Are Dwarf Cichlids Aggressive ?-Tips for a Community Tank

The Dwarf Cichlid is Native to South America, with approximately one hundred fifty species. When they are in their natural habitat, they love the shallow water that is slow-flowing or still. The substrate is fine sand with hundreds of dead leaves from the trees.

This species of Cichlid is not very active swimmers, they will typically keep towards the bottom of the aquarium. The Dwarf Cichlid does not get any bigger than about four inches.

Are Dwarf Cichlids aggressive?

These particular Cichlids are peaceful fish. They are tolerant towards other fish and have no problems holding their own against bigger, non-aggressive fish. The only time a Dwarf Cichlid gets aggressive is during mating season, if there is over one male fish in the tank, or if they feel their ‘territory’ is being threatened, and then; they are only semi-aggressive.

They do well in community tanks, as long as the other fish stay in the middle line or towards the surface of the tank. 

I will give you further information on the Dwarf Cichlids; food, tank requirements, care, and more. I will also provide you with tips on keeping them in a community tank, including the best tank mates.

Most Popular Dwarf Cichlids

There are over one hundred fifty Cichlids that are classified as “Dwarfs.” These fish do not grow over four inches long, they are colorful, peaceful, and can be kept in a large variety of community tanks.

The Blue Rams, Bolivian Rams, and other species of the Apistogramma are the most popular Dwarf Cichlids. These little fish have a lot of curiosity, personality, and will come close to the tank walls when you peer in at them.

They spot you immediately and have interacted with their keepers. 

They are not huge swimmers, but when they move around in the water, the lighting will reflect off of their stunning colors. They are beautiful to watch, just hanging out close to the substrate of the tank. You do not need to have an active fish that swims fifty-seventy-five miles an hour to enjoy them. Just watching them floating and relaxing will help you relax after a hard day at work. 

Dwarf Cichlids Water & Tank Requirements

Make sure that you purchase a 20-gallon tank, minimum. You will need to go larger if you are going to have a community tank. You want everyone to have plenty of room to move/swim around comfortably. The Dwarf Cichlid does very well in a heavily planted tank with caves, grottos, or overhangs for hiding.

They like the water to be kept at a temperature of 78-84 degrees. We should keep the pH between 7.0-7.5 with alkalinity below 5 dKH. Make sure that you do a 10% water change once a week and a 25% change once a month. Keeping the water clean will keep your fish happy and healthy.

If I were going to have a community tank with one to two Dwarf Cichlids, I would go with a fifty-gallon minimum. If you are just wanting to do a pair of female Dwarf Cichlids, then thirty to forty gallons would be perfect.

At the pet store or do a brief check on the internet. It is usually 1 gallon of water for every 2 inches of fish. But please, double-check, because for some species it is different. 

Tank Decorations

The perfect things to have in your Dwarf Cichlid aquarium are:

  • Fine sand substrate
  • Lush vegetation – it is a food source and shelter
  • Java Moss, Java Fern, and Cryptocoryne – stick with natural, tropical plants
  • Rocks or driftwood
  • Caves or ‘housing’
  • Powerful Filtration – very important to get rid of waste and keep the water clean


The Dwarf Cichlids are naturally omnivorous fish. They prefer algae and a variety of proteins. High-quality dry pellets along with brine shrimp and worms are a perfect diet for this species.

Make sure that you purchase the sinking pellets since these fish like to stay on the bottom of the tank. But remember, if you have a community tank, you will also need to purchase flakes or pellets that stay on the surface for the other fish in the tank.

Behavior & Attitude

Mostly, Dwarf Cichlids are peaceful, semi-aggressive fish. The one thing that causes aggression is another fish (even the same species) invading ‘their space.’ To keep their aggression at bay; make sure they are getting plenty of food, have hiding places in the tank, and have other fish that stay closer to the middle of the tank or the tank surface.

Best Tank Mates-Tips for a Community Tank

As stated previously, the Dwarf Cichlids are a peaceful fish, who do not mind community living. 

The top 3 tips (things you need to remember):

  • Avoid larger, more aggressive fish
  • Keep 2 females together – males get territorial
  • Other fish need to stay off the bottom of the tank. Get small fish that like the middle line or the surface.

The six fish who make the best tank mates for the Dwarf Cichlid (besides their own species), are: 

  • Neon Tetra
  • Galaxy Rasbora
  • Pencilfish
  • Pygmy Corydoras
  • Oto Cinclus Catfish
  • Cardinal Tetras

You can also have; mollies, platies, guppies, hatchet fish, and swordfish. You will need to do a little research or ask the pet store some questions. You want to remember, in a community tank the water temperature, pH, and hardness need to be ideal for ALL fish in the tank (not just the cichlid).

That could make things a tad tricky, but it can definitely be done, with the help of the list above. You will also have to make sure that the other fish like a heavily planted tank with slow-flowing water. 

A lot of the above fish, like the basics of what the Dwarf Cichlid likes. But it is also going to depend on exactly what species of Dwarf Cichlid you get. Mostly, they are a lot alike; but they do have some slight differences that can influence the ‘tank mates’ that you purchase. So double check, after you have chosen your specific Dwarf Cichlid. 

Lifespan and Other Information on Dwarf Cichlid

This specific species can live between five and ten years old. The cleaner the habitat is kept, the longer they will live. With the different Dwarf Cichlids species, you have a large variety of stunning colors to choose from; bright yellow with a black strip, blues or yellow with slight additional colors, purple/blue with red and yellowfin tips, blue/gold with reddish fins, and more.

If you want to breed your Dwarf Cichlid, then you need to keep them in a tank with only the same species. You want ONLY ONE male fish and between 3-5 female fish. Two males in the tank will fight over the female fish. 

If you do plan on breeding them, then you will need to research the breeding process, how to take care of the fry, and other essential information for breeding the Dwarf Cichlid.

You want to make sure you are fully informed so that none of the fry’s die and so that your momma fish is properly cared for during the process. You also want to make sure they have the required area that they desire for breeding. 


Dwarf Cichlids are peaceful, semi-aggressive fish that come in a variety of colors. They love to hang around the bottom of the tank and interact with their owners.

They can live in community tanks as long as the other fish are not “bottom dwellers.” There are over one hundred fifty types of Dwarf Cichlid to choose from. See what your pet store has and ask them if they can get in a certain type if you are looking for a specific color/species. 

Do some extra research on the particular species of Dwarf Cichlid that you want to keep in your aquarium. This is just a piece of the general information for Dwarf Cichlids. There is specific information that you will need to know for each species of Dwarf Cichlid. Water temperatures vary slightly, as do pH and water hardness. Tankmates may vary as well, so you will want to make sure you know the specifics of your particular Dwarf Cichlid.  

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