Species name: Amatitlania nigrofasciata, or Archocentrus Nigrofasciatus

Common names: Convict Cichlid, zebra cichlids

Family: Cichlidae

Subfamily: Cichlasomatinae

Order: Perciformes

Class: Actinopterygii

How Big Do They Get? 3.9 inch (10 cm)

Minimum tank size: 20 gallons

Aggressiveness: Aggressive

Distribution: Central America: Pacific slope, from Río Sucio, El Salvador to Río Suchiate, Guatemala; Atlantic slope, from Río Patuca, Honduras to Río Jutiapa, Guatemala. Not in slope to Panama, Costa Rica or even Nicaragua, as formerly considered.

Diet: Feed on worms, crustaceans, insects, fish and plant matter.

From Central America, the Amatitlania nigrofasciata is commonly known as Convict Cichlid, because their coloring is similar to that of human prisoners’ striped uniforms, some people call these fish zebra cichlids.

Male or Female? It is not difficult to differentiate between the male and the female of the species. The male has black stripes and is grey, whereas the female has darker black stripes and has a pink or orange body. The female fish is more colorful than the male fish and she is smaller than he is. The male grows to approximately 7cms whereas the female only grows to approximately 5cms.


When not in captivity, Convict Cichlids would eat small worms and insect larvae. In the aquarium, the fish will eat commercial fish food. For variety, you can feed the Convict Cichlids on small pieces of vegetables, such as zucchini, cucumber, or lettuce. They will also enjoy blood worms.

My favorite Convict Cichlid Foods

I alternate these 3 and my cichlids love them all.

Tank Requirements

The Convict Cichlid is a very aggressive fish and it is best to keep only one pair in your tank. If you wish to keep more of these lovely fish, you will probably need to separate the couples when one couple is breeding and when the fry are under four weeks old.

You need to have a reasonably large aquarium to keep Convict Cichlids. For one pair you will need an aquarium that holds at least twenty gallons of water. Should you wish to keep other species in your tank, choose hardy fish, such as other Central American Cichlids. This is because the Convict Cichlids are very aggressive towards other fish particularly when they are breeding. You will need to have a tank that holds at least forty gallons of water if you wish to keep additional fish.

For the Convict Cichlids to feel settled in an aquarium, you will need to provide these fish with plenty of places to hide. The fish like branches and rocks because that is what they would hide under in their natural habitat. It is essential that you provide caves in the aquarium if you wish your fish to breed. Be prepared for a breeding pair to move the rocks and branches around the aquarium. The Convict Cichlids may burrow under and uproot plants in the aquarium prior to breeding.

The aquarium will require a filtration system to keep the water moving because Convict Cichlids need moving water to thrive. You should keep the temperature of your aquarium between 78 degrees Fahrenheit and 84 degrees Fahrenheit and the PH balance should be between 6.5 and 7.8.


The Convict Cichlid is an egg layer. Both the male and the female fish will care for the young. The adult fish will fan the eggs for the seventy-two hours it takes the eggs to hatch. The parent fish will continue to care for the young fish until the fry are about four weeks old. Both the male and the female adults are very protective of their young and will guard them should any other fish come near.

Convict Cichlids are wonderful to watch in the aquarium especially when they are caring for their young. These hardy fish are an excellent choice for your aquarium.

My name is James, and I’m in love with aquariums and fish since I was 12 years old. Back then my dad gave me a goldfish, and it’s been 35 years learning about this fascinating hobby. I’ve had some freshwater aquariums, tried my hand with marine tanks for 10 years, and kept some reefs for a while too. Here in the website I try to share some of my knowledge and experiences on fish keeping.


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