How Many African Cichlids Per Gallon?

African Cichlids are known to be highly territorial, which is a major cause of their aggressive behavior, especially during spawning.

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However, this does not mean that they cannot be kept in aquariums. In fact, they are by far the most popular species among aquarists, thanks to their colorful appearance.

It is important, however, to do all you can to ensure a suitable, stress-free life for them. So, one of the most important keys to keeping them happy and calm is to provide them with enough living space.

But how much space is enough for African cichlids? In this article, we will take a look to how many cichlids you can keep in your fish tank. So, let’s see how big an aquarium you should plan to buy if you want to keep these colorful specimens as the jewels of your home.

How to Calculate the Size of Fish Tank?

There’s a general rule of thumb for tropical fish, which is that you should expect 1 gallon per 1-inch fish. However, for African Cichlids, this is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain.

But then, how do you calculate it? Well, let’s start with their size.

For smaller specimens, 30 gallons may be enough to hold 3-5 specimens. Here we are thinking mostly of those under 4 inches.

If the adult size of the specimens exceeds this limit, the minimum is 50 gallons per head.

After that, each new fish added requires 3 gallons per head to maintain a safe and calm environment.

Tank Size for African Cichlids

The minimum aquarium size varies by species. It is influenced by the adult size of each individual, their degree of aggressiveness, especially during the drinking season, as well as the number of individuals to be kept together.

In the table below, we have tried to summarize the minimum and space requirements per specimen for ten known African Cichlids species, in an attempt to give you a better idea of the size of aquarium you should consider before purchasing each species.

Let’s see:

Cichlid Species Minimum Tank Size Gallons / Fish
Yellow Lab 30 gallons 10 gallons
OB Peacock 55 gallons 5-7 gallons
Strawberry Peacock 55 gallons 5-7 gallons
Yellow Tail Acei 40 gallons 10 gallons
Zebra Mbuna 55 gallons 5 gallons
Giraffe Cichlids 75 gallons 15 gallons
Electric Blue Hap 90 gallons 20 gallons
Auratus Cichlid 50 gallons 10 gallons
Frontosa Cichlid 70 gallons 70 gallons
Jewel Cichlid 30 gallons 15 gallons

The minimum tank size is for a single male in an established harem with females or completely alone.

How Many Cichlids Should You Keep in One Tank?

It is very difficult to determine the exact number of individuals for a particular aquarium, as this varies greatly from species to species and is unique.

They are very social creatures and like to live in small or large groups.
On average, you should keep about 5 or 6 of them, paying careful attention to which individuals warrant a single male in your tank at this number.

It is important to note that a larger tank size will also have a positive effect on their aggressive behavior, as they are more incompatible in too small tanks than in very large ones.

Weaker fish and outnumbered males or females will be fiercely pursued, and fights may end in the death of one of the combatants. Fish that have been reared together from a young age may be more peaceful, but once the spawning season arrives, caution is advised.

Different type of adult males may be introduced to each other either by means of a selective breeding program or not at all. It is also possible that pairs that have lived peacefully together for months may suddenly become violently combative and have to be separated. Such fights can sometimes occur during brood care.

With this in mind, it is worth considering larger aquariums where their aggression is reduced by greater freedom and more safe hiding places, thus providing them with a more harmonious environment and a stress-free lifestyle.

In really large aquariums, the number of specimens can be as high as 10-15, but it is important to note that this is more typical of smaller species with a calmer nature.

What is the Best Tank Size for African Cichlids?

Almost all species require large tanks, at least 55 gallons. However, it is advisable to provide them with a larger tank, as the more space you can give them, the better experience you will have with them.

This is especially important for novice fish keepers. Having more water allows you to make small mistakes and correct them without costing your fish their lives.

As a result, we can establish and maintain water parameters and chemical balance throughout the tank in a much more stable way.

The larger the tank, the easier it becomes to maintain a constant balance.


So, it is clear that African Cichlids do not have a uniform habitat. There are many factors to consider when deciding on the size of tank to choose, the number of individuals and the combination of species.

It is important not to be stingy. If you don’t have the space or money for a larger tank, consider other fish species, perhaps cichlids of the smallest size and space requirements. However, never agree to put a medium or larger-sized specimen in a small aquarium, as this will stress them out and increase their aggressiveness.

They are social creatures like us, so it is important to keep them in groups or harems. They should have a social lifestyle, possibly with other species.

It is also essential that our tanks are well stocked. Stones, plants, all need space and are an essential part of the lifestyle of these tropical fish.

So, don’t jump into buying any fish before you have the information you need. Be careful and give it due consideration.

Although they don’t need as much attention as other pets, they are just as much our responsibility as other animals.

And they will reward you with a peaceful life and fabulous colors.

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