How to Keep African Cichlids From Killing Each Other

An aggressive cichlid can be a very real threat to another cichlid.
An aggressive cichlid can be a very real threat to another cichlid. (Image: African cichlid image by Earl Robbins from

African Cichlids are brightly colored fish that originate from south Africa. They are visually appealing, but difficult to keep in aquariums since they are highly territorial and aggressive. Some cichlids will even try to kill each other. You can try to get cichlid types that will get along, or arrange a tank environment where each cichlid has his own space.

Keep the fish in separate tanks if they are from different lakes. The name of the lake, or whether the fish were bred in captivity, should be available at the point of purchase. If the cichlids are in the same tank at the store, they are usually from the same lake.

Put African aquatic plants like anubias barteri in the tank. Floating plants act as a distraction and give the fish something else to attack. The plants also provide hiding spaces and separation to give cichlids their own territory.

Place several rocks or plants in the middle of the tank. According to, the fish will likely stay on his side of the barrier and avoid confrontations over territory.

Keep less aggressive types together. Sub-dominate, or less aggressive cichlids are usually smaller than dominates and end up with less vibrant colors.

Move any other fish to a different tank when cichlids are breeding. Breeding cichlids are especially violent when they're protecting eggs.

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