Cuban Cichlid Stats InfographicThe Cuban cichlid has the scientific family name Nandopsis and is endemic to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Barbados. These large, obnoxious and territorial fish are the hardest among the cichlids to care for, making them fit for only very experienced fish keepers.

Although they are beautiful to look at, taking care of them is a job that will require a lot of time and money, but it can be pretty rewarding as well since not many people can take care of Cuban cichlids. Continue reading to find out everything about these fascinating fish and how to take care of them.

Cuban Cichlid Stats

Here is some quick information about the normal and super red Cuban cichlid so you can get the overall idea of what this unique and stunning fish is like.

Care level Difficult
Maximum Size Around 10 inches
Minimum Tank Size 65 gallons
Average lifespan 8 to 12 years
Diet  Carnivores
Breeding Type Egg-layers
pH 7 to 8
Hardness 6 to 16 NK
Temperature 76 F to 86 F
Temperament Aggressive
Order Cichliformes
Family Cichlidae
Genus Nandopsis
Species Centrarchus tetracanthus

What Is Cuban Cichlid?

The Cuban Cichlid is a highly territorial, 10-inch cichlid that is white in color with several black and grey spots and stripes all over its body. Some people even mistake this fish with the jaguar cichlid, so you have to be careful when buying it. However, a new hybrid species of Cuban cichlid is known as the super red Cuban cichlid. As the name suggests, they have a mostly red body and were made by breeding female blood red parrots with male Cuban cichlids.

Cuban cichlid diet requirementsThe appearance of this cichlid is its main attraction as it is unique and beautiful to look at. Since it is so unusual to own and many people don’t even know about the existence of this beautiful species, you can make an impression on people by having the Cuban cichlid in your aquarium.

The fins of this fish are different from the rest of its body and are slightly yellowish or green in color. Interestingly, during the breeding period, the fins of the fish turn darker in color with red borders. Overall, the body shape of the fish resembles that of all other cichlids.

Sexing Cuban Cichlids

Just like most other fish, it is difficult to differentiate between male and female Cuban cichlids. Of course, there are gender differences, but these are very small, and only an expert can truly identify them. The common difference is in their size — a male full-grown Cuban cichlid is larger in size and more brightly colored than a female cichlid.

Aside from that, the male has more pointed dorsal and anal fins in comparison to the female. Another difference is in their genitalia, but this is much harder to observe. The male genitalia is more pointed, whereas the female one is rounder in shape. To sex them using the genitalia, you have to observe them during the breeding season as only very skilled fishkeepers can successfully do this during other times.

Cuban Cichlid Care

The overall care for Cuban cichlids is not very difficult, so you don’t have to worry about it too much. It is difficult to care for them because of their aggression and size, so be ready to deal with that. The aquarists that do own this fish love it because once you know how to care for it, it becomes easy to get attached to the fish.

Cuban Cichlid Diet

One of the most important parts of keeping a fish is providing it with appropriate nutrients. A balanced diet can make a lot of difference in the lifespan as well as the size of the fish. The best way to prevent disease and stress is also by giving them a nutritional diet.

This species of cichlid is a carnivore, so it depends on protein a lot. Meaty food items which are safe for the fish are important to provide for them. There isn’t much information regarding the diet of this fish, but it is said that in the wild, it eats shrimps, worms, aquatic insects and small fish, including livebearers and gobies. Here are some of the food items that might work for the Cuban aquarium cichlid:

  • Cichlid pellets
  • Whole shrimps
  • Earthworms
  • Cichlid flakes
  • Frozen Mysis
  •  Frozen krill
  • Bloodworms

Feeding Tips

There are many more food items that this beautiful fish can eat. Make sure to feed the young fish about two to three times a day but reduce the amount as they grow older to prevent them from becoming obese. Once mature, you can feed these fish once a day.

Remember to always remove the uneaten food after a couple of minutes; this will prevent the water from getting too dirty from food debris, leading to diseases. It is very important to feed the fish in moderation so it doesn’t starve but doesn’t become overweight.

Both of these conditions can be detrimental to the health of your fish.

Tank Requirements

A tank is the home of the fish, so it has to resemble their natural habitat as much as possible. Their natural habitat consisted of rivers and lakes, as well as freshwater and brackish water.

Tank Size

To start with the tank size, although they can be placed in a tank that is around 55 to 65 gallons, this is only fit for one fish that hasn’t reached maturity yet. If you want a pair of these fish or when it reaches its full size, moving the fish to a 100-gallon tank is recommended.

Water Parameters

Cuban cichlid careIn addition, it is very important to have proper filtration in whatever tank you move them to as they produce a lot of waste. Make sure to follow the water parameters at all costs and maintain it using a water testing kit. This kit will allow you to notice any small changes in the water so you can fix them immediately.

Substrate and Other Tank Items

As for the tank decorations, they do need a substrate. Ideally, it should be sandy or small gravel substrate as these are safe for them.

For other decorative items, having hiding places in the form of driftwood, bogwood, roots and large stones is best for this fish. They do require a lot of space to swim, so make sure never to overcrowd the tank with decorative items. You can use plants, but they have to be floating plants or very hardy plants with strong roots. This is because the Cuban cichlid will destroy and uproot plants when it gets the chance to.

Tank Mates

The Cuban cichlid is an aggressive fish, so this means that it can’t have many different tank mates. The fish that can live with this species have to be peaceful yet able to defend themselves as well.

The best tank mate would be another Cuban cichlid. In fact, to breed them, you should have many juvenile Cuban cichlid fish together so they can establish a pair. Take note that they get aggressive very easily, so a species tank is the best option.

There is not much information on the types of tank mates that this fish can have, but you should choose other larger fish. Central American cichlids, large catfish and plecostomus are some species that can work well with this cichlid. Some examples of fish that can work with them are the green Texas cichlid, Jack Dampsey cichlid and yellow jacket cichlid. There are some other options too, but make sure to monitor any new tank mate for aggression and remove it if fighting ensues.

There are not many tank mate options because of how territorial the Cuban cichlid gets during the spawning season, which makes it aggressive towards all other tank mates. It is best to keep them with their own species to be extra safe.

Size And Lifespan

As mentioned above, there isn’t much information on this fish because of how rare it is. However, there is a known average lifespan and size of the Cuban cichlid.

The Cuban cichlid size is around 10 inches or 25 cm when fully grown. The males grow a little larger in size than the females, but their size will depend a lot on the tank size and diet of the fish as well. A larger tank will have more space for the fish to grow fully, and a healthy diet will also give it a better chance of growing larger and healthier.

Now the average lifespan of this fish is said to be pretty long, averaging to around 8 to 12 years. You can expect your Cuban cichlid to live for around ten years at least. This lifespan, however, can decrease if you don’t have a big enough tank or if the fish is stressed due to some factors, but take note that this fish can exceed its lifespan with the proper care. Nevertheless, taking care of the Cuban cichlid is a long commitment as it has a longer lifespan compared to many other types of fish.


Breeding the Cuban cichlid is one of the easiest things you can do. It is also good to breed them because this fish is pretty rare, and it would be good to have their population increase a little.

If you can, buy a pair of them; if not, buy 3-5 juveniles and let them pair off. Once maturity is reached and they have grouped into pairs, remove all other cichlids from the tank and let the pair mate, which happens quite easily. Once the fry is born, both parents take care of it. Since the male gets aggressive, giving the female fish a place to hide is important.

They lay eggs on a flat surface as flat surfaces have fewer bacteria, making it ideal for the young fry and eggs. Expect the female to lay around 300 to 600 eggs at once. The eggs will hatch within a week, and the fry will start swimming by themselves in around seven days. In the beginning, they will feed on baby brine shrimps and daphnia but will soon start feeding on the same diet that their parents have.


Although it might seem like taking care of the Cuban cichlid is extremely hard, it is not as hard as you think if you know what you are doing. They are definitely not for beginners, but if you have some experience, you can easily take care of this fish. Here are some of the most important points we learned from the article:

  • Cuban cichlid is endemic to Cuba, as the name suggests, but also found in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Barbados.
  •  It is a rare fish that not many fishkeepers keep.
  • It grows up to around 10 inches in size, so it needs a large tank and has a lifespan of 8 to 12 years.
  •  They are carnivores that need a healthy and balanced diet.
  • They are best kept in a tank with the same species as they can get aggressive towards other fish.
  • The Cuban cichlid is very easy to breed as long as you have a paired mate.

Cuban cichlid water requirementsIn conclusion, make sure to do proper research and buy the fish from a reputable seller to have the best chance of raising the fish properly.

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