large South American Cichlids are generally quite durable fish, handsome fish that will provide much enjoyment. The cichlid family is so vast that there are many good aquarium inhabitants. There are also some large cichlid hybrids that are very colorful and unique in appearance, like the Blood Parrot and the Flowerhorn Cichlid.
Though all cichlids are relatively aggressive, a few of the large cichlids have a more amiable nature. These include some popular favorites such as the Severum, Discus, and Angelfish. These can be kept in a group environment, but many other large cichlids are quite aggressive and are best kept singly.
One of the rather fascinating behaviors of large cichlids is their propensity for digging in the substrate. Many types of large cichlids will quickly uproot any plants. Cichlids are also notorious for constantly be "remodeling", excavating the gravel and heaping it into tall piles. Pay attention to this if you are using an undergravel filter, as this can expose the filter plate and reduce its efficiency. But despite these little challenges, keeping these large South American Cichlid with their individual habits is always interesting, and is never boring.
To learn more about all types of Central and South America Cichlids, see:
South American Cichlids: Fish Information and Cichlid Care for New World Cichlids
The Large South American Cichlids are found in Central American and South American, as well as the lower part of North America. Central and South America comprises a huge geographic area with greatly diverse habitats ranging from savannas to rain forests, consequently cichlids are found in a wide variety of conditions.
The water of South American waters is described as having three types: clear water, white water, and black water. While there can be a significant variation in pH levels, all of the waters of South America are soft to very soft. Some cichlids may be acclimated and survive in harder water, but it may be very difficult for them to successful spawn unless the water is soft.
Most species of large South American Cichlids found in the hobby grow to a moderate size, and are readily suited to a medium or large home aquarium. These cichlids are those that are not considered to be Dwarf Cichlids. The term "dwarf cichlids" apply to small cichlids that only reach up to about 4 inches (10 cm) or so. To learn about American Dwarf Cichlids, see: -------
Many of the large cichlids available in the hobby range in sizes from about 6-12" (15-30 cm) for adult males. The largest of the South American cichlids that are occasionally available are the Wolf Cichlid and the Peacock Cichlid. These are fish that can reach a length of 24" (60 cm) or more. They will require at specialized aquarium, one that is at least 250 gallons, with larger being better, and are best kept singly. Most of the very largest species are not really suitable for most home aquariums due to size.
The aggression level of large cichlids varies greatly between species. Here's some examples:
Some large cichlids, such as the Severum, are quite amiable and can be kept in a community environment. Angelfish are also quite peaceful. Discus are comparatively peaceful, but because they are also rather delicate and need care taken in their environment, are generally only kept in groups with other discus.
- Relatively mild
Large cichlids like the Nicaragua Cichlid or the Firemouth Cichlid, are relatively mild and they can be housed together.
- Moderately aggressive
Moderately aggressive cichlids include species with the nature of the popular Jack Dempsey and the Salvini Cichlid.
- Very aggressive
Very aggressive cichlids include species like the Red Devil and the Texas Cichlid. These are best house singly. or as pair in a very large tank, having lots of rockwork with escape routes away from the aggressor.
Pairs of highly aggressive species may not be able to be housed together unless you have a huge tank, and lots of rockwork with escape routes away from the aggressor. Usually it is the smaller female that gets the worst of it if aggression erupts, and can be killed by the male. See each individual species for information about their aggressive level and suitability with other tank mates.
Various types of Large South American Cichlids:
- Blue Acara Aequidens pulcher
- Convict Cichlid Archocentrus nigrofasciatus
- Electric Blue Jack Dempsey Cichlasoma octofasciatum
- Firemouth Cichlid Thorichthys meeki
- Flag Cichlid Mesonauta festivus
- Golden Severum Heros severus
- Green Terror Aequidens rivulatus
- Jack Dempsey Fish Cichlasoma octofasciatum
- Jaguar Cichlid Parachromis managuensis
- Midas Cichlid Amphilophus citrinellus
- Parrot Cichlids - Nicaragua Cichlid Hypsophrys nicaraguensis
- Oscar Astronotus ocellatus
- Peacock Cichlid Cichla ocellaris
- Pearl Cichlid Geophagus brasiliensis
- Port Acara Cichlasoma portalegrense
- Red Devil Cichlid Amphilophus labiatus
- Redhump Eartheater Geophagus steindachneri
- Salvini Cichlid Cichlasoma salvini
- Texas Cichlid Herichthys cyanoguttatus
- Two-Spot Pike Cichlid Crenicichla lepidota
- Uaru Cichlid Uaru amphiacanthoides
- Wolf Cichlid Parachromis dovii
South American Cichlids are naturally aggressive fish. When placed in the confines of an aquarium you may see an increase in aggressive behavior. This is especially true if the aquarium is too small, and if there is inadequate places for a tank mate to avoid an aggressor. Planning ahead can help avoid problems of predation and aggressive incompatibility.
Don't make the mistake of getting too small a tank when you first start out. That cute little juvenile you bring home will grow, and South American Cichlids can grow quickly. The size of the aquarium for all large cichlids should be no smaller than 50 gallons (190 l). And it may very well need to be much larger depending on the species you plan on keeping, or if you will keep more than one.
It is really important to know about the type of cichlid you are getting, especially if you plan to keep more than one. When setting up a tank for South American Cichlids, keep in mind that you will want to provide them with water that is fairly soft.
Most cichlids need plenty of rockwork to feel comfortable, and if keeping more than one, to provide places of refuge in case of aggression. Aquatic plants help create a natural environment that is suitable with some species, but most types of large American cichlids will simply uproot them, and some even eat them.
South American Cichlids diets vary, but most can be fed all kinds of live, fresh, and flake or pelleted foods. Feed 2 to 3 times a day in smaller amounts rather than a large quantity once a day. See each individual type of cichlid for more in-depth information on care and feeding.
See each individual species for in-depth information along with specific care and feeding requirements.
- Animal-World References: Freshwater Fish
- Dr. Rüdiger Riehl and Hans A. Baensch, Aquarium Atlas Vol. 1, Publisher Hans A. Baensch, 1991
- Sven O Kullander, Guide to South American Cichlidae: Introduction, What are Cichilds Referenced online, 2011
- "Cichla ocellaris (Schneider, 1801)", Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, Referenced online, 2011
- Richard F. Stratton, The Guide to Owning Central American Cichlids, T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 2001
- George Zurlo and David Schleser, Cichlids (Complete Pet Owner's Manual), Barron''s Educational Series; 2nd edition, 2005
- Richard F. Stratton, The Guide to Oscars, T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 2002
- Richard F. Stratton, The Guide to Owning Cichlids, T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 2002
- Thomas Giovanetti, Discus Fish, A Complete Pet Owners Manual, Barron's Educational Series, Inc. 1991, (illust ed. 2005)
- Mary E. Sweeney, The Guide to Owning Discus, T.F.H. Publications, Inc.
- Dr.Herbert R. Axelrod, All About Discus, T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 1970
- Dr. Paul V. Loiselle, The Cichlid Aquarium, Tetra-Press, 1985