How Do Convict Cichlids Mate: Tips to Successful Mating

The convict cichlid is a popular fish in the aquarium trade. Convict cichlids are native to Central America and are among the few cichlid genera exhibiting sexual dimorphism, with females typically more significant than males.

The male courts the female by floating near her in an area with gravel substrate; if she accepts him, he will place his head under hers and eventually copulate. The male then takes her to a designated spawning site, where they release their eggs into the substrate.

Mating Convict Cichlids

The easiest way to sex convict cichlids is by their physical appearance. Females are typically larger than males, have a broader head and body, and a more developed dorsal fin. Males also have a dimorphic anal fin (inverted U-shape). In addition, males have a patch of larger scales on their midventral body. If you select two convict cichlids with the same physical characteristics, they can often be distinguished by abdominal color patterns; the males typically exhibit darker bars while the females usually lack such markings.

How to Get Convict Cichlids to Spawn?

The easiest way to get your convict cichlids to spawn is by providing a spawning area containing gravel substrate. A place where they can release their eggs into the substrate will help speed up the process. Ensure that the site you provide is large enough for both the male and female fish and that there are plenty of places for them to hide. In around two weeks, if all goes well, you may see fry emerging from the spawning site. If no fry is produced, you can try again at a different spot in the tank.

Tank Requirements

Convict cichlids require a wide range of tank sizes, from 40 gallons up to at least 125 gallons. They are not recommended for tanks smaller than 40 gallons. The water should be soft and acidic, with plenty of hiding places and caves for the fish. This active species needs lots of swimming space; they will not do well in cramped quarters or if there’s little to no current in the tank.

Aquarium Preparation

Before you attempt to breed your convict cichlids, it’s essential to ensure the tank is set up correctly. The water should be clean and well-oxygenated, and there should be plenty of hiding places for the fish. Ideally, the lighting in your aquarium should mimic natural sunlight as closely as possible.

Presence of Filtration

One of the critical things you’ll need to do to succeed with breeding is to ensure the water quality is good. Ensure your tank has adequate filtration, and replace any dirty water as soon as possible. Poor water quality can reduce fertility rates significantly.

Water Parameters

Temperature is also a critical factor in inbreeding. You should keep the water at around 70 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius), and pH levels should remain stable. Too high or too low of temperatures can significantly affect the health of your fish.

pH level

A stable pH level is also critical for breeding. The ideal range is 6.5 to 8.0, but any deviation can lead to problems down the road. For example, if your pH levels drift too far outside of this range, it could alter the chemistry of your water and prevent spawning from taking place effectively.

The Significance of Hiding Spots in Mating

As you can see, some factors play into successful breeding. First, install adequate visual barriers and spawning gravel, live seed plants, and add broken clay pottery to the tank, all of which will help increase fertility. In addition, placing the spawning pair low will help them be able to escape from other fish in the aquarium.

Last but not least, you must give your convict cichlids plenty of privacy and space as they go about their business.

One of the best ways to increase the likelihood of successful spawning is to install some visual barriers and hiding places in your aquarium. This will keep the fish from fighting, and it’ll also encourage them to pair up.

Substrate and Live Plants

In addition to adding visual barriers, you can also add spawning gravel and live plants. These items help promote reproduction by providing a place for eggs to be deposited and hatched. In addition, such things can also reignite the sexual instincts of certain types, like Corydoras and Otocinclus species.

Aquarium Rocks

Another good way to increase fertility is by adding river rocks. These objects help create an environment similar to what you’d see in nature, and it encourages spawning by providing hiding spots for the fish. In addition, they help provide nutrients that are scarce in the aquarium.


Finally, you can also add driftwood to the tank. This type of object provides stability and a natural look to your aquarium. It also encourages spawning by giving the fish a place to lay their eggs. In addition, driftwood offers hiding places, so the fish will utilize it, even more to hide instead of fighting.

How to Take Care of Convict Fry?

After the eggs are laid, you’ll need to take care of the fry. Make sure to provide plenty of food and a stable environment in which they can develop. Keep the tank at a steady pH level and add carbon dioxide if needed. In addition, don’t sell your fry to anyone who doesn’t have adequate knowledge of the fish or isn’t familiar with setting up a breeding tank.

What If My Convicts Don’t Mate?

If your convict cichlids don’t seem to be spawning, it’s not necessarily a sign that they are unhappy or unable to do so. It may take some time for them to establish a breeding territory and get the timing down ideally. Sometimes other factors (such as poor water quality or overcrowding) can interfere with reproduction. In such cases, you may need to move one or more of your fish into a separate tank to give them the space they need to breed.