Green Terror Cichlid: Exotic Pet or Aqua Menace? You Decide!

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Are you ready to explore the world of green terror cichlid? Let’s take a journey that will bring us from South America’s river basins all the way into your own home aquarium, uncovering their natural environment along with details on how best to keep them healthy, breeding, and who to house them with. Andinoacara rivulatus is an eye-catching addition due to its lush hues of vivid blues and greens paired with bright orange stripes, making these large fish remarkable beyond just looks! So let’s dive in deep now!

Key Takeaways

  • Green Terror Cichlids require specialized care to stay healthy and happy.
  • Their environment, diet, tank size & layout, water parameters, and compatible tank mates all factor into successfully keeping them.
  • They are very aggressive cichlids and usually grow 8 inches in length. Tank mates must be about to fend for themselves
  • Breeding Green Terrors is possible with knowledge of male/female differences. Health concerns can be prevented with proper care measures.

Species Overview

Scientific NameAndinoacara rivulatus
Common NamesGreen Terror Cichlid, Green Terror, Gold Saum
OriginSouth America, primarily in Peru and Ecuador
Care DifficultyModerate
Life Expectancy7-10 Years
Tank LevelAll
Minimum Tank Size55 gallons (113 liters) recommended 75 gallons (284 liters)
Water Temperature Range72-80°F (22-26°C)
Water Hardness5-20 dKH
pH Range6 – 8
Filtration/Water FlowModerate
Water TypeFreshwater
BreedingSubstrate Spawner
Difficulty to BreedModerate
CompatibilityAggressive tank with similar sized or larger fish
OK, for Planted Tanks?No


There is no doubt the appeal of Green Terror Cichlids. These freshwater creatures that inhabit sluggish rivers and backwaters found in tropical Peru and Ecuador are incredibly charming to look at with their vivid colors and outstanding fins. Growing up to one foot long when they’re living in the wild makes them a truly exceptional sight!

Caring for these hardy fish goes beyond appreciating their beauty – it requires knowledge regarding what they need. You also have to know how to deal with its aggressive nature and what fish are best housed with them.

Origin And Habitat

Green Terror Cichlids originate from South America, and are typically found in the slow-moving rivers of Peru and Ecuador. Their habitat provides a set of specific conditions essential for their survival. Thus it is very important to re-create this natural environment as accurately as possible within captivity. This means setting up an appropriate tank that closely mirrors the water parameters existing in Green Terrors’ native river basins. They are also very territorial and need their space in order to curb their aggression.


Green Terror Cichlid in Aquarium

The Green Terror Cichlids, also known as green terror fish, stand out with their captivating hues of metallic greens and blues. A dash of orange in the form of a stripe makes them truly eye-catching for aquariums. In terms of physical features to distinguish between males and females, males tend to be bulkier and feature a bump on their foreheads, while female colors may seem more muted compared to that seen in the male counterparts.

There are also two Green Terror types you will see in the hobby. Most of the time, both of these types are labeled as Green Terrors by the fish store. The first is the Gold Saum. This type has Yellow out fins and is considered better looking than your typical Green Terror. The true Green Terror is the other type that you will see, which you can recognize from its white outline on the top fin and tail. Both will grow to the same size and will have similar temperaments.


Green Terror Cichlids can live for 7-10 years with the right care and environment. The longevity of these hardy creatures depends on how well they’re looked after as much as their living conditions. Proper upkeep is key. Keeping up to date with water changes while maintaining optimal temperatures plus providing balanced nutrition are all essential in ensuring that your Green Terrors thrive healthily over time.

Average Size

Green Terror Cichlids can reach a maximum size of 12 inches in their natural environment, though usually only up to 8 inches in their adult size when kept as pets. Males tend to be bigger than females regardless, and both genders benefit from an appropriately sized habitat that can aid them in reaching their full potential for growth. Their growth rate is considered moderate, but their aggression grows significantly as they get larger.

Caring For Green Terror Cichlids

Taking care of Green Terror Cichlids involves much more than providing food and regularly changing their water. It requires the aquarist to understand their lifestyle needs as well as create a suitable habitat for them in order to meet these requirements. The right tank size, proper arrangement within it, conforming with necessary parameters related to water quality, and carefully selecting ideal terror cichlid companions are all critical factors when tending green terror fish. Let’s take a closer look at each element below.

Tank Setup And Layout

The healthy growth of Green Terror Cichlids depends on the size of their tank. For a single one, you will need at least 55 gallons, but larger tanks are better if there are more than one fish or a whole community aquarium. To recreate this species’ natural South American environment in your aquarium, use sand as a substrate that replicates river beds and add some rocks and driftwood to provide hiding spots and curb territorial behavior and provide hiding spots when disputes happen—also, place flat rock for an extra touch. You can go with moderate flow to keep the current going in the tank and to encourage strong filtration.

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Water Conditions and Parameters

To guarantee the safety and comfort of Green Terror Cichlids, it is essential to monitor water quality closely. The preferred temperature range for this freshwater species should be 72-80°F with a pH 6-8 and 5-20 dGH in terms of hardness levels. Aside from these, check these parameters as well:

Having an adequate test kit at hand can help you regularly assess these parameters in order to keep them within desirable standards. Sudden changes have proven detrimental for your green terror fish as they tend to get stressed out, leading to health issues if not attended to in time.

Feeding And Nutrition

Maintaining a proper diet for Green Terror Cichlids is important to keep them healthy. They’re omnivores, so they should be fed with high-quality pellets combined with live or frozen food items. Look for top quality brands like New Life Spectrum, Hikari, or breeder specific food from brands like Ron’s (Ron has food that is for African Cichlids, but they still work great for South American Cichlids). Frozen food should be a mix of foods. Look for products from SF Bay that offer variety or buy separate frozen packs of foods like bloodworms, krill, etc.

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Feeding Schedule

It is recommended to feed your Green Terror Cichlids once or twice daily with a sensible amount of food. Keeping an aggressive fish well feed will curb some aggression. However, it’s necessary to not overfeed so you don’t overwhelm your filtration system and have spikes in hazardous nutrients like Ammonia. Make sure you rotate out foods so your Cichlid can maintain a well balanced diet.

Behavior And Temperament

Green Terror Cichlids are known as an aggressive species of freshwater fish. They are infamous for their territorial and combative habits, especially when the breeding season rolls around. During this time, they produce eggs which they will fiercely guard over.

Green Terror tank mates must be carefully researched and picked. The environment needs to also be suitable and carefully planned out. To ensure such a scenario plays out, one must be aware of how green terror cichlids behave in order to craft a balanced aquarium community.

Tank Mates And Compatibility

Jack Dempsey Fish

Tank mates selection is essential not only due to its importance in avoiding too much aggression between other fish, but also because there could be compatibility issues like extreme differences in temperament or even size so that others might end up becoming potential prey rather than tolerant members of the tank. Here are a few rules of thumb to follow:

  • A Green Terror will openly harass, attack, eat, or kill any fish that is smaller than it once it grows past its juvenile stage
  • They become incredibly aggressive when breeding
  • Always attempt to add your most aggressive fish last in the tank
  • Always have a backup plan if the fish you introduce is harrassed

That being said, here are some tank mate choices that may work:

Incompatible Species


Green Terrors, with their predatory nature, should not be kept in the same tank as smaller fish such as small schooling fish, which can easily become prey. Livebearers and more docile large fish like Discus Fish will be seen as targets and will be harassed or attacked to death. It is better to introduce large fish of a similar size or larger into your aquarium so that all species may coexist (it will never be peaceful in an aggressive tank, but they will tolerate each other).


It can be a highly rewarding experience to breed Green Terror Cichlids, as both male and female parents take part in raising the young. Though one must remain vigilant while engaging in this activity due to their aggressive behavior during spawning, if proper care is given it should go off without any problems (video source).

Male And Female Differences

During the mating season, you will see that there are some distinct differences between male and female Green Terror Cichlids. The males usually grow to be larger than females, and their colors tend to pop with more vibrancy when compared side-by-side. Also, as the males mature, they form a forehead hump on their head called a nochal hump1. The differences get more noticeable the closer fish is to adulthood.

In contrast, females can come across as less brilliantly colored, but what makes up for it is their boldness in terms of defending eggs. Although being smaller sized creatures, they possess greater protection instincts which surpass those exhibited by males.

Breeding Process

Green Terror cichlids lay their eggs (usually 400 – 600 eggs are laid) on flat surfaces. Once fertilized in open water, the parents attend to them diligently until hatching. The fry emerge after three or four days and should be feed with brine shrimp as well as powdered dry food for optimal growth rate. Young fish can are raised by their parents until they are old enough to venture on their own.

Health Concerns And Preventative Measures

The Green Terror Cichlid, a type of freshwater fish, can be affected by various illnesses that are common to the species. To avoid this potential problem, it is essential to ensure high water quality and proper care for these creatures.

Lymphocystis disease occurs when a virus affects the connective tissues in green terror. Low stress levels and sufficient oxygenation can help prevent its development.

Another disorder they may contract due to poor conditions is Head & Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE). This condition should not arise if regular maintenance on their environment, such as water changes.

Another thing to watch out for is infections. Because these fish are aggressive, they will get injured occasionally by their aggressive tankmates. Typically these are minor fin nips. Supreme water quality and diet are paramount to keep them from getting infections. Major wounds should be treated outside of the display tank, as a wounded fish will be seen as a target by their aggression tankmates.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Green Terror cichlid aggressive?

As Green Terror cichlids age, they become more and more aggressive towards smaller fish. This is why it’s imperative to have an aquarium with other Green Terror or fish of the same size or larger that also shares similar temperaments. Ensuring this will help prevent any altercations between different types of fish in your tank.

How big does a Green Terror cichlid get?

The Green Terror Cichlid, native to Central America and found in rivers and streams of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama, has a vibrant coloration and an active character. This makes it ideal for home aquariums due to its easy care nature. In captivity, they can reach lengths of 8 inches, but if given the proper environment, such as large tanks or wild settings, they have been known to grow up to 12 inches long.

What fish can be kept with Green Terror?

Green Terror Cichlids can make good tank mates with Firemouths, Jack Dempseys, Oscars, Texas species of cichlid fish. Silver Dollars can also work as a type of dither fish. The main thing is having fish that are either their size or larger so they won’t bully them.

What is the personality of a Green Terror?

The Green Terror is a lively and curious fish, reaching up to 8 inches in length. Though their personality tends to be aggressive as they get older. For tanks containing smaller varieties of fish, it’s important to keep their aggression in mind, as an unsuitable pairing could cause problems down the road.

What are Green Terror Cichlids’ ideal water parameters?

Green Terror Cichlids thrive in slightly acidic to slightly alkaline pH environments, water hardness that ranges from soft to moderately hard, and temperatures between 72-80°F. To achieve the optimal habitat for this species of fish, make sure you provide green terror cichlids with all these three parameters!


The Green Terror Cichlids are not only striking for their vibrant colors, but also intriguing due to their unique behavior and characteristics. As long as you can manage their aggressive behavior and have a backup plan if things don’t go well, you can enjoy keeping these fish.

Have you kept this fish species before? Let us know in the comments below. We love to hear from our readers. Let’s start a conversation. Thank you for reading!


  1. We have a 3 year old Green Terror and a Sailfin pleco in a 65 gallon tank together. I provided a sheltered spot for the pleco and being a nocturnal fish so far they are coexisting okay.


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