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. Find out which of these diminutive Cichlids made our Top 10 List.
South American Cichlids
1. German Blue Ram
This dwarf cichlid measures in at 22.5 inches (5-6cm) and boasts a wide range of colors including a red eyes, black markings and a yellow head. There is also blue iridescent spekling on the body as well as its fins. There are many color options, including black, electric and gold. It is important to choose an aquarium heater capable of raising the temperature to between 84 and 86 degrees F (29-30 degrees Celsius). Warmer water requirements can limit your options for tank mates. You might consider keeping them with cardinal tetras, discus, and Sterbai cory cats. You can find more information in their care guide.
2. Bolivian Ram
Robert is a fan of this underrated and tougher cousin to the German Blue Ram. 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 much easier to breed than German Blue Rams. They can also live in lower temperatures (73-79degF/23-26degC). This easy-going cichlid is great with other community fish of similar size, such as tetras and corydoras.
3. Apistogramma Cichlid
This genus of dwarf-cichlids is brightly colored and comes in nearly every color or pattern possible. 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). Many hobbyists enjoy breeding them by adding an apisto cave or coconut hut for them to lay their eggs. Our care sheet contains more information about keeping apistogrammas.
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 approximately 3 inches (7.6 cm), and has flashy, neon-blue-green scales. The female is about half that size, with a golden-tan body, and black horizontal lines. They are slow-sinking and enjoy frozen foods, Repashy gel food, and slow-sinking pellets. To encourage breeding, match one male to multiple females and provide spawning caves (similar to apistos).
6. Lyretail Fairy Cichlid
This beautiful cichlid features a sleek, long body and a lyre-shaped tail. One breeding pair can be kept within a 20-gallon container, while a group of four or five can be kept in the 29-gallon. Because they can be more aggressive than the other fish on this list, we recommend keeping them in a species-only setup with no other tank mates unless you plan on upgrading their aquarium size to 55 gallons or more.
Brichardi cichlids, like most of the smaller African cichlids on our list, come from Lake Tanganyika and therefore require hard water with high pH from 7.8-9.0 and GH above 160 ppm (9 degrees). If you have softer water, use cichlid salts and substrates like crushed coral and aragonite sand to reach the necessary water parameters. Add lots of cave-like rockwork for the cichlids to spawn in, and you can enjoy watching the baby fry being closely guarded by their parents and even older siblings.
7. Lemon Cichlid
The Leleupi cichlid is a great choice if you like the bright colors of larger African cichlids. This eye-catching species has a bold, lemony yellow to fiery orange body that reaches 3-4 inches (8-10 cm). It is similar to the lyretail Cichlid and enjoys living in cracks and caves made by rock piles. They do not eat picky foods and will happily eat omnivore food, including frozen foods and cichlid pellets.
The popularity of this aquarium fish is due to its easy breeding and variety of colors. Similar to Apistogramma cichlids they spawn in apisto huts and coconut huts. They also care about their offspring. Kribs are not like other African cichlids and can live in water pH levels between 7-8. They can be peacefully kept in a tank with other kribs, but they may become territorial during breeding.
9. Julidochromis Cichlid
Julidochromis Cichylids are well-known for their striking black and/or white patterns, iridescent blue fins and long, cigar-shaped bodies. Rock dwellers, they are known for hovering around the edges of stones and taking care of their children. Consider adding live aquarium plants to provide additional cover for your julies and help purify the water.
10. Shell Dwellers
Shell dwellers are the smallest of all cichlids, measuring in at 2.5-5 cm (2.5-2.5 inches) The common name of shell dwellers refers to their preference for living in empty snail shells and not rock crevices. They also like to constantly dig and redecorate, so use sand for the tank bottom and add live plants that don’t require substrate (e.g., java fern, anubias, and floating plants). Because the fry stay close to home and wait for food to drift into their shells, feed them tiny, slow-sinking foods like baby brine shrimp, nano pellets, and crushed flakes. Read our article on the shell dweller for more information.
Cichlids are some of our favorite fish because of their bold personalities and unique appearances. Aquarium Co-Op cannot ship fish, but we have a list with trusted vendors who can sell them online. Take a look at their selection and find the perfect cichlid to add to your next aquarium.