Mixing African and American Cichlids

Mixing African and American Cichlids – (Can it be done?)

There’s some standards in this hobby, some “by the book rules”, some technical no no’s…but sometimes you’ll find that those rules, like Mixing African and American Cichlids, can be broken. Not every time, and not every rule. But sometimes, just sometimes…you can do whatever you want.

So I’ve gotten a lot of questions and even some negative feedback about keeping Gordo in my African cichlid tank…if you don’t know who Gordo is he’s my big fat 10 year old Blood Parrot American Cichlid. And being that Blood Parrots are Central American fish they are not supposed to be kept with African Cichlids.

The technical reason is because they live in different water parameters. African cichlids live in brackish hard water of the African rift lakes, while blood parrots live in softer water. Meaning African Cichlids need a high PH of about 7.8- 8.5 while blood parrots live in a more acidic PH of about 6.5 to 7.0. Not only that but their temperaments are different in which you would expect African Cichlids to beat up on a shy lonely Blood Parrot Cichlid.

Well, I wanted to let you guys know that obviously mixing African and American Cichlids can be done, even though the rules say you can’t. But I also wanted to share my specific circumstances of how I was able to get this to work….Because it won’t work for everyone.

How Mixing Cichlids Began

Years ago when I got back into this hobby, after my childhood goldfish in a bowl trials, I started with a nice little 20 gallon tank, and Gordo was one of the first in the community. I had a mix of your regular beginner tropical community fish. There were angel fish, tetras, some silver dollars…just regular fish every local fish store has.

As I expanded in the hobby with tank upgrades and more fish Gordo grew big and strong. Then one day I bought an awesome 48 Gallon bow front tank, the one you’ve seen in my earlier videos, from a guy on craigslist. (Hey John, 👋)

When I got there the tank was empty and broken down ready for me to take it, and when I asked why he was selling it, he said because he upgraded tanks, obviously right, almost every used tank you buy is because someone upgraded, this hobby just makes you want to go bigger and bigger lol

So he generously asked if I wanted to see it, and I said sure… I walked into the other room and I saw a big beautiful tank full of big beautiful African Cichlids! And I was immediately hooked!

I had only seen African Cichlids before at the local fish store way in the back kept off to the side because they weren’t “beginner fish” I guess but the way they were displayed never seemed appealing to me. But in this guys tank, These fish looked amazing! We had a whole conversation about them and needless to say I was all in!!

So now I’ve got this new tank and my community fish, I know I cant keep these guys with aggressive African Cichlids so I began to give away my current stock. I gave away all the fish except for Gordo because he was the OG, I couldn’t give him away, he had grown so much with me over the years and the attachment is real! Most of you know exactly what I mean.

Mixing African and American Cichlids
One American Cichlid with many African Cichlids

Researching African and American Cichlids

After doing my research on African Cichlids and learning they required a high PH I also found research saying that even though Blood Parrot American Cichlids live in acidic water, closer to a neutral PH, they can tolerate a PH of up to 8.0 so…I decided to keep Gordo in the tank as I gradually began to raise the PH slowly over time to prepare for the African Cichlids.

Technically, according to “the rules” I probably shouldn’t have even attempted that, but I found conflicting info on the internet (not surprisingly) and wanted to try it out… So with time I finally got the PH up to the lower part of the spectrum for African Cichlids, somewhere about 7.6 or 7.8 and Gordo was doing just fine! Still eating, still swimming, still his same energetic self. So I was happy he was happy!

African Cichlid Aggression

Next problem to overcome is the aggression from African Cichlids…well I decided to start off with 3 or 4 juveniles that were much smaller than Gordo, they never bothered him. Then I added 3 or 4 more same size juveniles, with the same results.

What ended up happening as the African Cichlids grew so did Gordo. Gordo’s confidence and dominance in the tank remained and their was never any aggression problems.

Mixing African and American Cichlids

To this day, now that they’re all pretty much at adult size the African Cichlids have their hierarchy and there is a definite tank boss among them, my OB Peacock named Camo…But Gordo has always been the SIDE boss…he does what he wants when he wants, nobody messes with him.

When Camo gets in a bad mood and decides to push everyone to one side of the tank so he can have the other side all to himself you know whos swimming all over the place, minding his own business, Gordo! Its like he doesn’t follow their rules or their hierarchy. He’s his own boss in his own world.


Is it possible to mix African and American Cichlids? So there you have it, guys, technically, you’re not supposed to mix African and American Cichlids, but you can twist the rules sometimes and make some exceptions. My tank is not the first tank to do it either, I’ve seen plenty out there with some crazy mixes that technically shouldn’t work but somehow they do.

Everyone’s story of how they got the stock that they do is different so don’t judge someone just because some text book says this fish can’t be with that fish…you never know what rules can be adjusted or broken until you try it.

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