How Many Cichlids Can You Keep in a 30 Gallon Tank?

Cichlids can be quite aggressive, not to mention that some of them can grow over one foot long. Having enough space in the aquarium depends on the type of cichlid, other fish in the tank, how much decor you have, and more. The good news is that you can create the perfect cichlid environment in a 30-gallon aquarium.

You can keep between four to six cichlids in a 30-gallon tank, provided you choose the correct cichlids for the aquarium. Some cichlids, such as the Julidochromis transcriptius, only grow up to 2.8 inches. Use the rule of two gallons per one inch of fish (when they’re grown) to determine the amount.

In this post, we’ll discuss why you should limit the number of cichlids in a tank, various types of cichlids you can bring to your aquarium, and what other fish mesh well with this aggressive, energetic species. Enjoy!

lake Malawi cichlids | Source: Deposit Photos

How Many Cichlids in a 30 Gallon Tank?

Up to six cichlids can be in a 30-gallon tank, as long as they’re the smaller species. Ensure you have more than two gallons per one inch of fully-grown cichlid to provide enough space for them to swim without feeling overwhelmed or aggressive. Cichlids can become quite territorial if they feel crowded by other fish.

Here’s why you can’t fit too many cichlids in a mid-sized aquarium:

  • Cichlids quickly become territorial and will fight other fish to take over the aquarium. According to Rate My Fish Tank, cichlids are some of the most aggressive fish you can put in a tank. The good news is that they won’t chase after each other since they’re more likely to fend for themselves rather than become territorial.
  • Some cichlids grow too big for a tank, while others need more space to roam without feeling crowded. Always ensure your cichlids aren’t too big for your aquarium. We’ll list some of the best species in the next section, but it’s also important to let them swim around without being cramped or forced into a corner.
  • Cichlids poop a whole lot, which means you’ll have a lot of cleaning to do if you have too many of them. They eat and poop throughout the day, which means you’ll have to remove the waste to prevent the tank from getting cloudy or unsanitary for the fish and plants to live with.
  • These fish are known to bully each other and other fish if they outnumber them. They’ll run into other fish and chase them around the tank if the fish are too small or won’t defend themselves. This issue is much more common if you have too many cichlids paired with a tank that’s already overloaded with other fish.
  • Cichlids are active and need a lot of space to swim around to get out their energy. You might notice your cichlids swimming from one side of the tank to the other all day (or night). They love swimming and releasing their pent-up energy, so it’s crucial to not have too many cichlids in the 30-gallon aquarium.

There are plenty of different cichlid species. Some of them are too big for a 55-gallon tank, much less a 30-gallon tank. Knowing which species will survive and thrive in your aquarium will prevent them from getting harmed, aggressive, or causing issues for other fish. To learn which species are best, read on.

What is the Best Cichlid for a 30 Gallon Aquarium?

The best cichlids for a 30-gallon aquarium are Julidochromis transcriptius, Kribensis, ram cichlids, and many other species because they don’t grow bigger than four inches, making them the ideal choice for your tank. However, some cichlids grow over 14 inches, which wouldn’t fit in the tank.

Let’s dive into the traits of the best cichlids for your fish tank:

  • Julidochromis Transcriptius: These fish grow up to three inches, while the females typically grow bigger than the males. They’re some of the most popular aquarium cichlids because they’re small, easy to maintain, and are quite beautiful (Source: Aquaticarts).
  • Kribensis: These fish only grow slightly longer than the previous cichlid at four inches in length. Contrary to the previous cichlid, the males grow larger than the females (which usually get up to three inches). Keep in mind that these cichlids are very likely to breed in a mid-sized aquarium (Source: Aquarium Source).
  • Ram Cichlid: These fish are some of the smallest dwarf cichlids in the world at only two to three inches long. Their vibrant orange, yellow, purple, and blue streaks make them quite a sight. They’re perfect for those who want to fit as many cichlids in a 30-gallon tank as possible (Source: Fish Tank Advisor).
  • Apsitos: These fish don’t grow much bigger than the first cichlid on the list. You can expect an apsitos cichlid to get between three to 3.5 inches long. The males have much more color on their skin than females, but both of them share a natural glow (Source: Aquarium Coop).

Can You Put Other Fish With Cichlids in a 30 Gallon Tank?

You can put other fish with cichlids in a 30-gallon tank as long as there’s enough space and the fish aren’t aggressive. Some of the best fish to mix with cichlids include plecos and catfish because they mind their own business, they don’t go for the same food source, and they sit much lower in the tank than the cichlids.

Consider these questions before introducing new fish to your cichlid aquarium:

  1. What does the fish species eat? Cichlids are known to eat all sorts of food (algae, plants, other tiny fish, larvae, and more). If they feel they’re not getting enough food, they’ll do their best to eliminate the competition. If the new fish eats the same diet, always ensure there’s enough to go around.
  2. Are they as aggressive or territorial as cichlids and other fighting fish? It’s never a good idea to cram a bunch of aggressive fish in the same tank. Cichlids will often respect other cichlids, but they’ll group together and fight other fish species if they’re too territorial or try to fight them.
  3. How big do the fish get when they’re fully grown? Urban Fishkeeping recommends limiting your fish to one inch per two gallons of water, as mentioned a few times in this post. This golden rule applies to all fish, not just cichlids. Make sure you account for their biggest possible size, not the smallest.
  4. Are they small enough for the cichlids to mistake them for food? Cichlid Research shows tetras are a delicious snack for cichlids, so they’re not the best combination. Many other tiny fish will be a cichlid’s dinner, so it’s best to wait for them to grow before adding the cichlids to the aquarium.

There’s no doubt that you can have a thriving, diverse fish tank with loads of other species (including the cichlids). Following these four Q & A’s will make it much easier to know which fish will get along with the cichlids. Again, bottom feeders are often a great addition to a cichlid tank, especially since they’ll be a cleanup crew for the excess amount of cichlid droppings.


While you might be able to fit a bunch of baby cichlids in a 30-gallon tank, it can cause all sorts of problems. Choosing less aggressive fish and an open habitat will provide a spacious, enjoyable living experience for your cichlids. Remember to pick small cichlid species so they don’t outgrow the aquarium.