Top 10 Cichlids We Love to Keep in 29-Gallon Aquariums
Cichlids are a very diverse group of primarily freshwater fish that are known for their brilliant coloration and feisty personalities. Although many of these fish require large tanks in order to accommodate their size or territorial behavior, some species can fit in a smaller tank (e.g., a 29-gallon aquarium) to be able to house them. Discover which of these tiny cichlids made it onto our top 10 list.
South American Cichlids
1. German Blue Ram
This 2-2.5-inch (5-6 cm) dwarf cichlid boasts an amazing array of colors, such as a red eye, black markings, yellow head, and blue iridescent speckling on the body and fins. There are many color options, including black, electric and gold. The key thing to remember is get an aquarium heater that can raise the temperature to 84-86degF (29-30degC). You will need to have a warmer water temperature in order to keep them happy. You can find more information in their care guide.
2. Bolivian Ram
Robert is a fan of this underrated and tougher cousin to the German Blue Ram. The ram can reach 3 inches (7.6cm), and is distinguished by striking yellow and dark coloration. It also has long, trailing tail tips and fins. Compared to German blue rams, they are easier to breed and can live in cooler temperatures from 73-79degF (23-26degC). This easy-going, friendly cichlid can be paired with similar-sized fish such as barbs, corydoras and livebearers.
3. Apistogramma Cichlid
This genus of dwarf-cichlids is brightly colored and comes in nearly every color or pattern possible. A. cacatuoides, also known as the cockatoo cichlid, A. agassizii and A. borellii are some of the most common species. They prefer to hang around the bottom third of an aquarium, where temperatures are slightly higher at 82°F (28°C), like the German blueram. Many hobbyists enjoy breeding them by adding an apisto cave or coconut hut for them to lay their eggs. Our care sheet contains more information about keeping apistogrammas.
4. Lyretail Checkerboard Cichlid
Are you looking for something a bit more difficult? Try the checkerboard or chessboard cichlid, named after the alternating rows of black squares running along its body. They prefer soft water with lower pH, so add catappa leaves and driftwood to naturally acidify the water. They are shyer and can get along well with other fish in the community. However, they may be territorial towards their own species so keep more females than men.
5. Golden Dwarf Cichlid
This South American species displays some serious sexual dimorphism, such that the two sexes look very different from each other. The male measures about 3 inches (7.6cm) in length and has flashy neon blue-green scales. The female is roughly half the size and has a golden-tan physique and black horizontal stripes. They are slow-sinking and enjoy frozen foods, Repashy gel food, and slow-sinking pellets. You can encourage breeding by combining one male with multiple females, and providing spawning caves (similarly to apistos).
6. Lyretail Fairy Cichlid
The cichlid is beautiful with a long tail, long fin tips and a sleek body. One breeding pair can be kept within a 20-gallon container, while a group of four or five can be kept in the 29-gallon. Because they can be more aggressive than the other fish on this list, we recommend keeping them in a species-only setup with no other tank mates unless you plan on upgrading their aquarium size to 55 gallons or more.
The Brichardi and other smaller African cichlids are from Lake Tanganyika. Therefore, they require hard water that is between 7.8-9.0 pH and above 160ppm (9 degree) GH. Cichlid salts, substrates such as crushed coral or aragonite are useful for water that is not very hard. If you have lots of cave-like rockswork to allow the cichlids spawn in, you can enjoy the sight of the babies being watched closely by their parents and other older siblings.
7. Lemon Cichlid
The Leleupi cichlid is a great choice if you like the bright colors of larger African cichlids. The Leleupi cichlid is a striking species with a bright, yellowish-to-fierce orange body measuring 3-4 inches (8-10cm). As with the lyretail cichlid, it enjoys dwelling and breeding in the cracks and caves formed by piles of rock. They don’t have a preference for food and will happily eat cichlid pellets or frozen foods.
The popularity of this aquarium fish is due to its easy breeding and variety of colors. They are similar to Apistogramma cichlids in that they spawn in apisto caves or coconut huts. Parents will also show care for their offspring. Kribs are not like other African cichlids and can live in water pH levels between 7-8. They are peaceful enough to live together in a tank, but can become territorial when they breed.
9. Julidochromis Cichlid
Julidochromis Cichylids are well-known for their striking black and/or white patterns, iridescent blue fins and long, cigar-shaped bodies. They are rock dwellers and tend to stay in the corners of rocks, protecting their territory and looking after their children. Live aquarium plants can be added to your water purification system and provide additional protection for your julies.
10. Shell Dwellers
Shell dwellers are some of the smallest cichlids in the world, with Neolamprologus multifasciatus (or multis) coming in at 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm). Their common name refers to the fact that they live and breed in empty snail shells instead of rock crevices. They also like to constantly dig and redecorate, so use sand for the tank bottom and add live plants that don’t require substrate (e.g., java fern, anubias, and floating plants). You can feed the fry tiny, slow-sink foods such as baby brine shrimps, nano pellets and crushed flakes because they will stay close to their homes and wait for food. Our shell dweller article provides more information.
Cichlids are some of our favorite fish because of their bold personalities and unique appearances. While Aquarium Co-Op does not ship fish, we have a list of trusted vendors that sell them online, so check out their selection and see if you can find the perfect cichlid for your next aquarium.