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How Many Cichlids Can You Keep in a 55 Gallon Tank? Facts & FAQs

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By Lindsey Stanton

aquarium with cichlids

Cichlids are a big-time fan favorite of pet owners and aquarium enthusiasts. That said, they need a decent amount of maintenance, they need a lot of room, and they are not particularly friendly with other fish either. In terms of space, yes, they need lots of it, and you might be wondering just how much.

Well, today, we want to answer a popular question: “How many cichlids can go in a 55-gallon tank?” and how much space these fish need in general. We really do not have a quick answer for you here, which is because there are cichlids of vastly varying sizes, and they all have different requirements.

Generally speaking, you should have AT LEAST 2 gallons of space for every inch of cichlid, I personally prefer to work with 3–3.5 gallons of space for every inch. This does really vary depending on the Cichlid type and what else you are housing.

Here is a quick overview: remember bigger tanks are always better and make sure you do your research!

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Cichlid Type Grows To Recommended Tank Size
Mbuna 5 inches 50–60 gallons
Cobalt Blue Zebra 6 inches 50–60 gallons
Blue Peacock 7 inches 50–60 gallons
Albino/Yellow/Red Peacock 5 inches 50–60 gallons
Electric Blue 8 inches 70 gallons
Electric Yellow 5 inches 50–60 gallons
Maingano 5 inches 50–60 gallons
Damasoni 3 inches 25–50 gallons
Venustus 10 inches 70 gallons
Acei 6 inches 50–60 gallons
Bumblebee 6 inches 60–70 gallons
Frontosa 15 inches 70 gallons
Kribensis 4 inches 50–60 gallons
Compressiceps 10 inches 70 gallons

Cichlid Size & Tank Size Requirements

Ok, so before we talk about how many cichlids you can fit in a 55-gallon tank and how much space they need in terms of tank volume, we should discuss how big they can get. Now, we are going to talk about this in general, and shortly after, we will take a look at the spatial requirements of some of the most common and popular cichlid species for home aquariums.

So, as we have mentioned, there are quite a few cichlid species out there, several dozen, in fact, some of which can get very big and some of which stay exceedingly small. So, a rule of thumb here is that every single inch of cichlid should have at least 2 gallons of space, but this is the absolute minimum (more is always better).

According to this rule, a 6-inch-long cichlid should have at least 12 gallons of tank space, but studies have shown that this is a bit small, the absolute minimum to say the least. Most would now agree that these fish should have a little over 3 gallons of space for every inch. So, if you have a 6-inch-long cichlid, you should aim for a 20-gallon tank.

There are many cichlids that will grow to about 6 inches in length, and for these, a 20-gallon tank is great. So, if the question is how many you can fit in a 55-gallon tank, two cichlids are best, but three will also do fine.

There are also cichlids that can grow to around 8 inches in size, and these should have a tank of roughly 24 to 30 gallons, with 30 being the ideal. So, if you have an 8-inch cichlid, you could fit two of them in a 55-gallon tank, but three would be pushing it.

cichlids in aquarium
Image Credit: Vlad Siaber, Shutterstock

Cichlids Are Territorial…

Keep in mind that these fish are territorial and aggressive, so the more space you can give them, the better, especially if you are keeping multiple cichlids in the same tank. At the very least, 2 gallons of water per inch of fish is needed, but somewhere between 3 and 3.5 gallons for every inch of fish is ideal.

We want to remind you that the above is a rule of thumb, but not all cichlids are the same.

The 14 Cichlid Species & Tank Size

Okay, so there are lots of different kinds of cichlids out there, with some growing to just 1 inch in length and some rarer ones making it all the way to 30 inches in length. Let’s take a look at some of the more common and popular cichlid species and how much tank space they need.

Keep in mind that here we are going to provide you with the recommended or ideal tank size for each species, not the minimum size!

1. Mbuna Cichlid

This type will grow to around 5 inches in length and should have around 55 gallons of space to feel comfortable.

Mbuna cichlid in aquarium
Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock

2. Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid

This type will grow to around 6 inches in length and requires roughly 50 gallons of water per fish. There is also a red zebra cichlid which grows to 5 inches and does well in the same 50 gallons.

3. Blue Peacock Cichlid

This species of cichlid will grow to a maximum of 7 inches in length and needs around 55 gallons of space per fish.

4. Albino/Yellow/Red Peacock Cichlid

This one will grow to around 5 inches in length, and it requires about 55 gallons of tank space to be comfortable. Keep in mind that yellow, red, and albino peacock cichlids are three different species.

Peacock Cichlid
Image Credit: Kevin McIver, Pixabay

5. Electric Blue Cichlid

This is one of the large ones for home aquariums, and it can grow to 8 inches long. Ideally, it should have a tank of 70 gallons.

6. Electric Yellow Cichlid

These guys will grow to around 5 inches in length and require roughly 50 gallons of tank volume.

7. Maingano Cichlid

This is another type of this fish that will grow to around 5 inches long and requires about 50 gallons.

maingano cichlid

8. Demasoni Cichlid

This dark blue and black cichlid is one of the smaller ones, coming in at 3 inches. The minimum tank size here is about 25 gallons, but ideally, somewhere closer to 50 is recommended.

9. Venustus Cichlid

This is another big guy, one that can grow to around 10 inches in length, and it needs around 70 gallons of tank volume to be truly happy.

10. Acei Cichlid

This is another one that will grow to around 6 inches and requires 55 gallons of water to be happy.

11. Bumblebee Cichlid

Although this species grows to only 6 inches, it should have roughly 70 gallons of tank space. It’s one of the more aggressive and territorial ones.

12. Frontosa Cichlid

This is one of the bigger ones out there, coming in at up to 15 inches and requiring around 70 gallons of tank space, ideally.

13. Kribensis Cichlid

These guys will only grow to 4 inches in length but ideally should have about 50 gallons of space.

14. Compressiceps Cichlid

This is another big guy that comes in at 10 inches and does best in a 70-gallon tank.

Once again, there are several dozen additional species other than the ones we have covered here, but these do tend to be some of the most commonly purchased and most popular ones.

colorful cichlid
Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock

Cichlid Care Tips & Important Info

As we mentioned before, these are not the easiest fish to care for, and there are a few things that you should know about them before making a purchase.

  • Your average cichlid will live to be about 10 years old, so be aware that you are making a pretty big commitment here.
  • Cichlids need a whole lot of space. For one, they like hiding spaces like rocks, hollow caves, lots of plants, and driftwood. It helps relieve the stress associated with territoriality.
  • Keeping a community tank is not the best idea when it comes to cichlids. They are aggressive, territorial, and some would say just downright mean. They may very well eat smaller fish, so only keep them with fish larger than themselves or other cichlids, preferably somewhat aggressive tropical fish.
  • Your cichlid tank should be kept in a low-traffic area of your home and should not be in direct sunlight or be subject to heavy drafts.
  • Cichlids are big, and they eat a lot, so they also make a lot of waste. You absolutely need a good filtration unit for your tank, one that engages in all three major types of filtration and can handle at least three times the volume of water in the tank every hour.
  • You are most likely going to need a light as well, as these are tropical fish that like sunlight. On that same note, you will also want to invest in a heater, as cichlid water needs to be between 73 and 82 degrees. Keep in mind that when it comes to water pH level, it depends on what kind of cichlid you have. That said, you should aim to change about 10% of the water in your cichlid tank per week.
  • When it comes to feeding, feed your cichlids twice per day and about as much as they can consume in three minutes. High-quality tropical fish flake or pellet food is fine, but you should give them occasional treats and supplements like freeze-dried brine shrimp or other meaty treats.

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Final Thoughts

Yes, so we do know that our recommended tank sizes for the various cichlid types we spoke of specifically are much larger than our basic rule of thumb tank size discussed previously. Our rule of thumb, 2–3.5 gallons of water per inch of cichlid, is the absolute minimum they need, but the minimum is not the same as the ideal. Besides that, as long as you follow our tips, you should have no problems keeping your cichlids happy and healthy.

Featured Image Credit: Frantisek Czanner, Shutterstock

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