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African cichlids are some of the most vibrant fishes kept in aquariums, and unlike most exotic tropical fishes, they’re a little easier to maintain and care for.
But just how big do African cichlids get, and what size tank do you need to keep them safe and healthy?
Unfortunately, there is no right off the bat answer to this question because there is an overwhelming number of African cichlids species known today, with over 700 species in Lake Malawi alone. The fishes come in all shapes, sizes, and color variations.
That said, most African cichlid species kept in home aquariums are anywhere from two (2) inches to eight (8) inches in length and require at least a 30-gallon fish tank for a single fish or pair depending on the species.
Peacock cichlids, which are some of the most popular in the family, average between four (4) and six (6) inches can fit in any tanks bigger than 45 gallons.
Please read on for more insight on African cichlids body and tanks size. I’ve also made a quick sizes checklist for the most popular species maintained by hobbyists.
African Cichlids Tank Size
As I’ve mentioned above, the size of your tank will depend on the species of fish you intend to keep and how big each fish will be once they reach adulthood.
African cichlids that are four inches or less will fit in a 30-gallon aquarium, but if they grow to between four inches and six inches, a 45-gallon tank will be more appropriate.
Species that grow up to eight inches require a tank that 55-gallons at the very least.
When looking at each fish individually, a more precise hack is to have at least two (2) gallons of water for every inch of fully grown fish you have.
How Many African Cichlids Can You Put in A 30-Gallon Tank?
Given the rule above, you can have anywhere from four (4) medium-sized cichlid like the peacock, to six (6) dwarf African cichlids in a 30-gallon tank.
However, it would not be practical to keep a few peacocks in your 30-gallon as most cichlids species only get along with their own kind. Therefore, consider purchasing a larger fish tank if you plan on maintaining anything larger than dwarf African cichlid like the kribensis.
Below is a quick overview of how many of each of the five (5) most popular African cichlids will go into a 30-gallon Aquarium.
- Mbuna Cichlid: In theory, up to 4 Mbuna cichlid will fit in a 30-gallon tank (depending on the species) comfortably. But the recommended minimum for maintaining this cichlid is 8 individuals, anything under would result in aggressive behavior. Therefore, go for a bigger tank, maybe 55-gallons or more.
- Peacock Cichlid: A good number for an initial stocking plan is four (4) to six (6) peacock cichlids for a 30-gallon aquarium, though depending on the species, you may want to keep more or less.
- Kribensis (Rainbow Kribs): If you are planning on just a species tank with nothing else, you can have between five (5) and seven (7) kribs. If you’re going to have other fishes in the tank, I would say not more than 5 individuals.
- Electric Blue Hap: A minimum 55-gallons that is at least four (4) feet long is the minimum for these African cichlids. They grow to six (6) inches in length and need to be kept in groups of four (4), meaning a 30-gallons tank will be too tiny.
- Electric Yellow Labs: Seeing that Yellow Labs are some of the most peaceful African cichlids, you can fit up to 8 individuals in a 30-gallons tank. They only grow to an average size of 3.2 inches, so space should not be much of an issue, especially if you have a reliable filtrations system.
How Many African Cichlids Can You Put in A 55-Gallon Tank?
We’ve already seen that a 30-gallon is not too tiny for smaller African cichlids like rainbow kribs and yellow labs. But it can be a little limited when keeping medium-sized species like peacocks and Mbunas, and large cichlids like electric blue haps.
For that reason, I decided to a list (the second one) for stocking a 55-gallon African cichlids tank.
- Mbuna Cichlids: A 55-gallon is big enough for two (2) or three (3) groups of six (6) to eight (8) Mbuna cichlids depending on the species. Keeping them in groups of at least five (5) while limiting the number of species is highly recommended, more aggressive types especially need bigger groups to spread aggression.
- Peacock Cichlids: Four (4) groups of two (2) to three (3) individuals of each species of peacocks will fit in your 55-gallon tank. In fact, 12 peacocks would average-sized fish (4 to 6 inches) would give you room to add a nice bottom-dweller to stock it out.
- Kribensis (Rainbow Kribs): You can keep as many kribs in a 55-gallon as you would peacock cichlids. But kribensis are overly aggressive when breeding, so you may need to separate the spawning pair from the rest once they start showing signs of aggression.
- Electric Blue Hap: Four (4) electric blue haps will fit in a 55-gallon tank depending on the species. Even so, some grow up to seven (7) inches in length, so get a bigger tank if you can, plus keeping more fishes in a big tank will effectively reduce aggression.
- Electric Yellow Labs: Electric yellow labs are a member of the rock cichlids family (Mbuna), thus stocking them is akin to others in the group, which included red zebra cichlids, golden cichlids, and blue zebra cichlids. Up to 12 individuals will fit in your 55-gallon tank.
How Long Does It Take An African Cichlids To Grow?
Most African cichlids grow to an average length of between four (4) and six (6) inches, as we have already determined. But the time it takes for a particular fish to reach adult size is determined by several variables.
Adequate nutrition is definitely top of the list, but environmental quality also determines an African cichlids growth rate and overall health throughout its lifetime.
With that said, most African cichlids species take up to 2 years be fully grown, though this is when considering just the body size. In terms of coloration, they take anywhere from three months to a year to reach full potential.
Many species will also start breeding before they reach maximum size, mostly spawning anywhere from nine (9) to 12 months of age.
To help your African cichlids grow faster, feed them a proper diet using quality food. For better colorations, consider feeding your fish color enhancing foods.
Aggression in the fish tank result in stunted growth in some members, therefore try not to overstock your tank, but maintain the maximum number of cichlids to tame belligerent members.
Moreover, maintain your cichlids in an environment that best mimic their wild ecosystem. Make sure you filters are working effectively, use a heater to keep the water at the right temperature and create an effective cleaning schedule to ensure your water is safe for the fish 24/7.
Test for ammonia, nitrites, and ph at least once every week, plus try keep the nitrates at a manageable level.
Lastly, add rocks in your tank, especially when keeping Mbuna cichlids, to mimic the fishes’ natural home. Driftwood and other decors are recommended as well, including caves.
Rainbow kribs are especially fond of a good cave.