How Long do Cichlid Fish Live? (And How to Extend It)

Cichlids are a very popular species of fish among aquarists. Their bright colors are the primary factor behind their popularity. However, they might be difficult to take care of due to their aggressive personality. Yet, this is balanced by their increased social interaction and very active lifestyles. Cichlids are also some of the most diverse fish species you can find. Each one has a different color scheme and a vast multitude of patterns. 

They are freshwater fish found in Africa or South America, but there are a few species found in Europe and Asia. Over 1600 species of Cichlids have been discovered to date. This number is still on the rise as many more are being discovered.

Cichlids tend to have varying lifespans depending upon the specific species. This is why, quite frankly, there is no solid answer to this question. However, we can say that, in general, cichlids live for 6 to 10 years on average. However, this is also under the condition that the environment the fish are exposed to is ideal. This includes the water parameters, nutrition, exercise, etc.

Let us examine this in more detail further on through the article.

How Long do Cichlid Fish Live in an Aquarium?

How Long do Cichlids Live in an Aquarium?

In an aquarium, the aquarist can control the necessary conditions for the fish to thrive. This means that you can simulate ideal conditions in an aquarium to prolong the life of a cichlid. Of course, this is also subject to the specific species of Cichlid we talk about. But, on average, if the conditions are assumed to be ideal, you could expect your Cichlid to live for anywhere between 6 to 10 years. They live much longer than their counterparts in the wild as they mature slower when in captivity.

Are Cichlids Hard to Keep?

If you are not used to taking care of fish or just starting as an aquarist, it is not recommended to get cichlids. They tend to have a bit of an aggressive temperament and are not precisely the hardiest of fish. You have to be very careful about what tankmates you choose for cichlids. They tend to be very territorial and also pick fights at times. In addition, they tend to get quite nippy, which could potentially harm both fish’ health. You might also need to get another tank to separate overly aggressive cichlids. If your tank has filtration issues, is too crowded, or even lacks hiding spots, their aggression will be at a higher level.

However, this should not put you off as they are extremely lively and social fish. Cichlids have an active lifestyle and are a treat to watch in the aquarium. Their striking appearance with unique patterns and vivid colors is also a huge positive. Moreover, certain species of cichlids are suitable for beginners to try out. As long as you manage to meet their needs, give them enough space and not infringe on their freedom, they will be an asset to your aquarium.

The life span of the most popular Cichlids

Peacock Cichlids
Peacock Cichlid

As we said earlier, there are many species of cichlids, and they mostly have varying lifespans. So let us take a look at some of the species and how long they live in captivity.

  • Mbuna Cichlids live for about 8 to 10 years, but some may even make it to their teens in some instances.
  • Peacock Cichlids also live for about 8 to 10 years but commonly die at the age of 5 to 6 because of unacceptable conditions.
  • Electric Yellow Cichlids enjoy a life of 6 to 8 years but could also potentially live for up to 10 years.
  • Convict Cichlids have an average lifespan of about ten years, but there have been cases where certain convict cichlids have lived longer.
  • Oscar cichlids enjoy a long life of anywhere between one and two decades. This is not an uncommon phenomenon in the right conditions.
  • Angelfish usually live a little longer than ten years on average.

How long do Cichlids take to grow?

African Cichlids
African Cichlid

We cannot specify the growth rate of cichlids as an entire species, so this will be a general study. Some range from a couple of inches long to nearly 2 feet long. Cichlids do not have a particular growth pattern, just like pleco fish. Different species of Cichlids grow differently. We shall split cichlids into African Cichlids, South & Central American Cichlids, and North American Cichlids.

African Cichlids grow up to a size that ranges between 5 and 7 inches in a year or two. South and Central American Cichlids grow up to an average size that ranges between 6 and 8 inches in a year to a year and a half. North American Cichlids grow 5 to 6 inches long in 6 months to a year.

One point that should be noted is that all cichlids grow at a rapid rate in their early stages. However, this rate of growth then drastically slows down as they mature. 

How to extend the life span of your Cichlid?

Quite simply, it is not possible to extend the natural lifespan of your fish. However, you can try to maximize it by ensuring all the conditions that the fish is exposed to are ideal. This includes maintaining the proper water parameters, creating a stress-free environment, and feeding them the proper diet for optimal nutritional intake.

Feeding Cichlids the proper diet can be a little tricky. This is mainly because they keep on eating despite having their needs met. Overfeeding is a common mistake that a lot of aquarists make. This can be hazardous to the health of the fish and can even lead to death in certain extreme cases. Instead, give them only an amount to finish eating in about 30 to 40 seconds. Also, consider feeding them multiple small meals over the day rather than one or two large meals. However, keep in mind that you are not trying to starve them either. Ensure that their diet is balanced and contains high-quality ingredients.

It would be best if you also aimed to create a stress-free environment. Stress causes the release of cortisol. As a result, there will be an appetite drop seen in the fish, meaning there is not enough nutritional intake. If your fish gets stressed very often, there will be a lot of damage that you can see to the health of the fish.

Role of Water Parameters

The role of water parameters cannot be overlooked when maintaining your cichlids. These parameters dictate a significant chunk of the well-being of the fish. If not maintained the right way, they might lead to a decline in fish health. It also affects their metabolism rate and is directly linked to their immune system.

This means keeping the water temperature similar to their wild habitats. For cichlids, this tends to be a bit warm (usually between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit), but check the requirements for your particular species of cichlids. Sometimes, if the water temperature is too warm, the fish might sink to the bottom as the oxygen concentration is higher at the bottom of the tank and cooler.

Another factor that must not be overlooked is that Cichlids produce a lot of biomass every day. This needs to be cleaned out to maintain the required water parameters. In addition, it could lead to a spike in ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels. This can lead to further health complications for the fish. If any of these chemicals see a point, you could see your fish showing specific symptoms like lethargy, brown gills, jagged fins, listlessness, panting, bleeding gills, and spending time near the water outlets streaks along their body.

Do Cichlid fish get lonely?

Do Cichlid fish get lonely?

In theory, Cichlids can survive on their own if all other conditions are kept ideal (water parameters are met, there is adequate food and nutrition). However, we do not recommend this because the fish will get lonely. This leads to the fish being stressed out. Therefore, it is best to keep at least one breeding pair together. The only Cichlid that is kept alone at times is the Oscar cichlid. Consequently, it is strongly recommended not to keep them solitary.  


How long can Cichlids survive without food?

Again, this question has a different answer for different species of Cichlids. Usually, a healthy adult will be able to survive without food for a week to 10 days. Sometimes even two weeks. Do not try testing this theory.

How long can Cichlids live without an air pump?

There is no specific answer to this question. It depends on how many plants the tanks have as they act as filters. Some Cichlids could go on to live like that, but others would start showing a decline in health after a couple of weeks of being in unfiltered water.

How long can Cichlids live without a heater?

Cichlids are fish that require a little bit of warmth compared to other fish species. This is because they hail from tropical regions and need that heat. However, a cichlid can live without a heater for about two days.

How long can Cichlids live without a filter?

The first sign that a fish is suffering from a lack of oxygen would be if you see the fish hovering around at the bottom of the tank. Here, the fish has access to water that is more oxygenated. After the oxygen at the bottom of the tank runs out, you can see the fish trying to breathe at the water’s surface. Unfortunately, these fish cannot survive longer than two days after depleting their oxygen source. 


Cichlids are a fantastic fish to keep in your aquarium. Their vibrant color, unique pattern, and active lifestyle make them one of the biggest attractions in your tank. They may be a bit of a hassle to take care of, but you can learn to do this with time. They also live relatively long lives, so you can also have them as companions. We hope you have a smooth journey with your Cichlids and do not run into too much trouble.

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