Green Terror Cichlid Care Guide

Green Terror Cichlid Care Guide


green terror cichlid
Credits to Caroline Robertson

The green terror cichlid, or simply known as the green terror, goes by the scientific name andinoacara rivulatus. Like its cousin the firemouth cichlid, the green terror also has a terrifying name for quite a beautiful yet aggressive fish. The green terror cichlid is a freshwater fish from the cichlid family, also native to South America. They can vary in vivid hues and are quite easy to keep.

Despite their aggression, the green terror cichlid is easy to care for. As long as you take care of the aquarium conditions, the green terror can thrive quite well in most tanks. But because of their aggression, we would still suggest a beginner aquarist to stay away from them until they gain experience.

Information Chart
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Aggressive
Color: Bluish-green with an orange stripe (also pink, red or bright blue hues)
Lifespan: 7-10 years
Size: 8 inches
Family Cichlidae
Diet: Carnivorous
Minimum Tank Size: 35 gallons
Temperature: 68-77 ºF, 20-25 ºC
pH 6 to 8 and water hardness 5-20 dGH
Tank Mate Compatibility Same or larger-sized fish with similar temperament

Care Level

They aren’t particularly picky when it comes to there environment, although there are ideal parameters you should strive to achieve. They are aggressive, but if you have the proper tank mates or if you just keep green terror cichlids, you shouldn’t struggle too much.

Much like most other fish, and most animals, to keep your fish healthy, you need to cater to them. The best aquarium conditions would be similar to their natural environment. Since they are from South America, you can expect warmer water, and perhaps more sunlight.

Unfortunately, without proper care, the green terror is susceptible to skin problems, parasites and bacteria. They are also predisposed to some diseases and stress is a leading cause of many of the health problems the green terror cichlid faces.

What’s great about the green terror cichlid is their defining colors. It’s very easy to tell if they are under the weather or sick. You just need to monitor their coloring and behavior. A lot of fish dull in color and even fade if they are ill.

Temperament and Behavior

We mentioned their aggression, but how aggressive are green terror cichlids? They are high on the aggressive spectrum and are very territorial as well. Interestingly, females are more aggressive than males and the older these fish get, the more aggressive they get as well.

They do calm down when they are reproducing but their temper shoots right back up and even exceeds previous levels during spawning season.

They are also free roamers and don’t keep to a specific depth. You might find them dwelling near the surface at times and sinking to the bottom on other days. They spend their days swimming the length of the tank looking for food.

Understanding the temperament and behavior of a green terror fish is imperative when choosing tankmates and setting up the tank. For example, they are notorious diggers, which will limit the substrate you can place in the aquarium.

green terror cichlidgreen terror cichlid


They are very colorful and bright fish that have slim profiles.


How big do green terror cichlids get? They can be quite large, measuring at a foot long in the wild but in the tank they are a bit smaller as expected. In your aquarium, the green terrors grow to be around 8 inches. The females tend to be smaller than the males as well, much like with many other species.

Although they rarely exceed 8 inches in a tank, these fish can actually push the limit to about 10 inches if given sufficient space.


Both sexes have a bluish-green hue and a metallic finish with an orange stripe running along the dorsal and caudal fins. The females are darker in color and the orange is more pronounced. However, green terrors are so diverse in their color scheme and sometimes the stripe is absent altogether. Other known colors present in green terrors include pink, red or bright blue.

The fry doesn’t look that different in terms of color with the only difference being more shades of blue as they mature. One other difference male and female green terrors have is a large hump that can develop on the male’s head. In the wild, this is there for reproductive reasons (to attract females) but they can become a permanent addition in the aquarium.


The cichlid green terror can live anywhere from 7-10 years with them being on the lower end if raised in an aquarium. The key to making sure your green terror cichlids grow to be healthy and live as long as possible, you need to not only consider their diet but also the water conditions.

Knowing that they can live so long, you need to think about the requirements for such a commitment. They are easy to care for and with the right water quality, the fish will usually be healthy without risk of contracting too many diseases.


Speaking of diet, the green terror cichlids are easy to care for in terms of food. In the wild, they tend to gravitate towards a carnivorous diet, with their main source of food coming from worms, insects and crustaceans. It can be a bit tougher to maintain a fully carnivorous diet in the aquarium, so brine shrimp is recommended.

However, they aren’t picky eaters and can live off of pretty much whatever you feed them in the aquarium. They can do well with fish pellets as well, but do appreciate the occasional frozen and live food. Live food for fish is always the preferred diet, so keep a steady stream of worms and shrimp handy.

You should balance out the amount of protein with the occasional vegetable such as spinach and lettuce to avoid digestive issues. They are big eaters so try not to overfeed them.


A pair of the green terror with offspring

A pair of the green terror with offspring

The andinoacara rivulatus is from the cichlidae family. They are a freshwater fish native to South America.

Tank Conditions

They like to dig, so when you look at substrate for your aquarium, make sure you stick to heavier objects or strong-rooted plants. Think about rocks, driftwood and sand for aquarium liner. Stay away from larger liners such as gravel just in case your green terror cichlids think it’s a part of their diet.

The green terror cichlid loves to swim, so you need to provide them with enough space and entertainment such as caves, flat rock, wood, and plants. Since the green terror is quite aggressive, you can also use the plants and other substrates to create a barrier between them and other fish just so they behave nicer.


Since they hail from South America, you can expect the green terror cichlids to need warmer waters. The temperatures should be anywhere between 68-77 degrees Fahrenheit (20-25 degrees Celsius). You may even need to invest in a water heater if you live in colder temperatures.

Water Conditions

As for the water conditions, you want a neutral pH to slightly acidic. Anywhere between pH 6 to 8 would be acceptable (7 being the best balance). Lastly, the water hardness is also something you should monitor with the ideal levels being between 5-20 dGH.

To mimic their natural environment, make sure the water isn’t too aggressive and fast flowing. There are parameters for the water quality when it comes to raising a green terror cichlid, but there is a good range to give you some leniency.

Minimum Tank Size

They can grow to be quite large and even though they won’t reach a full 12 inches in captivity, they do still need a significant amount of room. If you have just one, it needs at least 35 gallons (definitely more if there are tank mates). If you decide to get a pair of green terrors, then you are looking at 75 gallons. 75 gallons isn’t a huge tank, but remember you need to take into account the other fish and adjust the size from there.

We would also generally advise aquarists to invest in a larger than thank necessary for these fish. This is because they are free swimmers and need lots of space to thrive.

Maintenance and Care

While the green terror cichlid is quite hardy and doesn’t need too much, it is sensitive to sudden changes in the water quality. To make sure they always have an ideal environment, you should look into changing out 15-20% of the water bi-monthly to ensure water quality.

They are freshwater fish so there isn’t much you need to add to the water to make sure it’s optimal.

Suitable Tank Mates

It’s always tougher to find roommates for an aggressive fish. Since they are on the higher end of the aggression spectrum, looking into fish the same size or larger is a good idea. Large fish can hopefully hold their own against the green terror. Make sure that the temperament of the large fish is similar to the green terror.

Even if they have the same temper, smaller fish can very possibly get killed if they go head to head with the green terror. We mentioned before that these fish are extra aggressive during spawning season, which means it’s best to keep them in an isolated tank when the time comes.

Green terrors can be kept by itself or with another partner for breeding.


So what fish can I put with a green terror? Some fish that make good tank mates include:

  • Other cichlids
  • Catfish
  • Gars
  • Tetras

And other fish of the same size and temperament.


There are a lot of fish in the wild that are near impossible to breed in captivity, but the green terror cichlid is luckily (or unluckily due to their aggression) not one of them. At the store, you can ask the manager if there are bonded pairs that you can purchase together or you can purchase a group and have them pair off naturally.

What happens with these fish during breeding is quite interesting. The females are responsible for being the caregivers of the eggs while the males are the protectors (sound familiar?). As mentioned a few times, we’re going to stress again that the green terror gets especially aggressive during spawning, which is why you need to have a whole separate tank prepared to separate them from other fish.

You will also see the hump on the male’s head gradually begin to form. The females lay the egg first and the males then fertilize them in open water. You need to rethink the water conditions for spawning, but your regular water parameters should be enough for breeding.

When it comes to spawning time, water that is slightly warmer with a lower pH level will be better for the fish. The fish will select their breeding and spawning ground prior to the actual event. This usually takes place on flat rocks or flat surfaces if there are no flat rocks in your tank.

They are exceptional diggers, which means they can and will dig out the tank liner and lay their directly on the glass if need be. The parents will them move the eggs to sand pits until they are ready to swim on their own. These are all important examples of substrate to add to your separate tank.

Females are capable of laying anywhere from 400-600 eggs and they hatch within 4 days. The fish are great parents and stay by their young until they are ready to fend for themselves. The most appropriate food to feed the young include worms and brine shrimp.

You should wait an appropriate amount of time before you attempt to move the fish back into the community tank (if there is one). This is because if the fry suddenly disappear, the male fish will attempt to mate with the female again and possibly even get aggressive towards her.


green terror cichlid

green terror cichlid
Are these fish good for your tank? You need to make sure you have enough space to accommodate them and remember that these fish are aggressive. Consider their tank mates that already have a home in the aquarium. If you are starting a brand new tank, then these beautifully shaded fish are amazing additions that will brighten up any tank. Not to mention, they are easy to care for and can be your companions for many years to come! 


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