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My Top 10 Central American Cichlids, From the Mind of a Cichlid Mad Man

Jose here. This time around I’m going to talk about my favorite bad boys, the Central American Cichlids. I love these guys for lots off reasons, but most of all for the attitude they dish out, magnificent color and the challenges they present in breeding. Not saying that they are tough to get to breed, but its the pair bonding that you have to get through. If they don’t accept each other, one usually ends up dead. Now on to my top 10.

Wolf CichlidParachromis dovii is affectionately known as the Wolf Cichlid. At 24 inches as an adult, dovii is a bit of a wuss when it’s young and and kept with more dominant species. But, as it gets older it becomes completely different monster, and it won’t be bullied for long. In breeding dress, the males have blue fins and lips, with a violet back. Females on the other hand are a yellow with black bars. My pair have currently produced over 1000 fry and they are under 2 yrs old.

Parachromis motoguense, another Guapote, is also known as the Motagua Cichlid or the False Yellowjacket. Even though the Moto can grow to 12 inches, compared to most of its cousins it’s a bit more peaceful. This fish becomes gorgeous as it matures with a heavily black speckled body and some red or orange in the body. There is also a variant that has been bred, with a more intense red coloration, which is outstanding.

Amphilophus citrinellum, the Midas Cichlid (which is also known as the Red Devil) attains a length of 16 inches. It is a very popular cichlid that also has different color variations developed through selective breeding. I have owned many through the years, and can proudly say their bite packs a punch.  Besides their bright coloration, their attitude makes them winners in my book.

Cichlasoma beani, known commonly as the Green Guapote or Bean’s Cichlid, grows into a 10 inch bruiser. It has a violet sheen on the body, and every scale has a black dot, creating a beautiful pattern. The females can become totally black and white when breeding. Highly aggressive towards its own kind, it can be extremely difficult to get a pair without some serious aggression or casualties.

Cichlasoma istlanum is a 13 inch terror! I once picked up 5 young (1 to 1.5 inch) fish at an auction. I took them home and put them in a 40 long all by themselves. Within 4 months I had my pair, as they decided to “exclude” the others from the aquarium. They started to breed when the male was 3.5 inches long. The female breeding dress is stunning – overall yellow, with an almost full- length belly section of gorgeous, bright, orange-red. It has a larger cousin, C. grammodes, which I have also kept and recommend to others interested in Centrals.

Cichlasoma trimaculatum is a 15 inch beauty at maturity. This is the type of fish cross bred to produce most of the Flowerhorn hybrids on the market. Extremely adaptable, it can tolerate almost any kind of water condition, be it acidic or brackish. Males develop an intense, bright red throat, and also a huge nuchal hump with maturity. This species is very territorial of its surroundings; mine bit me all the time (lol) during routine maintenance.

Barton's CichlidHericthys bartoni, or Barton’s Cichlid, is a 7 inch algae eater! It isn’t much to look at, that is until they go into spawning mode. Around that time, their normal color fades to a snow white on the upper half of the body with inky jet black on the bottom. It is truly an awe inspiring sight to see a pair herding fry around the tank.

Nandopsis haitiensis is often referred to as the Odo or the Black Nasty (which may be the most fitting name). This 15 inch monster is something to behold.  I once watched one displayed at a fish show in a 29 gallon fish tank. The thing just wanted to tear into eveyone that came by! It would splash water out the top of the Black Nasty Cichlidaquarium at passers by, even with a glass canopy on the tank. Males are white with black spots all over and long fins, females during breeding turn black.

Nandopsis tetracanthus is better known as the Cuban Cichlid. As an adult, this 14 inch fish can be found in two different strains. One has bold black mottled markings, and the other has finer speckled markings on the face and head.  Both are black and white in colo,r but healthy older fish can develop a violet-purple hue along the back.  A very beautiful fish!

Silver CichlidVieja argentia, or the Silver Vieja, is one of my all time favorites. This 14 inch omnivore is pearly white, almost silver, in appearance with black dots peppered all over the body and fins. Healthy individuals may also take on purple or lavender hues. Also of note is the distinguished facial mask around the eye and forehead. This fish is a must for anyone who loves fish with a personality.

Well, thats it for the Centrals! Next time it will be South American species then across the pond to the cichlids of West Africa.

Thanks for reading,



  1. avatar

    Flowerhorns are beautiful, I have one at home and I love it. I recommend it to everyone that they should buy a flowerhon fish as their pet.

  2. avatar

    I have had all of these in my tanks. My favorite was the dovi. She killed everingthing except with the lyonsi I had. They were trying to breed. Then got rid of them to a local store so I could get my current cubans.

  3. avatar

    I think flowerhorns are to common but I agree they are beautiful. I do want to get another dovii though

  4. avatar

    I just added in you to my personal blogroll, come stop by my web page to see how you feel!

  5. avatar

    Do you know any central american cichlids under 7inches other then convict cichlids.

  6. avatar

    Hello John, There are a number of “dwarf cichlids” that remain small – Rams, Apistogrammas, Pelvicachromis, Checkerboard Cichlids, Dwarf Pike Cichlids and many more. There adults sizes and temperaments vary but there are far too many to name here! You can view our current selection of dwarf cichlids on our website to get you started.

  7. avatar

    Are there any aggressive central american cichlids or aggressive dwarf madagascar cichlids.

  8. avatar

    Hello John, Absolutely! Most of the cichlids mentioned in this blog are aggressive and you can read about some Madagascar cichlids – most of which are aggressive – in the 2-part blog “My Favorite Madagascar Cichlids and Other Uncommon Oddballs“.

About Jose Mendes

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That Fish Place’s resident “Cichlid Pro.” In addition to working at TFP for 13 years, Jose’s been breeding Cichlids for over 14 years and has produced over 200 different species. Jose is the man to question for everything cichlid. Check out Jose’s work in the article: Keeping and Breeding African Cichlids in Small Aquariums, and his many other contributions on cichlid husbandry, behavior, and his personal experiences with keeping cichlids from across the globe.