Best Types of Catfish to Keep with an African Cichlid

Common Plecostomus or Pleco

Best Types of Catfish to Keep with an African Cichlid

Catfish can be an excellent addition to an African Cichlid aquarium. As the house cleaners of the freshwater aquatic world, they reduce algae build-up and consume extra food that falls to the bottom of the tank. Although the African Cichlid is noted for its aggression, the larger catfish species are compatible tank mates and generally do a great job of helping maintain water quality.

Before adding a catfish to the aquarium, be sure to take a few precautions to reduce aggression. Since African Cichlids are territorial, it can be helpful to re-arrange the rock work and hiding spots beforehand. Also, ensure that they are fed enough, so they don’t need to compete for food. With that in mind, here are three types of cichlid compatible catfish that make great additions for the home aquarium:

Synodontis Catfish Species

There are many types of synodontis catfish! With the exception of synodontis nigriventris, the type that swims upside down, most of them are cichlid compatible catfish. Their diet consists of some meat-based food, detritus and algae. Hailing from Lake Tanganyika, their required water pH range matches that of most other rift lake species.

Rafael Catfish

The Rafael catfish is armed with spikes on the dorsal fin to protect them from predators. Although it is pretty to look at, it mostly stays hidden during the day. Its diet is very adaptable to whatever is available, and they tolerate most water conditions. Full-grown adults reach a length of approximately nine and one-half inches, making it a good choice for tanks that house the larger species of African Cichlids.


Plecostomus, or Plecos, are another species that have many different types ranging from the large Sailfin Pleco to miniature species such as the Bristlenose. They are mostly herbivores and prefer a diet of algae or plant-based fish food. The ideal water pH is lower than most African Rift Lake aquariums so Plecos will need to be acclimated to the environment. Tank size is another consideration since some types grow quite large and can’t be housed in smaller aquariums.

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