Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How Many Convict Cichlid Can You Have In a 30 Gallon Tank? Facts & FAQs

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

convict cichild

Convict cichlids got their name due to the black-and-white, striped appearance, like an old prison jumpsuit for inmates. Moreover, they also have a nasty reputation for being mean little fish. They are temperamental and aggressive, but they are entertaining to watch and they look very cool.

So, you might be wondering, how many convict cichlids in a 30-gallon tank can you fit comfortably? Each Convict Cichlid requires 20-30 gallons of space, therefore you can house only 1 in a 30-gallon tank. You might get away with 20 gallons per fish, but that is pushing the limits, and it all has to do with their aggressive nature.

A pair of convict cichlids (male and female), will probably be fine in a 40-gallon tank, but if there are more males in the mix, such as two males, you’ll want a 60-gallon tank. They need space.

starfish divider ah

How Many Convict Cichlids Can Be in a Tank?

Convict cichlids make for good tank mates for each other. As long as the tank is large enough, there is no reason why you cannot keep multiple convict cichlids in the same tank. While these fish do fine on their own, they can also live with other fish of their own species.

That said, there are super aggressive, territorial, and downright mean, even towards their own kind, particularly males and males. Therefore, if you want to keep multiple convict cichlids together, you will want to provide them with a ridiculous amount of tank space per fish.

If you plan on keeping multiples together, having a 3:1 ratio of females to males is recommended, but even the females are often aggressive.

convict cichlid
Image Credit: Bernsten, Shutterstock

Minimum Tank Size for Convict Cichlids

Male convict cichlids can grow up to 6 inches in length, which means that they already need well over 10 gallons to be comfortable. However, you also need to factor their territorial and aggressive nature into the mix. Some say that 20 gallons per convict cichlid is fine, but realistically, it’s more like 30 gallons per fish.

If you get a tank any smaller than this and you try keeping multiples together, they will fight and attack each other, likely resulting in the death of one or more of them.

aquarium plant divider

Convict Cichlid Housing Requirements

Convict cichlids are very hardy fish, and as long as you meet the right water conditions and tank requirements, it’s not hard to keep them happy and healthy.

Here are the most important convict cichlid tank requirements to keep in mind:

Water Temperature

Convict cichlids are tropical warm-water fish, and they like their water to be very warm. They require the water to be between 79 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit, which yes, is super toasty.

Unless you live somewhere along the equator or in another area of the world where the temperature is steadily over 80 degrees, you will absolutely need an aquarium heater. You will not be able to keep these fish alive without a heater, and you probably want to invest in a decent aquarium thermometer, too.

african cichlid
Image Credit: ArtEvent ET, Shutterstock

Water Hardness

Convict cichlids need the water to be moderately soft, but definitely not too hard. A dGH level between 10 and 15 is ideal for these fish. In other words, they do not like hard water, which means that you should invest in an aquarium water hardness testing kit as well as some water conditioner to soften the water to an acceptable level, if need be.

Water pH

Thankfully, convict cichlids are not too picky when it comes to acidity. In terms of the pH level, anywhere from 6.5 to 8.0 will do fine. This means that they can survive in slightly acidic, neutral, and somewhat alkaline water. You will still probably want to get yourself a pH testing kit just to keep track.

holding PH tests in front of freshwater aquarium
Image Credit: M-Production, Shutterstock

Filtration & Aeration

In terms of filtration, convict cichlids are not overly picky either, but they do, of course, like their water to be fairly clean. They also don’t like much of a current. So, this means that for a 60-gallon cichlid tank (for a pair, for example), you want a filter that can process about 180 gallons of water per hour, or about three times the total water volume in the tank.

Moreover, having a filter with adjustable output or some kind of trickle or waterfall filter that does not create a strong current is recommended. With a good filter and some good aquarium plants, you won’t need to provide any extra oxygen.


Although convict cichlids don’t need a strong light to survive, a bright and intense light will help bring their colors and patterns to life.

A good light will also allow plant life to thrive, and plants will provide your convicts with more oxygen to breathe. Something basic with moderate to bright strength is recommended.

aquarium bright lights
Image Credit: Sergio Bertino, Shutterstock


Convict cichlids like to dig in the substrate and root around in it. For this reason, you should aim for a soft and fine-grained sand to use as a substrate, about 1.5 to 2 inches of it.

You don’t want to use gravel or any kind of hard and pointy substrate because if a convict cichlid digs in it, it might injure itself. This is something you obviously want to avoid.


When it comes to plants because convict cichlids like to dig and root around, you do need to go for plants that have very strong root systems, or else cichlids will uproot them. You can also choose to go for plants that can be attached to driftwood or rocks, as well as floating plants (really anything that cannot be uprooted).

That said, these fish do like having some plant life around, so you do need to add some, but you also need to choose carefully. A go-to choice here is hornwort.

Image Credit: Joan Carles Juarez, Shutterstock

Rocks & Deco

In the wild, the waters in which convict cichlids live is full of rocks, driftwood, and other such things, so to make them feel at home in your aquarium, you do want to add a good number of rocks, caves, and driftwood. Not only will this help to mimic their natural environment, but it also helps provide cover and some division in the tank, which is something that is important if you plan on keeping multiple convicts together, as it will help create a bit of separation.

Tank Mates

This is where things get tricky. Convict cichlids are mean, aggressive, and territorial. They have been known to wipe out whole tanks and even kill Oscars three times their size. Therefore, it’s recommended to keep convict cichlids alone or with other convicts.

You can take your chances with tank mates, but you do need to beware that there will always be a chance that a fight could break out at any minute.

Some tank mates you can consider include clown loaches, Jack Dempsey fish, silver dollar fish, and oscars (really anything large enough that can defend themselves against these little terrors).

Credit: Photofenik, Shutterstock

starfish divider ah

How Big Will a Convict Cichlid Get?

A male convict cichlid can grow up to 6 inches in length, with females usually topping out at around 4.5 inches long.

How Long Does it Take for Convict Cichlids to Grow to Full Size?

Convict cichlids will take anywhere from 16 to 24 weeks to grow to full size, with sexual maturity usually being reached around the 16-week mark.

tropical fish 2 divider


As you can see, these are not easy fish to keep. Ok, so their tank requirements are fairly basic, but due to their aggressive nature, keeping them with other fish is questionable at best.

Featured Image Credit: Dmitri Kalvan, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database