Pictus Catfish and African Cichlids – Can They Live Together?

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One of the most popular catfish species are pictus catfish. We have already talked about their peaceful temperament – they are likely to get along with other fish of very similar specifics to their own. If the fish are of a similar size to their size, and if you make sure they have proper living conditions, then there should be absolutely no problems.

But what about African cichlids? Can pictus catfish live with them? They are usually known as fish that like to be kept in one-species tanks only, as they prefer to hang around buddies from their own species. However, you can also consider keeping them together with other species such as the pictus catfish, considering you set everything up correctly and make sure they get enough space and food.

Some African cichlid species are more likely to be receptive of other fish species, though. Yellow labs, for example, are one of the best species of African cichlids that you can keep with your pictus catfish. But they should be fine if you keep them together, especially if you provide them with the right tank conditions.

In this article, we’ll take a look at whether you can keep pictus catfish and African cichlids together, and what you need to ensure before you can consider having them together.

Things to Consider When Keeping Pictus Catfish and African Cichlids Together

Keeping pictus catfish and African cichlids together will require you to be mindful of a few things before you can make sure they will live together peacefully. Giving them the right living conditions can help you ensure that the fish will stay happy and healthy for longer.

Water Parameters

Be sure that these fish both have the proper water parameters that will enable you to keep them together.

First, let’s take a look at the water parameters for the catfish:

  • Temperature: 71-77 degrees Fahrenheit
  • PH: 6-8
  • Hardness: 5-18Dh
  • As for the cichlids, here are the requirements:
  • Temperature: 72-82 degree Fahrenheit
  • PH: 7.8 – 8.5
  • Hardness: 12-20DH

As you can see, these two types of fish require similar water parameters, although there are some things to consider. Firstly, you’ll want to make sure that the temperatures are on the optimal levels for both fish. Temperatures between 72-77 degrees Fahrenheit should be kept, which is great for both fish.

Another thing to keep in mind is the PH levels – these should be between 7.8 to 8 at most. Now here is the thing: cichlids live in more basic waters compared to catfish, who prefer slightly more neutral waters. You’ll have to keep close track of the PH to make sure both fish are kept together well.

Lastly, the hardness should be between 12 and 18Dh, which is great for both fish. Keep a close eye on these parameters at all times, and make sure they are within the required levels.

Choose Non-Aggressive African Cichlids

Not all African Cichlids will stay peaceful next to the catfish. In fact, some species of this fish will actually turn aggressive, especially when they see another male of another species, or if they are placed to similar types of fish to themselves.

To make sure this behavior doesn’t happen, you should only consider the African Cichlids that are not aggressive. Such species include:

  • Yellow Lab
  • Masked Julie
  • Humphead Cichlid
  • Fairy Cichlids
  • Rainbow Kirbs

As you can see, you still have quite a lot of choice when it comes to African cichlids, so you’re not compromising a lot here. these fish species still look great, and these are the ones that you should consider for your catfish tank.

Provide Hiding Spots for Catfish

Another thing you’ll want to make sure of is that your catfish have enough hiding spots. These fish like to swim around the rocks and the plants, and they do so energetically. But when they are around other fish, they get shy sometimes, which is when you should have the hiding spots ready for your catfish.

Hiding spots such as plants, rocks, and small caves are possibly the best for your catfish. If you really want to keep these two fish species together, make sure you provide these hiding spots for your catfish.

Don’t Overcrowd the Tank

This is very important: don’t overcrowd the tank in any case. In fact, it’s very easy to do that, given that both of these species are very energetic and fast swimmers. They require a lot of space to move around and swim through the water. Which makes it slightly harder to gauge just how much space they would require.

A general measurement for the catfish is that they need at least 40 gallons of water for living effectively and peacefully, and the cichlids are pretty similar when it comes to size requirements. Maybe they need slightly smaller tanks, but the point remains: never overcrowd the tank, or you might run the risk of health problems and stress.

As they are active swimmers, they’ll need plenty of space to move around. You’ll need a bigger tank if you want to keep both of these species together. If you want a couple of fish from both species, then you might want a 100-gallon tank, perhaps, or even more in some cases.

Pictus Catfish Can Eat Juveniles

As we’ve already said, the catfish can have a predatory attitude towards smaller fish and especially juvenile fish from other species. That’s why you’ll want to make sure that the catfish are kept well away from the smaller fish. Especially if you plant to keep some juvenile cichlids, or when these fish breed.

A separate tank wouldn’t be a bad idea, although that does represent an additional cost for you. But if you want to keep the fish safe, then it’s a cost you simply can’t avoid.


African cichlids can make great tank mates for the pictus catfish. If you consider everything we’ve said here and if you make sure that the requirements are met, then they will happily live together.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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