Convict Cichlid - Amatitlania nigrofasciata

Updated August 5, 2019
Author: Mike - FishLore Admin
Social Media: FishLore on Social Media

The Convict Cichlid is probably ranked number 3 out of all cichlids as far as popularity goes, with Angelfish and Oscars being 1 and 2 respectively.

They have the common name of "convict" because of the white and black contrasting patterns they sport. Males may be larger than females of the same age and the females may have a pink or orange tint to the belly region. There is an Albino variety as well.

This cichlid can get to be about 4 inches (10 cm) and should do fine in a 20 gallon (78 liters) or larger aquarium.

Convict Cichlid Convict Cichlid

This is a fascinating species that is known as being a profilic breeder. If you have a male and female, chances are you're going to get some baby convicts soon. All they need are stable water parameters and a cave or flower pot for securing the eggs.

They will get quite aggressive in protecting their territory and they should not be kept with peaceful community type fishes. The great part about breeding them is watching the parental care given to the fry. This can provide hours of enjoyment.

Amatitlania nigrofasciata Amatitlania nigrofasciata

Keeping a pair of them in a community tank is just asking for trouble. If you have only one, you may be able to get away with keeping them with peaceful species but caution is still advised.

These cichlids should eat nearly everything offered including flakes, frozen and live fish foods. Look for cichlid pellets which can give them all the vitamins and minerals they need.

Albino Variety
Albino Convict Cichlid Albino Convict Cichlid

Convict Cichlid Fish Care Details

Scientific Name : Amatitlania nigrofasciata

Common Names : Convict, Zebra Cichlid, Albino Convict

Care Level : Easy

Size : Up to 4 inches (10 cm)

pH : 7 - 8

Temperature : 70°F - 80°F (21°C - 27°C)

Water Hardness : 10° to 15° dH

Lifespan : 8 - 10 years, maybe slightly longer

Origin / Habitat : Guatemala, Central America

Temperament / Behavior : Like many cichlids, the convict is no exception when it comes to defending it's territory, especially when breeding. They will protect themselves and may harm other fishes.

Breeding : Very easy to breed them and they are great parents. Provide a clay or plastic type of cave (flower pot) and they should pair up assuming you have a male and female. They should place the eggs on the walls or top of the flower pot. Eggs should hatch within 3 to 4 days and the parents may relocate them to a pit where they can watch over them. Another 4 to 5 days later they should be free swimming and you should feed them crushed flake food and/or brine shrimp.

Aquarium Size : 20 gallons (78 liters)

Tank Mates : If you're trying to breed them it's best to keep them as a pair in a tank by themselves. They should do well with other larger cichlids but you may see some aggression from time to time. Don't put them in a community aquarium.

Fish Disease : Freshwater Fish Disease - Diagnose, Symptoms and Treatment

Diet / Foods : They should accept nearly all aquarium fish foods including flakes, frozen, freeze dried, live and cichild pellets.

Tank Region : Bottom to middle areas of the tank.

Gender : Males may be larger than females of the same age. Females usually have pink or orange on the belly. Males may have longer dorsal fins.

Photo Credit : Photos copyright

Site References :

Fish Lore Forum : Convict Cichlid Forum

Forum Avatar :
Convict Cichlid

Convict Cichlid Comments

From: Jeff Huang
I have a pair of convicts. They breed a lot and care for their fry. It's very interesting watching them protect them.

From: Roderick
I bought 2 but removed them after 2 days. They made a disaster in my peaceful aquarium, chased angel fish, pleco and even one another. I don't recommend this fish in a community tank.

From: Adam R.
Convicts were some of the first fish I ever kept. They are very good parents, which if allowed, will keep breeding and breeding. It is best to separate the females from the males because you will have hundreds of babies and no where for them. They can be aggressive, so keep them with other fish of similar size and temperament. The males will get to 4-5" and the females are smaller 2-1/2 to 3". Females have more color. They have an orange tint with neons blues and yellows. Great fish, just make sure the other fish can handle their aggression.

From: Dave
Okay, I know this fish has a long wrap-sheet filled with incidents of aggression and bad behavior, but I have had one in a community tank, yes a community tank, for about two years now, and I have not had a problem. My convict is generally pretty easy going, and even a bit shy, but he is no fighter. My girlfriend described him as a wimp. Every web-site I have seen (I have looked at them since introducing my convict the tank) says he should be a bad influence in the tank, so this leads to my question: is he just an abnormal wimp like my girlfriend and I think, or is it common to see a convict be so docile around fish of a similar size?
Hi Dave - you don't mention the aquarium size in your post. It could be that your cichlid is comfortable in it's surroundings and doesn't feel threatened. You would most likely see more aggression if you introduced another convict of the opposite gender. Many cichlids can become quite aggressive with tank mates while spawning.

From: Withheld
Definitely not recommended for a peaceful community tank. I made the mistake of not researching them and put two in my 55 gallon. After the first day they started beating up my gouramis and angelfish while uprooting plants. I took them back the very next day. Its too bad because they really are nice cool looking fish.

From: Hawaii
Our Convicts are in Community Tanks and get along with each other one tank is 35 gallons and the other is 20 gallons. We have one pair female and male in each tank. Even though the tank has 3 other types of fish they seem to get along. We discovered that they love to eat little snails, they will pick it up and bang it on a rock or the glass tank until they reach the snail and eat them. In our 20 gallon tank one of the pair had babies and the female is very protective and has dug out little pits and caves near the plants to hide her babies. We have counted up ten babies. It has been the 4th day and the babies lay low near to the gravels and plants to avoid the other large fish. The mother is busy moving rocks, building pits, and guarding her babies. She does dart if the other fish come closer to her and the babies. We have found this to be so interesting watching their social behavior. Oh yes they are very aggressive in the tank at first but as they adapt to a social community tank they do get a little comfortable. At first they do eat very small fish. But for some reason both of the community tanks are doing well and it has been very fascinating watching all of them live together. In the 20 gallon tank with the Convict pair that has the babies we have an algae feeder with feelers on her head, 2 mollies, 2 tetras, and a goldfish which is a mixer of aggressive and non aggressive fish. In the 35 gallon tank with the other Convict pair we have a large 6 inch pleco algae eater, 3 neons, 3 nukes, 2 tetras, and 4 mollies. We are not Aquarium specialist but we enjoy putting things in together by experimenting with a social community tank. They have been living together for about 6 months in each tank.

Still have questions?
Jump on the forum and ask your question!
Go here: Convict Cichlid Forum