Convict Cichlid Breeding Setup and Requirements
If you'd like to embark on the process of breeding Convict cichlids, you'll first want to make sure that you're up for the challenge. I've cared for many different breeding pairs of Convicts throughout my years as a fish keeper and have experienced firsthand the joys and woes to breeding this unique cichlid. In order to maximize success, you'll want to be certain that your aquarium meets the proper requirements. By the end of this article, you'll know how to properly create a Convict cichlid breeding setup that will be easy to maintain and beneficial to your breeding pair and their fry!
Convicts are Beautiful Cichlids
Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Do I really want to breed Convict Cichlids?
- You should be aware that they are prolific breeders and will constantly be rearing new batches of fry (baby fish). This can get overwhelming very quickly as the fish keeper may need to care for and be able to relocate up to 100 new fish at a time.
2. Is my aquarium suitable for breeding Convict cichlids?
- Not only does the size of your aquarium matter, you'll also have to consider filtration, hiding places and proper tank mates.
3. Do I have the time?
- Although Convicts are generally easy to care for, more effort must be spent cleaning and doing water changes. With the added bio-load of the fry, you'll need to maintain a strict regimen of water changes to ensure pristine water conditions.
Suitable Aquarium Size
It should first be known that horizontal swimming space is way more important than vertical space. With that being said, any fish tank labeled as "Tall" should be eliminated from the picture. Tall tanks may be aesthetically pleasing, but they tend to favor vertical height over horizontal length. A lack of horizontal swimming space can stimulate elevated aggression between the breeding Convicts and could ultimately lead to serious injury or death. So what is the proper length of horizontal space? I would highly recommend that the length of your aquarium to be at least 30 inches, with 36 inches being the ideal minimum length. Here are my suggestions for proper aquariums to breed Convict cichlids:
Both the aquarium above and below are 30 gallon breeders, the perfect size for breeding Convict Cichlids. Although both offer the proper amount of horizontal swimming space, the tank below is scarcely decorated. The lack of hiding spaces can stimulate aggression. This is illustrated in the video as the male convict had to be quarantined to prevent against injury from the female. Learn more about proper hiding spaces and visual barriers later in this article.
- 20 Gallon Long - Measuring in with a length of 30 inches, this is the smallest tank that you'll be able to breed Convicts in. Personally, I still feel that 20 gallons is too small, but many fish keepers are successful maintaining a single breeding pair in this size aquarium.
- 30 Gallon Breeder - AKA 30 Gallon Long. This aquarium is the ideal 36 inches in length and my aquarium of choice for keeping a single breeding pair of Convicts. The ten gallon step up from the 20 Long is much easier to maintain water quality and will also keep aggression between the pair to a minimum. This particular size tank is usually not sold at chain pet stores, so a specialty fish-only store may have to be contacted.
- 40 Gallon Breeder - If you're interested in keeping two breeding pairs of Convict cichlids, the 40 gallon breeder is the smallest you should go. This tank features a 36 inch horizontal base, but also is wider, allowing for more horizontal space.
*If you already have an aquarium larger than these, that's perfect. Just keep in mind that you shouldn't exceed one breeding pair per 20 gallons of water. Following this rule will help to keep aggression between the pairs to a minimum. If you're in the hunt for an aquarium online, Glasscages.com offers a huge selection of custom sizes that no chain store can match!
It's imperative that you don't skimp on filtration. With new fry constantly being born and raised, the bio-load on your aquarium will be under pressure. A power filter with the capacity to filter at least double your aquarium size per hour is highly recommended. If your aquarium has a capacity of 30 gallons, choose a filter that filters at least 60 gallons per hour. I've always believed that overkill is the way to go with your filtration system. Typically on my 30 gallon tanks, you will find a filter with 240 Gallons per Hour of filtration power. Always better safe than sorry! Here are the power filters that I have used for years and think very highly of:
- MarineLand Bio Wheel Power Filter - When it comes to filters, this is my top choice for aquariums sized up to 55 gallons. The bio wheel technology is unseen on any other filter and offers the advantage of keeping colonies of nitrifying bacteria healthy by exposing them to the air as filtered water passes through and spins the bio wheel. Having healthy nitrifying bacteria is the key to efficient filtering of harmful toxins from your aquarium's water.
- Eheim Ecco Pro Series Filters - If your aquarium is larger than 55 gallons, I would highly recommend the use of a canister filter. My recommendation is the Eheim Pro Series. These filters are located external of the aquarium and offer some of the most effiecient water filtering capabilities known to aquariums. I personally choose the Eheims over any other canister filter due to their ease of use and their reliability. These filters are more expensive than your standard 'hang on the back' power filters, but will make your life much easier if you have a large aquarium.
Another important issue to address is the open end of the intake on the filter. These pose a problem because young fry can easily be sucked up and clog your filter motor. To avoid this problem, a filter sponge can be purchased. It will slide right onto the intake and prevent any fry from being sucked in.
Hiding Places and Visual Barriers
I can guarantee that if you tried breeding Convicts in a bare tank that either the male or female will end up injured or dead. Why is this? To put it softly, this fish's mentality has aggression at the forefront. Equally important as filtration, visual barriers and hiding places are a must. If the breeding pair can swim around and not be in constant sight of each other, this will greatly reduce the amount of aggression exhibited between the pair, especially after the fry have just hatched. Individually or in combination with one another, any of the aquarium décor below will provide adequate protection for your fish.
Many breeders use clay pottery as spawning/hiding places. Personally, I've never used clay pots as I feel they do not offer enough visual barrier and often spark more aggression between the breeding pair. Rocks and driftwood are my top choices.
- Driftwood - Naturally found in almost every wild environment, driftwood is my personal favorite addition to the aquarium. With several large pieces, your Convicts will be able to find proper shelter. Driftwood is also very easy to setup in a way in which the horizontal line of sight is broken. In other words, when one Convict is at one end of the tank, he/she cannot see the other at the other end due to driftwood blocking the line of sight. Personally, I would never breed without driftwood.
- River Rocks - Convicts will also find shelter in crevasses and nooks between larger rocks. These make for perfect nesting spots, but do not always provide the visual barrier needed. The pitfall to using only rocks is that they are harder to arrange and can get very heavy. (Yes, I've broke a tank before adding too many rocks! It sucks.) I've found that a combination of driftwood and a few river rocks is ideal.
- Broken Clay Pottery - Broken flower pots make for great spawning sites and are a natural product. Make sure that no harmful fertilizers or chemicals were ever used in the pots, as these could leach into the water and negatively impact the health of your fish. If you do choose to use flower pots, just fork out the few bucks and buy them new just to be sure.
- PVC Pipes and Plastic Decorations - I'll put these on here just for the reasoning that many aquarium keepers use them with success. I refuse to use either, not just because a plastic pirate ship looks tacky, but instead for the concern that these materials may leach potentially harmful substances into the water. With the amount of time you've spent preparing a healthy home for your Convicts, why risk their health with PVC and Plastics?
If you haven't heard already, I'll be the first to say that a breeding pair of Convict cichlids are highly aggressive and will do anything to protect their young. With that said, I would advise not to keep any other fish with your breeding pair unless you have at least a 55 gallon tank. Even then, you'll want to make sure that you choose a species that will be able to hold its own against your terrible two. There are a handful of species that will be compatible with your pair and below you'll find my best suggestions for compatible species.
Although Convicts are generally considered small cichlids only reaching a maximum average of 5.5" in length, they are known to have a very aggressive behavior. Don't be surprised to see convicts harassing fish double or even triple their size! Picking proper tank mates is a must.
- Jack Dempsey Cichlid - The name should imply it all. As with the boxer, Jack Dempsey, these fish are also aggressive and will be able to hold their own against Convicts. Males can reach 8 inches long with females reaching 6 inches. I would recommend the addition of only one Jack Dempsey to a 55 gallon tank housed with one pair of breeding convicts.
- Oscar Cichlid - These large cichlids will do great with Convicts. Don't be surprised to see your convicts harassing these big guys though. Don't buy an Oscar unless you have the proper aquarium! One Oscar may be housed with a pair or two of convicts in a 75 Gallon tank, with 90 gallons being ideal. Tanks smaller than 75 gallons do not provide adequate housing for Oscars, NO EXCEPTIONS.
- Plecostomus - This armored catfish will normally do well with Convicts. The only problem that I've seen is that the Convicts will attack and gouge out the vulnerable eyes of these fish. To avoid this problem, make sure to buy a Plecostomus the same size or larger that your male Convict. These fish can get quite large, so a minimum sized aquarium will be at least 55 gallons for one Plecostomus and a breeding pair of Convicts.
Properly Cleaning Your Aquarium
Maintaining Your Tank
Breeding Convict cichlids need pristine water conditions to reduce stress and ensure healthy conditions for the young fry. You'll need to complete a 25% water change weekly. Make sure that a gravel vacuum is used to remove all waste and uneaten food. Pick a day to clean and stick to it! If you're unsure how to properly clean a tank, refer to the video to the right. Although he's cleaning a goldfish tank, the same concepts will apply to your aquarium of breeding Convicts.
- Discover the basics of caring for Convict Cichlids in the aquarium. Addresses temperatures, pH, feeding and other general information.
- Learn the taxonomy and distribution of wild Convict Cichlids. Also includes feeding and general aquarium care.
Online Aquatic Communities:
Want to show off your fish? Maybe you have an unusual question. These Forums can help:
Online Aquatic Supplies:
If you're looking to find the best deals on supplies for your aquarium, these are my top two places online to purchase all your aquatic needs.
And that just about does it! You should be caught up and ready to go! Please leave any feedback or questions you may have. I'd be glad to help you out.