The convict cichlid is very easy to keep and breed in aquariums. It is therefore an ideal beginner fish and especially suited for those who want to keep their first cichlid. The name convict cichlid describes the beautiful black stripes on it's grey or blueish flanks. Convict cichlids are also known as zebra cichlids.
The convict cichlid is a hardy species that can adapt to just about any water conditions. This is one of the reasons this fish is suitable as a first cichlid for beginning aquarists. Convict cichlids should have at least a 40 gallon tank for a pair. Convict cichlids can sometimes be white aggressive towards other fish which means that they shouldn’t be kept with other small or timid fishes. Suitable tank mates to keep with convict cichlids are fish species that are large enough to stand their ground (Firemouth Meekis, and Oscars are both good choices) or hardy species that are fast enough to avoid the convict’s aggressions such as tetras or barbs. Another good option is to keep a pair of convict cichlids alone in an aquarium without any other species. Keeping them alone will make it easier to observe their fascinating breeding behaviour including the rearing of the fry. You can always add a pleco with convicts because the water requirements are nearly identical for most plecos and convicts.
An aquarium intended for convict cichlids should be decorated with a few flat stones and perhaps a cave or two. Plants are not necessary and most plants will be destroyed by the fish. However, there are a number of hardy plants that can be kept with convict cichlids such as Amazonian swords and java ferns. Using plants of this type can be beneficial by making the fish feel more at home and by making the aquarium more beautiful to look at. The fact is that convict cichlids will make themselves feel at home no matter how you decide to decorate.
They will accept a very wide temperature range and pH level range as long as it keep relatively stable but is best kept in the 68-82F range and a pH 6-8.
Feeding convict cichlids is very easy since they accept just about any food you may choose to give them. They thrive and do well on standard foods such as flake food and pellets.
Convict cichlids are one of the easiest fish in the world to breed. They can spawn from very young age and I have seen 15gallon tank in a store that contained about 50 1-2 inch long convict cichlids. The aquarium was decorated with 3 small stones at the bottom and under each of these stones you could find a pair of convict cichlids that had dug a cave under the stone and bred in it. Every time I visited that aquarium store there would be fish breeding under each of those stones. Of course no fry managed to survive under those conditions but it reflects how easy convicts are to breed. The saying that all you have to do to breed convict cichlids is to add water is very close to true. Feed your fish and they will spawn.
Convicts cichlids usually lay their eggs on a flat stone and both parents guard both the eggs and the fry. They are usually good parents and can become very aggressive towards other fish that enter their breeding territory. The fry can be fed crushed flake food or newly hatched brine shrimp.
There are several color variants of the convict cichlid such as an albino variant often sold as an ivory cichlid or a pink variant called a pink convict. These variants can sometimes be a little harder to breed then the regular convict cichlid but you should be able to succeed as long as you keep the water clean, the fish well fed and have patience.
Good luck with your convict cichlids