green terror cichlids

Green Terror Cichlids – A Complete Care Guide

Native to the freshwater basins of Peru and Ecuador in South America, green terror cichlids goes by many names like Andinoacara rivulatus, and the Gold or White Saum. Discovered in 1860, this fish has become quite famous in the aquarium trade over time, mainly due to its vivid coloration and beautiful features.

Being a cichlid, aggression comes as a part and parcel of the package and it will require an aquarist with some experience to handle these fish. The care bit is easy but not everyone can manage aggression.

Their appearance is a sight to behold in any aquarium, something that leaves onlookers stunned. The beautiful shades of green, yellow and blue swimming around the aquarium do not occupy a specific water level, they love to roam all around the tank.

If you want to know more in depth info regarding Green Terror care, breeding and other general info, keep on reading. You are sure to enjoy this read and will definitely tilt towards getting a Green Terror for your aquarium.

Scientific NameAndinoacara rivulatus
OriginSouth America
Size12 Inches
Aquarium Size35 Gallon for single, 75 Gallon for a pair
Lifespan7-10 Years
Ease of CareIntermediate


These beautiful cichlids have quite captivating features. A slender body with a pointed dorsal fin, a fuzzy, tail like anal fin, along with a very prominent caudal fin. The Green Terror is a ray finned fish which means that their fins are supported by thin spike like bones that help give them their shape. In the wild, males develop a nuchal hump on the head during mating season but in captivity that hump for some odd reason becomes a permanent feature.


Being called Green Terror does not mean that they only feature green coloration. Most species are a metallic green with bright blue markings all over their body and head but there are other white and gold variations as well.

Shades of orange and bright white and orange shades on the fins are also quite common among Green Terror Cichlids

Their color changes as they grow. As juveniles they feature a silvery blue shade that changes to metallic bright green and blue when they grow into mature Green Terror Cichlids.

Fish Size:

Their average size is around 8 inches in captivity but in the wild they can reach a size of 12 inches. Cichlids are known to grow large and the key to keeping large fish in an aquarium is space, healthy water conditions and a healthy diet.

If any of the above conditions fall below specifications, these fish will not grow up to a healthy size and might even die before their average lifespan.

Difference between male and female:

They feature sexual dimorphism. Males tend to be brightly colored and feature bright orange shades, whereas the females are quite dull and dark in color and orange shades are absent. Females feature other colors like pink, red or electric blue on the fins.

Apart from color differences, females are a tad bit smaller in size compared to males and do not feature the nuchal hump on the forehead that males do.

Life Span

The average lifespan of a Green Terror Cichlid in captivity is anywhere from 7-10 years. It all depends on water conditions and a healthy, balanced diet.

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If you buy from a reputable dealer, then all you would need to worry about would be staying within the permissible water parameters.


In captivity they become opportunistic eaters but in the wild they tilt more towards a carnivorous diet. A balanced diet will do wonders to keep them healthy and happy.

You can feed them high quality flakes and pellets, the ones that contain all sorts of nutrients. Along with that it helps to feed them protein rich live or frozen food like brine shrimp, crickets, blood worms and feeder fish.

Care should be taken not to overfeed them because like other cichlids, they will not stop eating unless you stop feeding them. This can lead to digestive tract issues, instead you can set feeding times to around 2 times per day but for juveniles you can relax this to 3 times a day because it will help them grow.

Behavior and Temperament

The Green Terror Cichlid can get a bit moody at times and become an actual terror for its tank mates, especially if they are small fish. Aggressive behavior will be prominent during breeding period but for most cases, it results due to lack of space and improper water parameters.

Green Terror Cichlids like to roam about the entire tank, they do not have a specific spot where they hang around. They will be near the lid one moment and down near the substrate the next. So to ease aggression, one has to choose a large enough tank with decorations that mimic their natural habitat. This will not only make them feel at home but the extra space will allow them to peacefully stay in their territory without fear of intruders.

So if we had to sum it up, we would say that water conditions, diet, decorations and space are the major factors that influence their behavior and temperament.

Aquarium and Water Parameters

The Green Terror is native to South American waters so it will be important to mimic those habitats in your tank. These are hardy fish so you will have enough room to experiment with water parameters, however, we would still advise not to deviate too far from these thresholds.

Before you introduce them to your tank, make sure you clean everything up and give the tank and decorations the proper treatment required before adding any fish. We would recommend a 20% water change every other week to keep parameters within safe ranges.

PH Level6.5-8.0
Water Hardness5-20 dGH
Temperature68-80 F

Tank Size:

A 35 gallon tank is used by most aquarists but we would insist on using a 50 gallon tank at least because this not only provides more space but it will also help mitigate aggression. For a pair, you can go up to 75 gallons.

A simple rule of thumb is to add 35 gallons per Green Terror you add to your tank.


These tropical freshwater fish enjoy a variety of plant life and rock formations in their natural habitat, so we would advise to use natural substances when setting up a tank for them.

Starting from the substrate, we would recommend something soft like sand because like other cichlids, Green Terrors too like to dig around. Digging in a hard substrate can cause them injuries which can lead to diseases like fin rot. Also, if the substrate is hard and contains small size gravel or pebbles, your Green Terrors might swallow them which can result in digestive tract problems.

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When it comes to vegetation, go for anything but rooted plants because your Green Terrors will uproot them and redecorate your tank. Instead, you can opt for floating plants like Java Fern or Anubias. These will not only provide shade from light but they will also make your tank look good by adding a natural flare.

Rocks and driftwood should also be added to provide them a sense of territory, some place they can call home and protect. Rocks and vegetation will also play a role in mitigating aggression by lowering field of view, giving your fish an illusion of there being no other fish in the area.


A good quality filter is recommended because these are large fish and they produce a fair amount of waste when they eat or dig in the substrate. A decent quality canister or external filter will go a long way in providing a nitrate and ammonia free tank as long as it does not produce too much water flow.

A small heater will be required to keep water parameters within the suggested ranges because the natural habitat of the Green Terror Cichlid is a tropical land where water is warm.

Green Terror Cichlids are sensitive to bright lights but keeping your tank moderately lit gives them no trouble.

Tank Mates

Green Terror Cichlids are aggressive but given enough space and a natural vibe, they will do well within a community fish tank with several other fish. The only thing you need to be watchful for is not to pack them all into a tight space, which will only make your tank a death trap for any other fish you have crammed in there with the Green Terrors.

Their aggressive behavior can be mitigated by giving them ample space but during breeding season it is highly recommended that you separate the pair from the community because they form monogamous pairs and both the male and female will team up to shred any fish that approaches.

When it comes to size, we would not recommend fish that are smaller than the Green Terrors because they will eventually become food, fish like the Corydoras for example. The recommended tank mates are as follows:

·         Firemouth Cichlid

·         Convict Cichlid

·         Jack Dempsey Cichlid

·         Flowerhorn Cichlid

·         Silver Dollar Fish

·         Bristlenose Pleco

·         Striped Raphael Cichlid

·         Servrum

·         Synodontis

·         Gars

·         Pacus

·         Large Loricariids

·         Bleeding Heart Tetras

These are some of the many fish that can form good tank mates for Green Terror Cichlids because they share the same temperament, behavior, size and water parameters.

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Like other cichlids, breeding the Green Terrors is relatively easy. They form monogamous pairs automatically or you can buy a pre-bonded pair from a local dealer.

They will breed under normal water parameters but you can crank up the process by changing the pH to 6.5 and warming up the water slightly to 77-80 F. This will catalyze the process and cause the pair to speed up.

The pair will form a bond and start searching for a suitable place to lay eggs, either on a flat rock surface or on the glass floor of your aquarium by removing some of the substrate. Once the female has laid some 400-600 eggs on a suitable surface, the male will fertilize them. The semi-transparent yellowish eggs will hatch in about 3-4 days after which the parents transfer the fry to a safe location where they will watch over them until they become free swimmers after a time period of 10 days.

Once the fry get big enough, you can feed them food like frozen baby brine shrimp.

It is important to note that Green Terror Cichlids display parental care until the fry become mature enough to fend for themselves. This starts from the egg phase where the female guards the eggs and the male guards the perimeter. Usually fry are separated from their parents as soon as they are able to swim but the same cannot be done here because the parents will ensure they grow up to become healthy, mature adults.

Common Problems

These fish are quite hardy but they are still prone to regular freshwater fish ailments. However, there are some common illnesses that can grip them:

Hole in the Head:

Also known as Head and Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE), something that is caused by unhealthy water parameters and impurities in the water. The symptoms are deterioration of flesh and holes on the head.


The symptoms are white spots on the entire body and inside the mouth and gills. Very much common to ich but the only difference is that this is a viral infection that infects connective tissue. This is usually the result of stress caused by unhealthy water parameters and a lack of oxygen.

The best remedy for any of these diseases is to provide a healthy environment for your Green Terror Cichlid because a healthy fish is a happy fish.


Q: Will the Green Terror outgrow a smaller tank?

Yes it will outgrow a smaller tank because these fish grow up to a size of 8-10 inches.

Q: When does a Green Terror Cichlid mature?

It takes them not more than 5 months to grow to their full size.


The Green Terror Cichlid is a delight to look at in a fish tank because of its vivid coloration and distinct but subtle features. They are not difficult to care for if the aquarist has some experience with aggressive fish.

As you read above, finding tank mates for them and keeping aggression low is also not difficult if you know what you’re doing. All it needs is space and natural decorations. This fish is perfect for the intermediate aquarist.

We hope this article proved fruitful for you but if you have any further curious questions regarding other cichlids or any other fish in general, do follow the links in this article or browse around our website. You will be sure to find something you like.

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