Wanting to set up a community cichlid tank? Great idea. Such tanks are fun because they give you an opportunity to witness the behavior of many species as they interact with each other. Community tanks with multiple species also allow you to showcase a variety of colors along with species that occupy all levels in the water column.
That’s the good news. Now for the bad news. Unless you plan to keep a single specimen of those species or all females, you’re going to walk a tightrope.
Why? Having mixed conspecific genders invites breeding, which invites both defensive aggression and offspring. Having all males invites dominance behavior and territorial aggression.
Unless you’re experinced and know how to mitigate these issues, you’re asking for trouble. The biggest problem? Loss of fish.
Cichlids kill tankmates without prejudice. You get a breeding pair protecting eggs or offspring, or a dominant male protecting his turf from other conspecific males, and you should expect to lose some fish…unless it’s a really big tank.
I’ve been maintaining community set-ups for a long time. Even with my experience, things get squirrelly sometimes. In fact, I have a 75g Tanganyikan community tank now that houses a breeding pair of two different species – Julidochromis marlieri and Telmatochromis sp. “temporalis shell”. The tank contains multiple broods from both species. The Telmats just spawned again. As a result, three juveniles in the tank paid the ultimate price last night for getting too close to the spawning cave. It’s unfortunate but that is a risk you accept when you decide to maintain a tank with multiple species, especially if a species spawns and you decide to leave the spawning pair together in the tank.