Can Angelfish And African Cichlids Live Together?

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Many people choose Angelfish and African Cichlids for their freshwater aquariums. But, is it possible for them to live together peacefully?

What should you consider to make this work? How about their aquarium size, water conditions, and diet?

When I first started with these fish, I didn’t know any of this. That’s why I’m writing this article – to share what I’ve learned with you.

Let’s get started.

Can I Keep Angelfish and African Cichlids Together in the Same Tank?

No, Angelfish and African Cichlids generally should not be kept together in the same tank. 

These species have different environmental and behavioral needs that make cohabitation challenging.

  • Water Parameters: Angelfish thrive in soft, slightly acidic water (pH 6.0-7.0), whereas African Cichlids require harder, alkaline conditions (pH 7.8-8.5), making a shared environment unsuitable.
  • Temperature Differences: Angelfish prefer warmer waters around 78-84°F, but African Cichlids are best suited to slightly cooler temperatures, typically between 75-80°F.
  • Aggressive Behavior: African Cichlids are known for their territorial and aggressive nature, which can stress and harm the more peaceful and slow-moving Angelfish.
  • Dietary Needs: Angelfish require a varied diet including live foods, while African Cichlids are mostly herbivorous, making it difficult to meet both species’ nutritional needs in one tank.

Also Read: Angelfish Tank Mates

Angelfish vs. African Cichlids: Behavior

The first factor worth considering is the Angelfish’s and African Cichlids’ natural behavior. Here is what you should know:

Angelfish: Natural Behavior

Angelfish are generally peaceful and graceful swimmers, known for their elegant movements in the aquarium.

They exhibit a semi-aggressive temperament, especially during breeding, but are mostly harmonious with other fish.

  • Social Hierarchy: In groups, Angelfish establish a clear social hierarchy, which can lead to some aggressive behavior, particularly during feeding times or in overcrowded tanks.
  • Breeding Behavior: During breeding, Angelfish become territorial and can exhibit aggressive behavior towards other tank mates to protect their eggs and fry.
  • Interaction with Environment: Angelfish are curious and interactive with their environment, often seen exploring plants and decorations, using their long, graceful fins to navigate.

African Cichlids: Natural Behavior

African Cichlids are known for their vibrant colors and dynamic behavior. They are highly territorial and can be aggressive, particularly during breeding seasons.

  • Territorial Aggression: African Cichlids are fiercely territorial, often engaging in fights to defend their chosen area, especially in overcrowded or poorly structured tanks.
  • Complex Social Structures: These fish exhibit complex social behaviors, forming hierarchies within the group, which can lead to bullying of weaker or smaller fish.
  • Breeding Strategies: African Cichlids have unique breeding behaviors, with some species being mouthbrooders, carrying eggs in their mouths for protection, which can increase their aggression.

Ideal Parameters for Angelfish and African Cichlids

This table outlines the ideal water parameters for both Angelfish and African Cichlids, and suggests a compromise for tanks housing both types.

ParameterAngelfishAfrican CichlidsBoth Types
Temperature78-84°F75-80°FCompromise range
pH Level6.0-7.07.8-8.5Around 7.5
Water Hardness3-8 dKH8-15 dKH5-12 dKH

Angelfish: Ideal Parameters

Angelfish, native to the Amazon Basin, thrive in water conditions that mimic their natural habitat.

Their preference leans towards softer, acidic water with a stable temperature, essential for their health and well-being.

  • Temperature Range: Angelfish prefer a warmer water temperature, ideally between 78°F and 84°F, which helps in promoting active behavior and healthy metabolism.
  • pH Level: The ideal pH level for Angelfish is slightly acidic, ranging from 6.0 to 7.0, reflecting their natural Amazonian habitat’s water conditions.
  • Water Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water, with a hardness level of 3 to 8 dKH, is optimal for Angelfish, aligning with the soft waters of the Amazon.

African Cichlids: Ideal Parameters

African Cichlids, originating from the diverse ecosystems of African lakes, require distinctly different water conditions compared to Angelfish.

Their ideal environment includes alkaline, harder water with a stable, somewhat cooler temperature.

  • Temperature Range: These fish are best kept in slightly cooler waters than Angelfish, with a temperature range of 75°F to 80°F, suitable for their active metabolism.
  • pH Level: African Cichlids thrive in a higher pH level, typically between 7.8 and 8.5, which mimics the alkaline conditions of African Great Lakes.
  • Water Hardness: They prefer harder water, with a general hardness of 8 to 15 dKH, reflecting the mineral-rich waters of their native lakes like Lake Malawi and Tanganyika.

Angelfish vs. African Cichlids: Tank Setup

FeatureAngelfishAfrican CichlidsBoth Types
Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate0 ppm Ammonia & Nitrite, <20 ppm Nitrate0 ppm Ammonia & Nitrite, <40 ppm NitrateStrict monitoring, balance levels
Tank SizeMin. 20 gallons, +10 gallons per additional fishMin. 30 gallons, larger for groups100+ gallons for cohabitation
FoliageDense, tall plantsHardy or artificialCombination of both types
DecorationsSmooth rocks, driftwoodRock formations, cavesStrategic placement for territory
FilterHigh-quality, gentle flowStrong, high bioload capacityHigh capacity, multiple types
Heater78-84°F75-80°FCompromise temperature
SubstrateSoft, sandyCoarse, sand or fine gravelBalanced for both
PumpGentle circulationRobust, adequate movementAdapted for both needs
LightingSoft, subduedBrighterBalanced lighting

Angelfish: Tank Setup

Angelfish require a carefully structured environment to mimic their natural habitat, focusing on water quality, ample space, and a tranquil setting.

Their setup should cater to their needs for swimming space, stable water parameters, and a calm environment.

  • Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate: Maintain ammonia and nitrite levels at 0 ppm, and nitrates below 20 ppm, to ensure a healthy environment for Angelfish, avoiding stress and illness.
  • Tank Size: A minimum of 20 gallons is recommended for a single Angelfish, with an additional 10 gallons for each additional fish, favoring vertical space.
  • Foliage: Dense, tall plants, both real and artificial, are preferred, providing hiding spots and mimicking their natural Amazonian habitat.
  • Decorations: Smooth rocks and driftwood can be added for aesthetic appeal and to create natural boundaries, but ensure ample swimming space.
  • Filter: A high-quality filter is vital to maintain clean water and remove harmful substances, with a gentle flow to suit Angelfish’s preference.
  • Heater: An adjustable heater is necessary to maintain a stable temperature between 78°F and 84°F, crucial for Angelfish health.
  • Substrate: A soft, sandy substrate is ideal, reflecting the riverbeds of the Amazon and allowing for natural behavior.
  • Pump: A water pump should provide gentle circulation, ensuring oxygenation without creating strong currents that Angelfish might find stressful.
  • Lighting: Soft, subdued lighting is preferred, simulating the dappled light of their natural environment and reducing stress.

Also Read: Can Angelfish And Oscars Live Together?

African Cichlids: Tank Setup

African Cichlids require a tank setup that replicates the conditions of the African Great Lakes, focusing on water quality, territorial structures, and robust filtration.

Their environment should be dynamic and stimulating, with consideration for their active and territorial nature.

  • Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate: Consistent monitoring to keep ammonia and nitrite at 0 ppm, and nitrates below 40 ppm, is crucial for the health of African Cichlids.
  • Tank Size: A minimum of 30 gallons is recommended for African Cichlids, with larger tanks needed for groups, providing ample space for territories.
  • Foliage: While plants can be used, they should be hardy species or artificial, as African Cichlids may dig and disrupt delicate plants.
  • Decorations: Rock formations and caves are essential to provide hiding spots and territories, reducing aggression in these territorial fish.
  • Filter: Strong filtration is required to handle the high bioload and to keep the water clean, as African Cichlids produce more waste.
  • Heater: A reliable heater is needed to maintain a stable temperature range of 75°F to 80°F, suitable for African Cichlids.
  • Substrate: A coarse substrate such as sand or fine gravel is ideal, accommodating their natural digging behaviors.
  • Pump: A robust water pump is necessary for adequate water movement and oxygenation, suiting the African Cichlids’ active nature.
  • Lighting: Brighter lighting is beneficial, reflecting the intense sunlight of African lakes, and helping to showcase their vibrant colors.

The Dietary Requirements of Angelfish and African Cichlids

This table outlines the dietary needs of Angelfish and African Cichlids, with suggestions for a combined tank.

AspectAngelfishAfrican CichlidsBoth Types
Food TypesFlake food, brine shrimp, bloodworms, vegetablesVegetable-based flakes, occasional proteinBlend of both diets
QuantitySmall amounts 2-3 times dailyAmount for 1-2 minute consumption 1-2 times dailyModerated for both species
Feeding ScheduleConsistent daily timesRegular, same times dailyStructured for both needs

Angelfish: Ideal Dietary Requirements

Angelfish are omnivores with a preference for a varied diet that includes both plant and animal matter.

Proper nutrition is vital for their health, coloration, and breeding success, requiring a balanced mix of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

  • Food Types: A combination of high-quality flake food, frozen or live foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms, and vegetable matter is ideal for Angelfish, ensuring a balanced diet.
  • Quantity: Feed Angelfish small amounts that they can consume in about 30 seconds to a minute, 2-3 times daily, to avoid overfeeding and maintain water quality.
  • Feeding Schedule: Consistent feeding times each day help regulate the Angelfish’s metabolism and digestion, contributing to their overall well-being and health.

African Cichlids: Ideal Dietary Requirements

African Cichlids, particularly those from the African Great Lakes, have specific dietary needs that differ significantly from Angelfish.

Their diet should primarily consist of vegetable matter, reflecting their natural consumption patterns in the wild.

  • Food Types: A diet high in vegetable content, such as spirulina-based flakes and pellets, is crucial for African Cichlids, with occasional protein like brine shrimp for variety.
  • Quantity: Feed them an amount they can finish within one to two minutes, once or twice daily, to prevent overfeeding and maintain a healthy digestive system.
  • Feeding Schedule: Regular feeding at the same times each day helps maintain a stable routine, reducing stress and aggressive behavior in African Cichlids.

Tips for Keeping Angelfish with African Cichlids

While it’s generally not recommended to keep Angelfish with African Cichlids due to their differing needs, with careful planning and management, it can sometimes be possible.

The key is to create an environment that caters to the requirements of both species, balancing their unique needs.

  • Large, Spacious Tank: Utilize a tank of at least 100 gallons to ensure sufficient space; larger tanks (150-200 gallons) are even better, reducing stress from overcrowding.
  • Careful Water Parameter Management: Strive for a compromise in water parameters, targeting a pH of around 7.5, hardness of 8-12 dKH, and temperature around 77°F.
  • Strategic Tank Decoration: Create barriers with rocks and tall plants like Amazon Swords or Anubias to delineate territories, reducing direct line of sight and aggression.
  • Separate Feeding Zones: Set up multiple feeding areas with different foods—spirulina flakes for African Cichlids and bloodworms for Angelfish—to prevent competition.
  • Diverse and Balanced Diet: Offer a blend of foods such as algae wafers and vegetable flakes for Cichlids, and high-protein flakes or pellets for Angelfish.
  • Careful Selection of Species: Choose less aggressive African Cichlid species like Peacocks or smaller Mbuna, and avoid large or highly territorial types.
  • Regular Monitoring: Watch for signs of stress like faded colors or hiding; intervene if aggression occurs, potentially separating the species if necessary for their health.

Should I Opt for an Angelfish or an African Cichlid

Choosing between an Angelfish and an African Cichlid depends on your aquarium setup and personal preference for fish behavior and care requirements.

Angelfish are suited for tranquil, community tanks, while African Cichlids thrive in more dynamic and structured environments.

  • Aquarium Size and Setup: If you have a smaller, peaceful community tank, Angelfish are ideal; for larger, more robust setups, African Cichlids are a better fit.
  • Maintenance and Care: Angelfish require consistent, moderate care, suitable for intermediate aquarists, whereas African Cichlids demand more attention to water quality and tank conditions.
  • Behavioral Dynamics: Angelfish are generally peaceful and can coexist with various species, while African Cichlids are territorial and need carefully selected tank mates.
  • Aesthetic Preferences: If you prefer elegant, graceful fish, Angelfish with their flowing fins are a great choice; for bright colors and active behavior, opt for African Cichlids.
  • Breeding Interests: For aquarists interested in breeding, Angelfish provide a simpler breeding process, whereas African Cichlids offer fascinating mouthbrooding behaviors to observe.

Also Read: Can Angelfish And Puffers Live Together?


For quick readers, here’s a short summary:

  • Angelfish and African Cichlids generally cannot cohabit due to differing water conditions, temperature preferences, and dietary needs, making a shared tank environment challenging.
  • Angelfish are peaceful and prefer soft, slightly acidic water, whereas African Cichlids are territorial and thrive in harder, alkaline water, complicating coexistence.
  • While Angelfish require warm water (78-84°F) and a varied diet, African Cichlids need slightly cooler water (75-80°F) and mostly herbivorous food, highlighting their contrasting needs.
  • Creating a shared tank for both species involves significant challenges, including balancing water parameters, temperature, and providing separate feeding zones to cater to each fish’s unique requirements.
  • The choice between Angelfish and African Cichlids should be based on the aquarist’s preference, tank size, and willingness to meet the specific care needs of each species.