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Cichlids and Swordtails

Which cichlid species can I keep with my red brick swordtails?

By Lee Newman |

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swordtail fish
Swordtail by Tony Terceira.

Q. Are there any cichlid fish I can keep in my freshwater aquarium with my red brick swordtails?
Emily Stewardson
Salt Lake City, Utah

A. There are cichlid fish you can keep with your red brick swordtails, but the list is rather short, especially if you want your swordtail (Xiphophorus helleri var) fry to survive. Depending on the size of your aquarium, there is a good chance that any red brick swordtails born in your aquarium would quickly be eaten by any cichlid fish present. Also, swordtails tend to like water that is not too acidic and a bit on the hard side, so that rules out most of the smaller cichlid fish from South America. Given enough space and proper water conditions, there are a few cichlid fish species that would live peaceably with adult swordtails.

I’ll start off by suggesting the Bolivian ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus). Although it is from South America, it readily adapts to most water conditions – as long as your aquarium water is not too hard and alkaline. If your pH is less than 8.0 and hardness is less than 8 degrees KdH, the Bolivian rams should do fine. Bolivian rams are a small bottom-oriented species that should pretty much ignore the red brick swordtails swimming over their heads.

Other options include keyhole cichlids (Cleithracara maronii), which are also relatively adaptable and peaceful. Another good option is the rose-breasted acara (Laetacara dorsigera). There are other options for this freshwater aquarium, but I’ve kept my suggestions to species that are very behaviorally manageable. In the wild, swordtails share their river habitats with firemouth cichlids (Thorichthys meeki) and convict cichlids (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus), both of which can be a little hard to manage in the close confines of a modest-sized aquarium. Hope your red brick swordtails like their new neighbors!

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Reader Comments

Freddy P.    Waipahu, HI

12/17/2012 7:44:25 AM

I would suggest getting a breeding net or fry net and place the babies in the net in the tank, that way the adult fish won't eat them. Also, there is baby fish food that you can buy to feed them. It is almost powdery and they can eat that. They will grow fast. Or you can give them back to the pet store and maybe trade for another fish. Good luck.

Joe    Palm Bay, FL

12/14/2012 4:40:16 PM

I just purchased 2 sword tails yesterday. one gave birth today to a bunch of babies... WTH do I do now? do I take care of the babies the same way and let nature take its course? please help. New to fish pets.

James    cannock uk, NJ

8/29/2012 6:10:52 AM

i have a 600L central american cichlid tank with nicaraguensis, veija argentea, yellow labridens and an ebjd. And i manage to breed montezumae swords with these fish , the tank is 28" tall and with lots of floating ( plastic ) plants on the surface, the fry go up and cichlids ignore them, in fact the cichlids do not seem to notice the swords at all, they with only push them away when gaurding fry.
My group of 9 montezumae do really well in this tank , i just scoop out the babies from the surface when i see them.
I dont feed floating food either, it keeps the cichlids closer to the floor, away from sword fry, hope this helps

Brian    riverton, UT

8/26/2011 5:41:28 AM

I wonder what size tank the person asking the question has. i am assuming it is probably not too large. I think this would have an impact on they could keep with those swordtails.

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