Convict Cichlid Fish – The Care, Feeding and Breeding of Convict Cichlids

Quick Stats

Minimum Tank Size: 20 Gallons (29 Gallons recommended)
Care Level: Easy
Water Conditions: PH 6-8 and Soft to Neutral
Temperature: 68-80 F (20-27 C)
Maximum Size: 6 inches (15.2 cm) for males, and 4 for females (10.2 cm)

The convict cichlid (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) is found throughout Central America, inhabiting a wide array of habitats. It is commonly found in streams and rivers, but it is also known to live in ponds and lakes with thick plant cover. With that being said, it tends to prefers moving water, and is often found sheltering in submerged branches and rock formations.

The male convict cichlid grows up to 6 inches (15.2 cm) in length, while the female grows to an average length of 4 inches (10.2cm). When the females reach breeding maturity, the belly of the fish will take on red hue, making sexing quite easy in mature convict cichlid fish.


Housing

Convict cichlids can be a messy fish, and should generally be housed in a spacious, species only tank. The minimum tank size for a non-breeding pair should be a 20 gallon (75 litre) tank , though the ideal size is closer to 29 gallons (100 litres).

If a person is planning to breed convict cichlids, or hopes (and I stress the word hopes) to keep them in a community tank, then they should be kept in at least a 55 gallon (208 litre) fish tank. A pair of breeding convicts will terrorize any tank that they are housed in, and will viciously attack anything that comes near their nest. It’s not unusual to see a breeding pair of cichlids take on a much larger fish, and some have been known to attack fish nearly twice their size.

Since convict cichlids constantly dig and rearrange their tank, their aquarium should be over-filtered with a strong HOB (hang-on-back) filter, or in ideal circumstances, a canister filter (You can read the Seymour Fish HOB filter reviews here). For extra biological filtration, a second filter or a sponge filter can be added to the tank, which helps keep the water sparkling clean. This is especially useful if a person is planning to breed convict cichlids, as the fry need pristine water quality.

Feeding

In the wild, convict cichlids primarily feed on small insects, worms, plant matter and algae. In the home aquarium, they will greedily eat nearly anything offered to them. But a healthy diet should be made up of a high quality fish food, with occasional frozen foods added for treats. I prefer to feed my convicts New Life Spectrum Cichlid Formula and have had great success with this high quality food.

When it comes to frozen foods, their favorites are blood worms, daphnia and brine shrimp. They will especially appreciate any live food that can cultured or caught – with mosquito larvae and live black worms being particular favorites.

Breeding

A female convict with her fry

Convict cichlids are among the easiest tropical aquarium fish to breed. Unlike many other cichlids, they don’t selectively pair off, and any male and female in placed in an aquarium will usually breed within a matter of weeks.

Since convict cichlids prefer to lay eggs on rocky overhangs in the wild, the easiest way to simulate their natural habitat in the home aquarium is to provide them with overturned clay pots. Stacks of rocks will also work, and they have also been known to lay eggs in PVC pipe “caves”, but nothing seems to beat the simple clay pots.

Once an egg laying surface has been provided, the male and female will begin clearing the area around their breeding site. Any plants will be removed and the substrate will likely be excavated and moved around to their liking.

During this time, the convict cichlid breed pair will viciously attack any other fish in their tank, and few fish – even the armored pleco, can take this abuse for long. Needless to say, any breeding convicts should be kept in a tank without any other fish present.

Once their territory has been staked out, the female will deposit her eggs on a clay pot, and the male will fertilize them. The parents will diligently guard the eggs, with the male chasing away anything that comes close to the nest, while the female stays close to the eggs.

The fry will begin to hatch in a few days, and after about a week, the convict cichlid parents will begin to herd the tiny fry around the tank. At this point infusoria, and baby brine shrimp should be fed to the fry three times a day. If someone doesn’t want to go to the trouble of hatching brine shrimp or culturing infusoria, then there are a few commercial products available for feeding fry. I have used New Life Spectrum Small Fry Starter Formula and Hikari First Bites in the past.

One of the most interesting aspects of owning convict cichlids is watching the level of parental care that they give to their offspring. While guppies and many other fish will make a quick snack of their offspring, convict cichlids are extremely caring parents.  They will dig paths through plants for their fry, stir up the substrate to uncover food, and quickly get the fry to safety anytime they feel threatened. Even in a tank with equal sized predator fish, it’s exceedingly rare to even lose even one convict cichlid fry.

Comments

      • Bob says

        I have two Black convicts in a 55 gallon tank. The female had babies about two months ago. The female tried to protect them but the male ate them all. She just had babies again and I moved them to another tank The ones I could not remove were again eaten by the male whats going on ?

  1. Chris says

    Bullying can be kept in check by lowering the temperature, however, it is questionable whether or not that is fair to the fish. Turn up the heat and they dont know whether to kill, protect or whatever…..

  2. Chris says

    Ive taken cuttings of houseplants and rooted them in the aquarium and just kept them there with their network of roots which collected nice algae as newer white roots developed. Dug up weeds like chickweed, plantain and small spinach plants, planted them in the gravel (they were dug up naturally by the convicts) and the fish were fine. They nibbled on the greenery, makes a nice ecosystem and looks beautiful!!

  3. Toha says

    Hi there people. Does anyone know whether convict cichlids are ‘compatible’ with severums and green terror fish?

    • Matthew Seymour says

      It all depends on the fish really. Generally they won’t be compatible with severums and green terrors, but if they are given enough space or the fish are unusually docile, it may work. I wouldn’t try it though, as you’re asking for problems down the road.

  4. Matthew says

    I have a forty gallon tank with two convicts and a couple flower pots they haven’t breed yet but the female is only about 1.5” and the male is about 3” how big does the female have to get before they breed?

    • Matthew Seymour says

      Usually they are fertile by that point. The best way to tell, is if she’s coloured up. If her belly is red, then she should be ready to mate. The best way to trigger breeding is to feed live or frozen foods for a week and do a big water change. This will usually trigger breeding.

    • Matthew Seymour says

      It really all depends on the fish. I’ve heard of some people having success with convicts and Jack Dempseys, but it could really go either way. In a 65 generally the aggression will be spread out though, so you might get some chasing, but for the most part they should be ok. Of course you may still get a fish with extreme aggression issues, but those tend to be somewhat rare.

      • Ingrid says

        Thank you Matthew. I have them now in their own Tank and have already shy to one inch babies. Everything went fine. The EBJD are in their own Tank and I have babies there too. I will switch the Convicts also into a 65 gal. because I have one of this metal Stands for 2 65 gal. works out great, just waited, that the fry got big enough and not a too big of disturbance when re-homing.

  5. Linda says

    I currently have cichlid babies,about 3 weeks old,and the parents have done great with them,today the parents are chasing them so they are hide in the rocks,why

    • Matthew Seymour says

      Usually the parents will start to chase the babies when they’re ready to spawn again. Are the babies about the size of a dime? That is when my convicts usually start to drive away their babies and start to breed again.

    • Matthew Seymour says

      That’s a tough one – both of these fish can be touchy and some auratus are downright psychotic. I would usually say no, since with most African cichlids, you need a lot of caves and you need to stock them all at the same time to prevent aggression issues. With that being said, breeding convicts will still take on auratus with no fear and some males can be extremely aggressive, so it could go wrong with either fish.

  6. Peter Lazz says

    I have a pair of Convict Cichlids that had offspring three weeks ago. My question is when will the pair stop protecting the baby’s so they can go on there own in the tank?

    • Matthew Seymour says

      They can go into their own tank at any time, but the parents in my experience will usually protect the babies until their about the size of dimes. They usually don’t get aggressive with their own babies until they breed another generation of babies and they can easily co-exist until then. But if you want to put them in their own tank, the babies are usually fine once they’re about the size of a dime.

      • says

        I’ve taken the parents away from the fry after 3 weeks the fry are eating etc but the male is now harassing the female so she tries to hide away at the top of the tank, did I take them away to soon?

        • says

          No, the only result of taking them away too soon would normally be the convicts trying to mate again. They should calm down again, and if they don’t, let me know and I’ll try to figure out what is going on.

          • kimberly says

            IS THERE EVER A TIME WHEN THEY TURN ON THERE BABIES IF THEY ARE READY TO MATE OR LAY MORE EGGS?

          • says

            They will drive the babies away when they reach a certain size. Generally when they are about the size of a dime, or about 1.5 cm across is when they will start to go their own way. With that being said, I’ve seen the babies hang around in one instance until they were almost the size of quarters, so it all depends on the fish. But a word of warning – they will attack their own babies viciously when they start to mate, so make sure there is enough space in the tank, or there is another tank to keep the babies in.

  7. Sydney gradidge says

    I have an 80 gallon aquarium and in it I have placed large pebbles on top of the gravel and covered these with large lumps of slate to create nooks and crannies. The fish content is 6 convicts of which 3 are albino. Also 4 jewel cichlids 5 kribensis and dwarf Ramirez cichlids and 3 plecs. Two airs of convicts are currently breeding. One pair the male is an albino so I am waiting eagerly to see how the fry will turn out.

    • Matthew Seymour says

      I had some pink convicts and regular convicts breed a few years ago and unfortunately the fry were mottled and the colouration made them look pretty unattractive. They still grew up to healthy fish, but they certainly weren’t show piece fish. (They live in the tank of rejects in my basement. lol)

  8. says

    I have two convicts that have just had babbies!! (not planned) I also have two silver dollars and a 30cm red tiger Oscar fish in the same tank! They were put in the tank to be eaten by my Oscar fish but he left them two behind! Will they attack my Oscar? He is our baby and we don’t want anything to hurt him!!

    • Matthew Seymour says

      Convicts tend to get aggressive when they first lay the eggs, so if they have hatched and they haven’t attacked the oscar yet, then they usually won’t at this point. They will keep the oscar away and may nip at him if he comes close to the babies, but it shouldn’t be any kind of sustained attack.

      • says

        Oh excellent that’s what I like to hear!! Do the babies have a chance at surviving with my Oscar in there or will he eat them as soon as the parents start leading them around the tank??

        • Matthew Seymour says

          The babies should be fine. They may lose one or two, but even that is pretty rare. The parents are always watching them and will shepherd them to safety any time that they are threatened. The oscar will quickly learn to stay away from these vigilante parents.

  9. lisa says

    i have a male and female they had babies i thought they would look after them together but she started to beat him up i had to remove him .(
    WHY) i got them from a lady who had a lot of convicts in the tank

    • Matthew Seymour says

      That’s really weird. I’ve kept convicts for years and I’ve never encountered that – though sometimes the parents do screw up a bit with their first batch of babies. Maybe the male was trying to eat them and the female was trying to chase them off. Even that would be pretty rare and I’ve never seen it personally.

  10. Michael Cook says

    I brought a pair of Convicts from my LFS. I have a 50 gal tank with lots of rock slate caves etc. Immediately the pair went to the corner of the tank near to some large pebbles and started excavating the substrate (sand), ignoring the nice caves and overhangs. 48 hrs after getting the fish, the glass in the tank had about 150 eggs deposited and a couple of days later the fry hatched.
    All was going well for a few days, but the parents kept digging and digging under the pebbles, until there was a tunnel under and only force was stopping the stones from collapsing.
    I came home from work to find that the pile had completely collapsed (i assume on the fry), the entrances had been plugged with sand, and the parents were bickering constantly. The female went off and sulked for days, refusing to eat and after a week passed was found belly up.
    That was a month or so ago. I have removed pebbles now (yes, too late but don’t want it happening again) and introduced new female, who is trying hard to “court” the male, showing colours and flitting around him, he is not interested in the slightest though.

    • Matthew Seymour says

      I’m sorry to hear that about your fish. It always sucks to lose any fish and all those fry in this case. I wouldn’t worry about the fish mating again though – convicts are one of the few cichlids that don’t have to be paired off, and any males and females I’ve kept in tank have mated. They sometimes take a bit, and I find feeding some live foods or frozen foods for a few days will often trigger breeding. A larger than normal water change will often “get them in the mood” too.

  11. Stephen says

    Hi,

    I bought 5 young black convict cichlids and put them in a 29 gallon with plenty of large rocks and one large clump of plants in the tank center.

    When the fish first got in the tank,they schooled together in a group for a couple days. The largest fish is a male and he paired off with a female.

    They set up shop on the right side of the aquarium,the female depositing her eggs into a natural hole in one of the large rocks. By this time the parents were aggressive to the other three fish,and they stayed on the other side of the tank.

    Many fry hatched,and the parents began watching them closely,and at night collecting them in a ditch they dug at the tank bottom near the hatchery.

    As time went on less and less fry were visible each day. Then one day I noticed the large male was with another female! A new ditch has been dug on the left side of the tank,and the new pair seem to be getting ready to spawn.

    The original fry have completely disappeared, and the original mother,is now chased by the male and new mother.

    Also when just feeding them only 4 fish were present, do black convicts kill each other like african cichlids?

    I have not seen any fry for days. The last time I actually did,they were not near the mother fish,and seemed to be hiding actually. I guess its possible some are hiding somewhere.

    • Matthew Seymour says

      In my experience they generally don’t kill each other outright, but if one is bullied incessantly it might get stressed and ill – which may lead to death. I’ve had multiple generations of convicts living in the same tank, and they chase each other, but I haven’t had any deaths in years.

      As for the fry, the only time I’ve ever had them get eaten is if there wasn’t enough food in the tank. Are you sure that you’re feeding them enough? Also, cichlids can also screw up as parents the first time around and sometimes will eat the fry or the eggs, though you see this more in cichlids other than convicts more.

      • Stephen says

        Yes they eat good, brine shrimp and blood worms freeze dried mostly with some cichlid pellets.

        I just cleaned the tank yesterday and changed some water,there’s no sign of the fry or the fifth fish. Only four fish come to eat,and when cleaning I moved all rocks and found no dead fish. Could it have jumped out?

        • Matthew Seymour says

          It’s possible that it jumped out, but it’s far more likely that it died and was eaten by the other fish. A medium size fish can be eaten in a matter of days – or even faster if you have snails in the tank. I’ve had large fish disappear almost overnight in the past, but I have large populations of Malaysian trumpet snails in most of my aquariums.

  12. Debbie says

    Does anyone know why the male convict will chase female away from her babies and not let her near them at all?He chase her constantly even though she is up in corner of fish tank breathing heavy.

  13. Ingrid says

    I have 2 Pairs of Convicts in my 20 gal. long tank and I built up some Caves and Rocks and also Decorations with a lot of Holes and Tunnels. I liked to watch them rearrange the tank….one pair on one side, the other on the other. I planted Java-Moss on a Slatepiece and it is now half covered with the Gravel…everything that is said here is so true. Now, I looked in the Morning in my tank and there are a whole bunch of Babies on the right side….but, the other pair is also on the to built up a nest….I will see, how that works out! I am new to Cichlids and I love their Activity….They care for the Babies and I feed them frozen Fry-Food what they really seem to like! I am now a new Mommy to some Cichlid Fry and I will let all of you know, how everything goes! Thank for all the valued Info about Cichlids!

    • Ingrid says

      My Cichlid Fry is doing well, the Parents are very protective. The other Pair has now Babies too and they keep watch, that no one crosses the Border. There is some chasing, but, they do fine by keeping in their own half of the Tank. So, 2 breeding Pair in a 20 Gal. do fine, if the Habitat is divided by Rocks and tight Plantgrow (a lot of Java Fern and big leaved Plants) I get them frozen Fry Food and try, to let the little Cubes sink in each Territorium at the same time. In my case, I have Cave-like “Treestumps” and they use them for sleeping!

      • says

        You’re lucky that it’s going so well. My only experience (many years ago) with a 20 gallon tank was a disaster, and it looked like Texas chainsaw massacre by the end.

        It definitely helps with cichlids when you break up the line of sight though. It really helps with aggression issues. Let me know how it goes.

        • Ingrid says

          Until now, it goes pretty well. They stay in their own half, except some of the firstborn Babies try to get over the and are chased away by one of the Parents of the later Batch. I put even more Java-Moss in, but it was rearranged by the Parents of the younger Fry. The Lavastones are built up in the middle of the Tank and are a good Borderline. They only show Aggression, if one comes to close. The Parents are Siblings from one Fry. I got another Tank with 65 Gal. long. I just wait, until the Fry from the 2nd Pair is ready to leave the Tank, but will again set the Tank divided up. Just in case. I think, feeding them in their own half makes also a difference.

          • Ingrid says

            Thank you Matthew. I take the now bigger fry in their own tank, heavily planted and with a lot of caves and a for hiding and my Pet Store is willing to take them, when about the size of a Quarter. I hope, they will find a good home and I feel sad, seeing them gone. This babies are coming to the front when they see me and I try to hand feed them, what works out great.

  14. Ryan says

    hi my convict male died a little more than a month ago due to another aggressive cichlid in my tank. now the female convict is laying eggs as i type this. who is the father? i really dont know..but should i go and pick up a single male convict to fertilize the eggs? or will he just eat the eggs? what should i do…i have a community tank of just 4 .cichlids

    • says

      Female cichlids will occasionally do this. The eggs wont be fertile and she will care for them for short while and then abandon them.

      The male would likely just ignore them until he courts the female and lays his own eggs.

      • Ryan says

        oh..ok Thanks..well I guess I will lose my first ever batch of fish eggs…next time should be better when I get her a male… thanks again!

  15. lisa says

    hi it is me again the babies all lived and now are in there own tank I have a to ask how do they fertile the eggs dose he have to go over them

    • says

      The male almost seems to be hovering over the eggs after the female has deposited them. He then releases his sperm into the water – it’s very distinctive and you can’t miss it.

    • says

      Unfortunately 10 gallons is way too small for even one convict. At the bare minimum you need at least 29 gallons. With a smaller tank they will become stunted and the water quality will quickly go bad.

  16. cyklop says

    I wasn’t expecting to come home to a ship full of babies. I had been wondering why my big colorful female wouldn’t leave the sunken ship in the bottom corner of my 46g bow front. The biggest male I have stays in there with her and I’ve secluded the other 3 convicts to the opposite side of my tank with a divider. my question is about how long will it be until the female lays eggs again? I want to make sure I take this batch of offspring out before that happens and she starts beating on them.

    • says

      It all depends on how fast the fry grow, and what you feed the adults and the fry. In my experience they will usually chase off the fry in about 6-8 weeks and then lay new eggs. The easiest way to tell, is when the baby convicts are about the size of dime is when they will usually get chased off and new eggs will be laid.

  17. says

    I had gotten three convicts shortly after they got chased away by the parents. I kept them in a 30 gal tank with a 6 inch pleco, a 4 inch tiger Oscar and 4 little occies as I call them (small algae eaters that live in a pack)

    Right now the convicts are about 2.5 inches. 1 male, 2 females. The larger pair are currently guarding a batch of eggs and I’m thinking about rehoming the remaining female.

    I’ve bred convicts before and its fascinating watching them. Though I’m still trying to figure out why they like this little neon cave decoration I got in there. That’s where they have the eggs. They were laid two days ago, so I should see the wigglers soon.

    • says

      I’ve always kept convicts, mainly because they are always so interesting in their tank. I’ve gone through numerous other species and as many tanks as the significant other will allow, but I’ve always had convicts in my house.

      Good luck with the fry.

      • says

        Thanks :D The fry hatched this afternoon and are adorable :D Can’t wait to see them swimming around. How long does it take for them to start swimming? It’s been a few years since I’ve raised them.

        • says

          In my experience it’s usually around 48 hours before they become free swimming. That’s when I normally start feeding the baby brine shrimp, to make sure there is some food in the water.

  18. leeann says

    HELLO..I am Leeann, and I had a surprise today We have a 40 gallon tank we just have for intertainment, and my husband found babies in there today, the pair of convics had them in a long tube vase I put in there for them,,my worry is this , am I suppose to take the babies out of the tank?? we have several other fish in there, to many fish for that size tank but it works, they all get along so far we have 1 tiger oscar, 1 laperatious, 3 red jewels, and 5 parrots and 2 plectos , I missed the egg stage they r swimmin all over but when the light goes on they disaper into there tube, do you think they will survive?? I am going to get some brine 2maro.. thanks LA

    • says

      That’s a crowded tank, but they should survive no problem. Convicts are very good parents, and they will protect the fry from almost any type of fish. While it won’t feed them all, an established aquarium will have lots of small micro organisms and detritus that they can eat until you can feed them. They will also take crushed up flakes after a week or so too.

  19. may says

    my male and female seem to fight over watching the babies.
    the babies are growing slow and now the last two days i have lost most
    of them, what has happened.????

    • says

      It might be one of several things. The first is that if it’s their first brood, they may just be making mistakes. Many cichlids make mistakes the first few times they breed, although this is rare in convicts.

      Another possible problem is that they aren’t getting enough food. How often are you feeding them? Hungry parents will occasionally eat their fry.

      And usually the biggest problem is poor water quality. Fry are more sensitive to bad water quality and will die quickly if it gets bad.

      • may says

        well i was only feeding them once a day(frozen food), but then adding
        extra flakes, i used egg yolk,at extra times. One thing is they are at 80 to 81degrees, when i do my water changing,( i hear they like water changing), how do I keep close to the same temp?
        i think they have grown since my last post.

        • says

          I’ve never had much luck with egg yolks. It always seemed to foul my water. But if the water is staying clear you can stick with that fry food.

          When you change your water just run the water over your aquarium thermometer until it’s the right temp and then fill your aquarium with that water. That’s what I do when I change my water.

  20. Laurrane says

    So I started with 4 convict cichlids about a month ago, & last week we noticed that 1 had died. Just 3 days after ( 3 days ago) we noticed about 50 fry!!!!! The two that we see taking care of the fry are both female and chase away the last cichlid we have. This one is tiny so I’m sure it’s not the father. I think the one that died was the father. So my question is, is there 2 batches of fry or did one of the females take over to “help” I’m positive both are female because they both have red bellys.

    • says

      I have literally never heard of convicts helping before. I’ve seen similar things happen with other species of cichlids, but never with convicts, nor have I heard of anyone describing that.

      The most likely thing that I can think of, is that it’s two batches of fry and the parents have become confused. Also, much of the defense normally falls to male, so if he died, they may not be keeping as separate as they normally do.

      That’s my two cents at least.

  21. Tommy says

    I have a pair on cichlid, a female convict and a firemouth male, and the female had laid some eggs which has been hatched for the past two days. Last night, I noticed the female was in the cave with the fry. Today, they’re gone and I don’t see them any where. Was I supposed to feed the adults while the fry are still young? Could they be eaten or am I just paranoid? This is the second batch since the first didn’t work out due to eggs not being fertilized. I was so excited and was hoping to see some baby fish swimming around. Now, I wondered if it was a mistake for the pair.

    • says

      So did you not feed the adults at all? I know from experience that hungry convicts will eat their fry, so always keep feeding the parents. It usually takes longer than 2 days though, so don’t panic just yet.

  22. Bonita says

    I have a pair of convicts that I have hatched some eggs. I originally had them in a 10 gallon tank, for fear of loosing all the babies I moved the parents into the 55 gallon that I also have. I have had pairs in the past that ate their babies, Should I move the parents back to the small tank to help care for the fry? PLEASE help

    • says

      The babies will be fine on their own as long as you feed them properly. Generally the parents are only helpful if there are other fish in that tank, as they will protect them from becoming tiny, tasty snacks. They do help the fry in other minor ways, but they should be fine on their own.

    • Bonita says

      Thank you!! I am happy to report that thus far the babies are doing well!! I have not parents back in with them and they are continuing to prosper on their own!!! :) And all I am feeding them is flake food that they get off the gravel!! Looks like I am going to have a TON of fish!!

      • says

        That’s great news. I’ve always had problems with too many fry, but thankfully it’s pretty easy to sell/give away fish in my area, so it’s never become a problem before.

  23. Alex Nimmo says

    Hi my names Alex I”ve just got a 125 gall tank from my grandson as he was moving to a smaller flat its been set up for about 2 months now and contains the following fish Tinfoils,parrots angels there was 2 convicts but 1 died the other one is pilling up the sand outside a half of a coconut shell with a small opening and chasing other fish away any info please

    • says

      The one that you have is most likely a female. You can tell if it’s a female if the belly has taken on a reddish colour. If it is a female, it is most likely building a nest for breeding, though obviously without a male nothing will come of it. It’s just in their nature to do this, so don’t worry about it.

  24. Tammy says

    My Brother has Convicts that had a fry and I asked to have a couple so I could set up a starter aquarium..Well, fortunately for the fry, yet unfortunately for me I ended up with the whole fry because he was threatening to flush them down the toilet. I have tried finding them homes and have only managed to find homes for 8 of approximately 30. I went from one small aquarium with 2 of the fry to now having three aquariums in my room…10 gal., 20 gal., and an octagon which i think is probably 20 gal., I have a 40 gal. tank outside that I can use but no where to put it and now my babies are having babies. The tanks and the water is kept very clean. The filters are cleaned daily. I have researched relentlessly about these fish..I want what is best for them and I feel like I have turned into a lunatic constantly trying to make them all as comfortable as possible. The new frys are causing chaos in the tanks. Do you have any suggestions that you might offer me. Looking back with the knowledge I now have, I realize I should’ve separated genders. Now there are babies in 2 of the tanks and moving the fish around doesn’t seem like a good idea..any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    • says

      There isn’t any way to control convict fry without being overly cruel. I had a lot of problems with my convicts for a while, and I ended up giving a lot to friends and fish stores. The only way to control convict cichlid breeding is to stop feeding them for a while – which results in the fry disappearing. But like I said, that can be a bit cruel.

      The only other way is to find a pet store that will take them. You normally won’t get much for them (if anything), but it beats having your tanks overrun.

  25. pincay says

    My convict and green terror are behaving like they layed eggs together and are acting different than usual being very aggressive towards the rest of the community, but i cant find nor see any eggs. is this breeding behavior and where are the eggs suppose to be

    • says

      I wish I could help you on this one, but there’s a lot of conflicting information. From what I can understand, most cross breedings like this result in infertile eggs, but there are some people who have reported successful cross breedings of convicts and green terrors. Is this possible? I can’t say for sure, but it does seem from the sheer amount of people reporting this, there may be something to it.

      With that being said, I’ve never known anyone personally to do this, and my convicts have never cross bred before.

  26. Sveta says

    We have 36 gallon tank with 2 convicts, 4 skirt tetra, 4 tigers, Jack Dempsey and Blood Parrot cichlid. From the first day I noticed that Parrot was more aggressive to all fishes and controlled the whole aquarium. Since our two convicts had babies (7 days ago) all fishes, including Parrot, are very stressed, hiding all the time, get attacked by convicts. We had to buy an emergency tank to remove tetras and tigers. Do you think leaving other cichlids in the same tank with convicts is a good idea? I didn’t want Parrot make other fishes life miserable again in the new tank.

    Also, I have now like 30 babies. They all seems doing well. This is first time we have cichlids and I don’t know what people do if all babies survive. Can anybody share with me what you do when you have a lot babies left?
    Thank you, Sveta

    • says

      The parrot might be tough enough to survive in a convict tank, but with a breeding pair in a tank that size, eventually it will likely die. I’ve tried keeping a few different types of fish with convicts, and the only ones that seem to survive are other convicts – unless it’s a much larger tank thank 36 gallons.

      As for the fry, that’s one of the hardest things to deal with convicts. Since they breed so much they’re not in demand. The best way to get rid of them is to either give them away to friends, trade them in at fish stores, or do what do – post fry available on a local aquarium/fish message board.

      And yes, most if not all of the fry will survive, so be prepared for many, many fish.

    • says

      With a tank that size, you should be fine with one 20-30% water change a week. You could up that to two 20% changes a week, if you’re concerned about the water quality, but that only usually becomes a problem in smaller tanks – assuming it’s not overstocked.

  27. barbara says

    I have about 25 convict fry that are doing well. I removed the male from the tank because i was afraid he might hurt the babies or he anf the female would have more babies. I am giving all the babies to a friend so i can take the divider out of my tank (100 gal) since i have had it divided. Some of the fry are 3 times the size of the others…is this normal?

    • says

      Males will generally never hurt the babies, but you would definitely end up with more babies though. lol

      As for the babies, the strongest ones always eat more, so it’s not unusual to have a variety in the different sizes. Just keep feeding them, and they will start to even out a bit.

  28. Tay says

    I have a 150 gallon tank, with 4 cichlids. Two Males, Two females. One of the males was in there for about 2 months before i added the other 3. The male who was in the tank before the others was very aggressive towards the other cichlids. I fixed this issue by removing the male for a few hours and moving the decor around.

    Now i have a new issue, of the females is much smaller than the other 3 cichlids and they will not stop tormenting her, she has recently started hanging around the top of the water trying to keep out of the way of the others. My question is, how can i fix this situation?

    • says

      This is a pretty common problem to have, and cichlids – especially those that are mating, will often attack many of the other fish in the tank. You had the right idea moving around the decor before, and you should try that again, creating as many sight line breaks as possible. I know it’s brutal, but I have had a similar problem in the past, and the fish often died if I didn’t rehome it in time.

      So those are really your only two options, unless you want to put a tank divider in, but that never looks good in a large tank like yours.

  29. Braeden says

    I have 250 gallon tank with around 25 convicts 2 red jewels 1 silverdolar 2 Bala sharks 1 picuscatfish 1 pleco and 3 oscars they have been no problem for a year and still good together i found babies between 2 of the convicts should i leave them in or move eggs and parents to my 30g tank?

    • says

      I’ve kept convicts with large fish in the past, and in most cases they will defend the eggs against all other fish. But with that being said, with the large fish that you have, they may not be totally successful keeping the fish away. If you really want to keep the babies, then you should move them to the 30 gallon tank. It’s also a lot easier to feed the fry in a tank by themselves, and it can be hard to target them with food in such a large aquarium.

  30. Datriumph83 says

    I have a 75 gallon tank with 2 blk convicts( that I think are breeding), 1 albino tiger oscar, 1 tiger oscar, 1 jack Dempsey, 1 pleco and 1 striped raphael catfish. My question is how can I keep the other fish with out putting a divider in? And when the fry hatch should I keep them in the tank with the other fish?

    • says

      In most cases they will be Ok with the other fishes, but they will get aggressive while breeding. I would normally remove the parents and the fry to a separate tank, simply because it’s much easier to care for fry in a tank of their own. You can target the feeding then and make sure that the water quality is absolutely perfect.

      If you decide to keep them in the same tank, I would set up the decorations so that there are lots of breaks in the line of sight. In some of my more aggressive tanks, I use rocks and plants to divide it up into areas, which seems to help with the aggression.

  31. says

    My uncle’s convict cichlid fish had a couple (technically, a lot) of offsprings. We have a barrier that blocks off them and these cory cat fish. As these baby fish grow bigger, they’re starting to eat their parents. I don’t know what’s going on. They’re being fed regularly.

    • says

      When you say eating the parents…are they nipping at them, or actually eating chunks out of them? What are they being fed and how often? Also, how large is the space that they are being kept in? I’ve seen this sort of behavior when they are over crowded, but it’s usually directed towards ill fish. Could the parents be ill?

  32. Brittany says

    Hi everyone.. Okay I’m new to caring for fish and so far it’s working out. I have a 30 gallon tank with 8 baby ciclids. I bought the tank from a friend and the fish were included. Is my tank too small and if so, how many gallons do I need? Please help! =)

    • says

      That size should be fine for now, but you’ll want to upgrade later if you keep them all. For 8 convicts, I would recommend at least 55 gallons and you may still have problems when they start breeding – which they inevitably do.

  33. fashooga says

    Suprised my in-law’s with a convict tank after they had tetras. Currently we have two yellow convicts, two blood parrots and three blue acrara fish. Well…those wackey convicts did there thing and there are some fry.

    We feed them and some of the food goes to the bottom and It looks like the parents spit the food out towards the bottom. Not sure how many will live, but last time I checked they were still swimming around the nest.

    So do the fry live off of the “leftovers” that fall onto the sand?

    • says

      Fry can often find infusoria(microscopic organism) in a mature tank, but there won’t be enough for all of them. You want to supplement it with baby brine shrimp if you know how to culture them, or you can also use the commercial fry food.

      Depending of the size of the fry, you can also sometimes feed them ground up flake food. It needs to be very fine though, but I’ve had success with that in the past. If you don’t feed them you will often lose a fair number.

  34. Garry T says

    I purchased a pair of convicts that were sold as a pair. They are in a 20 gal tank alone with lots of hiding places. Immediately the larger one began to chase the smaller one and has basically shredded its fins. I’ve been told that this chasing behaviour can be part of the mating process. Do I have a breeding pair or a competing pair? Any thoughts?

    • says

      Hello Garry,

      Convicts are really easy to sex once they have reached sexual maturity. If the smaller one has a red belly, then it is a female. If it only has the colour of a normal convict cichlid – gray and black, then it is likely a male and they are fighting over territory. Below is a picture of a female convict.

      With that being said, chasing is part of the courting ritual for convicts, but it’s rare for one to be that badly hurt in my experience. You may want to create some breaks in the sight line so that the fish can hide for a while. I often use clay pots on their sides, live plants, and tall decorations to create lots of sight line breaks in my convict tanks. It allows them to escape when they are being harassed.

      I hope this helps.

    • says

      Usually when a convict doesn’t want to eat, it means that there is a water quality problem. It can also mean that they may be ill, or they may simply not like the food. I would start with checking the water quality, and if that is fine, look for obvious signs of illness (bloating, fuzz, spots, etc).

      If all that turns out to be fine, try a better food and see if they will eat it. Of course, most convicts will eat almost anything, so it’s rarely that.

  35. guy Coleman says

    I just purchased to convicts male abd female they are about a month old will they mate and I have them in a 10gallon tank

    • says

      They will definitely spawn, and that tank will be absolutely overrun by them in short order. I don’t know if you can afford it, but you should upgrade to at least a 29 gallon as soon as you can. Things will get pretty dicey in a tank that small fast.

Leave a Reply