Rabbits of the Fish World

With such a high spawning rate, Convicts make the ideal fish for the beginning breeder

by Mike McEwan

Convicts, from Central America, are typical scrappy Cichlids. Their bodies are gray-blue with vertical black stripes from nose to tail. Though small in size, Convicts are large in temperament and are definitely not recommended for a community tank. They are best kept with fish of larger size or equal temperament. Convicts are popular amongst aquarists because of their interesting personalities. Their digging and mauling of plants and gravel quickly upsets a nicely arranged aquarium, however. An albino variety has been introduced into the hobby.

Tank Setup

It is recommended that you keep your convicts in an aquarium no less than 25 gallons per pair. Plants and pieces of driftwood and roots are appreciated. Floating plants are recommended to subdue high light levels, and a sandy substrate should be used.


Convicts are omnivorous fish. They need a varied diet of meaty and vegetable-based foods. Beef heart, worms, blanched lettuce and prepared foods all make up a good menu.

Water Chemistry

These Cichlids have no special requirements when it comes to water conditions. A neutral pH and common water temperature will suffice. They are hardy fish that thrive under most conditions.


Simply put, Convicts will breed like crazy. Pairs form easily and may have several nests in one year, producing hundreds of young. They are cave breeders and make excellent parents. Convicts are definitely recommended for the beginning breeder.

Sexing is not difficult. Males are the larger sex but contain less brilliant coloration. Males also develop longer, more pointier dorsal and anal fins with age. Females of the species are more likely to display orange patterns on their bellies and dorsal fins.

Convict; Zebra Cichlid

Sci Name:
Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum
Central America
Max Size:
Slightly Alkaline
68-77 F.
Tank Size:
25 Gallons