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. While many species require larger tanks due to their territorial behavior and large size, others can be kept in smaller aquariums (up to 29 gallons). Find out which of these diminutive cichlids made our top 10 list.


South American Cichlids

1. German Blue Ram

Mikrogeophagus ramirezi

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. For more details, see their full care guide.

2. Bolivian Ram

Mikrogeophagus altispinosus

Robert loves this less-known, but more robust cousin to the German blueram. 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. They are much easier to breed than German Blue Rams. They can also live in lower temperatures (73-79degF/23-26degC). This easy-going cichlid is great with other community fish of similar size, such as tetras and corydoras.

3. Apistogramma Cichlid

Apistogramma cacatuoides

This brightly colored genus of dwarf cichlids comes in almost every color and pattern imaginable. Some of the most popular species include A. cacatuoides (or cockatoo cichlid), A. agassizii, and A. borellii. 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. Hobbyists often breed them by making an apisto cave for them or a coconut hut to house their eggs. For more information on keeping apistogrammas, read our care sheet.

4. Lyretail Checkerboard Cichlid

Dicrossus filamentosus

Looking for something a little more challenging? The chessboard or checkerboard cichlid is a more difficult choice. Its name refers to the rows of black squares that run along its body. They prefer soft water with lower pH, so add catappa leaves and driftwood to naturally acidify the water. While they have a shyer disposition and get along with other community fish, they may squabble amongst their own species, so try to keep more females than males.

5. Golden Dwarf Cichlid

Nannacara anomala

This South American species exhibits serious sexual dimorphism. The sexes appear very different from one another. 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. Like most of the South American cichlids on this list, they enjoy slow-sinking pellets, frozen foods, and Repashy gel food. You can encourage breeding by combining one male with multiple females, and providing spawning caves (similarly to apistos).

African Cichlids

6. Lyretail Fairy Cichlid

Neolamprologus brichardi

The cichlid is beautiful with a long tail, long fin tips and a sleek body. A breeding pair can be kept in a 20-gallon aquarium, or a group of four to six in a 29 gallon tank. 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. Add lots of cave-like rockwork for the cichlids to spawn in, and you can enjoy watching the baby fry being closely guarded by their parents and even 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. The Leleupi cichlid is a striking species with a bright, yellowish-to-fierce orange body measuring 3-4 inches (8-10cm). Like the lyretail, this species enjoys nesting and breeding in cracks and crevices created by piles rock. 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

This popular aquarium fish is well-loved because of its ease of breeding and many color variations. 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 marlieri

Julidochromis Cichylids are well-known for their striking black and/or white patterns, iridescent blue fins and long, cigar-shaped bodies. As rock dwellers, they tend to hover around the nooks and crannies between stones, diligently protecting their territory and caring for their children. To provide extra cover for your julies, and purify the water, you might consider adding live aquarium plants.

10. Shell Dwellers

Neolamprologus multifasciatus

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). The common name of shell dwellers refers to their preference for living in empty snail shells and not rock crevices. They like to continually dig and redecorate so add sand to the tank bottom. Also, consider adding live plants that do not require substrate, such as anubias or java Ferns. The fry will wait to be fed and then return to the tank to eat. Read our article on the shell dweller for more information.

Because of their unique personalities and striking appearances, cichlids are one of our favourite fish. Aquarium Co-Op cannot ship fish, but we have a list with trusted vendors who can sell them online. Take a look at their selection and find the perfect cichlid to add to your next aquarium.