Decades ago, I used to join fish competitions to showcase the beautiful cichlids that I had under my care. It was the start of the era where flowerhorns and arowanas were making big waves in fish competitions; but I participated in the shows just for the pure enjoyment of it. To my surprise, all the cichlids that I signed up won first place in their respective categories. To this day, I still share my home with a modest community of cichlids who thrive in a 240-gallon fish tank.

There are two basic groups of cichlids: The New World, which means that they are found in the Americas, namely in North America, Central America, and South America; and Old World, which refers to the species that can be found in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Cichlids who are from the Americas are known for being are monogamous breeders. They are highly aggressive and territorial, are robust eaters, and adapt to a wide range of water parameters.

Let’s put the spotlight on my top 10 favorite cichlids from Central America.

1. Convict

Also called Zebra, are recommended for beginners. Although they are small, they pack a lot of personality. The male convict develops a hump on the head when it reaches adulthood. My most favorite cichlid of all time.

Ease of care: Beginner. Wide water range tolerance. Not a picky eater.
Breeding: Easy
Color: Banded, pink or white, and marble
Temperament: Very aggressive. I have experienced placing a female in a 15-gallon tank that housed a single male, which resulted in the female being killed immediately.
Size: Maximum of 6 inches.

2. Firemouth

Their name pertains to the bright orange-red color on the underside of their jaw that are often seen in males. Whenever they feel threatened or mark their territory, they flare out their gills to expose their red throats in an attempt to keep other fish away.

Ease of care: Easy
Breeding: I have not tried breeding them, but they are also easy to breed base on the experience of friends who have bred them.
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Color: Red and Grey
Size: 7 inches

3. Texas

My second favorite after convict. These beautiful Texas cichlids have a nice shiny blue green color. Adult males also develop a nuchal hump on their head.

Ease of care: Intermediate
Breeding: Easy
Color: Cream and turquoise spots
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Size: 12 inches

4. Jack Dempsey

Because of the fish’s aggressiveness towards its tank mates, the USA aquarists have called it Jack Dempsey by the name of after the popular professional boxer.

Ease of care: Beginner
Breeding: Easy
Color: Olive green
Temperament: Aggressive
Size: 6 to 8 inches

5. Severum

Severum cichlids tend to resemble their larger cousins, the Discus cichlids, in body shape and feature a laterally compressed oval shaped frame. They are called poor man’s discus. The Severum cichlid tend to only reach about 7- 8 inches, whereas Discus can reach up to about 12 inches.

Ease of care: Intermediate
Breeding: Easy
Color: Cream and turquoise spots
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Size: 12 inches

6. Argentea

Also called the silver cichlid. Aggressive towards their own species. I used to care for many Argentea cichlids before, but even just placing a single individual in a bare bottom tank would already be a sight to behold because of their brilliant appearance.

Ease of care: Hard
Breeding: Difficult
Color: Silver with black vertical bars
Temperament: Aggressive
Size: 12 inches

7. Oscar

Fierce-looking but swims gracefully. I am always fascinated by the Oscar fish. They have a unique personality that is a combination of sweet and aggressive. They are mid-level swimmers who look fascinating when they swim downwards to the bottom of the tank to search for food.

Ease of care: Intermediate
Breeding: Intermediate
Color: Various, red tiger pattern being the most popular
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Size: 12 inches

8. Green terror

This is a bright-colored fish that will make a great addition to any cichlid fish tank; however, they may exhibit behaviors that could be difficult to manage. A good feeding routine and a large tank will keep them happy.

Ease of care: Intermediate
Breeding: Easy
Color: Silver-blue flecks with bright iridescent blue, green, and orange coloration
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Size: Male, 12 inches; Female, 5 inches

9. Chocolate cichlids

A memorable fish for me since it was one of the species who received a trophy in a competition. The Chocolate Cichlid, also called Tempo, is fairly rare. They look like a smaller version of the Oscar fish.

Ease of care: Intermediate
Breeding: Intermediate
Color: Dark brown, red
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Size: 10 to 12 inches

10. Red terror

This cichlid is definitely more aggressive than the green terror. Also called the Festae, they are very territorial and ferocious. The beauty of this fish also won a trophy for a fish show.

Ease of care: Intermediate
Breeding: Intermediate
Color: Red or turquoise green with rows of vertical black stripes
Temperament: Very aggressive
Size: Male, 20 inches; Female, 12 inches

Again, it must be reiterated that New World cichlids are known for their aggressive behavior. Your tank will be looking like a war zone, and injuries inevitable, if you don’t consider the requirements needed by each individual species. They will need spacious tanks with heavy filtration.

With all these difficult requirements that a hobbyist needs to face, why, you ask, would I still recommend taking care of them? Easy answer: because of their bold personality!

About the author

My articles are based on research and personal experiences. Graphics and Photos by Vanessa Estarija and Alyssa Romero.For questions, please email azcreations@yahoo.com fishkeepingworld.com/green-terror-cichlid/

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s September 2019 issue.

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