Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Convict Cichlid!
Of the aggressive freshwater fish people keep as pets, the Convict CichlidAmatitlania nigrofasciata is among the most popular. They are inexpensive and come in a variety of colors. They are also commonly called Zebra Cichlids. They are from Central America and are one of the smaller breeds.
Here are a few reasons Convict Cichlids are popular freshwater fish. They only reach 5 or 6 inches in length and are quite hardy. They require minimal care and are great for beginning aquarists. They can be kept in aquariums with several other “aggressive” fish as long as the other fish are not so big that they will swallow the convicts! They also have rambunctious little personalities and can hold their own against fish up to three times their size! Another plus is that they are very easy to breed for people who are looking into fish breeding!
The Convict Cichlid’s habitat in the wild is in Central America. They are found in rivers from Costa Rica to Guatemala and from Honduras to Panama. Specific rivers include the Guarumo River, the Tarcoles River, and the Aguan River. They live in shallow areas with lots of rocks and plants.
The care and feeding of the Convict Cichlid is pretty simple. They are omnivores and can be fed most vegetation (spirulina is a good choice) as well as worms and small pieces of beef heart. Feed them a few times a day with just a few small pinches. Once full grown, they should be kept in a minimum of a 50 gallon aquarium for a pair; a larger aquarium for any more than that. The temperature range is a comfortable 74 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Provide them with sand on the bottom and plenty of rocks and plants. They love to rearrange their “furniture”! Because these fish are aggressive, they should only be kept with other aggressive fish. Generally you will want these other fish to be larger than your convicts so that they don’t pick on them. You will also probably not want more than two convicts because they often will not get along with others of the same species.
If kept in a clean aquarium with a healthy diet, the Convict Cichlid will usually have minimal problems with fish diseases. One common problem among many freshwater fish is Ich. Ich looks like little white dots covering your fish. It is generally easily treated by raising the water temperature up to 86 degrees for about 3 days or by using a copper based medication purchased from a pet store. Other diseases to watch out for include parasites, fungal infections, skin flukes, and bacterial infections.
The Convict Cichlid is one of the easier fish to breed in captivity. So if you are interested in breeding fish – you may want to start with them! Having a small group of convict cichlids will result in at least one pair by about the time they are a year old. When they are ready to mate they will do a little “dance” and then make an area to spawn in (usually in the sand or near rocks). The female lays around 20-40 eggs which the male will then fertilize. The male will protect the spawning area while the female directly “fans” the eggs. The young fry will hatch in 48 to 72 hours. Within a week they can swim freely and will start to eat crushed flake food. By three weeks old they can be fed regular flake food. Removing the fry from the parent tank after a few weeks is a good idea because the female may eventually try to eat the young.
If you are interested in more facts on these cichlids, please visit Animal-World’s Convict Cichlid page!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.