Salvini Cichlid – Care, Size, Tank Mates & Full Details!

Salvini Cichlids, also known as Yellow Belly Cichlids or Tri-Colored Cichlids, are native to Central America, inhabiting rivers and lagoons in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize. With a maximum size of 9 inches and a lifespan of up to 13 years, these aggressive fish are popular among experienced aquarists.

As a prized member of the Cichlidae family, the Salvini Cichlid (Trichromis salvini) is known for its vibrant colors and territorial nature. In this detailed guide, we’ll explore the essential aspects of Salvini Cichlid care, including tank setup, tank mates, diet, and more.

Quick Stats About Salvini Cichlids

Name: Salvini Cichlid (Cichlasoma Salvini or Nandopsis Salvini)
Size: 5 to 7 inches
Family: Cichlidae
Habitat: Guatemala, Central America, southern Mexico, Honduras
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum tank capacity: 50 gallons
Tank set-up: Freshwater; sand, rocks, roots, and fine gravel
Temperament: Aggressive
Care level: Moderate
Temperature: 24 to 26 degrees Centigrade
pH: 6 – 8
Swimming level: middle to bottom

Salvini Cichlids Appearance

The Salvini Cichlid (Trichromis salvini) is a visually striking species, boasting a vibrant array of colors and patterns.

As juveniles, their appearance may seem dull, but as they mature, their true beauty unfolds, rivaling even some of the most coveted marine species.

Colors and Patterns

Salvini Cichlids exhibit a bright contrast of black, yellow, red, and blue-green hues.

Their bodies feature:

  • Four black bars across their forehead

  • Two lines of black blotches running down their sides from head to caudal fin

  • An upper line beneath their dorsal fins, with red hues along the top in females and blue speckles in males

  • A row of black blotches that are thicker and more prominent

  • Red coloring along their bodies with blue-green speckles

This diverse array of colors makes the Salvini Cichlid an excellent centerpiece for any freshwater aquarium.

Natural Habitat of Salvini Cichlids

Salvini Cichlids are native to Central America, primarily inhabiting rivers and lagoons in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize.

They prefer open water rather than hiding among roots and caves, making them unique among cichlids. In the wild, Salvini Cichlids primarily feed on smaller fish and insects that fall into the water.

Origin and Distribution

First described by Gunther in 1862, the Salvini Cichlid is a Central American species that has since been introduced to Florida and Texas.

They are predominantly found in the rivers and lagoons of their native countries, where they are known to thrive in open water, unlike many other cichlids.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Salvini Cichlids

Salvini Cichlids have an impressive size, with males reaching up to 9 inches in length, while females tend to be slightly smaller. As they grow, their stunning colors and patterns become more pronounced, turning them into eye-catching additions to an aquarium.

With optimal care, Salvini Cichlids have a lifespan of up to 13 years. To ensure their health and longevity, it’s crucial to provide them with a suitable environment, proper diet, and compatible tank mates.

Salvini Cichlids Behavior and Temperament

Salvini Cichlids are known for their highly aggressive and territorial nature, making them one of the most challenging Central American Cichlids to keep in a community tank. Their bold personality means they can stand their ground against larger fish, and they often do not back down from a confrontation.

While both males and females exhibit aggression, females are generally less aggressive than their male counterparts.

It’s essential to consider their temperament when planning tank mates for Salvini Cichlids, as their combative nature can lead to stress and injury among other fish in the tank.

To minimize aggression and ensure harmony, it’s crucial to provide plenty of hiding spots, territorial boundaries, and compatible tank mates that can withstand the Salvini Cichlid’s temperament.

Tank Setup For Salvini Cichlids

Creating a thriving environment for Salvini Cichlids requires attention to detail and a deep understanding of their specific needs.

This guide will provide essential information on tank setup, water parameters, and maintenance to help you create the ideal home for these fascinating fish.

Tank Size

A suitable tank size is crucial to ensure the health and wellbeing of Salvini Cichlids. As these fish can grow up to 9 inches in length, it is essential to provide adequate space. A minimum tank size of 55 gallons is recommended for a single Salvini Cichlid or a pair. If you plan to keep a community tank, a larger tank of at least 75 gallons is advised to reduce territorial disputes and aggression.


Opt for a substrate that mimics the Salvini Cichlid’s natural habitat, such as fine sand or a mix of sand and small gravel. This will not only provide a comfortable environment but also promote natural foraging behavior. Avoid sharp-edged substrate, as it may injure your fish.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Despite their aggressive nature, Salvini Cichlids appreciate hiding spots and territorial boundaries. Include driftwood, rocks, and aquatic plants to create a visually appealing tank while also providing functional hiding spaces. Caves and crevices are especially beneficial during breeding, as they can offer a safe place for females to lay eggs and protect their young.

Water Parameters

Maintaining stable water parameters is crucial for the health of Salvini Cichlids. They prefer:

  • Temperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C)

  • pH: 7.0-8.0

  • Hardness: 10-15 dGH

Regular water testing is essential to monitor these parameters and ensure optimal conditions for your fish.

Filtration and Aeration

A powerful filtration system is necessary to maintain water quality in a Salvini Cichlid tank. Opt for a canister filter or a hang-on-back filter with adequate capacity for your tank size. These fish also appreciate moderate water flow and well-oxygenated water. Consider adding an air pump or a sponge filter to improve oxygen levels and promote proper gas exchange.


Salvini Cichlids do not have specific lighting requirements, so standard aquarium lighting will suffice. However, if you have live plants in your tank, ensure the lighting meets their needs. Moderate lighting with a 12-hour photoperiod is generally suitable for most setups.

Tank Mates

Choosing appropriate tank mates for Salvini Cichlids is crucial due to their aggressive nature. Compatible tank mates include:

  • Other large and semi-aggressive cichlids (e.g., Firemouth Cichlid, Jack Dempsey)

  • Large characins (e.g., Silver Dollars, Giant Danios)

  • Larger catfish species (e.g., Plecostomus, Synodontis)

Avoid keeping them with smaller, more peaceful fish or invertebrates, as they may become targets of aggression.


Salvini Cichlids are omnivorous, requiring a varied diet to maintain optimal health. Feed them high-quality cichlid pellets, flakes, or granules as a staple diet. Supplement with occasional treats like bloodworms, brine shrimp, and krill to promote coloration and overall health. Feed them 2-3 times a day, providing only as much food as they can consume within 2-3 minutes.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

It’s essential to clean the tank and decorations to remove any accumulated debris, waste, and algae. Use a gravel vacuum to clean the substrate during water changes, removing uneaten food, and other debris. Clean algae from tank walls, decorations, and equipment using a soft brush or algae scraper. Be gentle when cleaning live plants to avoid damaging them.

Filter Maintenance

Proper filter maintenance is vital for maintaining water quality and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning or replacing filter media. Stagger the cleaning or replacement of media to preserve the established beneficial bacteria in your tank, ensuring stable water conditions.

Monitor Fish Health

Regularly observe your Salvini Cichlids for signs of illness or injury. Early intervention is crucial for successful treatment, so address any issues promptly. Quarantine new fish or plants before introducing them to the main tank to prevent the spread of pathogens.

Tank Maintenance of Salvini Cichlids

Proper tank maintenance is essential for ensuring the health and well-being of your Salvini Cichlids. By following a consistent maintenance routine, you can prevent many common issues and create a stable, thriving environment for your fish.

Here are some important aspects to consider:

  1. Water Changes: Perform 20-30% water changes every 1-2 weeks to maintain water quality and remove toxins. Be sure to use dechlorinated water and match the temperature to the existing tank water to avoid stressing your fish.

  2. Cleaning: Remove uneaten food, debris, and waste from the substrate using a gravel vacuum during water changes. Clean algae from tank walls, decorations, and equipment as needed, using a soft brush or algae scraper.

  3. Filter Maintenance: Clean or replace filter media regularly, following the manufacturer’s recommendations. Be cautious not to clean all media at once, as this may disrupt the beneficial bacteria needed for biological filtration. Instead, stagger cleaning or replacement to maintain stability in the tank.

  4. Plant Care: Prune and trim live plants as necessary to promote healthy growth and prevent them from becoming too dense or overcrowded. Remove any dead or decaying leaves promptly to avoid water quality issues.

  5. Monitor Health: Regularly observe your Salvini Cichlids for signs of illness or injury. Address any issues promptly, as early intervention is crucial for successful treatment. Quarantine new fish or plants before adding them to the main tank to prevent the introduction of pathogens.

By following these guidelines and providing your Salvini Cichlids with a well-maintained, thoughtfully designed environment, you will significantly increase their chances of thriving and living a healthy, happy life.

Acclimating Salvini Cichlids

Introducing new Salvini Cichlids to your aquarium requires a careful acclimation process to minimize stress and ensure a smooth transition.

Follow these steps:

  1. Floating the Bag: Float the sealed bag containing the new fish in your aquarium for 15-20 minutes, allowing the water temperature inside the bag to adjust to the tank water temperature.

  2. Introducing Tank Water: Slowly open the bag and add a small amount of tank water to the bag every 5-10 minutes. This gradual introduction helps the fish adjust to the water parameters in their new environment.

  3. Net and Release: After about 30-45 minutes, gently net the fish from the bag and release them into the tank. Avoid pouring the bag water into the aquarium, as it may contain contaminants.

  4. Monitor Closely: Observe your new Salvini Cichlid closely for the first few days, ensuring they are adjusting well to their new environment and exhibiting normal behavior.

By following these acclimation steps and maintaining a consistent tank maintenance routine, you’ll create a healthy, thriving environment for your Salvini Cichlids to enjoy.

Salvini Cichlids Diet and Feeding

Salvini Cichlids are omnivorous, consuming a varied diet that includes both plant-based and protein-rich foods. In the wild, they feed on insects, crustaceans, and plant matter.

In an aquarium setting, their diet should consist of:

  1. Pellets or Flakes: High-quality, nutrient-rich pellets or flakes specifically formulated for cichlids should form the staple of their diet. These foods contain essential vitamins and minerals needed for proper growth and development.

  2. Live or Frozen Foods: Supplement their diet with live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia to provide additional protein and keep them engaged during feeding.

  3. Vegetable Matter: Offer blanched vegetables like spinach, zucchini, or peas to provide fiber and essential nutrients. Spirulina-based foods are also suitable for adding vegetable matter to their diet.

Feed Salvini Cichlids 2-3 times a day, offering enough food that can be consumed within a few minutes. Remove any uneaten food to prevent water quality issues.

Salvini Cichlids Tank Mates

Salvini Cichlids can be aggressive and territorial, so choosing suitable tank mates is essential to maintaining a peaceful community. Avoid keeping them with small or slow-moving fish, as they may become targets for aggression.

Suitable tank mates for Salvini Cichlids include:

  1. Other Cichlids: Larger, semi-aggressive cichlids, such as Firemouth cichlids, Jack Dempsey, or Convict Cichlids, can be suitable tank mates, as they can hold their own against the territorial nature of Salvini Cichlids.

  2. Catfish: Some species of catfish, like Plecostomus and Synodontis, can coexist with Salvini Cichlids due to their nocturnal habits and armored bodies.

  3. Large Tetras and Barbs: Bigger, fast-swimming tetras and barbs can avoid conflict with Salvini Cichlids.

  4. Loaches: Some species of loaches, such as YoYo Loach and Clown Loaches, can also be considered as potential tank mates.

Always monitor the interactions between your fish and be prepared to separate them if aggression becomes an issue.

Breeding Salvini Cichlids

Salvini Cichlids are relatively easy to breed in captivity.

Here’s a detailed guide on how to breed them:

  1. Sexing Salvini Cichlids: Males are generally larger and more colorful than females. Females tend to have a more rounded belly, especially when ready to breed.

  2. Breeding tank setup: Set up a separate breeding tank with a size of at least 40 gallons. Provide a sand substrate, rocks, and caves for the fish to hide and lay eggs. Maintain a water temperature of around 78°F and a pH between 7.0-7.8.

  3. Conditioning: Feed the breeding pair a high-quality diet consisting of live and frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and krill. This will help condition the fish for breeding and increase their chances of successful reproduction.

  4. Spawning: When the female is ready to spawn, her belly will become swollen with eggs, and her colors will become more intense. The male will display aggressive behavior, such as flaring his gills and chasing the female. The female will lay her eggs on a flat rock or the side of a cave. The male will then fertilize the eggs by releasing sperm over them.

  5. Egg care: Salvini Cichlids are known for being good parents. Both the male and female will take turns guarding the eggs and fanning them with their fins to provide oxygen. The eggs should hatch within 3-4 days.

  6. Raising the fry: Once the eggs hatch, the fry will be free-swimming in about 7-10 days. At this point, you can start feeding them with freshly hatched brine shrimp or finely crushed flake food. Gradually introduce other foods as they grow. Be sure to maintain good water quality and perform regular water changes to promote healthy growth.

Signs of Stress in Salvini Cichlids

Stressed Salvini Cichlids may exhibit the following symptoms:

  1. Loss of Color: Fish may appear washed out or pale when stressed.

  2. Rapid Breathing: Stressed Salvini Cichlids may breathe rapidly or gasp for air at the water’s surface.

  3. Loss of Appetite: A stressed fish may refuse to eat or show little interest in food.

  4. Lethargy: Stressed fish may spend more time hiding or resting at the bottom of the tank, showing little activity or interest in their surroundings.

  5. Clamped Fins: Holding their fins close to their body is a sign of stress or discomfort in fish.

  6. Erratic Swimming: Stressed Salvini Cichlids may swim erratically or dart around the tank.

  7. Aggression or Territorial Behavior: Increased aggression or territorial behavior can indicate stress, especially if it is directed towards tank mates.

To reduce stress in Salvini Cichlids, ensure that their tank conditions are optimal, including proper water parameters, adequate hiding spots, and suitable tank mates.

Regular maintenance, including water changes and filter cleaning, can also help maintain a stress-free environment for your fish.

Monitor your fish closely for signs of stress and address any issues promptly to ensure the well-being of your Salvini Cichlids.

Common Health Issues and Treatments for Salvini Cichlids

  1. Ich: Ich is a common parasitic infection that causes white spots on the body and fins of the fish. To treat Ich, increase the water temperature to 86°F for a few days and add aquarium salt or a commercial Ich medication.

  2. Fin Rot: Fin Rot is a bacterial or fungal infection that results in discolored and ragged fins. Improve water quality and use an antibacterial or antifungal medication to treat Fin Rot.

  3. Bloat: Bloat can be caused by overfeeding, constipation, or internal parasites. Symptoms include a swollen abdomen, loss of appetite, and difficulty swimming. To treat bloat, fast the fish for a few days and provide high-fiber foods, such as daphnia or shelled peas.

  4. Parasitic infections: Salvini Cichlids can be susceptible to various parasitic infections, such as gill flukes and internal worms. Monitor your fish for any signs of illness and treat with appropriate medications as needed.

  5. Fungal infections: Fungal infections can affect Salvini Cichlids, causing cotton-like growths on the fish’s body. To treat fungal infections, improve water quality and use a commercial antifungal medication.

To prevent health issues, maintain good water quality, provide a balanced diet, and keep an eye on your fish for any signs of stress or illness.

Regular water testing and prompt action can help you maintain a healthy environment for your Salvini Cichlids.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

  1. Cycle your aquarium before adding any fish to establish a stable environment.

  2. Use a high-quality water conditioner to neutralize chlorine and other harmful substances.

  3. Test water parameters regularly and make necessary adjustments.

  4. Provide a balanced diet that meets the nutritional needs of your fish.

  5. Observe your fish daily for signs of stress or illness.

Should You Get a Salvini Cichlid for Your Aquarium?

Salvini Cichlids are a beautiful and rewarding addition to an aquarium, but their aggressive nature and specific care requirements make them suitable for experienced aquarists. If you have the necessary knowledge and are prepared to provide a suitable environment, a Salvini Cichlid can be a great addition to your aquarium.

Conservation Status

Salvini Cichlids are not currently listed on the IUCN Red List and are not considered endangered or threatened.

Availability & Pricing

Salvini Cichlids are available from local and online fish stores, with prices ranging from $10 to $30, depending on the size and coloration of the fish.

Frequently Asked Questions About Salvini Cichlids

  1. Can Salvini Cichlids live with other fish? Salvini Cichlids can be aggressive and territorial. They can live with other similarly-sized, aggressive fish species, but careful consideration must be given to tank size and compatibility.

  2. How long do Salvini Cichlids live? With proper care, Salvini Cichlids can live up to 13 years.

  3. How big do Salvini Cichlids get? Salvini Cichlids can grow up to 9 inches in size, with males generally larger than females.


Salvini Cichlids are a striking, aggressive, and rewarding species for experienced aquarists. By providing a proper environment, compatible tank mates, and adhering to the specific care requirements, you can ensure the health and well-being of your Salvini Cichlid.

Regular monitoring of water parameters, tank maintenance, and a balanced diet will also contribute to the long-term success of keeping this fascinating fish in your aquarium.