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Maximum size : 15 cm

Convict Cichlid - Amatitlania nigrofasciata : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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Convict Cichlids, (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) are a hardy and robust species of fish with a rebellious attitude. Their striking appearance is due to the broad, dark vertical lines that run down their bodies, reminiscent of jailbird outfits. While Convict Cichlids are aggressive fish, they can be kept with similar-sized and tempered fish. It is not advisable to house them with peaceful or larger species that may swallow them whole. The males can be particularly aggressive during mating, and there have been reports of them attacking much larger fish like Oscars and plecos. They can also be kept as individuals or in pairs, resulting in a more mellow fish. However, their aggression towards each other during mating is expected. These fish are easy to care for and require minimal maintenance. A sandy substrate with roots, rocks, and driftwood pieces will provide them with a comfortable environment. They also enjoy plants, especially floating ones, to tone down the lighting. However, be prepared for them to rearrange the tank, so ensure that the plants are securely anchored at the bottom. Convict Cichlids have chunky oval disk-shaped bodies with pointed anal and dorsal fins. Their bodies can display shades of blueish-grey, blueish-purple, or cream, with eight or nine vertically running dark to black bands. Their fins are transparent to light yellow, and their vertical bars almost form a U shape behind their head area. These fish come in various colours due to interbreeding. The White Convict Cichlid or Pink Convict Cichlid imitates the distinctive vertical bars, unlike albino varieties. Males have a monotonous colouration, while females have an orangish patch on their stomachs. In addition to their regular teeth and spiny rays on their fins, all cichlids have well-developed pharyngeal teeth in their throats that help to deter predators. Their front fins are soft, making swimming effortless and allowing for precise movement. Furthermore, cichlids only have one nostril on each side, unlike other fish, which have two.

Convict Cichlid Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Distinguishing between male and female Convict Cichlids is a relatively straightforward process. The male Cichlid boasts a larger head with an abrupt forehead, although they are not as vibrantly coloured as the females. With age, the male cichlid develops longer and sharper dorsal and anal fins, along with vestigial fatty lumps on their foreheads. In contrast, the female cichlid features an orange dorsal fin and lower body.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameAmatitlania nigrofasciata
Year Described1867
Other NamesZebra Cichlid
OriginsPanama Costa Rica Nicaragua El Salvador Guatemala Honduras
Max Size15 cm
Aquarium LevelAll Levels
Best kept asLoners
Lifespanup to 10 years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
PH6.0 - 8.0
79 - 84
26.1 - 28.9

Natural Habitat

Convict Cichlids are one of the most widespread and adaptable Cichlid species in Central America. Their natural habitats are diverse and offer unique opportunities for fish enthusiasts to observe their natural behaviors. These fish are highly adaptable and can live in a variety of environments, from slow-moving streams to the flowing waters of rivers. They thrive in warm pools and can even survive in highly acidic water. Convict Cichlids prefer to stay close to cover, often hiding in the cracks and crevices of rocky areas. Feeding on a variety of food sources, including plants, insects, worms, fish, and crustaceans, these fish have a highly diverse diet. Their opportunistic feeding habits make them well-suited to adapt to different environments and ensure their survival. Observing Convict Cichlids in their natural habitats is an awe-inspiring experience, as these fish display complex social behaviors and unique survival strategies. They often form pair bonds and work together to defend their territory and offspring. Their ability to adapt to diverse environments and unique behaviors make them a fascinating addition to any aquarium.


Convict Cichlids are known for their easy breeding, making them a popular choice for hobbyists looking to raise fish. The breeding process can start at a young age and does not require specific breeding mates. The pre-spawning dance is an exciting sight to see. The male will darken and become more vibrant in color as the pair clean an area and dig a hole in the substrate around a cave, rock, or flower pot. The female will lay 20-40 eggs on the inside top of the spawning medium, and the male will follow to fertilize them. This process continues until there are no more eggs left to lay. Once the young hatch, the parents will defend them fiercely and provide supplementary food, including a mucus-like substance secreted on their bodies. The fry can be fed powdered or crushed flake food, tiny daphnia, and baby brine shrimp. The parents will also bury the fry in sand if they feel threatened and will push tank mates away from their young. You can remove the fry after a few weeks to raise them or remove the female to prevent her from eating the young, which will result in the male attacking her. Convict Cichlids produce frequently, so expect a group of at least 20-30 baby convicts within a few weeks.

Diet & feeding

Convict Cichlids are known for their adaptability to a variety of diets. To maintain their health and vibrancy, it is recommended to provide them with a balanced diet consisting of high-quality flake or pellet food as the core. In addition to this, including vegetable-based foods containing spirulina can provide essential nutrients to their diet. To add further variety, blanched lettuce or other veggies can be offered, along with live and frozen fare such as mosquito larvae, bloodworms, blackworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp. This diverse diet not only keeps the fish healthy but also enhances their colours and overall condition.

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