Guide to CA/SA Cichlids.


Jan 31, 2021
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United Kingdom
Hey everyone, I'm making this thread to guide anyone who is new to keeping new world cichlids or would like to know random facts about them or experience etc.. Feel free to talk about whatever you want about new world cichlids or new world cichlids you might own! This is going to be a long one so I apologise for the long paragraph and this is purely based off my knowledge, experience, research and love for these fish :) Feel free to correct me if anything I say is wrong in your opinion or add anything!

So first things first.. Distinguishing between central american and south american cichlids! (This is actually more important than you may think as they have different water parametres, different personalities and different looks)
Central american cichlids are more well known for toughness. This one is probably obvious for anyone who loves cichlids as on the central american side theres convicts, jack dempseys, texas cichlids, viejas and many more larger, tougher cichlids. They are more tough because the environment they live in is very survival of the fittest with competition with each other not rare. Central american cichlids also happen to be more carnivorous than the average south american cichlid and also more aggressive as they prefer more space aswell. They all reach a fairly large size and all require harder water but not too hard theres a golden zone just above neutral that they will thrive in and this will prevent diseases such as hole in the head which is caused by a lack of minerals in their water. They also need to be housed with tough fish which are larger than themselves if you want to go for fish that aren't cichlids. Central american cichlids probably would do best with other central american cichlids as they are from the same biotope meaning we can predict their behaviours a little more easier than if we mixed them with fish from all over the world. (which to be honest I have a tank like that right now and it's pretty unpredictable) Central american cichlids all are quite active fish and will thrive in long aquariums!

South american cichlids are the charmers. They all look very beautiful and are actually quite intelligent fish! They are more laid back than the central american counterpart but don't let this fool you! There are exceptions that will eat or kill anything it wants! Thats one of the problems with cichlids as sometimes tanks with them work and sometimes they dont but generally speaking south american cichlids are the calmer fish. They form defined territories which they will defend and chase other fish out off if they feel threatened by them. (Eartheaters don't really have a territory unless breeding they more so will explore every part of the tank searching for food in the substrate so this is probably a good thing to consider if you plan to mix alot of cichlids together as eartheaters are quite easilly bullied depending on the species) South american cichlids prefer much softer water and the golden zone is 6.2 upwards to around 7 on the Ph scale. South american cichlids also require a more balanced diet and will thrive if they are given this.

Why can it (sometimes) be bad to mix these fish if they're from the same continent? - This is a question I used to ask and theres good reason for this. They are from two different biotopes meaning they are instinctively used to different conditions and this causes different behaviours. The different behaviours in fish can mean life or death situations overnight and this is why researching any fishes common behaviour before adding it to a tank with other fish is key! South american cichlids in general can be more easily bullied by central american cichlids even if the central american cichlids are smaller! This is because central american cichlids have the fiestier behaviour and are more aggressive in nature. But if you can find a central american cichlid with similar temperment to a south american cichlid then it probably will work but as said before theres the water parametre issue where you would have to try and keep it constantly neutral. (firemouth cichlids are an exception to this as they are naturally one of the most adaptive freshwater fish and have even become an invasive species because of this!)

My experience.
I have kept a few different types of new world cichlid throughout my lifetime and I've made a few mistakes aswell! (what can I say I'm impulsive) I would reccommend a minimum tank size of 4ft long for most new world cichlids as they are in general quite large and do like their space as I used to keep a few in a smaller tank and they would just constantly be fighting amongst each other whereas learning from that I decided to dive into even more species and go for a large 80gallon tank which houses firemouth cichlids, a redhump eartheater, gold severums, threadfin acaras and a bolivian ram and don't get me wrong I had problems with them at first as I did go for a mixed american cichlid tank which takes more effort for the reasons stated above but is also way worth it if you can manage to get it turning out alright!
Great info:) Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.

Ive been looking into new world Cichlids 'ALOT' lately and im taken back just how beautiful these fish are. Im really struggling to pin down what i want to get tho because theres so much choice.
Great info:) Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.

Ive been looking into new world Cichlids 'ALOT' lately and im taken back just how beautiful these fish are. Im really struggling to pin down what i want to get tho because theres so much choice.
So glad I could help! We could start a conversation about it if you want?

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