» Posted by on May 27, 2016 in Becca N, Blog, Cichlids, Freshwater Fish | Comments Off on Species Suitable for a Nano African Cichlid Tank

Species Suitable for a Nano African Cichlid Tank

Species Suitable for a Nano African Cichlid Tank:


African cichlids don’t have to be kept in a large aquarium. While the majority of African cichlids grow to be at least five inches and longer, there are also interesting African cichlids suitable for smaller aquariums. These smaller species of African cichlids generally grow to be no more than five inches and can be kept in a tank of 20- to 30-gallons. Some species are even capable of being kept in 10-gallon tanks.


The majority of these micro African cichlid species hail from Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. There are four categories of suitable species for a 30-gallon Lake Tanganyika tank. As you look over this list keep in mind that as a general rule fish under three inches are suitable for a 10-gallon tank and fish over four inches would do best in a 30-gallon tank or larger.




Cyprichromis leptosema and Paracyprichromis nigripinnis can be kept peacefully in small schools of three or more. The rest of the free-swimming cichlids should be kept one individual fish per species group.


  • Cyprichromis leptosoma

Max size: ~3.5”

  • Paracyprichromis nigripinnis

Max size: ~4”

  • Xenotilapia Sp.

Max size: ~3”

  • Opthalmoltilapia ventralis

Max size: ~6”

  • Reganochromis calliurus

Max Size:~6”



Should be kept alone or in male/female pairs as they can become very aggressive with other similar types—including their own species.

  • Eretmodus cyanostictus

Max size: ~3.5”

  • Spathodus erythrodon

Max size: ~3.0”

  • Tanganicodus irsacae

Max size: ~2.8”



For shell dwellers, it is best to choose one of each species and in each size class, as they can become aggressive towards their own kind, especially in smaller tank set-ups.

  • Neolamprologus brevi

Max size: ~2.5” 

  • Neolamprologus leleupi

Max size: ~3.5”

  • Neolamprologus multifasciatus

Max Size: ~2”– thought to be the smallest cichlid in the world!

  • Neolamprologus gracilis

Max size: ~3.5”

  • Julidochromis transcriptus

Max size: ~3”

  • Julidochromis dickfeldi

Max size: ~4.5”

  • Larger Neolamprologus sp.

Max size: ~5-5.5”

  • sexfasciatus
  • tretocephalus
  • brichardi
  • daffodil
  • cylindricus




Cat fish are normally peaceful. They can be kept alone or in small groups.

  • Synodontis petricola

Max size: 5”

  • Bushynose pleco

Max size: 6”





The total maximum inches of fish should be less than or equal to the gallons of water in aquarium (i.e. 18 total inches of fish is equal to 18 gallons of water). However, with many African cichlid tanks, you can slightly overstock. If your tank is overstocked you must maintain excellent water quality, filter more than usual, and perform frequent water changes. Doubling to tripling your filtration for any African cichlid set-up is recommended.


It is also important to note that Lake Tanganyika has the highest pH of the rift lakes at around 9.0. The addition of lake salts and buffers to the aquarium will help to stabilize the pH to natural levels while also providing the fish with the electrolytes they need–the better the water quality, the healthier and better looking the fish.


At Absolutely Fish we frequently stock all of these small African cichlids and carry all of the equipment you need to keep them happy and healthy!

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