Max Size: 15cm

Convict Cichlid (Amatitlania nigrofasciata)

The Convict Cichlid is a hardy fish with a rebellious attitude. Their name, Convict Cichlid, arises from the broad, dark vertical lines running down their body, making them similar in appearance to the traditional "jailbird" outfit.

The Convict Cichlid is an undemanding fish and very easy to look after. A sandy substrate with roots, rocks and pieces of driftwood will make your Cichlid feel comfortable. They enjoy plants, especially floating plants as it helps to tone down the light. However they will re-arrange your tank, so be sure to secure your plants to the bottom of the tank.

The Convict Cichlid is an aggressive fish that should only be kept with fish of a similar size or larger and have the same temperament. Do not house them with fish that are peaceful, semi-aggressive, or large enough to swallow the Convict Cichlid whole. When in mating, they will kill anything in the tank if they can. These Cichlids have also been known to beat up large Oscars and plecos a lot bigger than them. You can keep these fish as individuals or in pairs; this will result in a more mellow fish. They are regularly aggressive toward those of the same species, especially when mating.

The Convict Cichlid has a chunky oval disk shape body, with pointed anal and dorsal fins. These Cichlids have a blueish-grey, blueish-purple or cream body colour displaying 8 or 9 dark to black vertically running bands. They also have a separation in the vertical bars behind their head area, almost forming a U shape and their fins are transparent to light yellow.

With interbreeding, there are now several colour varieties of this fish. The White Convict Cichlid or Pink Convict Cichlid are imitating albino varieties that are cream and pink, and lack the distinctive vertical bars. The colouring of the male is monotone while the female has an orangish patch on her stomach.

All cichlids share a common trait of a well-developed pharyngeal set of teeth located in the throat, alongside their regular teeth as well as spiny rays in parts of the dorsal, pectoral.pelvic and anal fins, this helps to deter predators. The front portion of these fins is soft and ideal for effortless and precise positions when it comes to swimming rather than fast-paced swimming. Cichlids only have one nostril on each side whereas other fish have two sets.

Quick Facts
Scientific NameAmatitlania nigrofasciata
Other NamesZebra Cichlid
OriginsCosta Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama
Aquarium LevelAll Levels
Best kept asLoners
Lifespanup to 10 years
Water Parameters
Water TypeFreshwater
PH6.0 - 8.0
79 - 84℉
26.1 - 28.9℃

Photos of the Convict Cichlid

Convict cichlid
Convict cichlid
Convict cichlid
Convict cichlid
Convict cichlid

Natural Habitat

Convict Cichlids are native to the rivers Tarcoles, Aguan, and Guarumo in

Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica in Central America.

They inhabit a wide diversity of environments from ponds, streams and lakes to flowing waters of rivers as well as warm pools of springs.

These Cichlids are rarely found in open water and prefer to stay in areas containing cover in whatever form. They dwell among shallow rocky areas where they hide in cracks and crevices, feeding on plants, insects, worms, fish and crustaceans.

What to feed the Convict Cichlid

Convict Cichlids are not picky and will accept most foods offered. The core of their diet should be a high-quality flake or pellet food.

However, it would be more beneficial if you kept the diet varied by also providing them with vegetable-based foods containing spirulina.

Also offer them blanched lettuce or other veggies, as well as live and frozen fare such as mosquito larvae, Blood Worms, Black Worms, Daphnia and Brine Shrimp as this will allow the fish to develop their best colours and condition.

How to sex the Convict Cichlid

It is relatively straightforward to distinguish males from females. Males are larger with a more precipitous forehead, but not as brightly coloured as the females. The males also develop more extended and more pointed anal and dorsal fins as they get older. They also acquire a vestigial fatty lump on their foreheads. The females have an orange colour on their dorsal fins and lower bodies.

How to breed the Convict Cichlid

These fish are astonishingly easy to breed, and they produce very often, so if you are ready to start generating them, expect a group of at least 20 to 30 baby convicts within the period of a few weeks.

Convict Cichlids can start to produce from a young age, and do not require a specific breeding mate.

The pair will sway their heads at each other in a little pre-spawning dance. The male will then position himself vertically and change to darker, more vivid shades of colour. The female will repeat the same dance and flare-up.

The pair will then clean an area and dig a hole in the substrate around a cave, rock or flower pot. The female will then lay around 20-40 eggs on the inside top of the spawning medium; the male will then follow her up and fertilise them.

This method will continue until there are no more eggs left to lay. The female will fan the eggs while the male protects the nest and guards the outside.

The young will hatch out between 48 and 72 hours depending on the temperature and acidity. 6-8 days after that they will become free-swimming and can be fed powdered or crushed flake food or tiny daphnia and baby brine shrimp. The female helps out the fry by stirring up the sand with her stomach to uncover food that may have settled at the bottom of the tank, or by chewing up food that is too big and spitting it into the water for the babies to eat. Both parents also secrete a mucus-like substance on their bodies; this can be supplementary food for the fry. You can then advance them to whole flake food when they are about three weeks old.

The parents will defend their babies at all cost and will push tank mates to the opposite side of the tank. If they think their young are threatened, they may bury them in the sand. They will reclaim any fry that strays from the nest, and the male will harmfully guard them to the death.

You can remove the fry after a few weeks if you plan on raising them, allowing the breeding process to start over. Alternatively, you can remove the female or she may very well eat the young. This will result in the male attacking the female.

Other Cichlids of interest

African Butterfly Cichlid(Anomalochromis thomasi)
Banded Apistogramma(Apistogramma bitaeniata)
Blue Panda Apistogramma(Apistogramma panduro, Apistogramma pandurini)
Bolivian Ram Cichlid(Mikrogeophagus altispinosus)
Checkerboard Cichlid(Dicrossus filamentosus)
Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid(Apistogramma cacatuoides)
View all Cichlids
Date Added: 06/11/2020 - Updated: 07/12/2021 13:19:09