What Lives Well With Cichlids? (& Which does not)

If you’re a cichlid enthusiast considering tank mates for your fish, and wondering: Cichlids can live by themselves but what lives well with cichlids? 

Choosing the right tank mates for your cichlids goes beyond aesthetics; you should know their temperament and create a harmonious aquatic environment. 

In this post, we’ll dive into the fascinating world of cichlid compatibility, exploring ideal tank mates and fish to avoid for a thriving freshwater haven.

What Fish Lives well with Cichlids?

What lives well with cichlids?
What lives well with cichlids?

A concerned cichlid owner asked me can any fish live with cichlids? Yes, there are other fish you can mix with cichlids;

What fish cannot live with cichlids?

Cichlids are often known for their aggressive and territorial nature, which makes them incompatible with several types of fish. Here are some fish that typically should not be housed with cichlids:

  • Fish like guppies, tetras, and small rasboras are too peaceful and fragile to withstand the aggressive behaviour of cichlids.
  • Slow-moving fish like angelfish and bettas, which are slower and have long fins, are targets for nipping and harassment by cichlids.
  • Corydoras catfish also. Cichlids perceive them as intruders on their territory, especially during breeding periods.
  • Other Aggressive Fish
  • Delicate Fish that require specific water conditions, like discus, are not good tank mates.

Can Cichlids live with Angelfish?

Not all cichlids are suitable tank mates for angelfish. Peaceful or moderately aggressive cichlid species like some Apistogramma or Kribensis coexist with angelfish better than highly aggressive species like African cichlids (e.g., Mbuna).

Angelfish have a more peaceful temperament, while many cichlids can be aggressive, especially during breeding. 

Provide plenty of hiding spots, plants, and decorations to establish territories and reduce stress. This can help mitigate aggressive behaviour by giving each fish its own space.

Both cichlids and angelfish require ample space. A large tank (at least 55 gallons) is essential to provide enough territory for both species and to reduce aggression.

Can Cichlids live with Goldfish?

No, Cichlids and goldfish have very different care requirements, making them unsuitable tank mates. 

One primary difference is their temperature requirements. Goldfish prefer cooler water, typically around 65-75°F (18-24°C), whereas many cichlid species, such as African cichlids, thrive in warmer water, typically around 75-82°F (24-28°C).

Also, Goldfish thrive in water with a neutral pH of around 7.0, while cichlids often require specific pH levels depending on the species. For example, African cichlids often need more alkaline water, with a pH range of 7.8-8.6.

Based on diet, Goldfish are herbivorous and need a diet high in plant matter, while some cichlids are carnivorous and others omnivorous. 

Behavioural differences also pose a significant challenge. Goldfish are generally peaceful, slow swimmers, whereas many cichlid species are territorial and can be aggressive, especially during breeding periods. 

Goldfish produce a lot of waste, necessitating efficient filtration systems to maintain water quality. Cichlids also require clean water but often need specific types of decorations and hiding places that may not be ideal for goldfish.

How many cichlids should you keep together?

The number of cichlids you should keep together depends on several factors, including the species of cichlid, the size of your aquarium, and the temperament of the individual fish. Here are some general guidelines to help you determine the appropriate number:

Tank Size

  • Small Tanks (up to 30 gallons): For smaller tanks, it is usually best to keep only one species of cichlid, and the number should be limited to 2 to 4 fish, depending on their adult size.
  • Medium Tanks (30-55 gallons): In medium-sized tanks, you can keep a small community of cichlids, around 6-10 fish.
  • Large Tanks (55 gallons and above): Larger tanks can accommodate more cichlids, often 10-20 or more, depending on the species and their compatibility.


  • African Cichlids: These are often kept in larger groups to spread out aggression. A stocking density of 1 cichlid in larger tanks per 3-4 gallons of water is a common guideline.
  • South American Cichlids: These are less aggressive than African cichlids. You can keep a few pairs or a small group, depending on the tank size. For example, in a 55-gallon tank, keep a pair of larger cichlids like Oscars or a small group of smaller cichlids like Apistogramma.

Temperament and Compatibility

  • Some cichlids, such as the Red Devil or the Jewel Cichlid, are highly territorial and aggressive. These species may need to be kept alone or with very few tank mates.
  • Others, like the Angelfish or Discus, are more peaceful and can be kept in small groups with other compatible fish.

Sex Ratio

  • For species where males are more aggressive, keeping a higher ratio of females to males can help reduce aggression. A common ratio is one male to three or four females.

What do cichlids like in their tank?

cichlid tank mates
  • Sand or fine gravel is best for substrates. For African cichlids, crushed coral help maintain the higher pH they prefer.
  • Plenty of hiding places with rocks, caves, and other structures to help reduce aggression and establish territories.
  • Use hardy plants or artificial plants. Some cichlids may uproot or eat live plants. Species like Java fern or Anubias that attach to rocks or driftwood is okay.
  • Driftwood especially for South American cichlids to create slightly acidic conditions they need.
  • Dark background can help fish feel more secure and enhance their colors.
Edet Ubok-Obong
Edet Ubok-Obong

Edet Ubok-Obong is an experienced Writer with a deep passion for Gardening, Fishing and home improvement. He shares his knowledge of these fields through this website.