Green Terror Cichlid: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

Green Terror Cichlid is a brightly colored freshwater fish that has built a sizable following in the aquarium community for a good reason.

For a species best known for its large size and aggressive tendencies, it’s not hard to see why these fish’s name alone is somewhat intimidating. 

But as many aquarists will agree, Green Terror Cichlid is not just about the magnificent colors. They demonstrate interesting behavior patterns in captivity and could easily become your favorite pet friend if kept in the right environment. 

If you are interested in owning this fish, here’s the ultimate guide to Green Terror Cichlid care. Below, we discuss the fish’s lifespan, appearance, tank size, diet, behavior, tank mates, and breeding in more detail.

Let’s go!

Species Overview

If you ignore their intimidating name, you will still get a stunning freshwater fish that’s perfect for a community tank.

Andinoacara rivaltus, commonly called Green Terror Cichlid, is a colorful species of the Cichlidae family that can introduce much-needed vibrancy to your aquarium.

Originally, these fish were first discovered in South America, specifically in the Peruvian and Ecuadorian river basins.

Of all their beautiful traits, Green Terror Cichlids are more likable for their simple care requirements and unique appearance.

Their tireless movement inside a community tank makes them even more impressive to have at home. If you introduce Green Terror Cichlids to a community tank, you will constantly see them explore different parts of the aquarium, creating an attractive color pattern in the process.

As usual, the easiest way to keep a thriving Green Terror Cichlid community is to maintain high-quality water conditions with the actual parameters under control.

ColorGreen and blue
Lifespan7-10 Years
Care LevelIntermediate
Behavior & TemperamentAggressive
CompatibilitySimilar size or large fish
Food and DietOmnivores
SizeUp to 12 Inches
Tank SetupFreshwater with hiding caves and moderately flowing current
Tank Size (Minimum)35 gallons for one fish, 75 gallons for a pair


Green Terror Cichlids are known to live for up to 10 years in captivity. In other words, the standard lifespan can be anything from 7-10 years, but it all depends on the aquarist’s commitment to quality care.

If you keep Green Terror Cichlids at home, stick to the recommended guidelines by always ensuring that your fish have whatever they need for survival.


There’s a good reason anybody who craves a Cichlid fish prioritizes Green Terror varieties. They are just stunning.

To begin with, Green Terror Cichlids are a colorful species with bodies covered in beautiful metallic green shades. They also have stunning bright-blue markings covering their faces and the whole body, even though some species will have bright orange stripes.

Such color tones may extend to the dorsal and tail fins to give the fish a characteristic shiny appearance that has made them quite likable in the fishkeeping community.

It’s worth reminding that Green Terror Cichlids never settle for a single color pattern. In general, the females will display a more faded coloration than the males, with beautiful orange stripes sometimes missing in the female species.

Again, the color differences are easily noticeable by age. Unlike the adult fish, young Green Terror Cichlids will first show a silvery-blue hue that slowly turns into the standard metallic green coloration as the fish approaches maturity.

As you would expect, Green Terror Cichlids are a ray-finned species. So, you will notice thin spines in the fish’s fins, including the large dorsal fin.

Now, shall we talk about their sexuality? Like many freshwater Cichlids, female Green Terror Cichlids appear smaller than males. Similarly, males will have a distinctive hump on top of their heads that can have a constant size throughout the fish’s life.


Normally, a mature Green Terror Cichlid will only measure about 8 inches in full body length. That’s a clear indication you should never restrict these fish to a small tank in captivity.

As expected, Green Terror Cichlids have a better growth rate in the wild, where they can reach up to 12 inches in full length. In captivity, you can influence Green Terror Cichlid growth rate by keeping them in a larger tank with enough decorations.

Green Terror Cichlid Care

So, what would it take to create a thriving Green Terror Cichlid community? That sounds like an interesting question.

From our experience, caring for Green Terror Cichlids in captivity is not challenging.

Even though they have specific requirements depending on the actual environment, the easiest way to help Green Terror Cichlids reach their full potential is to provide the best living conditions inside the primary tank.

These fish might have a strong liking for warmer waters with enough vegetation, but what exactly will their ideal habitat look like?

Let’s find out below;

Tank Size

Green Terror Cichlids have large body sizes and require a significant tank size to flourish in captivity. Usually, many aquarists opt for a minimum of 35-gallon capacity to ensure the fish have enough room for swimming and comfort.

But in our opinion, larger is always better, and sometimes, not even the 35-gallon standard tank capacity will help you keep a happy Green Terror Cichlid community at home. Ideally, you need at least a 50-gallon capacity to ensure your fish have sufficient space to flourish in a confined environment.

If you wonder why this is so, remember that apart from being large fish, Green Terror Cichlids are also active and ardent swimmers both in captivity and in the wild.

Consequently, they need a large tank to feel secure at home and demonstrate their swimming prowess.

The best of all? Having a larger tank eliminates the needless fights for territorial control, thus limiting any possibility of aggressive behavior. And by the way, the 50-gallon tank capacity, as mentioned earlier, is only effective in keeping a single species at home.

If it’s two species in the same tank or one Cichlid with other tank mates, we would recommend nothing less than 75 gallons. Later, you will factor in an additional 35 gallons for every Cichlid fish you would want to add to the same habitat.

Water Parameters

What would a Green Terror Cichlid’s ideal habitat look like?

Naturally, these fish originate from the slow-moving rivers and other water bodies in South America. And such environments have warm, hardy waters with enough vegetation.

But just because Green Terror fish are a hardy species doesn’t mean they will automatically adjust to a new environment. Unfortunately, one of the easily overlooked aspects of successful pet-keeping is acclimatization.

So, the very first step to keeping the beautiful fish at home is to cycle at least 25% of the tank water biweekly. In between every cycling session, ensure you adjust the water parameters to meet the following standards;

  • Water Temperature: 68°F-80°F
  • Water Hardness: 5-20 dGH
  • pH Levels: 6.5-8.0

What to Put in Their Tank?

In terms of general tank décor, keep it simple. While you might have heard a lot of things about the Green Terror Cichlids, the only thing that matters to them is a natural-looking environment.

As usual, these fish require a replica of their natural habitat with a suitable substrate, enough plants, rocks, caves, and driftwood.

In terms of substrate choice, Green Terror Cichlids do well with fine sand at the bottom of the tank. Most Cichlid species are notorious for uncontrollable digging, and Green Terror varieties will be no exception.

That’s why fine sand always comes in handy because it’s safe, smooth, and gentle on your Green Terror Cichlids.

For the same reason, we would never recommend gravel even when it’s the best choice for most freshwater fish kept at home.

As far as plant selection goes, you should prioritize the floating types in place of the rooted options. The chosen live plants should provide safety and protection from light, and the best choices include Anubias and Java Ferns.

What’s more, Green Terror Cichlids detest bright light. So, ensure you reduce the lighting levels inside the tank besides providing enough shade using plants, rocks, or even caves.

There’s no harm in including other decorative elements like driftwood and large rocks to distract your fish from time to time and limit their aggressive behavior.

Given their large size, it’s no secret that Green Terror Cichlids will frequently sour the tank water. You will constantly detect huge amounts of ammonia, nitrate, and other harmful waste in the tank water, which can negatively impact their health and wellbeing in the long run.

As such, you should consider investing in a powerful external filter or in-tank canister to reduce the levels of contaminants inside the tank.

Even then, be sure to maintain low water flow because these fish originate from slow-moving waters and will be happy with moderate to low current in captivity.

Common Diseases

Aquarists will be delighted to hear that Green Terror fish are also among the hardiest Cichlid varieties in the wild.

When kept in captivity, these fish will easily tolerate slight shifts in water conditions without showing any signs of vulnerability. However, that can quickly change in the face of common ailments like Ich and other infections.

Speaking of bothersome infections, beware of the Head and Lateral Line Erosion, abbreviated as HLLE and sometimes referred to as the Hole-In-Head Disease.

The major indication of the HLLE disease is apparent degeneration of Green Terror’s flesh over time.  Sometimes, the infection can be bad enough to cause multiple holes all over the fish’s body, including the head, hence the name.

Usually, any HLLE attack on a healthy Green Terror community is linked to reduced tank water quality.

The next disease you should be aware of when keeping Green Terror Cichlids at home is Lymphocystis. While this disease has the classic Ich presentation, including white lesions on the fish’s body, gills, mouth, and fins, you should never confuse the two conditions.

Unlike Ich, Lymphocystis has a viral etiology and may also affect the internal organs. 

Like HLLE disease, Lymphocystis is also associated with reduced tank water quality and may sometimes warrant expert advice, especially if the symptoms persist.

Of course, Ich is another common condition in the Green Terror Cichlid community, with the classic presentation of visible white spots on the fish’s body and gills. Fortunately, simple over-the-counter medications will quickly alleviate their symptoms without seeking an expert’s advice.

If you look at any condition affecting Green Terror Cichlids, one thing is certain; every disease is associated with reduced tank water quality or increased stress levels inside the tank.

A healthy Green Terror requires an ideal habitat with high-quality water, suitable tank mates, and a balanced diet.

Plus, monitoring the pH and oxygen levels inside the tank and making the necessary adjustments can help you maintain a healthy community without spending a fortune.

What Do Green Terror Cichlids Eat?

When it comes to food and diet recommendations, Green Terror Cichlids are carnivorous species in the wild and will readily show their penchant for eating flesh.

However, everything changes in captivity, where they exist as true omnivores with a highly diversified feeding plan. If you keep these fish at home, you will want to stick to high-quality flakes and pellets as the typical meal with additional nutrients for a balanced diet.

But to maintain a diversified approach, consider introducing live and frozen foods, too. And because Green Terror Cichlids aren’t quite selective in captivity, you could introduce them to high-quality protein-rich foods like crickets, bloodworms, and brine shrimp.

However, be careful when introducing Green Terror Cichlids to a diverse meal because they can always eat beyond what their bodies can hold, causing endless digestive issues.

Ideally, you will want to stick to a twice-a-day feeding plan while ensuring your fish spend the shortest time possible (at least 2 minutes) to complete a standard meal for the adult species.

On the other hand, a baby Green Terror Cichlid will appreciate three meals a day because they need the energy and important nutrients to flourish in captivity.

Behavior & Temperament

Now, this won’t be good news to many aquarists.

Unfortunately, Green Terror Cichlids are not one of the most peaceful species you will ever find. “Terror” in their name perfectly sums up their behavior and temperament in captivity.

With their large size, the worst mistake you can ever make is to keep Green Cichlid fish in a small tank or a lackluster environment. In that case, they will be a real menace to the peaceful community.

They will constantly attack, threaten and bully any small fish on sight. The situation can worsen during the breeding season with stiff competition for mating partners.

But is there a way out? Of course, yes! Generally, you can influence Green Terror Cichlid’s behavior in captivity just as much as you can control their diet.

Usually, the primary cause of aggression in Green Terror Cichlids is territory-centered. And like most Cichlids, Green Terrors will want to explore their new habitat as much as they can.

They will often want to swim from one position inside the tank to another or spend their time digging the live plants and other tank decorations, both of which are almost impossible in a small tank or with the wrong tank mates.

So, the best strategy you can adopt to limit such hostility is to create a large tank with enough decorations and a natural-looking environment.

Green Terror Cichlid Tank Mates

Even though Green Terror Cichlids are notorious for their semi-aggressive trait, they can readily coexist with numerous species as long as the primary tank is large enough to accommodate everyone.

Of course, you can’t pair Green Cichlid fish with common small-sized fish like the Serpae Tetras, but they readily coexist with fellow Cichlids like the Convict varieties.

Also, you can keep a bonded pair in the same tank to avoid aggression and the challenges of pairing up two or more species during breeding. 

These are some of the most common species that will make the best tank mates for your Green Terror Cichlids;

Of course, you must pay attention to the newcomer’s behavior and temperament before keeping them together with your Green Cichlid fish. Also, the first few days present the perfect time to monitor the fish’s behavior and determine if they are perfect for long-term companionship.

If you notice any subtle forms of aggression during this period, it’s better to put your Green Terror Cichlids in a separate tank.


The fact Green Terror Cichlids can easily pair up at home simplifies the breeding process in captivity. Like many egg-laying species, the female Green Terror Cichlids are famous scatter breeders that will lay up to 600 eggs at once.

As breeding starts, you should target a standard temperature of 77°F-88°F. Also, feed the adult fish on live food and plenty of proteins to maximize the chances of successful breeding.

Focus on the fish’s coloration and behavior to determine if it’s time for breeding. Usually, the adult fish display more vibrant coloration as the breeding period approaches, and it won’t be long before they begin looking for the right hiding spots to start the spawning process.

If the females don’t lay their eggs on the right tank elements like rocks, they will likely do so at the bottom of the tank, provided you’ve added the suitable substrate.

As soon as egg-laying is complete, the eggs will take approximately 3-4 days to hatch. Then, the little fish will prefer baby brine shrimp, infusoria, and microplankton after just a few days of existence.

The best part? Unlike most freshwater fish that never show parental instincts in captivity, Green Terror Cichlids are extremely caring and will do everything to protect the new fry.

Sometimes, it looks like a family initiative, with the females responsible for defending the little ones as the energetic males guard the territory.

You don’t have to worry about removing the adult fish from the breeding tank soon after spawning thanks to their admirable parental instincts. Instead, you should allow your adult fish to bond with their little ones until they are old enough to survive independently.

Final Thoughts

Despite the endless misinformation online, caring for Green Terror Cichlid is a piece of cake if you’re experienced enough to handle it. While you will be attracted to their magnificent colors, at first sight, that doesn’t mean you should ignore Green Terror Cichlid’s interesting behavior in captivity.

After all, such traits will help you identify the best tank mates for your beautiful Green Terrors. If you are keen to keep a large and aggressive yet highly rewarding freshwater Cichlid, we believe keeping the highly sought-after Green Terror Cichlids will give you the utmost satisfaction.

Ready to give it a try? There you go!