Unlocking the Secrets of Successful Salvini Cichlid Keepin

Salvini cichlid (Trichromis salvini) is a freshwater fish of the family Cichlidae, very bright and attractive. Just like all cichlid species it can be quite aggressive, since this is a territory dependent fish. Also it is a predator, so it’ll treat all small sized fishes as food. Therefore it should be kept separately from others or with other species.

Habitat in the wild

The Salvini cichlid, also known as the Tricolor cichlid or Yellow belly cichlid, is a freshwater fish belonging to the family Cichlidae. The scientific name for this species is Trichromis salvini. The family Cichlidae is a diverse and large family of freshwater fish, consisting of hundreds of species found in various regions around the world. Cichlids are known for their interesting behaviors, vibrant colors, and wide range of shapes and sizes.

Salvini fish is widespread in rivers of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras that fall into the Atlantic ocean. The fish was artificially settled in some areas in the South of Florida state. Most dense population of the fish is in rivers, lakes and other waters along the Atlantic seaboard as well as in freshwater lagoons down the coastline. Prefers small rivers with moderate and fast water flow, that are located not higher than 500 meters above mean sea level.

The fish is omnivorous, it feeds on juveniles, insects that fall into the water, small crustaceans, larvae, algae and water plants.

Cichlid was first described in 1862 by German zoologist Albert Gunter, though aquarists were able to get this fish to keep in their tanks only at the end of XX century.



The males grow up to 18 cm (7.09 in) long, the females are not larger than 15 centimetres (5.9 in). However, individual sizes can vary depending on factors such as genetics, diet, and the environment they are kept in. In aquariums, their size can be influenced by the tank size and the quality of care they receive. Providing a spacious tank and a balanced diet can contribute to healthier growth for these colorful cichlids.


The lifespan of Salvini cichlids (Trichromis salvini) typically ranges from 7 to 10 years. However, it’s essential to note that individual lifespans can vary based on several factors, including the quality of care, diet, water conditions, and genetics.


Fish has elongated body flattened from sides; it’s basic coloring is marigold yellow. Along the body, in the center there is row of large anthracite-colored spots. A bit higher there is another lateral stripe, that consists of the same spots, but of smaller size.

The fish has large head, fleshy lips and large eyes with red iris. Its gill covers are decorated with small spots and lines of turquoise green color. But, when you buy a young Salvini cichlid it doesn’t look very attractive. But things change when the fish grows up. It becomes a very noticeable in a tank and it draws the eye.

Scientific NameTrichromis salvini
Common NamesSalvini cichlid, Tricolor cichlid, Yellow belly cichlid
OriginCentral America (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras)
HabitatFreshwater rivers, lakes, and ponds
SizeUp to 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) in length
Lifespan5-10 years (varies based on care and environment)
ColorationVibrant colors; males typically have more intense hues
BehaviorTerritorial and can be aggressive, especially during breeding
DietOmnivorous; accepts various types of food
Tank RequirementsMinimum tank size of 50 gallons (190 liters) or larger, plenty of hiding spots, rocks, and plants
Water ParametersTemperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C), pH: 6.5-7.5, hardness: 8-15 dGH
BreedingSubstrate spawner; lays eggs on flat surfaces
CompatibilityCan be aggressive towards other fish, especially during breeding; careful selection of tankmates required
Special ConsiderationsMonitor water quality, provide a balanced diet, and create appropriate territories to manage aggression

Difficulties in keeping

Salvini cichlid can be recommended for experienced aquarists, since it’d be quite challenging for the beginners to keep it. However, the fish is rather undemanding and it can live in small tanks, but at that it my demonstrate aggression towards its tank mates. This fish requires frequent water renews and proper care.

Care and keeping in a tank

Tank size

Salvini cichlid will enjoy a roomy tank. The minimum recommended tank size for a single Salvini cichlid is around 50 gallons (190 liters). A larger tank, such as a 75-gallon or 100-gallon tank, will provide more room for multiple Salvini cichlids if you plan to keep them in a community setup. In case of larger tank volume you can put larger number of the fish into it at the condition that there will be not less than 30-40 liters for one fish in it.

It is crucial for a cichlid to have its own territory. During their spawning period they become more aggressive, but at that they still can get on well with other fishes. Keeping Salvini cichlids in a spacious tank also helps reduce aggression, as it allows them to establish territories and reduces the likelihood of constant conflicts. Additionally, having plenty of hiding spots, rocks, and plants in the aquarium can help create a more natural and secure environment for these fish.

Remember that the tank size requirements may vary depending on factors like the number of fish you plan to keep, the presence of other tank mates, and the specific behavior of your cichlids. Always aim to provide the largest and most suitable tank you can afford and accommodate to ensure the well-being and happiness of your Salvini cichlids.

Tank decor

The fish isn’t demanding in terms of the tank bottom substrate, though small pebbles or granite chipplings will be more preferable.

To make sure that tank plants will survive in the tank, they should have strong root system and the layer of the bottom substrate should be up to 8 cm thick. Put some caves or snags on the bottom, they’ll serve not only as decorations, but as shelters for the fish as well.

To keep cichlid you need a tank that has both shelters and enough of free space for the fish to swim. Flower pots, snags, stones and caves will do as shelters for the fish. Salvini cichlid don’t damage tank plants and don’t dig them as well as they look much better at such green background.

So, you can plan decorating your tank with plants and shelters put near its walls and in corners and leave some free space for swimming in the middle.

Water parameters

Preferable tank water parameters are the following: temperature – 24–26 °C (75,2-78,8 °F), hardness – 5–20°, pH – 7.0–8.0. Tank lighting should be moderate. The fish likes hiding in shadow of floating plants, caves and snags.

The fish isn’t too demanding as for the tank water composition. As for the water parameters, it has to be clean with low level of nitrites and ammonia content. This means, that daily water renew (up to 30%) as well as external filter is required.

Besides the fish likes when there is some water flow in a tank and you can easily create it by means of the external filter. It is also desirable to equip the tank with a heater with a thermostatic switch.


In the wild cichlid is omnivorous; it feeds mainly on aquatic organisms and small insects that fall into the water. In a tank the fish eats all types of live, frozen or artificial food. Special food for cichlids can be its basic diet and live food such as brine shrimp, tubifex and bloodworm in small amounts can be given as supplements.

Here are some suitable food options for feeding Salvini cichlids:

  1. High-quality Cichlid Pellets: Commercially available cichlid pellets formulated for omnivorous fish are a good staple food. Look for pellets that contain a mix of animal and plant-based ingredients to meet their nutritional needs.
  2. Live or Frozen Foods: Offer live or frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, and small insects to provide them with the necessary animal proteins. These foods can enhance their coloration and promote natural feeding behaviors.
  3. High-Quality Flakes: High-quality flake foods formulated for cichlids can also be included in their diet as a supplement.

Tank mates

Are salvini cichlids aggressive? Sure. You should keep in mind that the fish is an aggressive one. They are especially aggressive towards its kind. Therefore, it’s quite difficult to organize keeping of more than one male fish in a tank.

The fish is definitely not for community tanks with small fishes like neon tetra or guppies in them. Is a predator and it’ll treat any small fishes only as food. Also they are territory dependent and will chase away any other fishes from its territory.

Catfishes such as common pleco or sailfin pleco will be the best tank mates for this fish. Though, it can live together with other cichlids — convict cichlid, blood parrot, firemouth cichlid, oscar, jack dempsey, green terror.

Keep in mind that, the larger is the cichlid, the more spacious tank it requires. Especially, is they start spawning. Of course, it’s better to keep them separately from other fishes. But if don’t have this chance, they’ll become less aggressive if provided with high feeding and lots of shelters in the tank.

Gender differences: male vs female

Male and female Salvini cichlids can have some differences in their appearance and behavior, which can be helpful in identifying their gender. However, these differences are not always distinct, and it might be challenging to differentiate them until they reach sexual maturity.

Here are some general characteristics that can help distinguish male and female Salvini cichlids:

Male Salvini Cichlid:

  1. Size: Males are often larger and more robust than females, especially as they reach maturity.
  2. Coloration: Adult males typically have more vibrant and intense colors compared to females. They may display bright yellow, orange, or red on their bodies and fins, especially during the breeding season.
  3. Markings: Males might have more pronounced and extended black markings on their bodies and fins.
  4. Dorsal Fin: The dorsal fin of males may be more elongated and pointed compared to females.
  5. Behavior: Males can be more aggressive, especially during the breeding period when they protect their territory and offspring.

Female Salvini Cichlid:

  1. Size: Females are generally smaller and slimmer compared to males.
  2. Coloration: Adult females may have more subdued colors, and their overall appearance might be less vibrant compared to males.
  3. Markings: Females might have shorter and less extended black markings on their bodies and fins.
  4. Dorsal Fin: The dorsal fin of females tends to be shorter and more rounded compared to males.
  5. Behavior: Females can also be territorial and protective during breeding, but they are typically less aggressive compared to males.

Keep in mind that these differences are general guidelines and might not be definitive in all cases, especially in young or immature individuals. The most reliable way to determine the gender of Salvini cichlids is by observing their behavior during the breeding season or by examining their reproductive organs when they are sexually mature. However, this requires experience and can be stressful for the fish, so it’s best to rely on the combination of physical characteristics and behavioral cues to make an educated guess about their gender.


By the age of 10–12 month salvini cichlid becomes reproductive. This species is monogamic. The fish forms couples at the age of 6 month old.

Despite its small size salvini cichlid extremely aggressively protects its territory, which can be up to 2 meters in diameter. Though the fish can spawn in a community tank, still it’s better to have a separate spawning tank for this.

Otherwise, other tank dwellers will have to constantly keep quite far away from the fish nest, since it becomes very aggressive and timid during their spawning period, which can cause stress and loss of the offspring. As a result, fights and quarrels may occur in the couple because of loosing the offspring. Quite often these lead to the female death.

A tank of at least 100 liters capacity will do for spawning. Put lots of shelters on its bottom. The couple lays and fertilizes the eggs on the vertical surface of barque or inside a snag.

The fish cleans the substrate with its mouth. Genital papilla of the fish becomes noticeable 24 hours before the spawning. After the fish finishes cleaning the substrate, it starts spawning.

If the salvini cichlid couple chooses some open space in the tank for spawning, it is important to put some shed above this place – a large snag or a bunch of floating tank plants. Otherwise, the spawning may be delayed even if all other requirements are met.

Weekly renew of two tank volumes is required as well as water temperature rise at 2–4 °C – these will trigger the spawning process. Once you provide the couple with proper spawning conditions, you can expect getting the offspring soon.

The female lays eggs (up to 500) on a smooth surface of a snag or a stone. After the spawning is over, the male starts to guard the territory. The female takes care of the eggs – it fans them with its pectoral fins.

Damaged, white eggs are immediately eaten by the parents. The female leaves the eggs for some short time to feed. The male performs her duties while she is away. The egg stage lasts for three days, after this the larvae hatches (it is comparatively large). They don’t swim and eat their yolk bag. In some cases the female may carry the larvae herself several times.

After depletion of yolk bag supplies the juveniles start to swim and look for food on the tank bottom. They may find some food leftovers that were left among the tank plants after preparing the adult fish for spawning.

Start food for the juveniles is brine shrimp nauplii. Also you can feed them with chopped tubifex. You can do it at once or a week later. You should maintain rigid temperature control in the tank. It can’t be higher than 26 °C. If the temperature gets lower, it may cause the juveniles death.

The salvini cichlid male and female take care about their offspring for quite a long time. When there is no situations that cause stress, you can leave the juveniles together with their parents without putting the latter into a separate tank.

However, if the adult start to demonstrate signs of aggression, it’s better to put the juveniles into another tank.