Convict FAQ

Posted in About Fish


This FAQ is divided into two sections:

  1. General Info
  2. Breeding


  • Q. How fast do convicts grow?
  • A. Convicts are not quick growers, males should reach about 4 inches by 1 year old, then very slow after that, females same at about 3 inches.


  • Q. Is a 10 gallon too small for 1 inch cons?
  • A. A 10g tank is a good starting point for a pair of small (1-2”) cons, but if they breed they will overrun this size tank in no time. A 20-30g tank is recommended.


  • Q. What size tank is good for convicts?
  • A. A pair of 2” convicts can live and breed easily in a 10 gallon. A 30-55 gallon is a great size for a larger adult pair or a family with babies, that may eventually become 2 or 3 pairs, then the rest will have to be removed.


  • Q. What other fish can you keep with convicts?
  • A. Cons are extremely aggressive, the other fish have to be at least as aggressive to be able to stand up. People have some success with Blood Parrots, Red Devils, Green Terrors, Texas Cichlids and sometimes Oscars. In the end, like with any other fish, it depends on that specific fish's personality and it's a crapshoot every time.


  • Q. How do you sex black convicts?
  • A. The easiest way to sex black convicts is the red patch that appears on the body of the female that is breeding size/age. The females also have shorter stubbier bodies, while males are taller and thinner. For the most part (with exceptions) females have smaller and rounder anal and dorsal fins, while males have sharper and longer fins that extend past the body.


  • Q. How do you sex pink convicts?
  • A. In addition to the answer above, pink convicts have orange splotching on the body for the female, while the male is usually lighter and more uniform in color.


  • Q. What different types of convicts are there?
  • A. While the Black and Pink convicts are the most common types, there are a few new variations that have been popping up, including the “Marbled” variety and the new “Honduran red/blue Point” convict. There are also a few hybrids out there, as convicts are very willing to cross-breed with Blood Parrots and Texas Cichlids among others.


  • Q. Do convicts like fast moving water?
  • A. Cons enjoy currents and often spend time bathing in airstone bubbles. They do not require any special current makers to be happy, as long as they are not cramped and the water is somewhat clean they will be a great fish to observe.


  • Q. Do convicts move slow or fast?
  • A. Cons are exteremely quick fish. They love to chase each other and other fish around, and respond well to you opening the lid of the tank during feeding by zooming to the top in seconds.


  • Q. Do cons like alot of light?
  • A. They do not require any special lighting. Regular standard lighting is fine, unless you are planning to keep live plants, which may not survive anyways with cons.


  • Q. My convicts have these really cool pink, green, blue and other iridescent colors on there sides, is this a good thing?
  • A. Many cons will have bluish greenish turquoise spots on their fins or underbellies in the right light conditions. That is a good indicator of a healthy con. Pink coloration only happens on female's fins and underbelly to show her readiness to spawn.


  • Q. Are convicts a good choice for community tanks?
  • A. Definitely a no on this one. Cons are known as the pound-for-pound the toughest and meanest fish out there, and will fight fish 3-4 times their own size. Smaller community fish have no chance and will die or become food. The con aggression level doubles during mating and other inhibitants of the tank really suffer then.


  • Q. What is an adult size for a convict?
  • A. Convicts generally top out at around 4-5” for males and 3-4” for females.


  • Q. What water conditions do convicts need?
  • A. No special requirements, just regular clean water. To promote breeding water changes and water level changes help dramatically.


  • Q. What is the best diet for convicts.
  • A. Anything that other fish eat, a balanced diet of pellets, frozen food, and flakes. To promote breeding frozen foods are suggested like brine shrimp and blood worms.


  • Q. Do convicts eat plants?
  • A. Yes, they will eat any live plants. They are boysterous fish that will tear up any real plants.


  • Q. What kinds of plant matter can you feed a convict ie Lettuce , Spinich ect….. ?
  • A. I have not fed mine plants, or vegetable matter, but they have eaten spirulina pellets as part of their diet, which includes brine shrimp, shrimp sinking pellets, blood worms, and regular pellets (New Life) in addition to the spirulina pellets.


  • Q. What are the signs of a ill Convict cichlid ?
  • A. Cons are susceptable to any common Cichlid diseases, including Ich and most others. They sharply colored black/grey bodies make external diseases very visible, which hopefully leads to earlier detection ad a greater degree of success in healing.


  • Q. when convicts get sick like ick and other illnesses can you use regular meds for them , or are there certain meds for them ? What are the signs of a ill Convict cichlid ?
  • A. Cons are suspect to any of the same diseases that other cichlids are suspect to. Convict is a prototypical cichlid and one can learn a lot about other cichlids from observing cons.


  • Q. Whats a good internet site to buy convicts?
  • A. I have no experience in buying fish on the internet, but I am aware of at least one ABSOLUTELY reputable dealer, Jeff Rapps, who is outstanding with cichlids of all kinds. His minimums and shipping are very prohibitive but the quality of fish is increadible. He sells a lot of F1 (first generation out of the wild) fish and F2 fries. His site is at: On another note, Convicts are READILY available at most LFS. They are cheap ($2-3 for young and $5-10 for adults) and most LFS stock them.


  • Q. I see odd shaped (almost round) convicts at the lfs, what are they?
  • A. Those are usually crossbreeds with Blood Parrot females. Con males will readily breed with BPs and produce fish that look like cons with a bit more rounded body and sometimes orange spotting.


  • Q. My male convict killed his mate, why did this happen?
  • A. You are suggested to watch cons during mating, as sometimes aggression will arise between male and female, over fry duties. in this case, it's suggested that you take the female out and bring her back a while later.


  • Q. What do I need to do to make the convicts breed.
  • A. All you need for convicts to breed is to get a male, get a female, and add water. LOL


  • Q. What is the breeding size for cons?
  • A. Convicts start breeding at a little bit over 1” for females. You can tell the female is ready to breed when she develops the red patching on her body and fins.


  • Q. What is the proper size and age to breed convicts even though they can breed at such a small size?
  • A. IF they can do it, let them. They may mess up a few times (mine did fine the first time at 1-1.5”) but they will learn eventually.


  • Q. Will a female breed with a male that is smaller than itself?
  • A. My experience has been that they would not, but others have said that it's quite possible. Will have to differ to their opinions on this one.


  • Q. What is the right size tank for a breeding pair of convicts?
  • A. While a pair of small (1-2”) convicts will start breeding in a 10 gallon tank, most people recommend a 20- or a 30 gallon tank as a perfect size for a pair.


  • Q. Are convicts easy to breed? what is required?
  • A. Short answer: Yes, water is required. Longer answer is that cons are known as “rabbits of the aquatic world” they will breed easily in almost any conditions, as long as they are comfortable. For best results, frequent water changes, raw or frozen food, and a hiding place, like a sideways flowerpot almost guarantees you fry as long as you have a breeding pair.


  • Q. Are convicts good parents? Should I remove the eggs?
  • A. In general, convicts are some of the most dedicated parents. You should NOT remove the fry unless you want them to start breeding again quickly. Convicts are not known to eat the fry unless they are threatened, and will guard them with their life. Isolated in their own tank, convicts are a wonder to watch as they wash the fry in their mouths and take them from the cave in the morning, and collect them to the cave for the night.


  • Q. Can different colour morphs breed with each other(black, pink, calico, red point).
  • A. Yes, the convicts really aren't picky. The fry would take on the characteristics of one of the parents.
  • Q. How long does it take for the eggs to hatch?


  • A. Eggs usually hatch in 2-3 days after being laid. The mother will fan the eggs till they to by hovering above and moving her fins quickly to provide a current that stops fungus.


  • Q. What do convict eggs look like ? How do I know if the male fertilized the eggs?
  • A. The eggs start as white and very nice size, easily visible. If after 24hrs the eggs look amber, they are fertilized and will hatch in about 2 days after that. If they are white, they are duds and will be eaten 3-4 days after that.


  • Q Should you feed a pair while they are spawning ?
  • A. Yes, of course, raise the temp to 82 and feed frozen brine shrimp or frozen worms. That just makes them nutty in love


  • Q Do Convict always have 200+ babies or do they have smaller broods as well ?
  • A. Size and experience matter here. The bigger the fish the more eggs they produce. At 1” my con girl produced about 100+ eggs. Her second batch just 10 days later was over 200. They get bigger and better at this with each batch, and as they grow.


  • Q. And why is my convict digging pits all over my tank?
  • A. If they have not laid eggs they are looking for a place to do so. After the eggs hatch, they dig pits to place fry for the night and to rest. The mother also rubs her belly on the substrate to make the possible food in the ground go up into the water so that babies eat more.


  • Q. How big should the fry be when i sell them to the pet store?
  • A. Good luck finding Pet stores to take cons. The fish is such an easy breeder that stores usually do not take them in or if they do, they pay 50c to $1 for 1 inch babies, so it's not worth it from the $ point of view to raise them.


  • Q. How do I stop my convicts from breeding(thanks, T)
  • A. Convicts will try breeding, and nothing will stop them. The only way to reliably stop breeding behavior is to remove one of the two fish


- Submitted by Paradise