African Cichlids and Oscars can NOT Live Together: Read Why


Both African cichlids and Oscars are beautiful fish that can grow to be quite big. It would be awesome to keep them in the same tank, but is that a good idea? I did my research and will tell you all you need to know.

Can African cichlids and Oscars live together? No, mixing African cichlids and Oscars is not recommended because of multiple reasons. They are from different continents and require different water parameters. Also, depending on the cichlids, they will fight to the death.

There are people who successfully kept these fish together, but there also have been so many casualties. You should base your choice on facts and first form a clear opinion. In the rest of the short article you will learn enough to make the right choice.

Different continents means different needs

African cichlids are from Africa, while Oscars are from South America. These two fish are thriving in completely different pH and in a different water hardness. The recommended pH for African cichlids is between 7.5 and 9. For Oscars the pH should remain between 6 and 7.5. This means that either one of the two fish will live in a pH outside of the desired range.

This alone is a compatibility problem which is prominent enough that I would advice you to think twice about putting the fish in the same aquarium. However it is not the only problem that will arise.

African cichlids will attack Oscars

African cichlids and Oscars have completely different temperaments and preferences. The main reason to not keep these fish together is because the Oscar is too peaceful to live with the African cichlids and will most likely be bullied to death. This has happened to a lot of people who have tried to keep them together. Here are some quotes from different forums.

Didn’t work for me. I’ve got a 120 gallon with africans and they constantly picked at my Oscar. Had to move him to his own tank.

My experience of mixing Oscars with cichlids-(mbuna etc.)-didn’t work out well at all. My Oscars did not survive.

Next to the African cichlids dominating the Oscars, there were some instances of people having the opposite experience. In that case the Oscar picked on and killed the African cichlids. This all has to do with the fact that fish can have different personalities, and a big oscar can always eat small cichlids.

i don’t think so, actually my oscar killed african cichlid.

Oscar will dominate your African Cichlid

What can increase the chances of succeeding

So I have established my opinion and recommend against keeping the fish together in the same aquarium. However, I can not control what you do. Therefore, if you still want to keep these fish together, there are some things you could try. Know that there are some people who have pulled it off and have successfully kept them together in the past, but it will always be a gamble.

Just like keeping a bigger group of the same kind of cichlids, increasing the chance of the fish getting along is raising them together in the same aquarium. Buy them when they are small and raise together. This will “teach” them to split their territory and will make them less aggressive. There is a problem with this technique and that is the fact that Oscars will grow way faster. Oscars can grow 1″ per month! When the oscars grows too big and the difference between the African cichlids and the oscar gets out of hand the African cichlids may get eaten.

To tackle the pH problem that occurs, I also have a tip. Next to the regular temperature acclimating for your fish, make sure to drip acclimate them. To do this take a small tube and create a siphon that only adds a drip at a time. This will allow the fish to get acclimated to the water parameters as well.

Furthermore, make sure to keep the pH as stable as possible around 7.5. Do not chase the perfect pH by constantly altering it. Instead, leave it be and make sure it remains stable. Stability produces less stress to the fish compared to changing parameters.

Bart Sprenkels

I have been keeping multiple aquariums since I was 18 years old. Just like many of you, I started with two goldfish but quickly learned they were not suitable for aquariums. Later, I switched to a tropical community tank and I also have two pet musk-turtles in a bigger aquarium. You can read more about me here.

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