How Big Does an African Butterfly Cichlid Get?

Unlike most popular African cichlids, the butterfly cichlid is a riverine species.
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The African butterfly cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi) is a rather unique cichlid. Its temperament, size and even its geographic origin all run contrary to most expectations of this type of fish. Their small size and unusual (for a cichlid) nature makes them a great pet.


When fish are measured, their standard length is measured from the front of the head to the base of the tail (without the fins). African butterfly cichlids measure about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.6 centimeters). Their size puts them in the category of dwarf cichlids. However, the term "dwarf cichlids" usually refers to species from South and Central America, while the African butterfly cichlids come from coastal rivers in Africa.

Tank Size and Setup

The African butterfly cichlid's small size allows it to be comfortable in a relatively small aquarium. A pair can comfortably share a 30-gallon tank, though they may be somewhat territorial towards additional members of their own kind, especially when breeding. They prefer a tropical temperature range of 77 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit (23 to 27 degrees Celcius). Also, they prefer a slightly alkaline pH of 7.5 or so.They generally don't disturb live greenery, unlike the vast majority of cichlids, which makes them ideal for tanks with lots of plants, such as Dutch-style and Amano-style aquariums.

Compatable Small Cichlids

They are compatible with other small cichlids from the same general area, such as the kribbenis, or krib, which has similar care requirements. The krib is small and peaceful; a pair would get along well with African butterfly cichlids. A jeweled cichlid, while similar in appearance to the African butterfly, would also make a compatible tankmate. Outside of the cichlid family, any small, peaceful fish will go well with African butterfly cichlids.

Tankmates to Avoid

Similarly sized cichlids from South America, such as the ram and various Apistograma species, should probably be avoided; they may have behavioral incompatibilities. African cichlids from the Rift Valley Lakes (what most people call "African cichlids") should be avoided; they prefer water with a higher pH. You should also avoid keeping more than one pair of African butterfly cichlids since they may fight. Outside of the cichlid family, any large, aggressive or predatory fish should be avoided.

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