The Best Looking Cichlid Fish to Have in the Fish Tank

Peacock cichlids are some of the most beautiful freshwater fish.
Peacock cichlids are some of the most beautiful freshwater fish. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Few fish rival the beauty of marine fish like cichlids. These colorful fish come in a rainbow of colors and patterns that make for a show-stopping tank. Some species can be kept in brilliant community tanks, while other species will be a single, stunning fish.

Malawi Cichlids

African cichlids are species native to several lakes in Africa. Cichlids from Lake Malawi are some of the loveliest cichlids species in the aquarium. Some 300 species have been discovered in Lake Malawi, and experts estimate at least 500 more species are yet to be found. The German red peacock -- also called the rubin red or ruby red -- is one of the most colorful varieties. They have red-orange bodies and blue faces. Other peacock cichlids like the sunshine or African butterfly come in shades or yellow, blue, orange and red. The electric yellow cichlid is a brilliant yellow stunner. The bumblebee mouthbrooder is a yellow and black variety of zebra cichlid.

Dwarf Cichlids

The dwarf cichlids found in South America are smaller than their African cousins, making them perfect for someone with limited tank space, as little as 10 or 20 gallons. They are also more peaceful and less destructive than other cichlid species, so they can be kept together in a community tank. Ram cichlids display a mix of yellow and blue with a black spot. They only grow to between 2 and 3 inches and are peaceful community fish. Cockatoo cichlids are another dwarf species. They are bright yellow, with black stripes running the length of their body. They have feathery fins in a mix of yellow and black.


Angelfish are some the most unique kinds of cichlids. They are easily recognized by their diamond-shaped flat bodies and long, thin dorsal and anal fins. They can be kept with other non-cichlids, but should only be kept in pairs with other angelfish to prevent aggression. The marbled veiled angelfish is perhaps the most beautiful variety. They have bodies marbled black and white, and their signature tall fins are long and flowing. They grow to about 6 inches tall, and will need a tank that is tall enough to allow them to swim -- 30-gallons or larger.

Large South American Cichlids

The large cichlids of South America are usually best kept singly, but can make for a large, show-stopper in your tank. Most species grow between 6 and 12 inches that are commonly kept in the aquarium. The electric blue Jack Dempsey is a species who is eye-catching and relatively peaceful so far as cichlids go, but they do best kept singly or a with a few other large fish. They have iridescent blue speckled bodies on a black background and grow to 8 inches. The red devil is another beautiful large species, but is considerably more aggressive than the Jack Dempsey and should definitely be housed alone. They can grow up to 15 inches and are bright red. While they are aggressive towards other fish, they are very aware of their owners and will often beg for food and keep an eye on you as you move around the room.

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