Common Name: Convict, Zebra Cichlid
Scientific Name: Archocentrus Nigrofasciatus
Average Adult Fish Size: 6 inches / 15cm for males, while females are dramatically smaller
Place of Origin: Central America – Pacific side from Guatemala to Costa Rica, Atlantic side from Honduras to Panama.
Typical Tank Setup: Planted with Amazon Swords and Java Moss. Add flat rocks, caves, or overturned clay flower pots if you want to breed them.
Recommended Minimum Aquarium Capacity: 25 gallon / 100 litre for a breeding pair
Compatibility: Convict Cichlids can sometimes be quite aggressive towards other fish which means that they shouldn’t be kept with small or timid fishes. Suitable tank mates are fish species that are large enough to stand their ground or hardy species that are fast enough to avoid the Convict’s aggressions such as some barbs.
Temperature: 20-28 Deg C / 68 – 82 Deg F
Water Chemistry: pH 6 – 8
Feeding: Feeding Convict Cichlids is very easy since they accept any food you may choose to give them, such as flake, pellets, frozen or what have you!
Sexing: Sexing Convicts is relatively easy, although inbreeding is starting to make that a little more difficult. Females are usually a lot smaller than males, and will show orange/red markings on their bellies. This can range from small spots to an overall blush that can cover the entire belly. Males are generally much larger than females and will show long extensions on their dorsal and anal fins. Males will also sometimes show the orange markings on their belly just like females, but they are usually far smaller and much less prominent that on females. Females will also sometimes show the long fin extensions that males do, but this is fairly uncommon. The best way to find yourself a pair of Convicts is to raise between 6 and 10 fish from juveniles together and let a bond develop. This should happen when the fish reach between 1.5 and 2″.
Breeding: Convict Cichlids are one of the easiest fish in the world to breed. They can spawn from very young age and I have seen a 60L / 15 gallon in a store that contained about 50 1-2 inch long Convict Cichlids. The aquarium was decorated with 3 small stones at the bottom and under each of these stones you cold find a pair of Convict Cichlids that had dug a cave under the stone and bred in it. Whenever you visited that aquarium there would be fish breeding under each of those stones. Of course no fry managed to survive under those conditions but it reflects how easy Convicts are to breed. The saying that all you have to do to breed Convict Cichlids is to add water is almost true. Feed your fish and they will spawn. Unfortunately some breeders just keep Convicts for this purpose – to feed them to other fish! A “convict” paying the ultimate price?
Convicts Cichlids usually lay their eggs on a flat stone and both parents guard both the eggs and the fry. They are usually good parents and can become very aggressive towards other fish that enter their breeding territory. The fry can be feed crushed flake food and newly hatched brine shrimp.
Additional Information: They are available in albino, pink, blue, and black varieties. Filtration is important, as with all Cichlids. Convicts are typical Cichlids when it comes to their food – messy eaters capable of spreading leftovers all over the tank. Many people might tell you that it is not essential to be as careful with your water parameters with Convicts as you need to be with other larger Cichlids, but this is not the case. Yes, Convicts are far more tolerant of bad water conditions than other Cichlids, but that does not mean that you can neglect your tank maintenance. As will any fish, growth and development will be adversely affected by bad water conditions, and just because your Convicts can survive doesn’t mean that they are happy. You should be maintaining your tank at the same level as you would for any other Cichlid.