Last update: November 17, 2023

13 Best Jewel Cichlid Tank Mates

Jewel cichlids, sometimes called African jewel fish, are a tropical freshwater fish that are native to the many rivers and streams of West Africa.

Super popular among aquarium fish keepers due to their stunning colors and fun personalities, these fish are well known for their distinctive iridescent blue, green, and red colors, which shimmer and change in the light.

Keeping a tank of just these fish can get a little dull, though.

If you’re looking for the best jewel cichlid tank mates check out the inside info below.

Jewel Cichlid 101 – What You Should Know


Very friendly and relaxed, it’s not hard to find tank mates that are going to get along well with your jewel cichlids.

As socially fish as you are going to find, they love to group up and school with other jewel cichlids – but aren’t shy about “joining forces” with other kinds of fish, either. Nonaggressive 99% of the year, they only start to get a little frisky around mating season – and that’s only if they feel like their territory is being encroached upon.


These fish can grow to be anywhere between 4 and 5 inches in length, but even though they are decent sized fish (especially for a home aquarium set up) they are very much gentle giants.

You won’t have any trouble keeping larger fish or smaller fish together with your jewel cichlid population.


As we mentioned a moment ago, these fish aren’t going to cause you a lot of hassle or a lot of headache in the competition department.

Big enough to move other fish out of the way when they want to eat, large enough to dissuade smaller fish from getting too aggressive, and yet peaceful enough not to bully other fish at the same time they really are fantastic additions to your tank.

Tank Setup

Setting up your aquarium for jewel cichlid populations (and their tank mates) is critically important.

The closest you can get your conditions to their native river and stream conditions in West Africa the happier these fish will be. Shoot for water conditions that are heated to between 73 and 82°F, water pH levels of between 6.0 and 7.0, and try to get as much dissolved oxygen in your water as possible.

Take care of that and you’ll be good to go!

The Best Jewel Cichlid Tank Mates

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1. Clown Loaches

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Clown loaches make a great tank mate for your jewel cichlid population. These fish may be semi-aggressive (just like your cichlids), but they don’t get all that frisky with fish when they have others of similar size and personality to kind of balance them out.

More often than not your clown loaches are going to be pretty happy to just kind of keep to themselves.

Don’t be surprised if these fish become fast friends with your jewel cichlid fish.


  • Fun and friendly
  • Generally keep to themselves
  • Easy to care for


  • Can be messy eaters
  • Require larger tanks because of their size

2. Giant Danios

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Giant danios will grow to be about the same size as your jewel cichlids (we are talking between 4 and 6 inches). They are beautiful fish with zebralike stripes, super popular in almost every fish store on the planet, and are hardy and easy to care for fish perfect to add to your aquarium.

Just remember that these fish like to be kept in small schools. Add three or four of these into your jewel cichlid tank and you’ll be really happy with the results.


  • Will grow to be the same size of your jewel cichlid population
  • Low levels of competition
  • Very easy to find and very easy to care for


  • Preferred to be kept in small schools
  • Enjoy a slower paced, more relaxed tank population

3. Plecos

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Plecos are a fantastic addition to your jewel cichlid tank, but maybe not for the most obvious reason.

These fish don’t have a whole lot of interaction with one another because they live almost exclusively in different parts of the water column – but that’s what makes them such great neighbors!

Plecos stay down near the bottom of the water column while your jewel cichlids are going to hover in the middle to top area of the tank. That keeps everybody really happy.


  • Mind their own business and our peaceful
  • Active mostly during the night when the rest of your tank is “asleep”
  • Help to keep your tank healthy and clean by eating algae


  • Can grow quite large
  • Require regular filtration to eliminate toxins they produce

4. Electric Blue Acaras

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Electric blue acaras are far and away some of the most beautiful fish you could keep in your home aquarium, and are also exceptional fish to have as tank mates for your jewel cichlids.

Very friendly, very personable, and about as peacefully fish as you are going to find, these fish grow to be about 7 inches long – keeping them around the same size as a cichlid – and do well in the same kinds of water conditions, too.


  • Add a lot of color and liveliness to your tank
  • Are fun to watch
  • Get along well with most any fish you add to the tank


  • Require larger aquariums (40 gallon minimum)
  • Will eat almost everything they can get close to

5. Redtail Shark

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You’re probably not going to find a cooler looking tank mate for your cichlids than a red tailed shark!

While not exactly the same thing as the sharks you probably conjure up in your mind when you hear this word, these fish are fun, friendly, and get along well with all kinds of fish – making them ideal tank mates not just for jewel cichlids, but all kinds of other fish you might want to add into your aquarium as well.

On top of all of that, red tail shark usually spend the majority of their time down in the lower areas of the water column. This keeps them from “bumping into” your cichlids.


  • Very easy to take care of
  • Live in the lower areas of the water column
  • Help keep the peace when other fish get aggressive


  • Not always ideally suited to beginner fish keepers

6. Synodontis Catfish

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A really cool species of catfish that lives almost exclusively in the bottom part of your water column, write down on the bottom of your tank, these fish are going to leave your jewel cichlids – and pretty much everybody else, too – alone 99.99% of the time.

A great reason to keep these fish in your tank (especially with larger populations) is because they do a fantastic job at helping you control tank conditions, keep algae growth at bay, and generally just spruce up the health of your water system.


  • Very peaceful and easy-going
  • Love to show up together
  • Stay in lower levels of the water column


  • Small numbers of these catfish can get skittish and nervous
  • Solo catfish can become aggressive

7. Rainbowfish

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It’s not unusual for rainbow fish and jewel cichlids to get along well with one another. There is one thing you want to consider, though, and that’s that both of these fish have plenty of room to swim around each other.

If they start to feel boxed in or confined you might have a couple of fish fights on your hands, and nobody wants to worry about that!

Beautiful fish filled with personality, don’t be surprised if they quickly become a star attraction in your home aquarium.


  • Easy going and very relaxed with all kinds of tank mates
  • Beautiful, colorful fish that are fun to look at


  • Need a lot of space to feel comfortable

8. Leopard Bushfish

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These fish share so many different things in common with the jewel cichlid that they are natural tank mate companions – especially since they are a mirror image of one another when it comes to their personality and disposition.

One of the best things about these fish (even if they are a little aggressive at times) is that they are such an even match to your jewel cichlids that these fights won’t last very long. You might have some disagreements but they aren’t going to devolve into full on wars the way that bigger or smaller fish might have gotten into.


  • Ideal tank mates to jewel cichlids because of their commonalities
  • Help to keep the peace in your tank because of their size
  • Easy to care for


  • Can grow to be quite large
  • Need a lot of tank space to feel comfortable

9. Scavenger Catfish

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Here’s another great catfish species you’ll want to think about adding into your tank with jewel cichlids.

Super peaceful (so much so that they literally want to bother any other fish you add into the tank even a little bit), these fish like to be on their own and just sort of go about their business.

Just be aware of the fact that these fish can grow to be 12 inches in length (or longer) and live for a decade or more. You’ll need a tank that can accommodate them.


  • Very calm, very cool and laid back
  • Keep to themselves for the most part
  • Help to keep your aquarium clean of algae


  • Grow to at foot long or longer
  • Produce a decent amount of waste that needs to be filtered out

10. African Cichlids

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It shouldn’t surprise you that a separate cichlid species would do well with jewel cichlids.

These fish are close cousins, and while they don’t necessarily spend a whole lot of time living in the exact same water conditions in Africa they both do hail from that continent naturally. A beautiful fish with lots of personality, they are going to fit right in with the rest of your tank community and will do exceptionally well in jewel cichlid water conditions.


  • Very similar to jewel cichlids
  • Require almost identical water conditions
  • Fun and personable


  • Can get testy around feeding and mating time

11. Flying Fox Fish

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Flying fox fish have these cool little “wings” around their mouths that give them their distinctive name, but they also have a personality that causes them to fly around the tank – this way and that – in ways that could have annoyed other fish but don’t really seem to bother jewel cichlids.

A big part of that has to do with the general friendly disposition of flying fox fish. They like to play with other species, and as long as there’s enough room in the tank for these fish to go about their business you’re not going to have to worry about any instigation of fights.

Just make sure that your tank is well oxygenated and that there’s a very mild current running through your aquarium.


  • Very playful, love to get all kinds of fish in your entire tank involved
  • Distinct looking and not the most common fish to keep at home
  • Relatively easy to care for


  • Can be hard to source
  • Need well oxygenated water to thrive

12. Tiger Barbs

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Tiger barbs can grow to be anywhere between 2.5 and 3 inches long, which means they’re going to be about half the size of jewel cichlids – and that does a whole lot to cut down on the natural semi aggressive inclinations of these fish.

Big enough to avoid being lunch for larger fish, but small enough to want to challenge larger fish for dominance in the aquarium, these are exceptional tank means you’ll want to think about adding to your cichlid population for sure.

These fish do like to school up, though. If you’re going to add Tiger barbs into your tank try to get a handful of them in at the same time. It’ll do a world of good and make acclimation a lot easier.


  • Easy to care for
  • Social fish that keep together in small schools
  • Hardy and resilient


  • Require a school to feel comfortable

Closing Thoughts

All things considered, it’s really not hard to find the top tank mate for your jewel cichlid population when you pick from the options we highlighted above.

Water conditions are the critical thing to get right when you’re mixing and matching different species of fish.

Jewel cichlids like water temperatures between 73°F and 82°F, need pH levels balanced somewhere between 6.0 and 7.0, and like a mild current running through the water – the same kind of current they would have expected in slow-moving rivers and streams in West Africa.

Knock those things out of the park and you are good to go!

Ian Sterling

Ian Sterling, founder of, began his aquarium journey over 30 years ago, driven by a deep fascination for fish and their diverse personalities. His website,, is dedicated to making fishkeeping accessible and enjoyable, offering beginner-friendly guidance, expert insights, and a community for aquarists to connect and share experiences.

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