10 Best African Cichlids Tank Mates

Finding the best African cichlids tank mates is difficult because these fish species are very aggressive and territorial. In this article, I will provide you with examples of fish species that are compatible with African cichlids.

african cichlid tank mates

While African cichlids are not compatible with most tropical fish, there are still some fish species that can be kept with these fish in a community tank.  When choosing mates for African cichlids it is important to go for species that are bigger in size, are hardy, and share the same water parameters.

Fish Compatible with African Cichlids

Fish species that can live with African cichlids are clown loaches, plecos, bushfish, red tail sharks, giant danios, bucktooth tetras, rainbowfish, large catfish, and larger algae eaters. Now let’s dive into details and learn about each fish species and its requirements.

1. Clown Loaches

clown loaches are a great choice as African cichlid tank mates

The Clown Loaches are semi-aggressive fish that can make a perfect match for your African Cichlids. The fish is characterized by its tan and black color including the four barbells protruding from the mouth.

Just like the African Cichlids, the Clown Loaches have a tendency of hiding all the time. Therefore, ensure that your tank is fully equipped with small rocks and caves to help them find ideal hiding places.

As a result, these fish species will not resort to aggression while safeguarding their respective territories.

Clown Loaches are bottom feeders so they spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank looking for food. Their main diet consists of bloodworms, flakes, pellets and brine shrimp among others.

  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Maximum Size of Fish: 4.5 inches (12 cm)
  • Water Temperature Range: 72-86 °F (22-30 °C)
  • pH Range: 6.0 to 7.5

2. Plecos

plecos are one of the best african cichlid tank mates

Plecos are a perfect tank mate to your African Cichlids. Being bottom feeders, you can rest assured that your tank will stay clean all the time. These fish feed on algae and this should not worry you about cleaning your tank anymore.

Given that Plecos spend most of their time at the bottom of the aquarium, your African Cichlids will have enough room to swim around without interfering with their immediate tank mates.

This should tell you that chances of African Cichlids getting territorial will be slim considering that Plecos won’t be scrambling for the same living spaces in the tank.

  • Care Level: Very easy
  • Maximum size of fish: 24 inches (60 cm)
  • Water Temperature Range: 72-78 °F (22-26 °C)
  • pH range: 6.5 to 7.5

3. Leopard Bushfish

One of the main reasons why Leopard Bushfish can make a good tank mate with your African Cichlid is their aggressive behavior. The aggressive tendencies from the two fish make them a perfect match and there’s no doubt about it.

One interesting fact about the Leopard Bushfish is their behavior of tricking other fish in the tank to think they are just leaves lying around. From that behavior, aquarists decided to pair them with larger fish rather than the smaller ones.

Most of the time the Leopard Bushfish become picky eaters and that’s why you need to supply them with their own meal when they are sharing a tank with the African Cichlids.

Their ideal food should be small in size, live or frozen to make them eat well. Sometimes you may provide them with flakes although they don’t like them that much. This is due to the fact that the Leopard Bushfish is carnivores naturally and won’t eat large quantities of flakes as you would expect.

  • Care level: Moderate
  • Maximum size of fish: Up to 7 inches (18 cm)
  • Water Temperature Range: 73-82 °F (23-28 °C)
  • pH range: 6.0 to 7.5

4. Red Tail Shark

The Red Tail Shark derived its name from its beautiful sleek black body that is complemented with its red tail.

Despite the fact they are amazingly beautiful and adorable, you shouldn’t take it for granted that they are gentle fish. These fish are semi-aggressive and not just another species of pretty fish to admire.

Their semi-aggressive nature makes the Red Tail Shark ideal tank mates with the African Cichlids because they seem to share almost the same temperament.

In addition, they are territorial and likely to set up their own boundaries within the tank. If you are an experienced aquarium hobbyist, you will definitely understand that these fish set up markings so that other tank mates don’t make mistakes about their territories.

The Red Tail Shark fish-like vegetation and rocks in their living spaces. Make sure that you provide these features in the tank to make them comfortable.

Most importantly, ensure that the tank is large enough to accommodate the Red Tail Shark and your African Cichlids.

  • Care level: Moderate
  • Maximum size of fish: About 4 inches (10 cm)
  • Water Temperature Range:  72-79 °F (22-26 °C)
  • pH range: 6.5 to 7.5

5. Giant Danios

Giant Danios make good neighbors with the African Cichlids when placed in the same tank fish. But to make their neighborhood strong, you need to include the Rainbowfish in the same tank environment.

Also, your Danios must be large enough to make a perfect match with the African Cichlids. Or else, you may consider your Danios another delicious meal for the African Cichlids.

Giant Danios prefer living at the bottom or in the middle of the tank. This way, they can easily get along well with the cichlids very well.

The Giant Danios are famous for their preference for vegetated areas. This means you should consider adding a few plants to the tank set up to keep them busy and happy throughout.

  • Care level: Easy
  • Maximum size of fish: About 4 inches (10 cm)
  • Water Temperature Range: 64-74 °F (17-23 °C)
  • pH range: 6.5 to 7.0

6. African Red-Eyed Tetra


African Red-Eyed Tetra

The African Red-Eyed Tetra (Arnoldichthys spilopterus) is another fish that can cohabit pretty well with the African Cichlid.

The fish can grow fairly larger, hence the need to prepare a bigger tank that can give it enough room to swim from one corner to the other.

When placed in the same tank with the African Cichlids the African Red-Eyed Tetra thrive the best in the same tank conditions thus making the two fish good tank mates.

One of the most intriguing things about the African Red-Eyed Tetra is that they are not picky when taking their meals.

This is the same case scenario with the African Cichlids especially when they are living in the same tank. Ensure that you provide them with frozen foods, algae, flakes and anything that both fish can consume.

  • Care level: Moderate
  • Maximum size of fish: About 4 inches (10 cm)
  • Water Temperature Range: 73-82 °F (23-28 °C)
  • pH range: 6.0 to 8.0

7. Rainbowfish

Rainbow Fish can make good tank mates with African Cichlids. But before you even introduce the Rainbow Fish to the same tank environment with the African Cichlids, make sure it is large enough.

Contrary to following this directive, you will be subjecting your smaller Rainbow Fish to the aggressive behavior of the African Cichlids. As a matter of fact, the small-sized Rainbow Fish will become a free meal to the African Cichlids in a matter of minutes.

Rainbow Fish are known to be omnivores, meaning that they can eat nearly all types of fish food presented to them. These fish can do well with all types of prepared food.

Even though they possess bigger mouths, the Rainbow Fish can still do better with small food.

  • Care level: Very easy
  • Maximum size of fish: Up to 4 inches (10 cm)
  • Water Temperature Range: 72-77 °F (22-25 °C)
  • pH range: 7.0 to 8.0

8. Synodontis Catfish

Synodontis Catfish have almost similar behavior as that of the African Cichlids. To begin with, they like hiding especially beneath the rocks, small caves or in vegetation.

When setting up a fish tank to accommodate these two species of fish, ensure that you include rocks and small caves for them to hide. Also, these fish enjoy staying in fish tanks with sandy bottoms and plenty of vegetation or plants.

Synodontis Catfish are bottom dwellers and are likely to spend much of their time at the bottom of the tank, giving enough room for the African Cichlids to swim around.

Even though they love eating fish flakes, you need to find ways of including pellets in their diets from time to time. When you provide these tank mates with the right food, you will realize that they are always in optimal shape.

  • Care level: Very easy
  • Maximum size of fish: Almost 10 inches (25 cm)
  • Water Temperature Range: 75-82 °F (24-28 °C)
  • pH range: 7.5 to 9.0

9. Flying Fox Fish

If you are not keen enough you can mistake the Flying Fox for the Siamese Algae Eater.

The two species of fish look similar although the Flying Fox is characterized by the presence of barbells or flaps around the mouth, a golden band running down the body, a smooth edge next to the line running across the body and colored fins.

These fish can make good tank mates with the African Cichlids and other fish species because they are friendly and easy to get along with.

When placed in the same living environment with the African Cichlids, it is advisable to provide a spacious tank with plenty of plants, driftwood, small caves, and rocks.

All these features are included to provide places for the Flying Fox to hide in case of any aggression from other community tank fish.

When feeding them, ensure that their diet consists mainly of flakes, frozen or live food, wafers, and pellets. Also, these fish feed well on algae and since they are bottom dwellers, you will not have to worry about cleaning your tank.

  • Care level: Easy
  • Maximum size of fish: 8 inches (20 cm)
  • Water Temperature Range: 76-81 °F (24-27 °C)
  • pH range: 6.0 to 7.5

10. Siamese Algae Eater

In most cases, people have mistaken the Siamese Algae Eater for the Flying Fox Fish because the two species look so similar.

The only difference is the absence of flaps at the corner of the mouth of the Siamese Algae Eaters. These fish make good companions with the African Cichlids because they share a lot in common.

The Siamese Algae Eaters are generally peaceful fish and that’s why they are the best candidates for a number of tank mates including the African Cichlids. Generally, these fish are the best choice to be included in a community aquarium.

Given that they are bottom dwellers, they can coexist peacefully with the cichlids. You need to ensure that these two species of fish cohabit in harmony by providing them with a large tank with plenty of room to swim around.

The main portion of their diet is right in their name. These fish eat a lot of algae but you can provide them with plant matter as well as vegetation.

  • Care level: Easy
  • Maximum size of fish: 6 inches (15 cm)
  • Water Temperature Range: 75-79 °F (23-26 °C)
  • pH range: 6.5 to 7.0

What Fish should you Avoid Keeping with African Cichlids?

African Cichlids do not have too many potential tank mates. This means that there are far too many species of fish to avoid when choosing tank mates for your African Cichlids.

Avoid any fish that looks docile, small and less aggressive because they will not survive in the same tank with the African Cichlids.

Below is an example of such fish:

  • Guppy fish
  • Corydoras
  • Angelfish
  • Glassfish
  • Discus


Even though there are those fish that can make good tank mates with the African Cichlids, take precautions when introducing them to the tank.

This is because the African Cichlids are antisocial creatures that take time to get used to their new tank mates.

African Cichlids   Updated: December 11, 2022
avatar Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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