Can I mix dwarf cichlids?

3165a1a2-d5c4-430f-836a-a4e9fe4ade55

Editor's Picks
Features Post
The brightest pupils
04 October 2021
Features Post
Dealing with egg ‘fungus’
04 October 2021
Features Post
Rathbun’s tetra in the wild
13 September 2021
Fishkeeping News Post
Report: 2021 BKKS National Koi Show results
13 September 2021
Features Post
The World's forgotten fishes
16 August 2021
I have a community tank that’s just under 1.5m in length and among the residents is a pair of Gold rams. Can I also add a pair of Apistogramma cichlids — and if so, which species would be most likely to get on with the rams?

A) Max replies: Yes, multiple species of dwarf cichlid can be mixed into a larger community tank, but in order to do this you’ll need to consider the nature of the aquarium and the needs of the species which are to be added.

Will Apistogramma and Ram cichlids, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, mix? Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this. In the wild, Rams and some species of Apistogramma, such as A. macmasteri and A. hongsloi may be found in the same biotope. However, the Rams which are bred in captivity are often weakened by overbreeding and simply cannot tolerate the cooler temperatures which Apistogramma prefer. It is for that reason I would not recommend mixing the two. Kept long term at ‘Ram’ temperatures, the Apistogramma metabolism increases to the point where the fish simply age far too quickly, leading to premature death.

Regarding aggression, so long as the tank is furnished with plenty of hiding spaces, dwarf cichlids are unlikely to fight beyond a harmless degree of territorial showmanship.

My recommendation would be to add a pair or two more rams to the group. Perhaps mix colours up by adding a pair of Electric blue rams. Alternatively, consider something like Keyhole cichlids, Cleithracara maronii. While they are arguably not dwarf cichlids, they are very peaceful, and a group would settle in nicely in your 1.5m tank.