There are more than 1,300 species in the Cichlid family. The cichlid is primarily a freshwater fish and is extremely popular with aquarists. The cichlid lives in tropical America, as well as Madagascar, Asia, and Africa. Depending on the cichlid species, some are carnivorous and some are omnivorous.
Some of the more popular cichlid fish are Jack Dempsey, Oscar, Firemouth, and the Discus. Most cichlids show aggressive behavior towards other fish.
There are actually four cichlid species that are considered non-aggressive or least aggressive. Bolivian Rams, German Blue Rams, Keyholes, and Yellow Labs. As long as they have plenty of hiding places and the other fish are the same size, these fish are great for your aquarium.
Today, I will give you more detail on the four least aggressive cichlids. I will cover all of the basics; behavior, tank size, prime tank conditions, and general care. Cichlids are beautiful fish to have in your freshwater aquarium. These four are the best ones to keep, in a community tank. Some are better in tanks with their same species, but most of you can have other species in the same tank.
Bolivian Ram Cichlid
Bolivian Ram Cichlid Appearance, Lifespan, and Size
The Bolivian Ram has an oval body that is elongated and they are widest around the area of their dorsal fin. The base color is normally silver or brown. They will have yellow hues towards their belly and a black stripe that covers their head.
A typical size for the Bolivian Ram is three inches when they are mature. Males will be slightly larger, at approximately three and a half inches. The females can sometimes only reach two-and-a-half inches in size. As long as you properly care for them, the Bolivian Ram can live 4-6 years.
Bolivian Ram Cichlid Care, Tank Size, and Temperament
This species of cichlid are easy to care for. They do not have many issues with fluctuation of water quality. Bolivian Rams are a hardy fish, but prefer you to keep their parameters consistent.
A 30-gallon tank is optimal for the Bolivian Ram. Of course, you will need to go bigger, depending on how many fish you are keeping in the tank. The temperature of the water should be kept between 72-79 degrees, pH levels 6.0-7.5, and their water hardness should range between 0-10 DKH.
They love good sandy substrate, varying sizes of plants, driftwood, and caves. These fish are peaceful and usually only get aggressive during breeding. They will get along great with other peaceful fish of similar size; silver dollar, cory catfish, guppies, cherry barbs, and platies.
German Blue Ram Cichlid
German Blue Ram Cichlid Appearance, Lifespan, and Size
The German Blue Ram is available in some very stunning colors; yellow, red, orange, and blue. They will vary as far as having all of the colors or just one or two. A Lot of the time you will see the dominant colors of blue and yellow. The average size of the Blue Ram is approximately two to three inches in length. The lifespan of this particular species is three to four years old.
German Blue Ram Care, Tank size, Temperament
The German Blue Ram is an extremely easy fish to care for. They are low maintenance, hardy, and peaceful. Aquarists recommend a 20-gallon tank for the Blue Ram. Because they are on the smaller side, you do not need to go overboard with the size of the tank. Their water temperature needs to be between 72 and 79 degrees.
Keep the pH level between 6 – 6.5, with a water hardness of 5-12 KH. The Blue Ram loves to hide behind the vegetation, so make sure you have plenty of live plants in the tank. But, do not overload the tank with plants as they also need to be able to swim around freely.
The German Blue Ram is a peaceful, shy yet exploratory fish. They like to dig around in the substrate and prefer to just do their own thing. If you want to put another species in the same aquarium make sure that they are approximate in size and that the other species also have a laid-back peaceful temperament. Do use caution when putting 2 Blue Rams together in the same tank, especially males.
Keyhole Cichlid Appearance, Lifespan, and Size
The males, which are a bit larger than females, can get up to four inches in length. Keyhole Cichlids live between six and eight years old. These types of cichlids are not as bright or colorful as some of the other species.
This makes them harder to find because a lot of the pet stores do not keep them stocked. They have a dark stripe from their dorsal fin through the eye of the fish.
Keyhole Cichlid Care, Tank size, and Temperament
The one thing you need to remember with the Keyhole species: you do not want to keep them in a community tank with smaller fish. They have a unique behavior and are semi-territorial. Make sure you have a good number of hiding places and shelters, that will divide the tank into specific areas.
You will need to have a 20+ gallon tank with a temperature of 72-78 degrees. The pH level needs to be between 6.5 and 7.2. The Keyhole Cichlid is timid and fearful.
Use a small grained substrate with stones, ceramic tubes, coconut shells, and a few plants. As long as they have plenty of shelter in their tank, they will be happy. Keep them in a school of 6-8 and do not add large or aggressive tank mates. Small, mellow fish are going to be the best for an aquarium with the Keyhole Cichlid.
Yellow Labs Cichlid
These cichlids are a little more aggressive than the others listed. You can find the Yellow Lab; not only in the yellow color but also in many varieties of white and blue.
Yellow Labs Cichlid Appearance, Lifespan, and Size
These fish are a bright yellow (or the other colors listed above) with a prominent black stripe on the dorsal fin. The males, sometimes, develop a blue color during breeding and are slightly larger than the females. Your Yellow Lab will be on average 3.2 inches long. But they can grow to be four inches in an aquarium. With proper care, they can live up to 10 years.
Yellow Labs Care, Tank size, and Temperament
These fish are semi-aggressive, but easy to care for. A 50-gallon tank is ideal, but you can use a 30-gallon if you wish. Just remember, do not over-crowd your tank. Fish need plenty of open water to stay active. The water temperature should be between 72-79 degrees. You need the pH to stay between 7.2-8.8. The Yellow Lab Cichlid needs a little bit harder water, so the hardness needs to be at 10-20 dGH.
The Yellow Lab needs a lot of rocks and caves. This provides them with plenty of shelter and places to swim through. Use sand, gravel, or a mixture of both as the substrate. It is best to keep them in a tank with other Yellow Labs. But you can, however, have other peaceful, semi-aggressive fish in the same tank. Just make sure they are all about the same size. NEVER put bigger semi-aggressive fish in the tank.
Cichlids are beautiful fish that add an extra element to any freshwater aquarium. With over 1,300 species it will take a little bit of research to find the perfect fit for your aquarium if you already have other fish. Some are more aggressive than others and some are much bigger than others.
It is all in what you are looking for and what other fish you want to have in the same tank. Cichlids love to have a lot of hiding places or shelters, but they also need to have some open swim space as well. So when you put in your live plants, just make sure you have an even balance of plants and an open swim area.
As with all fish, keep an eye on water temperature, pH levels, nitrite and nitrate levels, and ammonia levels. If you care for your fish as needed, then they will be around for quite a long time for the whole family to enjoy.