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Top 6 South American Cichlids for beginners

For your first aquarium, you have decided to add colors, but on the other hand, to have fewer complications with the maintenance of the aquarium. And that’s why you decided on cichlids. Beautiful fish that have the balance you need – unique colors, and they are freshwater. We assume that you have researched everything about the conditions in the aquarium they need: the size of the aquarium, water quality, temperature, lighting … And you still have to choose the right cichlids with which you will not have to worry about coming home and finding chaos.

What makes many new cichlid owners happy is their ability to interact, as many are known to recognize their owners and will be so glad to see it. Probably because of the association since they know who feeds them, but even that is enough.

For starters, know that you will spend a lot of time choosing the right fish. However, this will ensure that you have a beautiful and healthy aquarium without complications in the future. It would help if you got young fish, which are healthy and show no signs of infection. You will know this best if you look at their appearance, more precisely their belly and fins. The abdomen should be slightly rounded and the fins without damage.

Another note is that you want to get fish of the same relative size. Try not to buy one small fish and then another that is twice as big as it. This can lead to problems because cichlids can be very aggressive and territorial when feeding.

Also, think carefully about the balance between the sexes. Since they are polygamous, consider how many females and males you will have in the aquarium. As a general rule, three males go to one male to not fight around them.

In the following few texts, we will try to simplify your choice by presenting you with the easiest to maintain cichlids. In this text, we will pay attention to South American cichlids.


South American cichlids live mainly throughout Central and South America. They come in different colors, which makes them a popular fish for domestication. Moreover, these are very hardy fish, and they are friendly. Therefore, they can be kept in a mixed environment with other species of fish.

You should pay attention to that it is best to keep South American species in an aquarium with biotopes that already live in the wild with them. If you think about it, this makes sense because you will adapt the decor and chemistry of the water to all the residents so that they feel at home.

Which South American Cichlids are for beginners?


Bolivian Ram

Bolivian Rams are colorful, calm, and perfect South American cichlids for beginners. They can be pretty shy and won’t bother other fish in your aquarium, so that they can be a significant part of the aquarium community.

This fish will enliven your aquarium with striking colors and funny swimming. They usually move with a few strokes and then suddenly stop, and so on over and over again. They do this during feeding so that they can sift the sediment without mixing it.

From yellow to red and silver blue, Bolivian rams will stand out in your tank. They are often recognizable by a characteristic black dot in the middle of the body, and some specimens have a black line between the eyes. The fins and tails are orange along the edges. Males are usually larger with pointed dorsal fins and longer strands. Females are also smaller and reach only about 2.5 inches.

To help against predators, they have thorns on their fins. Thorns can be pretty dangerous because they can strangle and suffocate predators. The front of their fins is soft and allows them to swim gracefully.

As for life in the aquarium, these cichlids grow from 8 to 10 cm, and you should use at least a 50-liter aquarium for one pair of adults. They work well in couples and groups.
If you think about which cichlids would go well, we suggest other dwarf and peaceful cichlids. These can be Rummy-nose tetras or Emperor tetras, Guppies, Corydoras Catfish, Platies…

These are pretty shy fish and do not mix much with other inhabitants in the aquarium.

The most significant factor in choosing a tank partner for them is size. If the partners in the aquarium are too small, they can be considered prey and can be eaten.


Flag Cichlid

The Flag Cichlid (Mesonauta Festivus), also commonly known as the Cichlid Festival, Barred Cichlid … is a beautiful and exciting South American Cichlids for beginners. The common names and the scientific name describe it as an impressive and attractive fish. The native term Mesonauta means “average sailor”, “prominent,” and “exceptional,” while the word Festivus means “cheerful” or “handsome”.

The Flag Cichlid is a very friendly fish and prefers to be in a group. So it is great for an aquarium where there are various other fish. As for pairing with other cichlids, they go well with Angelfish, but they’re not such a good blend with Neon Tetras because they’re their favorite snack.

They have fascinating and unique behaviors in the wild, such as resting on their side or jumping out of the water when they feel threatened, instead of swimming quickly to the bottom, as most cichlids do.

This fish is an excellent choice for novice aquarists because it is easy to nurture and has the necessary conditions. They are timid and must have a place to hide, be it caves or cracks in the tree. They will not ruin the plants in the aquarium, although if you have live plants, they may eat them. We would also mention that you have a lid on the aquarium due to the previously mentioned jumping out of the water.


Freshwater angelfish or Marbled Angelfish that has a black white and yellow marbled pattern

As we mentioned earlier, Flag Cichlids go well with Angelfish. And as their very name suggests, they are real angels. Thanks to their graceful swimming skills, Angelfish are superb additions to aquariums with large communities.

In their natural habitat, they are found almost exclusively in still, slow-flowing water. They prefer dimly lit areas, under vegetation, or among trees that have fallen into the river in the wild. This means that it would be best to provide them with larger aquariums, with a gentle water flow. As for the decor, please provide them with a tree and place it to simulate fallen branches and trees. The substrate should be fine to medium quality, with smooth surface gravel, because angels like to feed on the bottom for food.

Angelfish are semi-aggressive, which means they could bite some fish they don’t like. For example, Neon Tetra is in danger around Angels. But in general, always consider one rule. You can have any number of angels in your tank (assuming the tank is the right size) except three fish. If you have 3, two could pair up and attack the third. It is the only rule to be taken care of.


Electric Blue Acara, South American Cichlids

With their striking electric blue color, these fish will stand out in the aquarium no matter what other fish you keep. Despite being one of the most beautiful cichlids, it is also surprisingly easy to maintain. They require basic care that a beginner can even follow, and they are a beautiful addition to any freshwater tank.
The Electric Blue Acara is an artificial variant of the Standard Blue Acara.

It is a good South American Cichlids for beginners because it has that stunning exotic look, peaceful nature and is incredibly easy to care for. You can’t go wrong with the Electric Blue Acara- they are big enough to attract attention but tiny enough to fit comfortably in an average 30-gallon freshwater tank.

Although cichlids are a bit aggressive when placed in a tank with other fish, the Electric Blue Acara is an exception. It is rarely aggressive and will almost always get along well with other fish of different sizes, but it will occasionally behave territorially if there is not enough space.

This is usually not a problem and can generally be prevented by purchasing an aquarium of the appropriate size and with enough plants and places to hide the fish. So it would be good to avoid more aggressive fish in the aquarium because it will harass them.

Good partners in the aquarium can be Angelfish, Discus, Pearl Cichlids, Uaru Cichlids.



Severum cichlids are among the liveliest variations of cichlid species that are great for keeping in a home tank. Their abundance of colors and exciting nature is an excellent addition to your aquarium.

These golden-yellow cichlid species are slightly more aggressive during spawning and are best cared for in a larger 50-gallon tank with slightly acidic and soft water. Since it is omnivorous, it will also eat your live plants, so it is best to put plastic fauna in the tank. You also need to add some rocks and caves to the aquarium to give them enough space to hide and build their territory. Driftwood is a good option for your aquarium because it will offer your cichlids a suitable place to rest.

As for other aquarium species, it is best to keep them in aquariums with cichlids of the same size and temperament. Otherwise, you will have to monitor the aquarium constantly.
However, although they are not aggressive, it is necessary to offer them adequate space for peaceful wandering without disturbing others. You can easily place them with the same types of cichlids. If you have a large tank, you can keep them in pairs or cuddle with others of the same kind.

Good companions are Pearl cichlid, Angelfish, Blood parrot cichlid, Black skirt tetra…

If you keep them with any calm fish, you have to monitor their behavior constantly because they can eat them.


oscar cichlids

If you are already for larger cichlids, Oscar cichlids are an excellent choice for South American cichlids for beginners. Since Oscars can grow up to 45 cm, your aquarium must be large enough to accommodate your pet. Due to their large size, Oscars need huge tanks – one Oscar should be kept in a tank of not less than 55 liters, although we recommend a tank of 75 gallons.

Oscars like to hide among objects in the wild to feel safe. Especially when they are young, your Oscars will find comfort in a shelter under fake plants and decorations. Also, they are known for their tendency to rearrange the territory. If you pay attention, you will often see them moving small objects around their habitat. So it would be good to avoid fragile decorations. And at the same time, avoid natural plants. This brings us to the fact that fake plants and rock caves are the best options for these fish.

If you have natural plants in the tank, the most likely outcome is that your Oscar will tear them apart a bit (if not destroy them), so fake plants and solid decorations like PVC and stone caves are your best option.

If you decide that your Oscar has companions, choose Convict Cichlid, Jewel Cichlid, Cichlasoma, Parrot Fish…


Although cichlids are known for their aggressive nature, exceptions provide a perfect balance between beautiful colors and peaceful nature. It is up to you to choose the right residents who can tolerate each other, and you will have a community with which to enjoy your aquaristic beginnings.

As you can see, what you need to pay attention to is the size of the aquarium and the conditions that you will provide them to make them feel as comfortable as possible. We at Aquadecor can offer you stone backgrounds that each of these fish will enjoy. Please take a look in our shop or write to us, we will be happy to answer all your questions.

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