Green Terror Cichlid Species Profile: Size, Care, Tank Mates & Lifespan

Author: Hasty Fish

Last Updated:

Are you searching for an eye-catching and vibrant fish to add to your freshwater tank? Look no further than the Green Terror Cichlid!

With its striking metallic green scales and greenish-blue highlights, this species is popular among fish enthusiasts and sure to be a show-stopper in your aquarium.

But before diving in, it’s essential to understand their specific care needs, tank requirements, and compatibility with other fish due to their aggressiveness and territorial nature.

In this comprehensive species profile, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Green Terror Cichlid, from size and lifespan to ideal tank mates and more.

Green Terror Cichlid Stats
OriginSouth America
Lifespan7-10 years
Size8-10 inches
Minimum Tank Size50 gallons
Ease of CareEasy
Water Temperature72°F to 80°F (22-26°C)
Water Hardness5-20 dGH

Green Terror Cichlid Species Overview

Hailing from the serene tropical river basins of Peru and Ecuador, the Green Terror Cichlid (Andinoacara rivulatus) is a stunning species that has captured the hearts of aquarium enthusiasts worldwide.

These fish are known for their distinct physical features that make them stand out in any tank. However, being part of the Cichlid family means they can be quite a handful to care for and may exhibit aggressive tendencies. In fact, they get their name from the impressive display of territorial aggression they often show towards other fish in the tank.

Don’t let that deter you, though. With the right tank setup, tankmates, and proper care, these vibrant species can be very manageable and make a colorful and dynamic addition to your aquarium. The key is understanding their specific needs and temperament and creating an environment that will help them thrive.


Green Terrors have an average lifespan of 7 to 10 years in captivity. This also means that owning one requires a significant commitment that involves providing them with a thriving living environment.

Maintaining optimal water conditions is one of the most critical aspects of their care, as it can prevent a host of health issues and promote their overall well-being. With consistent attention and dedication to their care, Green Terrors can thrive and bring joy to your aquarium for years to come.

Appearance, Colors, & Markings

Green Terrors are undoubtedly one of the most striking freshwater fish species you can own. These vibrant fish are aptly named for their captivating metallic green hue that covers their bodies. Adding to their allure, Green Terrors sport bright blue markings all over their face and body, creating a stunning contrast against their green backdrop.

One thing to note is that the color of Green Terrors can vary depending on their gender, with males tend to have a brighter color than females. Even as juveniles, these fish have a distinct look, with a silvery-blue hue that gives them a shimmering appearance. As they age, their coloration usually deepens into the iconic metallic green color for which Green Terrors are known.

Green Terrors are also known to have two different color variations, each isolated in separate geographical regions. While their appearance is subtly different, it’s easy to mistake one for the other. In fact, scientists once thought they were separate species due to their similarities.

1. Gold Saum (Andinoacara rivulatus)

Andinoacara Rivulatus

The first type is known as the “Gold Saum” and can be found in western Ecuador or northwestern Peru regions. These fish boast magnificent bright orange stripes that add to their aesthetic appeal, making them the more popular of the two types. You can spot these striking stripes on the tip of their pointed dorsal fin and outlining their tail fin, creating a stunning visual effect as they swim through the water.

2. Silver/ White Saum (Andinoacara stalsbergi)

Andinoacara Stalsbergi

The other type is called the “White Saum,” which has white stripes instead of the orange ones. These fish tend to be found in the western region of Peru. Despite their different markings, both types are equally stunning and make a beautiful addition to any tank.

Green Terror Cichlid Size

Green Terror Cichlids can grow up to 12 inches in length in the wild.

However, in an aquarium environment, they typically only reach a size of around 8 inches, which is still quite impressive. This also means they are unsuitable for small tanks, and you must ensure they have adequate space to move around freely.

And while 8 inches is the average size of a Green Terror in captivity, they can exceed this when properly cared for and given the right tank size. In fact, if you can provide them with a very large tank or even use a pond, you can potentially see your Green Terror reach up to 10 inches.

Habitat & Care

As with many other fish species belonging to the Cichlid family, Green Terrors are hardy creatures that can thrive in various water conditions. This means caring for Green Terror Cichlids is generally quite easy, making them an excellent choice for novice and experienced aquarium enthusiasts.

That being said, they do have specific tank requirements and guidelines you’ll need to follow to ensure their well-being. By understanding their particular care needs, you can help your Green Terrors reach their full potential and enjoy a long, healthy life in your aquarium.

1. Recommended Tank Size

When it comes to tank size, bigger is always better. Green Terror Cichlids are large fish and need plenty of space to swim freely. Some people will recommend a tank size of at least 35 gallons for one Green Terror. However, I suggest going with a larger 50-gallon tank.

This is because space is the most significant factor influencing their aggression levels. And since fish can grow quite large, it’s crucial to provide them with enough room to swim and explore. Otherwise, you risk stressing out your fish, leading to temperament problems and creating a hostile environment in the tank.

If you plan on keeping two Green Terror fish in the same tank, you’ll want to provide them with even more space to prevent aggression and territorial disputes. A minimum tank size of 75 gallons is recommended for two Green Terrors.

And if you, for some reason, decide to keep more than two Green Terror Cichlids, you’ll need an even bigger tank to accommodate them all. As a good rule of thumb, you should aim for 35 gallons per additional fish. So a tank size of 110 gallons would be suitable for three Green Terrors, 145 gallons for four, and so on.

2. Ideal Water Parameters

To ensure the well-being of your Green Terror Cichlids, you’ll need to create an aquarium environment that mimics their natural habitat as closely as possible.

In the wild, Green Terrors inhabit slow-moving rivers with relatively hardy water and warm temperatures. Recreating this environment in your aquarium can help reduce stress and promote natural behavior in your fish. Here’s what you should aim for:

  • Water temperature between 72°F to 80°F (22-26°C)
  • Water hardness between 5-20 dGH
  • pH of 6.5-8

And before introducing them to your aquarium, it’s vital to ensure the tank is fully cycled. Regular monitoring of water quality is also essential and make sure to invest in appropriate equipment and a high-quality in-tank canister filter to help maintain optimal conditions in your aquarium.

3. What To Put In Their Tank

Like other cichlid species, Green Terror Cichlids have a natural tendency to dig around in the substrate and rearrange their surroundings. So you’ll want to consider this behavior when choosing decorations to ensure the safety of your fish and prevent any frustration on your part.

Sand makes the best substrate for these fish, allowing them to dig and burrow without harming them. You’ll want to avoid using fine gravel because it can lead to blockages or other complications in their digestive system if they accidentally ingest a rock.

One thing that I also want to talk about is lighting. While Green Terrors are not as sensitive to light as other species, it’s important to keep in mind that these fish prefer lower light levels. Intense lighting should be avoided as it can cause stress and discomfort for them. To create a comfortable environment for your Green Terrors, you’ll want to provide plenty of shade through plants.

And when adding live plants to the aquarium, it’s best to choose floating vegetation instead of rooted plants. The reason is that they have been known to eat and uproot plants in their environment. Some of the best ones for Green Terror Cichlids include Java fern, Anubias, Hornwort, Amazon frogbit, Duckweed, and Floating bladderwort.

Lastly, you should also add rocks, caves, and driftwood into the tank. These items not only can enhance the overall aesthetic of your aquarium but also provide visual interest for your fish to investigate and act as natural barriers that prevent them from charging after other fish that swim past their perceived boundaries.

4. Common Green Terror Cichlid Diseases: What To Look Out For

While known for their hardiness and ability to adapt to various environments, Green Terrors, like all freshwater fish, are susceptible to common ailments such as ich, parasitic infections, and skin conditions. So it’s essential to monitor your fish for any signs of illness and take appropriate action if needed.

One ailment you should also be wary of is HLLE, also known as Head and Lateral Line Erosion or Hole-In-Head Disease. This condition is characterized by the erosion of tissues on the fish’s head, face, and lateral lines, leading to visible pits and holes. The exact cause of HLLE is still unknown, although it’s believed to be related to poor water quality, malnutrition, or stress.

In addition to HLLE, another disease that Green Terror Cichlid owners should watch out for is Lymphocystis disease. This condition is characterized by white or grayish lesions on the fish’s body and fins, which can even occur on the mouth or gills. Although it doesn’t cause serious harm to the fish, it can still cause significant discomfort.

Lymphocystis disease is a viral infection that often occurs in Green Terror Cichlids when they are exposed to stressful conditions related to poor water quality. Factors such as insufficient oxygen levels and imbalanced pH levels can significantly impact the health of your fish, making them more susceptible to this illness.

To prevent or safeguard your fish from Lymphocystis disease or any other health problems, you must provide them with a clean and safe habitat. This means maintaining the highest water quality possible, providing sufficient space for swimming, and feeding a nutritious diet.

Diet of the Green Terror Cichlid

Green Terror

Green Terror Cichlids are primarily carnivorous in the wild. However, in captivity, they tend to be opportunistic eaters and readily accept a varied diet that includes animal and plant-based foods.

While being omnivorous in captivity and not picky eaters, Green Terror Cichlids still need to be fed the right foods to thrive. In fact, it’s essential to provide your Green Terror Cichlids with a varied, balanced diet that includes high-quality pellets, frozen or live foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms, and fresh vegetables to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.

It’s also important to avoid feeding your fish excessive amounts of food as overfeeding not only can lead to health issues such as bloating, intestinal blockage, obesity, constipation, and swim bladder problems, etc. but can also cause water quality issues due to the leftover foods that decompose.

A good rule of thumb is to feed your fish twice daily and only give them what they can consume within five minutes.

Temperament & Behavior

Green Terror Cichlids are aptly named for their aggressive behavior and territorial nature. They won’t hesitate to defend their space against other tank mates, especially smaller or weaker fish.

This is why providing these fish with ample space and plenty of natural decors is crucial. Large tanks with various hiding spots, caves, and territories can help minimize territorial conflicts and provide a more natural environment for these fish. A well-decorated tank can also help provide visual barriers that can reduce aggression.

Another way to reduce the aggressive behavior of Green Terror Cichlids is to keep them in pairs. Males and females can form a strong bond and share territorial responsibilities, and by keeping a pair in the tank, you can help reduce their mean streak, at least until spawning season when these fish become highly protective of their eggs and fry.

Additionally, Green Terror Cichlids are benthopelagic, meaning they will actively explore all areas of the tank, from top to bottom. These curious fish won’t spend their entire day in one spot but instead keep themselves occupied by swimming around, searching for food, and investigating every corner of the aquarium.

Green Terror Cichlid Tank Mates

Since Green Terror Cichlids are benthopelagic that explore all parts of the aquarium and don’t stick to one area of the tank but instead move around frequently, choosing tankmates for these fish requires careful consideration.

And one of the most important things to remember when choosing tank mates for Green Terrors is that you want to avoid adding smaller fish to your aquarium, as they are easy targets for the Green Terrors and may become a snack and get eaten.

The best tank mates for Green Terror Cichlids are those of similar size or larger to avoid being picked on. They must also be able to match Green Terrors’ active nature and can hold their own against potential aggression.

Some species that can get along with Green Terror Cichlids include:

Breeding Green Terror Cichlids

Green Terror Cichlid Fish

Green Terror Cichlids are egg-laying fish and not difficult to breed. They can produce a significant number of eggs in a single spawning event, with females laying 400 to 600 eggs at once!

And one of the most endearing traits of these fish is their strong parental instincts, with females taking on the primary responsibility of caring for their young ones. On the other hand, males are highly protective of the breeding site and will defend the territory against potential threats at all costs. So it’s a good idea to keep the breeding pair in a separate tank during this time.

One way to encourage breeding is by raising the water temperature to around 77°F to 88°F. In addition, you can also frequently feed them live food, which is also a known way to stimulate spawning in these fish.

Green Terrors exhibit clear signs when they are ready to breed. They become more vibrant in color, and their behavior changes significantly. Males and females will clean the substrate meticulously, preparing the breeding site for their future offspring. The female will typically lay eggs on a flat rock, but sometimes you’ll also find them laid on the tank’s glass bottom.

Once the eggs have been laid, the male Green Terrors will fertilize them. The eggs will hatch after approximately three to four days, revealing tiny, helpless fry. The fry will survive on their yolk sacs for the first two to four days and do not require feeding. However, after this period, they will need to be fed baby brine shrimp, microplankton, and infusoria.

Also, one thing to note is that, unlike some other fish species, it’s not necessary to separate the fry from the parents as they pose no threat to their offspring. In fact, they are excellent parents and will watch over their fry until they are large enough to fend for themselves.

Differences Between Male & Female Green Terror Cichlids

Green Terrors are sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females can be easily distinguished from each other by observing their physical features. Males are typically larger than females. Males are also brighter in color than females, and females sometimes also lack the iconic orange stripes on their caudal and dorsal fins.

Aside from that, you can tell the difference between males and females by looking at their foreheads. Males will develop a pronounced fatty tissue called a nuchal hump on their forehead during the spawning season. In the wild, this hump tends to increase in size, signaling its readiness to attract a mate. However, in captivity, this nuchal hump remains largely unchanged.

Lastly, their behavior can also help you identify the gender of an individual Green Terror Cichlid. Contrary to most species, the female Green Terrors are often more aggressive and territorial than the males.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Green Terror Cichlids are attractive and can add a lot of color and character to your aquarium. These hardy fish require minimal maintenance and are relatively easy to care for, so they can be an excellent choice for beginner-level and experienced aquarists alike.

The only downside is their aggressive nature, which is something to keep in mind when deciding if these fish are the right choice for you. With a spacious aquarium and the right tankmates, however, you can help minimize its aggression and enjoy the beauty and charm of these amazing fish!

Good luck! Hope this article has helped give you a better understanding of Green Terror Cichlids and how to take care of them. Happy fishkeeping!