Cichlids are the most popular freshwater fish globally, with over 1,700 species to choose from.
Some of them are large, and some are small, but they’re all fascinating creatures with unique personalities and various behaviors.
If your tank is on the smaller side, you might be looking for some small cichlids that would fit well.
Dwarf cichlids are perfect for nano tanks or smaller aquariums because they don’t get larger than about two inches long.
They’re also peaceful little fish that can live in a community tank if you want to keep them with other non-aggressive species.
Here are our top picks for dwarf cichlid species that would make great additions to any home tank:
7 Peaceful Dwarf Cichlids to Add to Your Home Tank
These tiny fish grow only about 2 inches long (5 cm). A 10-gallon aquarium is adequate for a small multis group; however, it must be tightly covered because these fish are fantastic jumpers.
Multies are native to Lake Tanganyika in East Africa; their water should be hard and alkaline (pH 7.8–8.6) with temperatures that range from 72 and live for about 6 years.
The common name of this species is somewhat misleading because it refers to three distinct species: N. multifasciatus, N. caudopunctatus, and N. Brevis. Since there isn’t a separate common name for each species, the moniker “multies” has been applied to all three varieties.
One easy way to tell them apart is by looking at the number of spots and stripes on their bodies. For example, multifasciatus has five spots on the body and five stripes on the tail; caudopunctatus has six spots on the body and six stripes on the tail, and Brevis has eight spots on the body eight stripes on the tail.
Although they lack the gorgeous colors of some other cichlids, multis are still very appealing little fish.
They have a light tan-colored body with black spots on it arranged in rows along their length and vertical stripes along with their tails.
Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus)
The Bolivian ram is a stunning fish that is popular among aquarists. It has a lovely golden color with iridescent blue and green patching on its body and fins. Once it reaches breeding age, the male develops a pinkish hue on its cheeks, making it even more striking.
Like other dwarf cichlids, this fish is relatively tiny — males only reach around three inches in size, while females top out at two inches.
But, although they’re small, they are pretty hardy and can tolerate a wide range of water parameters, making them ideal for beginners who want to get into keeping these adorable little fish.
Bolivian rams prefer water with a pH between 6.0 and 8.0, a hardness of 4 to 18 dGH, and a temperature range between 73 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit (23 – 28 degrees Celsius).
P.S. They enjoy lots of hiding places.
Golden Dwarf Cichlid
These cute little fish add a lot of color to your tank and are an excellent choice for anyone who wants to keep dwarf cichlids.
They’re peaceful and make a pretty addition to a community tank, although you should be aware that they can become aggressive during spawning.
Golden dwarf cichlids are small, so they don’t need much space, but they do like to have a heavily planted tank with lots of hiding places.
They’re also relatively easy to breed and will even accept dry foods in their diet if you raise them from fry.
The cockatoo cichlid (Apistogramma cacatuoides) is a dwarf cichlid that makes a great addition to larger tropical aquariums.
Also known as the umbrella cichlid, this peaceful species is easy to care for and a good choice for beginners.
Unlike most other cichlids, male Apistogramma cacatuoides are not aggressive towards other males in the aquarium.
Instead, they often share territory and won’t fight unless threatened.
You can keep a single pair of these fish in a smaller tank or just a harem of females without males.
In larger tanks, males tolerate each other and live in groups with several females.
Although these fish are peaceful, they are known to eat small fish and fry, so avoid small tank mates that are small enough to eat or that may lay eggs on the substrate where the Apistogramma cacatuoides will consume them.
- Temperature: 75 – 85 Deg F / 24 – 29 Deg C
- Water chemistry: pH 6.0 – 8.0, Soft to hard water tolerated.
- Common name: Cockatoo Cichlid, Apistogramma cacatuoides
- Scientific name: Apistogramma cacatuoides
- Average Adult Fish Size: 3 inches / 7.5 cm
- Place of Origin: The upper Amazon in Peru and Brazil
- Typical Tank setup: Lots of cover with lots of rocks, bogwood, and plants
- Recommended Minimum Aquarium Capacity: 50 gallon / 200 liter for a pair
German Blue Ram
The German blue ram is a staple in many freshwater community aquariums.
This small, peaceful fish can be the perfect addition to a tank with tetras or other submissive species.
The beautiful little German blue ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) is particularly popular among aquarists.
These dwarf cichlids are easy to care for and make interesting and attractive additions to community setups that include peaceful tank mates.
They’re best kept in pairs, as they’re naturally found close together in nature, where they also form monogamous relationships.
This beautiful freshwater fish comes from Venezuela and Columbia in South America.
There it lives in slow-moving water such as streams and tributaries with dense vegetation and plenty of hiding places where it can retreat if alarmed.
This fish is part of the cichlid family, including over 1,300 species.
Cichlids are some of the most colorful freshwater fish you can keep, but most have reasonably large adult sizes, making them unsuitable for small setups.
The German blue ram is an exception, as it only reaches around 1½ inches once fully mature.
Although you can find Kribensis cichlids in various colors, the most common type is the “pink-belly” Kribensis.
This species is famous for new aquarists and experienced hobbyists alike because they are pretty hardy and easy to care for.
Kribensis are native to West Africa, where they live in still or slow-moving waterways.
They have been found in rivers, streams, swamps, and lakes with muddy bottoms.
Kribensis Cichlids are a peaceful species that can be kept in community tanks with semi-aggressive and peaceful community fish.
However, because the male fish will protect the female vigorously when spawning, it’s best to keep only one pair per tank or risk the male killing all other tank mates.
Although this is a small cichlid, it does require a larger aquarium. A 30-gallon (113 liters) tank is recommended for breeding purposes and sufficient space for swimming and hiding places.
However, if you do not intend to breed Kribensis, a 20-gallon (75 liters) tank is fine.
Kribensis are omnivores, so they will eat various foods, although they have been found to prefer live foods.
Therefore, feed your Kribensis live brine shrimp, fresh vegetables like blanched lettuce or spinach, and high-quality flake or pellet food for optimum health.
Yellow Dwarf Cichlid
I recommend keeping your yellow dwarfs in a 30-gallon tank or larger, with many rocks and driftwood.
I like to use mosses and other plants that cover the bottom of the tank; this gives the fish plenty of places to hide.
If you want to keep a community of fish with yellow dwarfs, choose companions that won’t compete with them for food.
The best choices are small schooling fish, like neon tetras, hatchetfish, rasboras, and pencil fish — though you can also choose midwater species like dwarf rainbows or pearl gouramis.
If you’re looking for a beautiful but peaceful addition to your home aquarium, dwarf cichlids are a great choice.
Dwarf cichlids are peaceful and easy to care for; they’re also small and active.
Dwarf cichlids make a stunning addition to community tanks as long as you stick with friendly tank mates.
Many varieties of dwarf cichlids are available, but we’ll focus on some of the most popular.
While these fish are considered “dwarf,” they can still get up to 4 inches in length.
Therefore, it’s essential to choose suitable tank mates for your dwarf cichlid and research the species before adding them to your tank.