Green terror also known as Andinoacara rivulatus, is endemic to the River Basins in Peru and Ecuador. Although they can be very aggressive, they are still one of the most coveted aquarium cichlids gracing several tanks across the globe because of their stunning appearance and inquisitive nature.

Armed with the proper knowledge and necessary experience with other cichlids, you can raise this fish in your aquarium. Find all you need to know about this green terror cichlid in this article.

Let’s dive into it, shall we?

Green Terror Stats

Tank Size 66 gallons
Lifespan 7-10 months
Size 8 Inches
Temperature 77-82°F
pH 6.5-8.0
Hardness 5-25 dKH
Ease of Care Intermediate


The name green terror cichlid is enough to strike terror to your heart, but don’t let it. They are not half as bad as their name sounds. They are stunning freshwater species that add lots of color to your otherwise dull tank.

Green terror cichlid, also known as Andinoacara rivulatus, was first described in 1860 by Albert Karl Ludwig Gotthilf Günther. You will find this fish scattered around the calm tropical River Basins in West Ecuador and Central Peru. However, you will not find green terrors in rivers and water bodies with high pH and salt content.

The green terror is often mistaken for the aequidens pulcher, another cichlid with a similar appearance. In fact, at one point, they were regarded as the same fish. Now, scientists have managed to separate these two fish based on their subtle differences.

– Differentiating Between Green Terrors and Aequidens Pulcher

The green terror is a rather large fish with a whopping size of 25-30 cm in the wild, while the aequidens pulcher is slightly smaller, with a maximum size of 20 cm in the wild. Mature male green terrors have a more pronounced hump than the mature aequidens pulcher male counterparts.

Perhaps the more pronounced hump makes green terrors more aggressive and territorial than the aequidens pulcher.

– Other Species

There are other species of cichlids that have a similar appearance to the green terror cichlid. You will find them on the west slope of the Andes.

While the Andinoacara rivulatus has greenish-yellow edging and dwells in the Esmeraldas river basin flowing over North-West Ecuador, Andinoacara or Goldsaum has dark yellow or orange markings and can be found in the rivers and streams of South West and West Ecuador, as well as Peru.

The third species is the Andinoacara sp. or Silbersaum fish with silver markings and is commonly found in water bodies in West Peru. These types have been successfully raised in captivity by aquarists for the longest time! The Goldsaum is, however, more prevalent in pet shops than the other fish morphs.


The green terror also referred to as white saum or gold saum, is a large, heavyset fish with fascinating body color. They are one of the most beautiful tropical freshwater fish you will ever find!

They have a glittering, eye-catching blue and green coloration, as you have deduced from their name. Go figure! Its head and gills are covered with wave-shaped turquoise spots. The rest of their face and body is peppered with bright blue markings.

Their dorsal and anal fins are marked with bright orange stripes that make them stand out from the rest of the fish in your tank. These fantastic fish are relatively easy to care for and rewarding too.

The green terror’s fins are very bony, pointed, and stretch out behind them as they work through the water. These bony fins enable them to dig deep into the tank substrate and hide out at will. The softer part of their fins (front part) helps them navigate through the water effortlessly.

– Defense Adaptation

Green terrors have spiny rays at the back of their pelvic, pectoral, and dorsal fins that deter other predators. Stay clear of these rays, and you will be fine. They also have pharyngeal teeth in their throat and regular teeth at the front of their mouth.

– Sexual Dimorphism

Male green terrors are larger than their female counterparts and have a kok (rounded hump on their heads). They also have elongated pectoral and dorsal fins with orange stripes around their edges. The pattern on their face is also a lot more consistent than that on the female green terror cichlids.

Male green terrors are also more colorful than females. We’ll give it to the females, though; they get plump as they fill up with eggs (during the breeding season). Regardless, this species is fascinating.

Female green terrors are just as striking as their male counterparts, with slightly darker tones of green and blue. They have green anal fins devoid of red stripes.

– Green Terror Size

The average green terror size is about 8 inches in captivity, depending on the size of their tank. Kept in a large tank, they can surpass the 8 inches mark. Aquarists have recorded that their fish grew more than 10 inches in large home tanks. So, trust us when we say you don’t want to put this impressive fish in small tanks.

In captivity, male green terrors reach an impressive size of 12 inches! They have an average growth rate but keep growing all year long. We advise against working them up to larger tanks as they grow. It’s always best to start them off in the largest tank you can find/ afford.


When kept in a suitable environment, the green terror lifespan is between seven to ten years. We have trustworthy information from experienced aquarists that their fish has lived past the 10-year mark.


You may have already guessed correctly that green terrors belong to the cichlid family. What this means is that they are prone to have aggressive and territorial behavior. Regardless of their aggressive temperament, experienced aquarists have successfully raised these cichlids. All you need is knowledge and practical tips on how to provide them with a healthy, enabling environment. We will explore all of that in subsequent sections.

As far as general activity goes, these fish are avid explorers. They will spend long hours scouting the tank, and since they are benthopelagic fish, they don’t stay in any specific column of the tank. This can pose problems for you when selecting suitable tank mates since they will keep swimming across the tank. One second they are at the water’s surface, and the next they are hanging out at the bottom of the tank with the bottom-feeders.

– How to Reduce Green Terror Aggression

You can minimize the aggression by raising them in a large tank with plenty of hiding space because they will claim parts of the aquarium and defend it with their lives. In addition to ample room, you should also provide them with plenty of food and stick to a regular feeding time.

In a subpar environment, they will display increased aggression. This is especially true when the green terror fish is small or is nearing their breeding season. In these instances, they will actively terrorize other fish in their tank.

Green Terror Care

Like any fish, the primary way to succeed in raising green terrors is to keep them well-fed, happy, and healthy. With the proper care, tank environment, water quality, and diet, you are well on your way to raising a tank of these fishes.

– Tank Set-Up

The key to raising healthy green terror cichlids is setting up your tank to replicate the conditions they enjoy in the wild. For starters, you already know that they favor slow-moving waters in the wild, so a tank with strong currents won’t cut it.

– Tank Size

Like all large cichlid, the green terror needs a spacious tank to swim in. The more fish you intend to keep in the tank, the larger the tank size because this fish tends to be overly aggressive in cramped tanks. Aggression aside, you will also need room for them to grow fully.

To raise a pair of green terrors, you will need at least a 66-gallon tank which is approximately 300 liters. If you want, you can opt for a smaller tank for your juvenile fish. However, we must warn you that you will have to get a bigger tank in a short while due to their growth.

– Water Parameters

Green terror fish are extremely sensitive to changes in water parameters, so we advise you to follow this guide strictly. They thrive in soft water in the wild, so keep the hardness levels between 5 and 25 dGH.

As far as pH goes, green terrors thrive in water with neutral pH, so keep the levels at 6.5 to 8.0 and water temperature around 77-82F. A sudden drop in temperature will expose these fish to a great deal of stress and predisposes them to a host of nasty diseases.

– Filtration

Green terrors are very sensitive to water conditions, so you will need to install a powerful canister filter or biological filter. The filter will be responsible for keeping the nitrate and ammonia levels within the acceptable limit. It will also mop up other waste matter suspended in the tank and prevent the build-up of harmful by-products of nitrogen metabolism.

– Water Change

In addition to installing a powerful filter in your tank, you will need to effect strict maintenance policies. We recommend that you carry out a 20 percent water change every week or biweekly to curb the growth of pathogens and the accumulation of toxic waste.

If your tank is not densely packed with fish, then you can get away with changing the water bi-weekly. You can use a vacuum cleaner to ensure that the tank substrate is rid of any organic waste.

– Lighting

Green terror cichlids do not have any specific lighting requirement. You can get away with using your normal LED aquarium light. The best part is that they won’t set you back by much.

– Substrate

When selecting a substrate for your cichlids’ tank, you must consider its tendency to dig up the substrate. To that effect, we advise that you use small round pebbles with smooth edges that would not hurt your Green fish’s abdomen.

– Tank Decoration

It is a given that your tank design should suit the needs and preferences of these large cichlids. You can scatter rocks and gravel at the bottom of the tank to give them nice hiding spots. You can also use upturned flowerpots to decorate your tank.

Large flat stones and snags also make great decorative pieces for your green terror cichlids’ tank. Don’t be surprised when one of the flat stones becomes a prime breeding spot for mature females. With the proper tank décor, these fish will light up your tank and bring more life to it.

– Plants

Unlike other cichlids, green terrors are not omnivores. However, they tend to dig up the plants in their tank, especially during the breeding season, so you must select sturdy plants that can withstand all the excitement.

Our advice is to go for plants with strong roots and unyielding leaves like anubias and java ferns. Other great plants you can add include floating plants that provide the fish with both shade and protection from strong light. Ensure that you protect their roots with upturned pots to prevent them from being dug up.

After planting these plants, you can go further and fix them in place with large stones. Alternatively, you can opt for artificial plants – they’ll do the trick. Remember, the primary aim of the plants is to create a tank environment that is pleasing to the fish.

– Green Terror Diet

Green cichlids’ diet in the wild consists primarily of insects, larva, worms, and other invertebrates. In captivity, these carnivores tend to eat a more balanced diet of insects and plants, so they kind of become omnivores.

Feeding them is not much of a challenge – they will eat whatever you throw in, whether live, frozen or commercial food. Many aquarists get away with feeding them non-fatty seafood like prawns. You can give them a mix of protein-rich food in live or frozen form, and because they are not picky eaters, you can play around with their diet and find out what works best for them.

Great diet ideas include feeder fish, pellet food, bloodworms, brine shrimp, and crickets. Remember to give them small portions of food that they can quickly gulp down. Excess food will only serve to pollute your tank.

Green Terror Tank Mates

Green terrors’ territorial and aggressive behavior makes it tricky to select suitable tank mates for them. However, you should still follow the general rule of thumb: select fish big enough to fit with them and ensure that your prospective tank mates are not docile. But first, you must ensure your tank is large enough to host a school of these fish and has enough hiding spots to make them feel at home.

Remember the first rule – don’t put tiny fish in a tank with green terrors. They will only end up as tasty snacks for them. If the fish avoids becoming dinner for your green terror, they will spend the rest of their life scared stiff and die off from the stress.

You can keep green terror cichlids with their kind in the same tank; that’s one safe option. We recommend keeping both sexes of this fish together so that they pair up. Once they form the bond, they stick together for the rest of their lives, and most of the aggression fades away.

Other suitable species to pair your green fish with are listed below.

  • Firemouth Cichlids
  • Flowerhorn Cichlids
  • Bristlenose Pleco
  • Gars
  • Synodontis
  • Jack Dempsey Cichlids
  • Silver Dollar Fish
  • Clown Pleco
  • Striped Raphael Catfish
  • Servrum
  • Convict Cichlids
  • Pacus

Remember to take into account green terror compatibility with other fish, when choosing tank mates outside this list.

– Tank Mates to Avoid

It’s not recommended that you house green terrors with African cichlids as the African cichlid varieties are too small and are often harassed or even eaten by the green cichlid. Do not keep crabs, snails, or shrimp with green terrors either, as these invertebrates will be attacked and eaten.

– How to Introduce Green Terrors to the Tank

You must cycle your tank before adding your fish in there. This is because your fish will probably not survive the shock from being thrust into the water with different parameters from what it is used to. You can check that the water parameters are within range with a water test kit.

Green Terror Breeding

Green cichlids are easy to pair off, and the bonded pair breed quite frequently, provided the tank conditions are favorable. They are egg layers, and mature females can lay as many as 600 eggs at a go!

Let’s learn the right way to condition Green terror cichlid for breeding.

– Conditioning Green Terrors for Breeding

A safe way to condition Green cichlids for breeding is to raise their water temperature a bit. We recommend temperatures between 77 – 88 F.

The quality of food you feed them also plays a role in the breeding process. Give them high-quality protein foods – preferably live food to trick them into spawning.

Once they are ready to breed, you will know. Their colors will become even more vibrant, and the females may become more aggressive. Other breeding behaviors include cleaning out the substrate to ensure the future fry is hatched in a conducive space.

– Green Terror Spawning

Usually, green terrors spawn early in the morning or in the cool of the day (evening). The female sprays her numerous eggs all over a flat rock or the spot she has cleaned up, and the male fertilizes them. Sometimes, the female lays her eggs on the sides of the aquarium glass; don’t let that bother you, however.

You must take out the eggs that do not fertilize so that they do not pollute the tank. One way to recognize the fertilized eggs is by their yellowish tint and semi-transparent appearance. After the eggs are laid, both parents stand guard and chase other fish and strange objects like nets and even your hand.

It takes the eggs three to four days to hatch into tiny fry. For the first 24-36 hours, the fry will feed on the yolk sack, so you don’t need to worry about feeding time. The next day, you can begin feeding them with infusoria, microplankton, and baby brine shrimp. The parent Green terrors will guard the fry until they are big enough to fend for themselves.

– How Fast Do Green Terrors Grow?

The green terror growth rate is largely dependent on the quality of care and food they receive. If they get the much-needed nutrients and have an enabling environment, then they will grow rapidly. In the absence of these, they will suffer from stunted growth and never reach their full-size potential.

Green terror fry and juveniles grow at about half an inch each month until they attain sexual maturity. Then their growth rate slows down.

Common Green Fish Diseases

Central American cichlids are hardy. However, when kept in unsanitary conditions, they can suffer from common freshwater diseases. We will discuss a few of these diseases below.

HLLE or Head and Lateral Line Erosion is a common disease that eats up the flesh of the fish. It is caused by poor water conditions and causes holes in the head and body of greenfish.

Lymphocystis disease is another freshwater to look out for. It is caused by a viral infection that attacks the connective tissue of fish and results in white lesions on your fish’s body. Lymphocytosis disease is caused by poor oxygen concentrations in the water and acidic pH.

Ich is another infection that presents similar symptoms as Lymphocytosis diseases. It causes the fish to display strange swimming patterns and can prove fatal if not tackled on time.


Here is a short recap of everything we discussed about the green terror:

  • Green terror fish is a stunning large cichlid
  • They are quite aggressive, so they tend to thrive best in large tanks with lots of space and décor
  • With proper care, these fish can live for 10 years
  • You should have a strict maintenance schedule for the cleaning of their tank
  • You can feed them an omnivore diet, if you raise them in captivity
  • Don’t put small fish as their tank mates, as they will end up being delicious snacks for the green terrors
  • You need to adjust the water before introducing green terrors to your tank
  • Stick to the cleaning schedule to avoid diseases like ich, head and lateral line erosion, and lymphocystis disease.

Knowledge is key to successfully raising green terrors. We have outlined all you need to know to raise this fish with success. Use it today and leave us a comment on how it goes.

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