Top 10 Cichlids we Love to Keep In 29-Gallon Fish Tanks

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. Many of them require larger tanks to accommodate their size and territorial behavior, but several species are small enough to fit in a 29-gallon aquarium or less. Find out which of these diminutive cichlids made our top 10 list.


South American Cichlids

1. German Blue Ram

Mikrogeophagus ramirezi

This dwarf cichlid measures in at 22.5 inches (5-6cm) and boasts a wide range of colors including a red eyes, black markings and a yellow head. There is also blue iridescent spekling on the body as well as its fins. There are many color options, including black, electric and gold. Remember to get an aquarium heater that can heat the water to 84-86degF (29-30 degC). Warmer water requirements can limit your options for tank mates. You might consider keeping them with cardinal tetras, discus, and Sterbai cory cats. See their complete care guide for more information.

2. Bolivian Ram

Mikrogeophagus altispinosus

This underrated, hardier cousin of the German blue ram is a favorite of our warehouse manager Robert. It grows up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) long, has striking yellow and black coloration, and features long, trailing tips on its fins and tail. They are more easy to breed than German blue rams and can survive in colder temperatures of 73-79°F (23-26°C). This easy-going cichlid is great with other community fish of similar size, such as tetras and corydoras.

3. Apistogramma Cichlid

Apistogramma cacatuoides

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 are similar to the German blue ram and prefer the bottom third. Hobbyists often breed them by making an apisto cave for them or a coconut hut to house their eggs. You can find more information on how to keep apistogrammas here.

4. Lyretail Checkerboard Cichlid

Dicrossus filamentosus

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 like soft water, so you can add driftwood and catappa leaves to naturally alkalize the water. Although they are more shy than other community fish, they can be quite friendly with each other.

5. Golden Dwarf Cichlid

Nannacara anomala

This South American species displays some serious sexual dimorphism, such that the two sexes look very different from each other. The male measures approximately 3 inches (7.6 cm), and has flashy, neon-blue-green scales. The female is about half that size, with a golden-tan body, and black horizontal lines. They are slow-sinking and enjoy frozen foods, Repashy gel food, and slow-sinking pellets. To encourage breeding, match one male to multiple females and provide spawning caves (similar to apistos).

African Cichlids

6. Lyretail Fairy Cichlid

Neolamprologus brichardi

This beautiful cichlid features a sleek, long body and a lyre-shaped tail. 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. We recommend that they be kept alone in a tank with only their species, and no other fish mates, unless you are planning on increasing their aquarium size to 55 gallon 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. If you have softer water, use cichlid salts and substrates like crushed coral and aragonite sand to reach the necessary water parameters. 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

Neolamprologus leleupi

If you enjoy the vibrant colors of bigger African cichlids, you can’t go wrong with the Leleupi cichlid. This eye-catching species has a bold, lemony yellow to fiery orange body that reaches 3-4 inches (8-10 cm). It is similar to the lyretail Cichlid and enjoys living in cracks and caves made by rock piles. They are not picky eaters and will happily feed on an omnivore diet of cichlid pellets, frozen foods, and spirulina flakes.

8. Kribensis

Pelvicachromis pulcher

Because of its ease-of-breeding and numerous color options, this popular aquarium fish is loved by many. Similar to Apistogramma cichlids they spawn in apisto huts and coconut huts. They also care about their offspring. Unlike all the other African cichlids in this article, kribs do not come from Lake Tanganyika and therefore do well in slightly alkaline waters with pH levels of 7-8. They are peaceful enough to live together in a tank, but can become territorial when they breed.

9. Julidochromis Cichlid

Julidochromis marlieri

The striking black and white fins of Julidochromis cichlids, which are surrounded with iridescent-blue fins, and their long, cigar-shaped bodies, are what make them so popular. 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

Neolamprologus multifasciatus

Shell dwellers are among the smallest cichlids on the planet, with Neolamprologus multifasciatus (or multis), measuring in at 1-2 inches (22.5-5 cm). The common name of shell dwellers refers to their preference for living in empty snail shells and not 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. Read our article on the shell dweller for more information.

Cichlids are some of our favorite fish because of their bold personalities and unique appearances. Aquarium Co-Op doesn’t ship fish but we do have a list trusted vendors who sell them online. Check out their selection to see if they have the right cichlids for you.