Why is mixing cichlids so taboo?

Mistacliff

I understand the basis behind not mixing African and American cichlids but it seems like some other types of fish like a gourami will get a pass when asking if they can go with my cichlids. Why are some types of fish not from the region okay to mix as long as aggression levels match but not the different cichlids?
 

BigManAquatics

My guess is a lot of that is because there are several bloody stories behind such things.
 
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TClare

Mainly because of the different requirements, communication systems and aggression levels of African, Central American and South American cichlids. Gouramis will have similar requirements to many South American species And should not interact with them aggressively. However, I personally prefer to keep to one continent and try to recreate a natural habitat as far as possible.
 
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MacZ

Yes, especially bloody events.

There are 5 greater regions of cichlid radiation that are relevant for the hobby: Central America, South America, West Africa, East Africa, Madagascar/India.

The first reason for not mixing is the water parameters. Central Americans and East Africans need hard water with high pH, and as hardwater fish this is important for their survival. You can keep softwater fish in hard water, but not hardwater fish in soft water. And even within a genus like Apistogramma the water requirements might be very different. E.g. A. cacatuoides are a white-/clearwater species and can't be kept in blackwater parameters, while A. panduro are a blackwater species and can be kept in clearwater (wouldn't try whitewater) but won't be able to successfully breed in those parameters.

Then, as TClare says: Communication. Colours, Patterns, Movements all are used by cichlids to communicate. While distant cousins like e.g. Aulonocara from Lake Malawi and Haplochromis from Lake Victoria can technically understand each other's signals, adding a tanganyikan Altolamprologus will already be a problem. The fish are then unable to communicate, and so whoever gets the short end of the stick will be beaten up to death.
Another difference in aggression levels: Central American cichlids will likelier tend to kill each other than Mbuna from Lake Malawi. The latter only do this when the inferior fish can't escape (as is the norm in tank settings), although in comparison to other east african cichlids they are the most aggressive.

And finally always the rule applies: If another fish fits in their mouths they WILL try to eat it.

And about Gourami: While many gourami are as much territorial fish as cichlids, they tend to inhabit the upper 3rd of a tank, while cichlids tend to stay at the bottom or mid section. jinjerJOSH22 will likely confirm that many gourami (and betta species for that matter) won't mix either.

Hence, when stocking a tank with cichlids it's best to go by continent and even better by biotope. Especially as many cichlids are still coming in wild caught or at least F1-F3 generations.
 
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jinjerJOSH22

And about Gourami: While many gourami are as much territorial fish as cichlids, they tend to inhabit the upper 3rd of a tank, while cichlids tend to stay at the bottom or mid section. @jinjerJOSH22 will likely confirm that many gourami (and betta species for that matter) won't mix either.
I going to shock you with this and it's something I'm itching to cover in an article(unfortunately my writing skills aren't that good and getting my ideas out of my brain, let alone on to paper is something that is a challenge. Couple that without the means to really prove what I think).

Keeping multiple species of Gourami in my experience is usually fine, given they have adequate space and a reasonable sized group of their own. Similar to various Tetra and Barbs, nippy behaviour is usually contained. There is definitely species I wouldn't mix *cough* Dwarfs, and I do think you're better off keeping a nice group of a single species.

What I want to write about is whether or not Gourami are "Territorial".
Often you see them described as such but I'm not so sure, in fact I believe they aren't with the exception of when they are breeding. But this is hard to prove without either a very large tank or access to them in their natural habitats. But maybe it's not even relevant in aquaria.

Personally I wouldn't mix Gourami with Cichlids, I have done in the past and my Three Spot killed a Blue Acara and would of killed a second if I hadn't reacted.
 
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MacZ

If you need a writer, just ask, I work as a corrector and editor on the side. Always up to some training. :D

That's interesting, as I have seen cases of betta splendens attacking honey gourami (ok, then again, B. splendens) and three-spots attacking pearls. Dwarf gourami are a category of themselves, eh? I also have seen working communities with gourami on top and dwarf cichlids on the bottom. But this might have been exactly because dwarf cichlids really stay lower than e.g. Acara.

What I want to write about is whether or not Gourami are "Territorial".
Often you see them described as such but I'm not so sure, in fact I believe they aren't with the exception of when they are breeding. But this is hard to prove without either a very large tank or access to them in their natural habitats. But maybe it's not even relevant in aquaria.

If breeding induced territorialism (like in female dwarf cichlids btw.) is a thing in labyrinthers, this is definitely relevant in aquaria.
 
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jinjerJOSH22

That's interesting, as I have seen cases of betta splendens attacking honey gourami (ok, then again, B. splendens) and three-spots attacking pearls.
I think you can class Splendens and Dwarfs in the same boat, domestic strains being much more aggressive than their wild counterparts.
I had the same experience with my Three Spot, when I added a Pearl and a Moonlight to his tank. However after he was kept in a group of Three Spots and I tried adding the same fish again, he had zero interest in them.
I also have seen working communities with gourami on top and dwarf cichlids on the bottom. But this might have been exactly because dwarf cichlids really stay lower than e.g. Acara.
I have also seen it work out, as it did for me when I tried again with my Three Spot, only I had 6 or so young Acara. Too many for him to go after maybe? I've also kept Dwarf Cichlids with Gourami mostly without issue except with a Dwarf Gourami, that ended badly for my Bolivian Ram(also grew out with my Three Spot I keep mentioning).
If breeding induced territorialism (like in female dwarf cichlids btw.) is a thing in labyrinthers, this is definitely relevant in aquaria.
This isn't what I was referring to when I said that, as this Is 100% relevant in aquaria. Gourami can be scary when defending a bubble nest.
I what I meant was all the other time when they aren't spawning. Likely an aquarium isn't big enough to establish a specific territory(if they are territorial).
 
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